GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our 1996 Volvo 850 R Film Shoot
Hadrien Le Flanchec started collecting vintage watches when he was about 12 years old, during a time in his life when he would make many visits to small markets with his grandfather to look at chronographs and divers and tanks, and he remembers always being attracted to special dials and special cases like anyone else, but for him it was always about speaking softly and carrying a powerful movement on your wrist.
Watches and other timepieces are what drew Hadrien to cars, and his horological tastes have always manifested as very discreet pieces that had noteworthy or otherwise complex movements powering their timekeeping functions, so the decision to drive a factory hot-rodded Volvo station wagon should be no surprise, seeing as it very much follows that trajectory.
An odd but surprisingly formidable competitor in motorsport guise, the long-roof Volvo 850 with an R badge on the back remains one of the coolest Q cars you can buy today, its reputation at least partially built on the curb-hopping exploits of the most well-known factory-backed wagon to ever go racing. Certainly the turbocharged inline-five in the street car is not the same unit one would find powering the famous Omega-liveried racers in the British Touring Car Championship—those Tom Walkinshaw-prepared cars had high-strung naturally-aspirated fives rather than the turbocharged system used on the production cars—and the production cars weren’t even sold until a year after the wagon had been replaced by the 850 Sedan in touring car racing, negating the rumor that T-5Rs and Rs were built to satisfy homologation requirements.
Nope, it was more like Volvo felt like shaking a bit of their staid image and wanted to capitalize on their concurrent racing program with a suitably sporting option for the road, simple as that. Besides being able to claim you collaborated with Porsche to get there, 0-60 times in under six seconds made a pretty big statement for a car with three rows of seating (if you count the classic foldaway rear-facing bench in the back) in the mid 1990s, and today these cars command a certain kind of reverence from a specific subset of car enthusiasts who would rather check out cars like these than the latest Lambo should the two share a parking lot at Cars & Coffee.
The allure of slabs like these are hard to describe to anyone who thinks of all Volvos as bland members of the commuter set, and the fact that the company’s fast wagons can embarrass plenty of hot cars with two doors is extremely appealing to anyone who’s ever found themselves wanting a sleeper instead a supercar. Hadrien, the owner of the 850 R featured in today’s film, is obviously a member of that group, and he clearly loves the sheep’s clothing aspect of his 850 R, describing his red rectangle as looking like a very normal Volvo to the vast majority of traffic that he encounters.
That said, the fact that it’s a more than mildly arresting shade of red suggests something quicker than your average hand-me-down university-spec keg-hauler. Indeed you won’t find too many 850s on the road in France these days when a more modern compact will solve all the same problems minus a little bit of cubic storage space, and so most of the 850s that you see will be a bit tired looking. Hadrien’s is again an exception to the norm here, as he (and the previous owners, lest their merits go unnoticed) not only accomplished the difficult task of keeping a red car red rather than pink, but have even kept the original “Volans” wheels to maintain the factory look. It all adds up to a very well taken care of oddity that will help carry the torch for another generation of the long-roof faithful, a car that deserves respect for being so much more than its humble figure lets on, a wolf shod in wool.