1981 Volvo Bertone Coupe: The Volvorado…

Anyone remember the Broughamed-out 1978-1981 Volvo 262C/Bertone Coupe? From what I’ve read, this car came about due to some Volvo executives visiting Ford Motor Company back in the ’70s. They spied a then-current Mark coupe and were smitten.

Because, you see, those sensible Swedes typically drove practical, comfortable but not precisely luxurious automobiles at home. Here was something different! The plush leather seats, the wide C-pillar, the long and low lines! Here was something quite different-and strangely compelling…

Like so many cars for sale I see, this one was shared on Finding Future Classic Cars on Facebook. 1981 was the last year for the Bertone coupe. In 1982, you could still get a 240 two-door, but not one of these Broughamtastic “Ovlovs.”

Per the ad: “1981 Volvo Bertone Limited Edition. This car is so beautiful its like an orchid. A Black Orchid.
Black on Black. Black exterior with Black interior.”

“59,000 original documented miles. Garaged all it’s life.”

“Manufactured by Volvo in Sweden and assembled by Bertone Coachworks in Turin Italy from 1977 thru 1981. The Crown Jewel of the Volvo Line. This ’81 is 1 of the last remaining specimens of an expression of automotive art from a bygone era. The question is, who will be the lucky owner of this rare find.”

“We’re just dusting off this incredible barn find. Please enjoy these pictures while we uncover more facts about this fine, collectible European Motorcar. Swedish technology…made in Italy. For Kings, Counts and heads of state.”

“Renowned (ED: hmm, really? OK, I’ll shut up now. -TK) V6, PRV engine purrs like a sexy kitten. You’ve never heard anything like it. A true collectible work of art.”

“With Italian flair and Swedish practicality very few of these cars made it to American shores, and this shining example represents a rare opportunity to own a piece of Volvo history.”

“An exotic and expensive car in its time, the low slung roof line became the trademark of this hot rod Volvo. Real Elm wood veneers, a fully carpeted trunk, sumptuous custom leather interior and heated front seats were all part of this car’s design at a time when such things were unheard of.”

“A low production car, there were only 912 Bertones manufactured in 1981 in the entire world. There were probably only a few hundred imported to America. So, if any one is interested in this sleeper sports car, give me a call
at Rainbow Auto Service in Bellingham and ask for Larry, text if you like, to 360 319 1294.”

“P.S. Oh yeah. I’ve got a 262C Bertone parts car I’ve had wrapped up for a number of years. It’s a silver with black vinyl top. Lots of usable parts. So, there are possibilities for the right party. I can send pics of that if anyone’s interested.”

And while scouting the web for more Bertones, I saw this one for sale in Europe. Very swank.

I don’t remember the silver-blue metallic paint on these, just the gold and the silver and the black. But it looks very good!

And here’s those fantastic, luxy leather seats! I was disappointed that despite 14 pictures, the black one for sale had exactly zero pictures of these magnificent thrones.

So, ifin anyone is interested in the Broughamiest Volvo that ever Broughamed, seek out the seller. And tell ’em Klockau sentcha! Whether you want the black coupe on the NW coast or the silver-blue mint one in Europe, haha!

49 Replies to “1981 Volvo Bertone Coupe: The Volvorado…”

  1. AvatarJohn C.

    I should like these but I just don’t. It reminds me of those Japanese cars and the Valiant that were just a completely inappropriate platform for the title of Brougham. The car was loud, slow, and had a rough engine. It lacked many of the features necessary to comfort and validate an overstressed but successful man, as originally imagined by Lord Brougham. You can’t just wink playfully at a customer and expect success. You have to understand your customer and build a car for him. This car just annoyed their loyal customers by winking at the other guy.

    Reply
      • AvatarJohn C.

        I have been to Sweden and elsewhere in Scandinavia and have seen the large numbers of vintage American iron, including a Charger club that had several in 2014 General Lees in Oslo. In my opinion they are punks doing this to mock rather than honor. I can sense the desperation of 1979 Bertone to accept this commission. We should demand that manufacturers build for us, not just sneer.

        Reply
        • AvatarCJinSD

          I don’t have a problem with manufacturers building for any paying customers. There were plenty of really creepy people driving Volvos in my home town, but none of them got a subsidy to buy them and it didn’t hurt me at all that they made cars that catered to people who loathed the very idea that cars could be attractive, fast, or enjoyable to drive. Most Volvos looked like they were designed by and for the people who find city buses attractive. The bumpers and centers of gravity certainly appeared to be the same.

