Recently, on one of the online used car marketplaces, we saw a Volvo 480 with a retractable roof. And not just some garage alteration! But one of the experimental cars created at the Dutch Volvo plant in the late 1980s. Exactly the same cabriolet was shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1990, but … it never reached the assembly line. They asked for 48 thousand euros for a unique car – and judging by the fact that the ad disappeared soon, it was sold!
The announcement of the sale of an open Volvo 480 appeared on the Dutch platform AutoScout24. For a soft lilac two-door, they asked for 48 thousand euros (4.1 million rubles at the current exchange rate). At the turn of the eighties and nineties, a small batch of such cars was built on the basis of the model 480 serial hatchbacks, but the production of convertibles was never established. We at Motor’s editors decided to tell you the story of this failed project.
The background is this: since the late seventies, Volvo has been painfully developing a new family, code-named “Project Galaxy”. It was the first experience of the Swedes with front-wheel drive. Models of two standard sizes were planned – a more compact G1 and a mid-size G2. The first one later turned into the 400th series, the second we learned as the Volvo 850. And in 1982, all the developments on the compact model … were sold to the Dutch division of Volvo Cars BV.
This enterprise was formed in the first half of the 1970s as a result of the takeover by the Volvo concern of the passenger car production of DAF. But even after that, the Dutch continued to enjoy a fairly substantial autonomy – managerial, financial and engineering. They had not only a factory in Born, Holland, but also a technical center in Helmond with their own design studio.
Dutch-made Volvo 66 sedan: rear-wheel drive, Renault engine and V-belt [вариатор](https://motor.ru/stories/f1-s-variatorom.htm) van Dorn designs
Volvo Cars Three-door station wagon Volvo 66
Volvo Cars The Volvo 300-series inherited from its predecessor an unusual chassis design with a De Dion rear suspension on leaf springs and a rear-mounted CVT
Volvo Cars Later, the machines of the 300th series also received a conventional mechanical transmission. It was located traditionally, in a block with an engine
Volvo Cars The family included three- and five-door hatchbacks, as well as four-door sedans. Their production continued until 1991, in parallel with more modern machines of the 400 series.
After moving under the Swedish wing, the plant in Holland continued to produce DAF 66 sedans and station wagons under the Volvo brand. At the same time developing a new family of small rear-wheel drive cars – Volvo 340 hatchbacks and 360 sedans (they began to be produced in 1976).
Volvo management intended to open the new front-wheel drive line with the most impractical model – the compact three-door hatchback model 480. It is clear why: it was supposed to serve as the headliner of the family, a symbol of brand renewal. And at the same time to help treat the “childhood diseases” of the new family before the launch of more massive versions – the 440 liftback and the 460 sedan. The chief designer of the entire concern, Jan Vilsgaard, announced an internal competition for the Volvo 480 projects. Designed by Bertone and Coggiola.
Built in 1980, an experimental machine codenamed G4 is the progenitor of the 400 series
For Rob Koch, chief designer of the Dutch division, this was a unique chance to show his team in a real case – and perhaps even keep a chronically troubled company from layoffs. And his staff did a great job! John de Vries created a memorable eccentric image: a wedge-shaped silhouette with a low line of the hood, retractable headlights, a steep tailgate, almost completely taken up by glass … It was this project that won the vote at the headquarters in June 1982.
Volvo 480ES. All cars of this model were equipped with Renault F3 engines with a volume of 1.7 or 2 liters.
Volvo Cars Volvo 480ES. All cars of this model were equipped with Renault F3 engines with a volume of 1.7 or 2 liters.
Volvo Cars There was also a turbocharged version. Supercharging for the Renault engine was adapted by Porsche engineers. An eight-valve with a volume of 1.7 liters produced 120 hp.
Volvo Cars Volvo 440 five-door liftback (pictured) and 460 sedan appeared in 1988
Volvo Cars In 1994, the Volvo 440 and 460 (pictured) were restyled to look like the latest Volvo 850 at the time.
They say that when the 480 model was already being prepared for mass production in 1985, in the technical center in Helmond, it was necessary to destroy the experimental machines that had served their tests. But modeler Martin van den Heuvel suggested: why not use them a second time, building something interesting on their basis – for example, a convertible?
