The Knowledge: The Volvo C70 is pure Swedish class – with a big fat turbo
Alex has been a road tester and motoring writer for more than 10 years, and has written on new, used and classic cars for What Car?, Autocar, The Daily Telegraph and PistonHeads, among many others.
Question: what’s the classiest car ever to come out of Sweden? Answer: the Volvo P1800. And let’s face it: if you could buy a Volvo P1800 for less than two grand, you probably would, right?
Well, you can’t. Sorry. But you can buy a Volvo C70, a car oft touted as the spiritual successor to the P1800, and one which, despite subtly stylish lines that just look right from all angles, has seemingly been forgotten by a good chunk of the world at large.
And it does just look right from all angles, doesn’t it? It’s hard to believe that beneath it all, the C70’s based on the slightly-less-square-than-older-Volvos-but-still-pretty-darn-square 850. From the elegant swoop of the roofline to the kicked-up tail with its hamburger-shaped taillights, the first-generation C70 is a class act. Even its nose looks perfectly integrated, a remarkable feat when you consider it was lifted almost wholesale from the boxy S70 and V70.
You could get your C70 with a variety of different engines, but of course the one you want is the T5. Equipped with a 2.3-litre five-pot kicking out 237bhp, this fastest of all first-gen C70s was capable of hitting 62mph from a standstill in 6.9 seconds, and it sounded terrific while it did so.
And handling? Well, the C70 is a big old grand tourer with lots of power going through the front wheels, so don’t go expecting the sharpness of a 3 Series Coupe. You can hustle one along reasonably well, but its light steering, comfy suspension and weight mean it’s best suited to fast A-roads and big sweeping bends, rather than niggly little B-roads.
Out on the motorway, though, its smooth ride, beautifully built interior, comfortable seats and punchy performance mean the C70 is a fabulous way to travel. You get loads of toys as standard, too, and a wide range of interior finishes to pick from – so if you don’t like the shiny wood that came on most examples, you can switch it out for an alternative without too much trouble.
Why you should buy one now
Rarity, to put it simply, is why. The C70 has not found a cult following like some other cars of the 1990s, and consequently, with values on the floor, many are finding themselves on the scrap heap. Which is a great shame, because pretty soon you won’t be able to find one for love nor money.
Talking of money, you won’t have to stump up too much. A daggy example in need of some work can be had for less than £500, which is quite a remarkable amount of car for the cash; for a super-clean T5 with low miles – if you can find one – £3,000 will be more than enough.
What to look out for
C70s are actually pretty reliable old cars if they’ve been well maintained, but with prices so low, that last point might be one to note – seek out a car with lots of invoices or a fully stamped service book, or you might be looking at big bills down the line.
Places you will want to focus your attention will include the suspension bushes, which can wear and knock, and the rear brake calipers, which can seize up. You’ll also want to check all the electrics, as there are quite a few of them, to make sure everything works, as electrical glitches are not unknown.
C70 enthusiasts reckon cars made from 2000 onwards suffer fewer niggling issues – worth keeping in mind.
While its predecessor ultimately pips it on class, you’ll only have to pay a fraction of its cost to bag yourself a good C70. Finding one isn’t likely to be easy, but if you can, you’ll end up with one of the smoothest and most dashing 1990s coupes around.