          As for whether or not this was a decent brougham or PLC, did you ever drive one of the million or so Buicks powered by V6s during the era? That was a rough and feeble engine. At least the Volvo’s doors weren’t heavy enough break your leg when you parked on a hill, or make the door hinges sag before the three-year note was paid.

          Reply
          • AvatarJohn C.

            You are right that my love for PLCs does not extend to the base 78 GMs. The shapes were austere and the unbalanced 90 degree V6s awful. With the lower weight, I can understand a base six, but were they really saving much gas over the Chevy six.

            With a V8, and the more colonade style that came in 81, they got a lot better.

      • AvatarSigivald

        Yeah, I really like Volvos (I drive an XC70, and I like almost all the generations of Volvos, though I’ve never been able to muster love for the blocky 7/8/9 series).

        But the Bertone’s proportions just do NOT do it for me; someone in Portland used to have one parked on the street in a place I’d drive by now and then, and I’d always look at it, but … it never worked for me.

        If I had a Big Car Garage I’d love to own a 544, a 122, and a 164.

        But no 262C, no thanks.

        (That said, yes, Volvo seats forever.)

        Reply
        • AvatarJohn C.

          The R/T road test that our Austrian friend ripped off in the article that got CJ banned had some interesting data. 74db at 70mph, 86db at full throttle, even with the electric overdrive a top gear of 24mph/1000 engine rpm in an equivalent $60,000 personal luxury coupe, excuse me coupe’. The Lincoln folks must have been laughing pretty hard at Volvo’s effort copying the Mark IV.

          Reply
          • AvatarSigivald

            I’ve never driven a Giant ’70s Luxobarge, but I assume the Lincoln was rather quieter?

            (That said, I suspect both were quieter when new, from experience with my ancient Mercedes diesel – a ’76 300D. Age and wear on the hood padding made a naturally fairly loud car almost intolerable by the time other issues made me just give up on it.

            Car was built like a tank and I still love how the w115 looks, but … the 2005 *Corolla* I replaced it with was better in every way OTHER than those two.)

          • AvatarJeff Zekas

            I remember reading that a Lincoln of that era was 59 db at 65mph, which is a lot quieter than the Volvo!

  2. AvatarJohn Van Stry

    I actually like it in black. I don’t know why, but for me it just works. I can only imagine just how much they want for it. Thankfully it’s in Washington, a long ways away, so I won’t be tempted to buy it.

    Still, it was a car that hit it’s mark well.

    Reply
    • AvatarLynnG

      Tom, interesting find, it is more interesting that the seller took pictures of the car at a Volvo centric junk yard. Makes you wonder about what is under that black paint let alone under the sheet metal. Not a shot but just an observation. Key to selling is presentation, as depicted in your pictures from the car brouchures. Memo to file: Manufactures NEVER photograph their cars in junk/parts yards…. and there is a reason for that… Just saying…

      Reply
  3. AvatarCJinSD

    The genesis of the Volvo for people who shrink was actually a Swedish trip by US Ford executives to learn about Volvo’s innovative humane production line. They brought along a fleet of Mark IVs to drive, and Volvo management decided to find a way to make something similar.

    Reply
    • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

      I believe you’re right. I read the story years ago in a coffee table book on Volvo I got from friends of my folks, who owned Lundahl Volvo in Moline and knew I loved cars. Interesting book, was called “Volvo: the cars from the 20s to the 80s.” I think there was even a black and white photo of a prototype with the chopped top, with a 164E front end.

      That prompted another memory of these. Mike Lundahl thought of them as the Volvo pimpmobile at the time (mid-late ’80s), and hated them because he was 6′ 4″. They were unusable for people who were taller than maybe 5′ 10″.

      Reply
        • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

          I’d wear the ban as a badge of honor. I rarely check over there any more. Ripped off Road & Track articles from 1974 and re-runs of mine, Laurence Jones, and the late Kevin Martin from 2011 do not a compelling site make…

          Reply
          • Avatar1a

            1) This morning I was wondering how long it’s been since I’ve banished TTAC because of their treatment of the B. brothers. I then thought, “What was that other site I banished? Ah, yes, CC, for the way they treated T.K.” And here they’re mentioned 🙂 Why give them clicks??