We can’t vouch for the authenticity of this story, but design chief Rob Koch did commission his staff to draw an open-top Volvo 480. The task was as follows: with minimal changes to the standard body, make a car with a 2 + 2 landing formula and a roll bar.
Drawing by Steve Harper. Please note: the cap covering the folded roof is still gray, in the color of the interior
Steve Harper / Volvo Cars
Stylists Cor Steenstra and Steve Harper presented their work. They differed in the design of the back: the Englishman drew a higher, massive trunk, the Dutchman preferred lower contours. As a result, Harper’s project won the competition. By the way, the Englishman worked on two variants of a convertible at once: he drew not only a car with a landing formula 2 + 2, but also a purely two-seater, with a shortened base.
In the later drawings, the embossed casing in body color is already visible.
Volvo Cars In the later drawings, the embossed casing in body color is already visible.
Volvo Cars In the later drawings, the embossed casing in body color is already visible.
The leadership of the Dutch Volvo liked the project so much that it was decided to prepare the car for its debut at the 1987 RAI Amsterdam Motor Show. Finished the design already Steenstra. In the process, he completed the rear end with a pair of decorative “headrest” fairings on the convertible top casing. In the course of the work, it turned out that the safety arc interferes too much with the heads of the rear passengers – and the rear seat was abandoned, leaving only a luggage rack behind.
For further work, ASC (American Sunroof Corporation) was contracted – it was supposed to manufacture the first prototype of a convertible, having developed measures to strengthen the body. By the way, the Americans did not cope with this task very well: the experimental car suffered from insufficient body rigidity.
Exhibition copy of the convertible, presented in 1990 at the Geneva Motor Show
Volvo Cars Body-coloured convertible top hood with stampings by designer Cora Steenstra
Volvo Cars A characteristic triangle with a lock cylinder on the doors was quite successfully entered into the design of the convertible.
Volvo Cars Stephen Harper’s sketches even featured a hard top convertible, but only soft top cars were made in metal.
Volvo Cars To better balance the appearance, the rear wheel track was slightly widened.
Volvo Cars Pale lilac body color and two-tone upholstery – the work of designer Corine Pompe
But the main problem was the disagreement between the Dutch and the headquarters in Gothenburg – the convertible was not included in the plans of the head office. Nevertheless, the project was nevertheless continued, and in 1990 the premiere of the finished car took place at the Geneva Motor Show.
The American company ASC, which built the first experimental convertible, on its own initiative also produced a variant with a targa-coupe body.
Andrey Motorov She also did not go to the series. Now the car can be seen in the exposition of the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg
Andrey Motorov Andrey Motorov
Before serial production, the open Volvo did not have quite a bit! The Dutch even managed to order the manufacture of original body parts from the English company Motor Panels. Which went bankrupt shortly after receiving payment in 1991… And that was probably the final nail in the coffin for the whole project.
Judging by the data in the sales announcement, this convertible was equipped with a 1.7 engine with 102 horsepower and a manual gearbox. Mileage was only 2060 kilometers.
AutoScout24 Judging by the data in the sales announcement, this convertible was equipped with a 1.7 engine with 102 horsepower and a manual gearbox. Mileage was only 2060 kilometers.
Of the twenty experimental machines assembled at different stages of the project, we know of three surviving copies. The blue prototype is on display at the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg – it is similar in color to the car from the Geneva Motor Show, but differs in upholstery. The bright red turbocharged car remained at the disposal of the Dutch division of Volvo, but later also moved to Sweden.
Two other Volvo 480 convertibles are in a museum in Gothenburg, sometimes they are taken to exhibitions and festivals
Andrey Motorov Two other Volvo 480 convertibles are in a museum in Gothenburg, sometimes they are taken to exhibitions and festivals
nakhon100 / Flickr The red car is equipped with a turbo engine. In this photo you can better see the shape of the tent
Volvo Museum Volvo Museum
And the lilac convertible in our photographs was the only one that ended up in private hands: nine years ago, Volvo Drive magazine wrote that the collector Bart van der Heyden bought the car. Well, now, apparently, the convertible was already with another owner: they asked for 48 thousand euros (4.1 million rubles) for a unique car. /m