8:30 PM | January 25 2019

The Volvos You’ve Probably Never Seen

I Roll uncovers five striking Volvo models that never took to the road - yet were each designed for a specific purpose.

There are no prizes for reeling off the names of famous Volvo models produced by the Swedish brand throughout its 90-plus-year history.


But you might be considered one of the world’s most knowledgeable Volvo followers if you were familiar with every single vehicle it had created, whether it was a production or concept model.


So, let’s see how you fare here with I Roll’s selection of five Volvo models that will be familiar to few.




1971 Volvo 1800 ESC Coggiola


Volvo’s famous P1800 sports coupe has been around exactly 10 years when Italian design Sergio Coggiola created a new vision that could take the car into the next decade.


Showcased at the 1971 Paris motor show, the 1800 ESC presented a wedge-style body that would become a popular design trend of the 1970s.


The ESC was still a 2+2-seater but featured a slightly longer and lower body, and incorporated pop-up headlights with a patented hydraulic pedal operation.


The ESC didn’t go into production, however, and instead Volvo extended the 1800’s lifespan until 1973 with a shooting-brake-style two-door wagon called the ES.


Coggiola’s coachbuilding business would be involved in a later production Volvo – the 1977 262C luxury coupe.


Experimental taxi

1977 Volvo Experimental Taxi


Volvos have a long history of being used as taxis in the brand’s home country, and in the late 1970s the company used this experience to create its version of the iconic New York ‘yellow cab’.


The 1976 Experimental Taxi prototype, developed for a design competition promoted by the famous US city’s Museum of Modern Art, was a study in innovation focused on the areas of safety, function and ergonomics.


The rear passenger section accommodated three people in comfort, with a safety bar locking in place at lap height as an alternative to seatbelts. A low and flat floor allowed safe access and ride security for a wheelchair.


For the safety of the driver, a partition was installed between the front and rear sections of the cabin.


The front-wheel-drive Experimental Taxi featured an automatic transmission and was powered by a highly economical six-cylinder diesel engine.



2004 Volvo Tandem


In 2004, the team at Volvo’s Monitoring and Concept Centre (VMCC) in Southern California envisioned a 2010 vehicle that was designed to help combat traffic congestion.


The Tandem was an ultra-aerodynamic personal mobility vehicle that sat a passenger in comfort immediately behind the driver. The distinctive in-line two-seater layout meant the slim Tandem occupied about 50 per cent less lane space than a conventional car.


The design was also influenced by research that revealed 77 per cent of all trips in the US involving just one or two people.


Acknowledging the restricted dimensions and occupant capacity of the Tandem, the 2010 vision of motoring was based around consumers choosing two vehicles rather than one, using different sized cars according to needs. Owners of a Tandem, for example, could rent a large vehicle for holiday trips.


Gravity car

2004 Volvo Extreme Gravity Racer


The radical-looking Extreme Gravity Racer took the integration of car and driver to another level.


Designed to compete in the US extreme gravity racing competition borne out of rudimentary soapbox derby racing, Volvo’s entrant placed the driver in a prone position with their head just an inch or so above the (skinny) front tyre – perfect for experiencing the sensation of speed.


The yellow and black Racer was just under 2.5 metres long and half a metre wide and high, and weighed just 16kg – ensuring it conformed to competition rules.


Its lightness was thanks to construction materials comprising water-jet-cut high-strength aluminium, carbon fibre composite and fibreglass.


Volvo’s Extreme Gravity Car was penned by Doug Frasher, the designer behind the 1999 S80 sedan and 2002 XC90 SUV. His radical racer came third in the competition while winning the Top Design Award at the charitable event that raised money for foster children.


Air motion

2010 Volvo Air Motion Concept


The driver (and passenger) were back in a more conventional seating position for the Air Motion concept, yet there was much in common with the aforementioned Extreme Gravity Car.


Volvo’s philosophy for the Air Motion Canyon Carver was minimising weight and complexity but maximising driver enjoyment.


Sculpted from lightweight carbon fibre, the Air Motion weighed about 460kg – less than a Formula 1 car.


The vehicle drastically reduces the number of components required compared with a regular car, including powerful compressed-air motors that are used for creating momentum rather than a conventional internal combustion engine.


For driving enthusiasts, this created a raw, guilt-free motoring experience.


The Air Motion concept was produced in quarter scale for a Design Challenge at the 2010 Los Angeles motor show.