Note: I copied this material from the Geocities site: “The Volvo 780 Information Site” in early 2009 after Yahoo announced that it would be shutting down Geocities permanently. The site was originally written by Eric Anderson, and is presented here in its unabridged form, albeit on one page instead of multiple pages.
About the Volvo 780 Information Site
Giulia (’90 Turbo), and Berta (’87 V-6)
I was first introduced to the 780 in March of 1993, when my parents acquired an ’87 780. In November of that same year, I would follow suit and pick up a ’90 780 Turbo, which served me wonderfully for the next seven years. In July of 2000 I officially left the 780 owner’s circle when I “traded” the ’90 Turbo to my parents, in exchange for their ’91 945SE wagon. Both the ’87 and ’90 780s pictured above continue on under my parents’ ownership.
This site is mainly focused on the 780s built for the U.S. market. I’ve received some inquiries regarding different variants of the 780 only available in Europe and other markets, and unfortunately I don’t have much information in that regard. However, the Dutch 780 website is a wonderful source of information for the 780 offerings in the European markets.
I hope you find the site useful. Though I’m no longer an official 780 owner, I still welcome any feedback or input regarding the site, or the 780 Coupe in general. Feel free to drop me a line at edelacru[at]qwest[dot]net.
Thanks for stopping by!
Eric Dela Cruz
Special thanks to the following individuals for contributing additional images and/or information:
Rob Adriaansen (1987 780, #003156)
Per-Anders Andersson (1990 780, #009426)
Bob Marshall (1989 780 Turbo, #009517)
Hopewellxx (1989 780 Turbo)
This site is not affiliated with AB Volvo, Volvo Car Corporation, Volvo Cars of North America, Inc., or other Volvo companies whose products may be viewed in these pages. The use of the Volvo trademark/logo has been authorized by Volvo Cars of North America.
The Volvo 780: History and Overview
The Volvo 780 coupe made its debut at the International Auto Show in Geneva, Switzerland in 1985. It marked the return of a two-door 2+2 seater coupe to the Volvo stable after a four-year absence following the departure of the 262C in 1981. The 780 became available in Europe in 1986, and would come to the United States a year later.
Like its predecessor, the 780 was designed and built by Carrozzeria Bertone in Turin, Italy. However, unlike the 262C, the 780 was not merely a two-door 760 with a “chop top” roof. Bertone gave the 780 its own distinctive shape which set it apart from the other models, yet was still identifiable as a Volvo. The car had a sleek, low profile, inheriting some of the styling of the other 700 series cars, but without many of the severe angles and sharp corners. The hood, trunk, and roof lines were all slightly lower than the standard 700 series profile, and the C-pillar was wider and had a more gradual slope down to the trunk. Headroom was improved over the 262C, thanks to Bertone’s mere 1 centimeter lowering of the roofline! Window frames all had black matte trim, and were accented with chrome. Chrome also highlighted the door handles, bumpers, and side mouldings.
Headlamps were large, flush-mounted units with integrated high and low halogen beams, and the grille was a black, “egg-crate” design similar to the 740 Turbo. Fog lamps were integrated into the air dam.
The design for the taillamps was a new departure from the other 700 Series cars in 1985, but by 1990 and beyond this design would be applied to all other models in Volvo’s lineup (other foreign automakers would later copy this design as well).
The original 780 had wide 205/60 HR15 tires mounted on signature 15-inch, 15-spoke alloy wheels, and was also offered in certain color schemes not available to any other models.
Following traditional Italian coachbuilding practice, Bertone endowed the 780 with badges of its name and famous logo, which appear on the base of the C-pillars.
The 780’s interior also received Bertone’s undivided attention. The instrument cluster and general dashboard layout was carried over from the 760, but otherwise the interior was uniquely designed for the model. Birch burl wood accents with a high-gloss finish highlighted the dashboard and door panels.
In front were contoured, sculpted bucket seats with height-adjustable headrests—reminiscent of Bertone’s classic designs for Alfa Romeo and Ferrari in the late 60’s and early 70’s. This style of bucket seat would be imitated extensively by most automakers by the early 90’s. The rear seat was specially shaped for two occupants and featured integrated headrests. Seats were of course covered in hand-stitched leather.
In addition to the full complement of standard luxury equipment inherited from the 760, the 780 had some unique features of its own. It was equipped with a four-speaker stereo system with cassette receiver, seven-band electronic graphic equalizer, and a high-power amplifier mounted in the trunk under the rear hatshelf.