            2) I liked the anecdote about the Volvo book a family friend gave you. I have so many important people in my childhood who treated me so well; it makes me wonder if they knew my home life was so awful. I had one extended relative who worked at a plant that made GM parts decades ago. On his annual trip home, he brought me an entire bag of said parts from every GM division. I was maybe 5 years old—it was the coolest thing for a country kid addicted to cars!

          • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

            CJ, just read your comments on Cantankerous Coot. That was fun. Of course the Coot’s simpering lapdog had to jump right in and yes-man his fake-hippie pal. Like Mr. Burns and Smithers.

            And like the distinguished gentleman he is, when you provided proof after he opened his mouth and fell in discrediting you, he did the mature thing and banned you.

            Delicious.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth

          I see Paul is also still angry about something I wrote:

          “The story doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s like the story about the Caprice being created because GM suddenly banned division execs from driving any brand of GM car other than the one they worked at. Idiocy. MY BS meter is better than yours.”

          Interestingly enough, Mark Rechtin had a piece for Automotive News where he pins down 1964 as the Year Of Said Edict.

          Reply
        • AvatarTexn

          I put some bait out their for him, and he responded. Almost 6 months later, he can’t give it up. I will check CC once in a while, for the COALs. Some are interesting, some are not (serial Volvo flipper).

          Reply
          • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

            Texn, do tell. I always enjoy reading a hippie hissy fit before he deletes his idiotic comment and starts banning instead. 🙂

          • AvatarCJinSD

            I just followed the link to the CC article and saw that he is tripling down on being wrong. I like how he has included a photo of a 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C and a 1981 Volvo 262C without the standard vinyl top that it wore through 80% of its production run. They’re both light blue though, so the factory chop job must have been inspired by the Mercedes-Benz.

            I understand that the US was a very important export market, but I also don’t believe for a second that Volvo saw itself as competing for Lincoln buyers on Lincoln’s terms. If Volvo wanted a pimpmobile, it was because they had pimpmobile envy. They must have known that their buyers weren’t looking to combine the safety and efficiency that their cars represented with the decadence of giant PLCs.

          • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

            One thing I’ve learned about the Cantankerous Coot, he loves being miserable…and burying his head in the sand.

          • Avataryossarian

            i’ve had my run-ins with paul, too but i still scan his site via my news reader to see if tatra has posted anything. i remember seeing the bertone when it came out and being immediately smitten. still like it. to me it’s a grand touring machine. volvo build quality and italian leather. what’s not to like?

  4. Jack BaruthJack Baruth

    Calling this a “sleeper sports car” is probably the most hilariously inept description of a Volvo Bertone possible. It will put its occupants to sleep, yes…

    Reply
    • AvatarCJinSD

      It seems to have been photographed in a junkyard for pre-chinese Volvos, suggesting that a fan of Swedish Volvos considers them to have still been sporty after 1959. From my perspective, that’s the year they stopped just looking like antiques and started being antiques with the introduction of the Valiant.

      Reply
    • AvatarJMcG

      There was a guy who once raced Volvos at Pocono back in the 80’s. What car was that? It was like watching the guy that raced BMW motorcycles back then. One didn’t expect to see it done well: merely seeing it done at all was enough.

      Reply
    • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

      The early ’70s 142E was Volvo’s Q car. Fuel injection, about 10% more power, leather interior, bigger brakes. I don’t think anyone ever called the PRV V6 as sporting – it was a major factor in the failure of the DeLorean to catch on.

      Reply
      • AvatarJohn C.

        The automotive press really had a lot of faith in DeLorean understanding their wants. He had told them a story about GM they wanted to hear and told it exactly how they wanted it told. For his pretentious “ethical” sports car to have such a turd of an engine must have been a disappointment. There weren’t even any old guys wearing white shoes as at GM he could pass the buck to.

        Reply
        • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

          In the case of the DeLorean, the PRV was pushing around a car with a steel frame, a fiberglass body, and stainless steel panels hung on the fiberglass. It could have been lighter. The original idea that John DeLorean and Bill Collins had involved a composite unibody.

          Reply
          • AvatarJohn C.

            If a crate GM small block, or a Porsche V8 were available to DeLorean, would he have taken it? Or would he have stuck with that period ethical mentality that if the boost of the turbo was enough, a PRV V6 was ample?

