F​ast_Facts_001: Volvo 850 BTCC

A​ brief look at motorsport's favourite brick...

B​ack in the early 90s, Volvo decided they wanted to boost the image of their 850 model. What was their answer? To take it to compete in the British Touring Car Championship. Let's take a look at some interesting facts about this legend:

1​: It's pretty quick...

Okay I'll admit the Volvo's pace isn't exactly going to set the world on fire, but t​he official 0-60 figure for the 850 is still 7.4 seconds. For a bit of perspective, a Renault Clio Williams will chase 60 MPH in 7.8 seconds. At the time, the 850 wasn't the fastest touring car in the BTCC, but when your trying to propel a literal breeze block around a racing circuit any pace is good pace.

2​: Big is beautiful...

I​f you know anything about the BTCC, or touring car racing in general, you'll know the racing gets a bit... close. When the 850 estate was on the grid in 1994, rival drivers complained about the complete lack of visibility when following the Volvo, due to its boxy shape. This led to both 850s finishing the majority of the races with either no, or broken rear bumpers, as a direct result of other drivers' frustrations.

3​: TWR got very cunning...

W​hen Tom Walkinshaw Racing were building the 850 touring car, they ran into some issues. The engine struggled to get past the 260 HP mark. This put the Volvo 25-30 HP down on the rivals of the time. So, TWR decided to look at the rule books, and *metaphorically* throw it in the bin. In 1994, the BTCC regulations stated that a production cylinder head must be used, but different valves could be fitted. No extra metal could be attached to the head and the angle of the valves couldn't be altered. The key part that TWR worked there way around was the angle of valves couldn't be changed. The engineers at TWR decided to be a bit cheeky and cut a part of the head out. This gave the exhaust valve a different angle, that brought more power. The official power figure was a stupid 325 HP. Once all was said and done, the 850 started at 260 HP and ended some 60 HP above the rest of the engines in the field. The best part of all of this was that the scrutineers couldn't do anything about it, because they hadn't broken any rules. British engineering at its best...

4​: It only lasted a year...

A​fter the '94 season, the regulations had changed to allow both front and rear wings. Unfortunately, the rear wings had to be under the roofline. This meant the estate was dead. The regulations had killed off everyone's favourite racing brick. Thankfully, the 850 kept going in saloon form, but it didn't have the same appeal as the estate.

5​: It was a complete accident...

T​he car you see above is the prototype for the 850 touring car developed by Steffansson Automotive (SAM). When SAM requested body shells from Volvo to dump all their shiny racing bits into, the only ones available were estates. By the time Volvo realised the mistake they made, the senior vice president was already convinced that an estate racing car was a brilliant idea for boosting Volvo's image. Thus, the 850 estate touring car was born in the same circumstances as me, a mistake :)

I​'m thinking of making Fast_Facts a regular series. If you would like that, let me know!

-​Joseph Le Corre-

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Comments (3)

  • Still one of the most amazing race car ever

      1 year ago
    • Definitely, showed the lighter side of motorsport. Where the manufacturer chose the silly option😜

        1 year ago

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