Map reading lights were mounted above and behind the rear passenger side windows. Buttons on the side of both the driver and passenger seatbacks tilted the seatbacks forward to allow for entry to the rear. And until the arrival of the 850 in 1993, the 780 was the only model to feature a power moonroof. Like the 760, a driver’s side airbag and anti-lock brakes were standard equipment (both of which were otherwise considered a luxury item in 1987).
The European-spec 780 did have certain minor features which were not available on the U.S. version, including headlamp wipers and side marker lights. In addition, the European 780 had more engine choices, including a turbodiesel, and was available with a manual transmission.
The Volvo 780: Model Changes Year-by-Year
(Please note that this content refers specifically to 780s built for the U.S. market.)
Already available in Europe for the 1986 model year, The Volvo 780 made its debut in the U.S. market in 1987. While the 760 was offered with either the 145 HP B280F PRV V-6 or the 160 HP B230FT 4-cylinder turbo, the 780 was only available with the PRV V-6, as well as only an automatic transmission. Mechanically, the 780 was identical to the 760 and shared the same chassis, drivetrain, and suspension.
The 760 line, having been in production since 1982, underwent some fairly significant mechanical upgrades for the 1988 model year, and the 780 would be receiving these changes as well.
The biggest change was the introduction of a new, Multilink independent rear suspension which replaced the traditional rear live axle of previous years and significantly improved ride and handling.
The 760 and 780 also received a new and improved electronic climate control system, replacing the old single control-lever system in use since the 1983 760. The new ECC finally had separate controls for air conditioning, fan speed, airflow, and temperature setting. This system configuration is still in use in the current (and outgoing) 1998 S90 sedan. The PRV V-6 was still the 780’s only engine choice in 1988.
In 1989 the 780 finally became available with the turbocharged B230FT 4-cylinder engine. In addition, the 780 also received a “Turbo+” accessory kit as standard equipment, which was a relay and vacuum-controlled valve system designed to raise the turbocharger’s boost pressure at a specified RPM. This consequently increased the base turbo engine’s output from 160 to 175 HP.
The 780 Turbo also featured new striking, 15-inch “Multi-X” pattern alloy wheels to differentiate it from the V-6 powered 780. For the first time, “Volvo” badges appeared on the sides of the cars, actually serving as plugs for the side marker lights, which were standard on the Euro-spec cars but not installed on the U.S. cars. Inside, a switch for the door locks was added to the driver’s door control panel. The front seats also had a new “memory glide” feature: by folding the seatback and pressing a small button on the underside of the seat release lever, the seat moved forward automatically to facilitate entry to the rear. Upon returning the seat back to its upright position, pushing and holding down the same button on the seatback release returned the seat to its original position.
The most significant news for the 1990 model year was the redesigned B230FT engine, dubbed “Generation 3”. Volvo also began utilizing a turbocharger with a smaller turbine to shorten spool-up time and reduce turbo “lag”. Combined with a redesigned exhaust manifold and other improvements, the new engine now offered improved performance along with higher output and torque than the 1989 version. In addition, the Turbo+ Kit was also redesigned to increase the turbo’s output from 162 to 188 HP, making it the most powerful engine ever offered by Volvo until the arrival of the new 201 HP B6304F 6-cylinder in the 1992 960. Naturally, the Turbo+ Kit was standard equipment on the 780 Turbo.
Seatback releases were finally redesigned to a more reliable and user-friendly lever-type apparatus, and retained the memory glide feature from the previous year. Volvo also redesigned the illuminated vanity mirror in the passenger sun visor, and added a vanity mirror to the driver’s sun visor as well. Also, the standard tire size was changed from 205/60 to 195/65.
There were also some minor cosmetic changes to the 1990 models. The V-6 780 acquired the same Multi-X pattern alloy wheels of the 780 Turbo, and was also given a chromed vertical-bar grille to differentiate it from the black egg-crate grille of the 780 Turbo. Also, the original high-gloss finish on the wood trim accents was changed to a somewhat less attractive satin finish, giving the wood a more “plastic” and aritificial appearance.
The 780 was re-badged as simply “Coupe” for 1991, and was only available with the 188 HP B230FT 4-cylinder turbo (the PRV V-6 becoming a casualty along with the entire 760 series, also discontinued in 1991). The stereo receiver was replaced with a newer unit, similar in appearance to the old one, but included circuitry for anti-theft and an optional CD changer; the seven-band graphic equalizer was dropped.
