Celebrating 90 Years Of Volvo Cars
Upon the utterance of those two goofy-friendly Scandinavian syllables “Vol-vo,” (which is actually Latin for “I roll,” though it does sound like the prefix to a lot of things that could be made by Ikea) anyone in earshot will be soon smiling at the thoughts that well up to greet the familiar word. That’s the thing about Volvo: seemingly everyone has owned one, or else knows someone who did. It’s a name attached to a lot of cars and the memories created by each of them.
Beyond the at times avant garde and other times staidly handsome Swedish styling, the reason that such a great amount of us have experience of some kind with a Volvo is because they just keep on rolling. So if the name lacks in Scandinavian authenticity, at least the translation is appropriate. I own and have put many miles on a 240 wagon, so I think I can attest to this capability in some part. All I know is that the only thing I do know about the mileage on my car is that it’s higher than the number that’s been frozen in the dials for at least the last 20,000 of whatever the grand total currently is. I also know that it hasn’t been aligned in likely five years at this point, yet will obediently hold a straight line if you need to let go of the wheel to look for a cassette that may or may not prove acceptable to the finicky aftermarket deck that mine came unfortunately burdened with.
Though the sounds from the exhaust aren’t anything to write anything about, you still won’t miss your music if it decides not to work that day. Why? Why is because having a manual gearbox 240 wagon is one of the more persuasive arguments for the “drive a slow car fast” camp. I’ve yet to have more fun than driving that car on the snowy roads in the barren nowhere of Connecticut, so I guess I don’t need much convincing, but still. Try a soft and comfortable car that accepts whatever you want to do with it, and preferably one that’s cheap and safe. It’s a good time.
That’s my, and I think a lot of people’s, experience with a Volvo; at least, it was probably a wagon of some 1, 2, 7, 8, or 9 variant, and it was either the kind of daily object that now occupies almost as much memory real estate as your childhood home, or else a first car of yours or your friend’s that gave you more freedom than you were likely responsibly equipped for. If those two cases don’t cover most of the ground, you’ll forgive me in leaving out an exhaustive list. And it would be exhaustive, because it just really does seem to be the case that everyone has an “old Volvo” story of some sort.
Lately though—no, this is not in any way sponsored, endorsed, or whatever term you’d like me to use, by Volvo—the cars and, really, SUVs have gone back to the ahead of the time styling that helped differentiate cars like the P1800 from the idea that Volvos had to be mature and reserved entirely. They don’t. And they really never were, at least not entirely, for that matter. For every mental image of a tired 840 wagon owned by someone who uses the cupholder as an ashtray as he or she smokes inside the dirty snow-encrusted car, there has always been a souped-up something or other produced in modest numbers with little flashiness or attitude to balance the scales.
There was the 242 GT for example, and the 240 Turbo—the racing variant of which won European and German touring car championships—as well as the lineage of the “R” sedans and, cooler yet, wagons. Plus of course the bright blue Polestar versions, which have in the past years helped to keep the idea of fast wagons a reality.
I’m leaving out a number of great cars—just take a look at the Bertone Volvos—but the point is that it’s a company that’s attained success in racing, in design, and most importantly so, in the constant pioneering of safety for the millions of people who own or ride in its vehicles. Whether it’s dealer-new and flawlessly futuristic or beyond “cleaning up” like mine, there’s a shared presence of the kind of thoughtful approach to car creation that has never really left the company (okay yeah some of the 2000s “S-series” cars really sucked). For almost a century now though, Volvo has been there, and often helping to show us where we’re headed next.
To all the memories made and yet to come, happy 90th birthday Volvo!
Photos courtesy of Volvo