The Bertone Volvos
This year marks 40 years since an exclusive two-door Volvo made its debut at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show.
The 262C coupe was a niche off-shoot of the 260 series that had already introduced the 1974 264 sedan and 1976 265 wagon.
With a shortage of production space in Sweden, 262Cs were delivered as kits to Carozzia Bertone in Turin for modification, painting and assembly.
It was neither the first nor the last collaboration between Volvo and the renowned Italian coachbuilder, which was famous for countless star cars including the Lancia Stratos, Fiat X1/9, various Lamborghinis such as the Miura and Countach, and even the odd custom Ferrari.
In 1976, the Bertone-built 264 TE – for Top Executive – was the first of the special iterations of the 260 series. Aimed at governments, consular staff, leading companies and other VIPs, the 5.6-metre TE limousine was 70cm longer than a 264 GLE sedan – accommodating up to six passengers (in addition to the driver) via foldable second-row seats. “Exclusive elegance” was provided by plush upholstery, deep-pile carpeting, air-conditioning, electric windows, and adjustable rear-seat reading lamps.
The distinctive 260-series coupe featured a sharply raked windscreen and a roofline 60mm lower than that of the 264 sedan. It was available initially only in a silver metallic body with the narrow windows encased by a black vinyl roof, which featured the crown badge of Bertone. Inside, the luxuriously appointed cabin used leather for the seats, headrests and door trim, and contemporary features included electric windows and air-conditioning. From 1979, buyers could opt for a gold metallic paint covering the whole car, including the roof, while a 1981 update for the whole 260 series brought new bumpers and headlights to the design, along with a lift in power for the 2.7-litre V6 and a gold/nougat two-tone paintjob. A total of 6,622 of the coupes – or Volvo Coupes, as the model was known in the US – were built during its four-year life span.
Bertone’s third Volvo project of the 1970s was the 1979 Tundra concept – a mid-sized coupe based on the platform of the company’s 343 model. The angular Tundra – with its smooth bonnet, wraparound-style glass and trapezoidal wheel arches – didn’t get the production green light, though it did seem to inspire the 1982 Citroen BX. That, too, was designed by Bertone – an early example of the sharing economy, perhaps?
Bertone was behind the entire design and production (in its base, Turin) of Volvo’s most exclusive car in 1985 – the 780. The joint-venture model cost more than double the price of a 760 GLE sedan on which it was based, though all its body panels were unique. The comfort-focused 780 featured various luxury appointments, such as electrically adjustable seats, trip computer, ABS brakes, climate control, electric windows and side mirrors, and a state-of-the-art audio with microprocessor control. The ‘b’ logo of Bertone featured on the rear pillar. Hardwood was applied to the dash and door trim, while the leather seats were available in two contrasting colours.