The electronic climate control was carried over from the previous year, with one minor (and slightly confusing) change. The pushbutton for the air conditioner was renamed “A/C OFF”, so the illuminated “on” state of the button actually meant that the air conditioning was disengaged, a reversal from previous years. Volvo kept this button arrangement in the ECC until the 1998 S90, when it reverted back to the “snowflake” button with the traditional “lit means on” idea intact.
The Coupe also received a locking differential, a slightly larger front anti-sway bar, and a rear bar was added and integrated into the Multilink rear suspension (upgrades carried over from the newly introduced 940 SE). A small plaque mounted above the ashtray carried the embossed signature of Nuccio Bertone. This was the model’s final year.
Volvo’s official production total for the 780 is 8,518 cars built between 1985 and 1990. However, this number has often been disputed as different sources have often estimated the actually total to be higher. As before, a coupe would remain absent from Volvo’s model line for several years until 1997, ten years after the 780’s introduction in the U.S. The C70, based on the 850 front-wheel drive platform, would be Volvo’s first coupe for the next century.
Volvo 780 Technical Summary, U.S. model
|Body style||2-door coupe|
|Wheelbase||109.1 in. (277.0 cm.)|
|Overall Length||188.7 in. (479.4 cm.)|
|Overall Width||68.9 in. (175.0 cm.)|
|Overall Height||55.1 in. (140.0 cm.)|
|Front Track||57.9 in. (147.0 cm.)|
|Front Headroom||37.0 in. (94.0 cm.)|
|Rear Headroom||35.8 in. (91.0 cm.)|
|Front Legroom||40.2 in. (102.1 cm.)|
|Rear Legroom||35.7 in. (90.6 cm.)|
|Trunk Capacity||14.7 cu. ft. ( .416 cu. m)|
|Towing Capacity||2000 lbs. (907.0 kg.)|
|Transmission||Aisin-Warner AW71 heavy-duty four-speed automatic;
overdrive fourth gear
|Brakes||Power-assisted four wheel disc brakes;
Bosch anti-lock brake system with split circuits
Volvo 780 Standard Equipment, U.S. model
|Safety||Driver-side supplemental restraint system (SRS) AirbagFour three-point seat belts with pretensioners on front belts
Front and rear head restraints
Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
Power central locking system (doors), Power decklid release and fuel filler door release, Remote trunk and fuel door release
Locking Differential (1991 only)
Power door locks (driver’s panel switch 1989-1991 only)
Electronic Climate Control
8-way power adjusted front bucket seats (memory glide feature available 1989-1991 only)
Adjustable front bucket seats with lumbar support
Birch burl wood trim accents
Pass through to trunk
Interior light delay
Left and right floor-mounted entry lights
Front and rear map lights
Illuminated vanity mirror for passenger (driver’s side vanity mirror available 1990-1991 only)
Power moonroof with sliding sunshade
Power front windows
Heated front seats with switches
Engine Oil Temperature Gauge (780 GLE only)
Turbo-Boost gauge (780 Turbo)
Tachometer, Clock, Engine Coolant Temp Gauge, Voltmeter
Rear window demister with automatic shutoff timer
|Exterior||Power steeringPower brakes
Dual power mirrors with heating element
Windshield wipers/washers, 2-speed with intermittent cycle
Open-door warning lights
Flush-lens halogen headlamps, semi-sealed beams
Front fog lamps mounted in air dam
Rear fog lights (1991: driver’s side only)
Engine compartment light
6″x 15″ 15-spoke Alloy Wheels (1987-1989 780 GLE)
7″ x 15″ Multi-X Pattern Alloy Wheels (1990 780 GLE, 1989-1990 780 Turbo, 1991 Coupe)
Volvo 780 Engine Information
(1987-1990 780 GLE)
|Type:||Single-overhead cam all-aluminum V-6|
|Bore & Stroke:||3.58 x 2.87 in. (91 x 73 mm)|
|Fuel Delivery:||Bosch LH-Jet fuel injection|
|Horsepower:||145 bhp @ 5100 rpm|
|Torque:||173 lb-ft @ 3750 rpm|
(1989 780 Turbo)
|Type:||Single-overhead cam inline 4-cylinder; cast-iron block, aluminum head|
|Bore & Stroke:||3.78 x 3.15 in. (96 x 80 mm)|
|Turbo:||Garrett T3 or Mitsubishi TD05 exhaust driven, water-cooled turbocharger and intercooler|
|Fuel Delivery:||Bosch LH-Jet fuel injection|
|Horsepower:||175 bhp @ 5400 rpm|
|Torque:||187 lb-ft @ 2900 rpm|
B230FT+ Generation 3
(1990 780 Turbo, 1991 Coupe)
|Type:||Single-overhead cam inline 4-cylinder; cast-iron block, aluminum head|
|Bore & Stroke:||3.78 x 3.15 in. (96 x 80 mm)|
|Turbo:||Garrett T25 or Mitsubishi TD04H exhaust driven, water-cooled turbocharger and intercooler|
|Fuel Delivery:||Bosch LH-Jet fuel injection|
|Horsepower:||188 bhp @ 5100 rpm|
