volvo experimental safety car


The Volvo 140 Series was introduced in 1966 and sold until 1974. In many respects, this was the first Volvo “brick”, with brutal straight lines and rectangular features that seemed to suggest that the Volvo design team had ditched their French curve in favour of a set square, eschewing any consideration of aerodynamic styling along the way! This boxy silhouette would live on into the 1990s in the form of its replacement, the 200 Series, which was really an evolution of the original car rather than a brand new model.

The car was the first Volvo to use a tri-digit nomenclature, with the first digit denoting series, the second denoting number of cylinders and the third denoting the number of door (so a 144 was a series 1 car with 4 cylinders and 4 doors). The 140 Series was initially powered by a 1.8 litre, 4 cylinder engine with single or dual carburettors (B18), which was later replaced by the larger 2-litre, 4 cylinder engine (B20). This was fed by either single or dual carburettors, or Bosch fuel injection (B20E/F).

The 140 Series was sold as the 142 (2 door), 144 (4 door), 145 (estate) and the 145 Express (a high roofed estate).

The Volvo 164 was a luxury version born of the 140 Series - equipped with a longer 3-litre, 6 cylinder engine which necessitated an elongated nose. Therefore, the wings, grille, front bumper, bonnet, headlamp bezels and front indicators were all unique to the 164. This car was produced from 1968 until 1975, when it was replaced by the 6-cylinder variant of the 200 Series.

Famous for incorporating innovative safety features within its cars, Volvo created the VESC (Volvo Experimental Safety Car) in 1972, to demonstrate cutting edge safety features including crumple zones, rollover protection, a ‘disappearing’ steering wheel, anti-lock braking system, automatic seat belts, airbags, pop-up head restraints, interior trim and reversing camera. Many of these features would find there way into the evolutionary 200 Series, which also resembled the VESC in the styling department. 

The Volvo 200 Series update replaced the 140 Series in 1974.  It shared the same body, but included a number of mechanical and safety improvements. The 200 also replaced the 140-based 164, and overlapped production of the Volvo 700 series introduced in 1982. As the 240 remained popular, only the 260 was displaced by the 700 series, which Volvo marketed alongside the 240 for another decade. The 700 series was replaced a year before the 240 was discontinued. 

The car benefited from a broader range of engines, with 4 cylinder versions (240 models) featuring capacities of 1.8, 2.0, 2.1 and 2.3 litres, fed by single or dual carbs or petrol injection and potentially turbocharged depending on model or intended market. The 6-cylinder models (260 models) were equipped with the collaborative PRV V6 engine (2.7 or 2.8 litres). Diesel power was also offered, with derv-sipping models equipped with VW 5 or 6-cylinder powerplants.

The most visually challenging model offered was the Bertone-designed Volvo 262C. Intended to compete in the luxury coupe market, the drivetrain, suspension, floor pan, and many of the body panels of the 262C were taken directly from the Volvo 260 sedan, with Bertone building the roof pillars, roof pan, windshield surround, cowl, and the upper parts of the doors. The roof of the 262C was about 10 cm lower than the 260 sedan and originally wrapped in black vinyl. Alongside svelte coupe offerings from competitors, this ugly duckling had all the grace of a sledgehammer!