Volvo 262C

Volvo Celebrates 40th Anniversary of the Bertone-Built 262C

Forty years ago, Volvo turned perceptions of what its brand stood for upside down. The Volvo 262C (Coupé) stirred emotions and sold significantly better than expected, despite costing more than twice as much as the basic 200 series model.

The precursor was the Volvo 264, presented in the autumn of 1974. Two years later it was time for Volvo’s first six-cylinder wagon: the 265. But plans for the lineup didn’t end there. At the 1977 Geneva motor show, the most unexpected version saw the light of day: a two-door coupé with heavily slanted A-pillars and a roof lowered by 60mm. To get the car to be perceived as sleeker, the rear spare wheel pods had also been removed — the remainder of the body was identical.

Besides the significant changes to the exterior design, the extravagance of leather and hardwood throughout the cabin is what really made the 262C into the higher end coupe that it was. The seats, headrests and door sides — even the curved handles — had been upholstered in leather.

When the Volvo 1800ES was discontinued in 1973, there was no natural top range sports model successor. Volvo’s CEO Pehr G Gyllenhammar saw this as a problem. It was especially important that there was a model of this kind in Volvo’s biggest export market in the USA and a luxury coupé seemed more right at the time than another sports car.

Volvo’s chief designer Jan Wilsgaard did sketches for the shapes of the prestige car, but no clay model was ever built. Instead, he used a Volvo 164 that had been used to test new interiors. It was taken to designer Sergio Coggiola’s company in Turin, where the four-door body was rebuilt into a two-door body with a lower roof. The unique prototype built by Coggiola is now part of the Volvo Museum collection in Gothenburg.

The roof was clad with vinyl and the wide C-pillar adorned with three crowns — Sweden’s heraldic national symbol. The three crowns were replaced with one larger one on the production car, which is one of the very few differences between it and the prototype — except for the obvious fact that it was based on a 164.

The engine in the 262C was initially a 2.7-liter, 140hp V6. It was shared with all the other body versions in the 260 series and had been developed together with Peugeot and Renault. Manufacturing took place in Douvrin, France, under the auspices of the Société Franco-Suédoise de Moteurs-PRV company. Volvo’s engine designation was B27E and, thanks to engine blocks and cylinder heads made from aluminum, it weighed less than 150kg.

Such a niche product, built in small numbers, didn’t fit into the Volvo plant in Gothenburg. Instead, final assembly took place at Bertone, the Italian Carozzeria who also built the 264TE limo. Kits were sent to Turin where the bodies were modified, painted and assembled into finished cars. A small badge on the lower part of the front fenders showed that Bertone had built the car.

The 262C was not the first two-door model in the 260 series. From 1976-77 3,329 262 GLs were manufactured exclusively for the North American market. They had a standard two-door body like a 242, but with a V6 engine and a far more exclusive front end than the 260 series.

For the first few years, the 262 was only available in silver metallic with a black vinyl roof. The 262C is the only Volvo to be delivered from the factory with vinyl over the steel roof.

From 1979, it was also available in gold metallic without a vinyl roof. That year, all sedan models in the 200 series also received a new rear with a trunk that went down at the rear edge. The taillights were also new and went around the body corners. In 1980, black and light blue metallic and silver metallic with vinyl roof was phased out.

Volvo 262C Cabriolet by Solaire

In the USA, the model was sold under the name of the Volvo Coupé from 1980. The independent firm Solaire also built a cabriolet edition of the 262C on behalf of Volvo Cars of North America. Only five units were ever manufactured.

The model year that stands out the most was also its last. In 1981, the 200 series underwent a major update with new, more slender bumpers and a new headlight setup. The B27E became a B28E as the engine gained 14 horsepower because of new cylinder volume. The new color combination was a two-tone paint job in gold and nougat.

The aim was to manufacture 800 units per year, but expectations for demand had been set far too low. Apart from 1977, when production started late in the year, and the final model year, production figures were more than double the forecast. When the final cars were sold in 1981, they were already considered to be collectibles. In total, 6,622 cars were built between 1977 and 1981.

Volvo’s CEO Pehr G Gyllenhammar had a specially made 262C as his company car. It was painted red and its entire interior was also red, even the headrests. It did not feature the usual V6 engine, which was replaced by the four-cylinder B21ET turbo engine. The body frames and grille were in matte black, which heralded the high black grille that the GLT and Turbo would feature in 1984.

Volvo 780 by Bertone

It was only in 1985 that the successor to the 262C was presented, Volvo 780. The collaboration with Bertone continued, but the 780 was both designed and built in the now defunct coachbuilder’s studios.


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