|Torque:||206 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm|
Volvo 780 Color and Interior Codes/Vehicle Data
Exterior and Interior Color Codes
The 780 Coupe was offered in a select number of color choices, some of which were not available to any other models in Volvo’s lineup. The three-digit number preceding the name corresponds to that color’s code assigned by Volvo. This code can be used to obtain the correct OEM touch-up or spray paint canisters at your Volvo shop. The two-tone interior color combinations were unique to the 780.
|200 Blue Metallic||X||X|
|400 Champagne Metallic||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|401 Lt. Brown Metallic||X||X||X|
|405 Beige Metallic||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|407 Blue Pearl Metallic||X||X||X||X|
|408 Red Pearl Metallic||X||X||X||X|
|2970 Dark Grey||X||X|
Vehicle Data Plate
The color and interior codes, along with the car’s serial number, can be found on the vehicle’s data plate, located under the hood above the passenger side headlamp:
Note that the Bertone serial number is also the last six digits of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
Date of Manufacture
The vehicle’s date of manufacture and gross weight information can be found on a sticker (shown sideways, below) placed on the driver’s door shell:
Volvo 780 Worldwide Production Numbers (estimated)
These revised figures differ from Volvo Sweden’s officially published 780 production number of 8,518 cars. These new numbers are based on vehicle serial (chassis) numbers listed in the Volvo 780 Parts Catalog, and data contributed by Volvo North America and other 780 owners. Certain dates and figures are estimates and this page will be continually updated as more data becomes available. If anyone has any additional information, please e-mail me at edelacru[at]uswest[dot]net!
The 780’s serial number is the last six digits of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and can be found on the vehicle’s data plate.
|Model Year||Production Period||Serial (Chassis) Numbers||Units Built||Imported to U.S.|
*Based on information from Volvo North America. 140 1991 Coupes left in inventory were imported to the U.S. between 1992-1994.
Tips For Buying A Used Volvo 780
Mechanically, from 1987 to 1990 the 780 is identical to the 760 GLE and 760 Turbo; in 1991 its equivalent is the 940 SE Sedan. Since there are already numerous sites which provide in-depth discussions of the mechanical aspects of the 700 Series Volvos, this site won’t go into heavy detail on the mechanics of the 780.
The following is some information about other aspects of the car which a prospective buyer should consider when looking at a used 780. Many of these issues are applicable to other Volvo models of similar vintage.
Model Availability (United States)
Of the 8,518 780s built, roughly half of them were imported to the United States. While the 780 is such a rare Volvo in general, certain model years are more readily available than others. The 1988 and 1989 models are usually easier to find, only because they were imported in larger numbers. The 1987, 1990, and 1991 models were sent to the U.S. in fewer numbers, making them much more rare and difficult to find.
In addition, the 1989-1991 turbocharged models are typically harder to find because they are usually more heavily sought after, and were built in fewer numbers than the V-6 model.
B280F PRV V-6
The reputation of the B280F PRV V-6 is, and will continue to be the subject of ongoing debates between Volvo owners and enthusiasts alike. The engine was the result of a collaboration between Volvo and the French automakers Peugeot and Renault. The engine first appeared in the 1976 264 sedan as the B27F, and over its 14-year tour with Volvo the PRV V-6 has had a rather checkered reliability history. Its biggest problem, especially early on, was poor lubrication. If the oil was not changed regularly and frequently (every 2,500 to 3,000 miles), the oil passages to the head had a tendency to become blocked, leading to premature camshaft wear and eventual self-destruction. Over the years Volvo was making ongoing refinements to the V-6, and by the time the 780 was introduced it was fitted with a final version of the V-6 that was much more reliable than the earlier engines. It still requires frequent oil changes, and for this engine the process is a little more involved than usual, requiring the removable of the splash pan and a section of hose by the air cleaner box in order to gain access to the drain plug and filter.
