Other People’s Cars: Volvo 780

Volvo 780What do Volvo and Lamborghini have in common?

This car (admittedly not the best specimen) forms a tenuous link between these two polar opposites of the automotive world. That’s because it was designed by Bertone, the same Italian coachworks that was responsible for the Lamborghini Miura and Countach.

It’s a Volvo 780, a coupe version of the Swedish company’s popular 760. In the late 1980s, Volvo wanted a car that would push it further into the luxury market while still maintaining the brand’s core values, such as safety and subtlety. That’s exactly what buyers got with this car.

It may look like nothing more than a 760 minus two doors, but the 780 made quite a statement when it debuted in 1987. It was Volvo’s first two-door car since the ill-fated 262C, and despite looking just as angular as anything else from Gothenburg, subtle tweaks (such as a 1mm lower roof) ensured that it was completely different from other Volvos.

Today, despite the massive expanses of flat surfaces, the 780 does look much more trim than a typical Volvo. The proportions juxtapose traditional Volvo cues, like the accordion plastic bumpers and square headlights and taillights. It still looks like a Volvo, but one designed to do something other than haul camping equipment.

Volvo 780 Bertone badgeHowever, while the 780 looked fast, it wasn’t. During the car’s 1987-1991 production run, two engines were offered: a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four and a 2.8-liter V6. The V6 was similar to the engine used in the DeLorean DMC-12, which should give you any idea of just how little performance this car had to give.

The four-banger produced 175 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque, or 188 hp and 206 lb-ft, depending on the year. The V6 was rated at 145 hp and 173 lb-ft. The only available transmission was a four-speed automatic.

The 780 was based on ordinary, non-sporty Volvos anyway. Like most coupes derived from existing sedans, it was primarily for looking good.

And look good it did: It may seem like it was designed by an angry architect, but straight, crisp lines were all the rage in the ‘80s. This was the decade of the Subaru XT Coupe and TVR Tamsin, after all.

This 780 isn’t looking so good, but despite the tree growing through the front end, it’s still worth a second look. Only 8,518 780s were built, making this car quite rare.

In fact, this particular car has been a bit of a white whale for me. Several years ago, I found out that it lived near me and I tried to track it down. When it finally appeared earlier this week, I was much happier than was strictly appropriate.

Volvo 780 frontAfter all, when else are you going stumble upon a junked car with genuine Italian coachwork?

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