THe Volvo 480

Or how can a bad car be that good ?

The 480 is one of these automotive anomaly I love. It was made by a manufacturer who only knew RWD, massive, bulletproof cars who decided, for some reason, to get into the FWD car business.

What could possibly go wrong then? Well, pretty much everything.

Remember first generation of the Mercedes A class ? Is the shape of a BMW 2 series Active Tourer still haunting your nightmares ? That's what I'm talking about. Brand dilution. Boredom. Blandness

But Volvo didn't take the sensible route. Volvo went mad.

All glory to the shooting brake !

All glory to the shooting brake !

What should have been a sensible hatchback ended up being a sporty-ish shooting brake, oozing with character but not to the taste of everybody, to say the least. With pop-up headlights and a wedgy shape, it is the 80's P1800ES nobody was expecting.

Inside, it's the same story. Renault electronics and poor quality control in the old DAF factory didn't keep Volvo from cramming the 480 with goodies, including one of the first on-board computers. The build quality, Volvo's usual core selling point was, of course, shocking.

80's high-tech !

80's high-tech !

I had a 480 for about a year. A 2.0l n/a, 110 cv, but that's irrelevant. The mileage was unknown as the odometer was broken (common fault), in winter the car froze from the inside because the seals were leaky (common fault), the headlights did a ritual dance (up - down - up -down - up) before finally popping up, the car squeaked and rattled from everywhere, and the handling was pretty poor for a sporty car.

It was a bad car. Not on par with the competition, or with other Volvos.

But you know what? I loved it. It had character, not in the way it drove, but in all the details, the little quirks. Providing you didn't use the rear seats, it was practical, and full of good ideas. It was very, very cheap. As a student's daily driver, it was perfect. Would I buy an other one ? If I had an infinite amount of money, absolutely. And i'd shoehorn a T5 under the bonnet.

any car with pop-up headlights HAS to be good

any car with pop-up headlights HAS to be good

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Comments (6)

  • Want a very good new owner for my volvo 480. Will need references before you can even look at my car. Needs a very enthusiastic chap. You will not need and welding gear or major tools for this vehicle. Just a love for this marquee . Especially the 480

      4 months ago
  • Je croyais que tu l'avais vendue ;)

      3 years ago
  • Hey,

    nice to find an article about the most beautiful Volvo ever built. But as with any car, you can find the good, the bad and the ugly. Or the perfect Volvo :-)

    I've had a blue 1.7L 480 ES and now I have a white 2.0L Volvo 480 S, and they are both fine. The blue one had no(!) electronic faults at all, the white one did idle poor. Just had to change ignition coil, spark plugs and thats it. I used both cars as daily drivers, they weren't worse than my Volvo 745.

    And the thing with the handling - oh boy, I LOVE the handling! Maybe yours needs some parts to be replaced? I think they are so great on mountain roads and very stable at Autobahn-speeds.

    Yes, I love the Volvo 480! Maybe I just had luck to find very good examples of their breed for quite small amounts of money (compared to other classics).

    Finally: You are so right! ANY car with pop-up headlight IS just good - especially if it is a Volvo at the same time.

      4 years ago
    • Nice to see a 480 fan ! As you are saying, they are great classic daily drivers, and more importantly, they have a soul. But, sorry, if you compare them to the competition - your VW siroccos, Porsche 924s, 205GTis and so on - you have to admit...

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        4 years ago
    • You are right - they can not keep up with these cars. But I'm not sure if they are/were in fact competitors? Yes, I love the roadholding of the 480, but I wouldn't call it a sportscar. Just not enough power etc. I think the Porsches and GTIs are...

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        4 years ago