From a performance standpoint, the PRV V-6 is a little underpowered for the 780, with only 145 HP having to move an over 3400-pound car. The engine strains even further when running the air conditioning and under load. However, the V-6 has better low-end torque than the turbocharged 4-cylinder, and when properly tuned and maintained it is a very smooth and quiet running engine at cruising speeds—ideal for the touring application the 780 was originally designed for. Given the proper oil and coolant changes, the V-6 can often defy the accusations of “poor longevity”, with many satisfied owners reporting well over 150,000 miles on a well-maintained engine.
B230FT 4-cylinder Turbo
The 780 Turbo was introduced at a time when Volvo was producing a more refined, reliable turbo engine, benefiting from intercooler technology and water-cooled turbochargers. Based on the ever-stalwart Volvo inline 4-cylinder, the 1989 turbos and the 1990-1991 “Generation 3” turbos are both perfectly reliable engines, given regular oil changes and proper idle intervals before engine shutdown. The “Generation 3” B230FT has the added benefit of increased performance and less “turbo lag” from the newer, smaller turbine in the turbocharger.
Typical of the four-cylinder engines, the turbo transfers more vibration to the chassis and exhaust, causing the occasional rattling muffler. The engine is noisier under acceleration than the V-6, and can strain somewhat with accessories such as air conditioning running. Also, since the bulk of the turbo’s power is in the 3000-5000 rpm range, torque at low rpm is a little weak until the engine is sufficiently revved. However, the turbo offers much better performance than the V-6 and, besides proper oil change intervals, has less demanding maintenance requirements.
Nivomat Self-Leveling Rear Shock Absorbers
The 760s and 780s were equipped with the Boge Nivomat self-leveling rear shock absorbers as standard equipment. This system employs the combination of a heavy-duty shock absorber and a lighter coil spring. The self-leveling feature is activated automatically by the normal up-and-down motion of the car’s suspension during driving, eventually raising the car up to normal ride height under empty or load conditions. If the car is not driven for several days, the rear of the Nivomat-equipped cars will naturally sag (usually within one inch of the rear wheels) due to the lighter springs. This is a normal characteristic of the Nivomat system and the car’s rear should eventually return to normal ride height after a period of normal driving.
The Nivomat shocks can usually last up to 100,000 miles or more under normal wear and tear. But if the car’s rear is chronically sagging even after periods of driving, or fails the standard “bounce” test when physically pushed down, they may be due for replacement. Replacement Nivomat shocks are not cheap—as much as $450 retail or more per shock. However, if your 780 is a 1987 model which does not have the Multilink independent rear suspension, there is the option of replacing the Nivomats with standard shock absorbers. You will also need to install standard springs in place of the lighter springs, which came with the Nivomats. Unfortunately for 1988-1991 780s equipped with the Multilink IRS, there currently are no options available from Volvo for converting to standard shocks.
Power Seat Switches
Pay particular attention to the power seat switches (both driver and passenger). The original switches were in use since the 1983 760 GLE and were of poor quality up until ’88 or ’89 before they were improved. In a lot of cars you will most likely find a mixed bag of old and new switches as previous owners have had the broken ones replaced (or not). The original switches were all a square, inverted “T”-type design and were mounted in a recessed fashion into the side seat panel.
The newer switches were of two different styles (see above photo). The switch controlling the angle of the seatback and the wider switch controlling horizontal position of the entire seat looked like the old “inverted T” type switches with slightly beveled edges. The two switches for the vertical adjustment of the seat bottom were a rounded, rocker-type design. The newer switches are all mounted in a slightly raised fashion, their bases flush with the seat panel.
In 1990 and 1991 all Volvos with power seats were shipped with this specific combination of both the square and rounded-type switches installed (in fact, these different switch styles are accurately reflected in the owner’s manual illustrations)! It looks sort of ad hoc, but I believe these were the “reliable” combination of switches that Volvo finally stuck with until the power seats were redesigned in 1992. The switches are expensive to replace (as usual), so bottom line: test them all thoroughly!