          • AvatarCJinSD

            The problem is that only the Porsche 911 had an engine actually suited to a rear engined car, and there was no way Porsche was going to a help in the creation of a competitor. Hanging a 1981 small block off the back of a DeLorean would have resulted in lots of weight where you don’t want it. The high center of gravity would have mattered more in a DeLorean than in any front or mid engined car.

            Perhaps John Z DeLorean should have gotten his hands on Alfa-Romeo’s Busso V6. They went into production in 1979 and managed to hang onto 154 horsepower in the trip over the Atlantic. The Alfa V6 has fewer design flaws and much better subjective qualities than the PRV6. Unfortunately, Colin Chapman used the DeLorean’s development funds to keep his F1 team afloat, so the choice to contract Lotus for design and development pretty much doomed the enterprise.

          • AvatarJohn C.

            The Alfa V6 was a good idea. Does anybody know what DeLorean had in mind for an engine when he designed it back in 1974, before Colin Chapman turned the vaporware into an actual car? The GM Rotary?

          • AvatarCJinSD

            Supposedly he wanted to use the Comotor(Citroen and NSU) Wankel, which displaced 2 liters and made a feeble 106 horsepower. That’s pathetic compared to Mazda’s 12As and 13Bs from any stage of development, which is why the Comotor didn’t live long enough to even power the first DeLorean prototype. That car was at least mid engined, in the manner of an X1/9 or Fiero. It used a Citroen CX transverse four cylinder, also promising performance lower than the eventual PRV6. The advantage of the other engines considered is that they wouldn’t have been mounted hanging off the back of the transaxle.

            It’s interesting to poke around in the DeLorean development story and find out that it was to be named the DSV: DeLorean Safety Vehicle. Shades of the Bricklin SV1. Why do bad ideas always seem to have legs on good ideas?

    • AvatarSigivald

      Yeah, 130 HP pushing 3,100 pounds around is not “sporty”.

      It’s not a dog like a Mercedes diesel of the same era, but it is not a fast car.

      Now, uh, if you dropped a small-block V8 in there, you might have a sleeper of some sort.

      Reply
  5. Avatarstingray65

    “It takes a great deal more than money to own a Bertone coupe”

    Yea it also takes a person with a very short upper-body because they have no headroom.

    Reply
  6. Avatarjwinks6500

    I thought these were cool when I was 10, had the brochure! My mom drove a briefly classy but becoming embarrassingly smashed up and disintegrating Marquis Brougham and to me this was a dream car from a better world than my rust encrusted one.
    I do wonder how much they paid Bertone to tell them “Chop the top and throw some vinyl on it”.

    Reply
  7. AvatarJeff Zekas

    Volvos are a dime a dozen, here in Oregon. Even the “rare” Bertone models sell regularly for under $5K, cos “limited edition” has always been a marketing scam. Think of all the “limited edition” C-4 Corvettes that sit unsold, cos their owners think they have a rare car.

    Reply
  8. AvatarShortest Circuit

    You’ve got to start somewhere… as a first attempt, it’s not bad, but the successor 780 looks miles more cohesive in terms of design. Volvo has this track record; the predecessor to the P1800 was the equally weird-looking and massive failure P1900 two-seater.

    Reply
  9. AvatarJohn Marks

    It’s probably the case that the license plate was randomly generated. But “AUC” also stands for AB URBE CONDITA, the ancient Roman year-numbering system, with Year 1 being the founding of the city of Rome. The Latin means, “Since the city was founded.”

    I briefly imagined that some former Classics student had wanted an AUC license plate with some personally significant date. But I dropped that idea when I realized that we are now living in AUC 2773. So AUC 4949… Star Trek hasn’t even gotten that far out.

    Reply
  10. AvatarAcd

    It might be easier to buy into the seller’s hype for this particular car if the Volvo badge on the trunk was over on the left side where it supposed to be.

    Reply
    • AvatarCJinSD

      I linked to that very story as evidence of my position, and Paul rejected it while his gimp said:

      I’m adding a couple of wheelbarrows full of salt to Paul’s shovelful. The first barrowful because Hemmings should’ve stuck to the wall-to-wall classifieds they do so well. Their journalism is poor; their articles are very often full of made-up factoids, guesses, and fairytales. All presented as authoritative gospel, of course. Not just here and there, I mean they do it again and again and again.

      I hope you feel as humbled by this comprehensive refutation of my source as I did.

      Reply

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