Seatback Releases (1987-1989 models)
Another problem area is the button on the side of either front seatback which allows you to fold it forward to gain access to the rear. This may in fact have been the same button used on the 2-door 240s. The button pulls a cable which releases the seatback, and over time the button can jam up or the cable can break, especially if the button and seatback are handled roughly. Also, the leather surrounding where the button is mounted has a tendency to tear, and can be visual evidence of rough handling of the seatbacks. The cable itself is expensive to have replaced. Volvo finally redesigned this in 1990 and converted it to a lever-type apparatus which is much more reliable and easy to use.
One other note on the front seats: The 1989 through 1991 models have a “memory glide” feature. When the seatback is folded forward, the seat automatically moves all the way forward to facilitate entry to the rear. When it’s returned to the upright position, the user pushes down on the seat lever (or for the 1989s, a small button on the seat lever itself) and the seat returns to its original horizontal position. Like everything else with the seats, this too is motorized. The motors can get annoyingly slow after using them for awhile, but it’s a handy feature, nevertheless.
Driver and Passenger Sun Visor Vanity Mirrors (1990-1991 models)
The 1987 through 1989 780s have an illuminated vanity mirror on the passenger’s sun visor only, and the lamp itself was a simple lens around the entire mirror with a small slider switch below the mirror.
Starting in 1990, Volvo not only added a vanity mirror to the driver’s sun visor, but redesigned both of them with folding plastic covers, the idea being that the mirror light turns on automatically when the occupant flips up the cover. Once again, the quality of these visors was rather poor: the plastic mirror covers can break off quite easily, and in some cases the entire mirror assembly can fall (literally) into your lap when the sun visor is folded down.
Volvo finally redesigned the visors for the 1992 960, so if the 1990 or 1991 780 you’re looking at has the older-style visors, insist they be replaced if they’re broken; or if they still happen to be intact, expect to replace them in the near future once they do break!
Front Air Dam
The 780s have a front air dam design which rides lower to the ground than other 700 series models. Consequently, the air dam tends to receive damage from curbs and parking barriers fairly often. Cracked plastic, missing tow-hook covers, and bent fog lamp brackets are not uncommon in 780s whose air dams have hit curbs or parking barriers one too many times. When scoping out a potential 780, check under the front bumper to see how the air dam has held up.Dashboard and Wood Trim
The 780’s dashboard tends to begin showing small cracks or splits after six or seven years of regular wear and tear (exposure to sun, heat, cold, etc.). The cracking usually occurs on the passenger side, near and around the ECC sensor above the glove compartment (see above photo). Generally the cracks are not too distracting, however the damage could be more widespread and/or severe in cars which are abused or left out in the elements. Dashboard repair kits are available, although I’m not aware of how long the repaired area will last before the cracks reappear. You can also buy a replacement dashboard, but they are quite expensive. Many owners have opted for buying aftermarket fabric covers to place over the damaged dashboard.
The varnish on the wood trim also tends to crack or flake along the same timeline as the dashboard, and occurs particularly on the panels mounted on the face of the dashboard itself. With normal wear and tear the cracks are not that noticable, but wood trim which appears quite faded or has little varnish left usually indicates an abused interior. Depending on your location there are often specialty shops on hand who can repair or repolish damaged wood trim. It’s also possible to purchase replacement wood trim panels, but be prepared to open up that wallet!
Trunk and Fuel Filler Door Releases
The 780 has two levers accessible along the door jam when the driver’s door is opened. One lever opens the trunk, and the other opens the fuel filler door. The fuel filler door may also be opened by pressing a rocker switch on the dashboard (with the ignition key inserted and set to “accessory”).
The trunk can also be opened by pushing a button inside the glove compartment. There’s no other way to open the trunk and fuel door on the 780, so it’s important that these items are working properly.
The door panels on the 780 are secured by screws in the armrests and along the bottom with two white plastic clips. The clips fit into the slots on the bottom of the door panel in a sort of odd fashion, and if not installed absolutely correctly the bottom of the door panel remains loose and can rattle. In addition, the clips themselves easily fall out if not correctly installed, so verify that they are all in place and that the door panel does not “give” when pulling on the armrest with the door closed. If the panel gives a little, the screws holding the panel to the door may need to be tightened.
Rust and Corrosion
Fortunately, this actually is not too much of an issue with the 780. By the time the 780 was introduced, Volvo had already begun using galvanized steel and a special zinc-enriched paint process in its manufacturing, making the body of the 780 and the rest of the model lineup much more resistant to corrosion.
Of the examples I have seen here in Minnesota, the only real area which seems to begin to show some surface rust is the” lip” of the opening in the car’s roof which holds the moonroof, perhaps attributed to water seeping through the gasket around the moonroof itself. So when you look at a prospective car, open the moonroof and take a look for rust.
Rear License Plate Lamp Housings
This is a minor but chronic problem area for the 780 (and other 700 series sedans of similar vintage). The original plastic housings for the license plate lamps had metal clips holding the assembly to the underside of the trunk lip. The clips rust out fairly quickly in a few years, causing the housings to become loose up to the point that they simply fall out of their mountings! The replacement housings have thicker gaskets and black-painted metal clips, to hopefully retard the effects of corrosion.
Winter Driving Performance
As compared to the 200 Series Volvos, which have a near 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution, the 700 Series Volvos are a little heavier in front, and the 780 is no exception. Traction in snow and ice is also compromised by the wider, high-performance tires. It is highly recommended that 780 owners who drive their cars in the winter invest in a good set of winter tires for all four wheels. Combined with the 780’s 3,400+ pound weight, the narrower, high-traction winter tires will significantly improve the 780’s road handling in snow or ice, making the 780 a very capable winter vehicle. 1991 cars also have the added advantage of a limited-slip differential. Some owners have added additional ballast in the rear (sand bags or an equivalent), but I personally have not found this to be as critical a requirement for 780 winter driving.
While sharing nearly all mechanical and electrical components with the 760 Series cars, miscellaneous parts for the 780 such as trim pieces, body mouldings, and head or taillamp assemblies demand a premium price—thanks to the 780’s limited edition status. There are some Volvo shops selling some used 780 parts, and you might find the occassional example in a salvage yard, but they are few and far between. In most cases, you will be forced to buy the specialty parts new. There are, however, enough shops selling new parts at a discount, so the hit to the pocketbook isn’t quite as bad.
The Bottom Line
The 780s, along with their own unique quirks, are just as susceptible to the occassional quality hiccups and problems that are suffered by the other 700 Series cars. In addition, there will always be a few bad or abused examples out there, so approach a prospective 780 with at least the same (if not higher) level of scrutiny as any other late-model used Volvo. It should be readily apparent from just a preliminary visual inspection of the car if it has been abused or improperly maintained, particularly in the interior. Starting and driving the car should reveal its overall mechanical condition. Verify that the car’s maintenance records are present—they will give you a pretty good idea of how well the car was maintained. Be wary of cars which do not include their full maintenance history.
Volvo 780 Impressions
In spite of the ever-changing trends in Volvo’s automotive development, from a mechanical and technological standpoint the 780 is still a very current design. For example, if you look at a ten-year old 780 built in 1988 (the first year for the Multilink rear suspension), it shares the same inherent equipment, chassis, and mechanics with any of Volvo’s 1988 to 1994 flagship models (specifically the 760, 940SE, and 960). The major areas of exception are different engines, SIPS (side impact protection system) re-engineering, and the absence of a passenger-side airbag (which became a federal safety requirement in 1992). In 1995 the 960 underwent a significant redesign and updating, but other systems such as the electronic climate control configuration were still used through 1998 in the S90, the final iteration of the 700/900 Series-based designs.
One thing to remember about the 780 is that it was not designed as a sport or performance coupe. Like its predecessor, the 262C, the 780 was really built for touring. With its luxurious appointments, refined suspension, heavy soundproofing, smooth V-6 engine, and automatic transmission, the 780 was designed to carry a driver and three passengers on long distance drives in comfort and style. The added benefit of increased performance was finally realized with the arrival of the 780 Turbo, but the real joy of driving the 780 is taking it on leisurely excursions on smooth highways and back roads with winding curves and long straightaways.
With the 780 depreciating to “reasonable” used car prices, demand for the car has increased considerably over the past few years. In highest demand are the 780 Turbos of 1989-1991 vintage, mostly for their improved performance and easier maintenance.
Contrary to the current practice of automakers (Volvo included), where a model’s appearance is altered as frequently as every one to two years, the 780 was a “legacy” design. In other words, while the car received ongoing mechanical upgrades over its five-year tour, its lines, fit and finish all remained consistent so an early model 1986 780 essentially looks and feels identical to a 1991 Coupe. And though its angular lines may date the 780 as a design of the 1980’s, I feel the car is a classic, distinctive example of Volvo’s last collaboration with Carrozzeria Bertone, and in due time the 780 will likely follow the 262C as another collectible, limited-edition Volvo. In this late 90’s automotive age, where obsession with aerodynamics and trendiness have yielded excessively rounded and tediously similar-looking cars (the “jellybean factor”, as some Volvo owners have described it), I have no reservations about driving around in a car which will still stand out in a crowd of current but common-looking designs.
The 780 is also Volvo’s last “traditional” rear-wheel drive coupe. With the demise of the S90/V90 (formerly 960) model line on February 5, 1998, Volvo has invested its future in front-wheel drive designs. The new performance-oriented C70 Coupe is based on the 850/S70 front-wheel drive platform.
About Carrozzeria Bertone
Carrozzeria Bertone of Turin, Italy, has been a center of automotive styling and design excellence since its founding in 1912 by Giovanni Bertone. Like Pininfarina and Zagato, Bertone’s coachwork has long been associated with such legendary Italian automotive marques as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Fiat, and Lamborghini, but Bertone also produced designs for other automotive companies, including BMW, Opel, and of course, Volvo.
Under the guidance of Nuccio Bertone, Giovanni’s son, the company grew rapidly from a small workshop to a fully-industrialized coachbuilding company, and would produce many memorable and innovative automotive designs over nearly five decades. Nuccio had a gift for finding the best in design talent for his company, and the three legendary designers who shaped their careers while at Bertone were hired by Nuccio in succession: Franco Scaglione, Giorgio Giugiaro, and Marcello Gandini.
The famous 1954 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, Giulia 105 Series GT Coupes and Montreal, a version of Ferrari’s 1961 250 GT, the 308 GT4 Dino, the Lamborghini Miura and Countach, and the popular Fiat X1/9 coupe were just some of the many classic and successful designs to emerge from the Bertone studio. Nuccio Bertone devoted most of his life to serving the company his father had begun, and was still active in the business up until his death on February 26, 1997 at the age of 82.
Bertone’s first collaborations with Volvo began with limited production vaiants of the 200 series cars, among them being the 264TE—a “stretched” limousine version of the 264 sedan. Bertone’s first, true “larger scale” project with Volvo was the 262C Coupe, built from 1977 to 1981. Bertone would be called upon again in 1985 to design the coachwork and interior for the 780 Coupe.
An Owner’s Tale
(contributed by Gary Bannister)
My fascination with Volvo’s began about 7 years ago when I purchased a red 1973 1800ES. It was in rough shape and is only now beginning to look like the true beauty that lied beneath the 20 years of abuse the less than caring owners had bestowed upon it. My wife uses it for her daily driver, yet it still has only 140,000 miles on it. Paint is next-ouch!
My second Volvo fell into my lap by fate. A good friend owned a beautiful 1966 1800S coupe. He was building a recording studio in his house and needed quick cash. He sold me the car for $4,250, the same price he paid for it. The car has all original interior that is flawless, the original paint, still in good condition. 14″ ATS 5 spoke rims that are perfect, a limited slip differential, and best of all a factory Volvo “R” Sport engine with big Solex carbs, header, big valve head etc. etc.. The highlight of my summer of ’99 was the 3rd Place Modified trophy I took home from the National Volvo meet in Portland. 86.6 points scored. Screaming around Portland Raceway in 1:43 seconds was fun too.
Having seen the 780 Bertone for these last years, I lusted after one and followed every lead that popped up in papers mags etc. I drove a few junkers that were overpriced and passed on a $2000.00 white ’89 with 230,000 “freeway” miles and a suspected blown engine.Something about the understated elegance of that Italian body really set my mind to dreaming of Monza the Targa Floria and the Mille Miglia, let alone dreaming Sophia Loren would be sitting next to me.
One day I was browsing the newspaper and read the ad; 88 Bertone Volvo for sale $4995-won’t last- dealer /phone etc. I called immediately and asked what color is it? Red the salesman said. I left the house in seconds and drove the 25 miles to the dealership. There before my eyes was the Bertone I had lusted after. The body is flawless, with no dents to speak of, the car has new D60A-2 Dunlops, it is a Seattle car with one owner, service records and 122,000 miles. The car had been on the Volvo dealers lot from September to January and had been written off at tax time. The dealer had taken wholesale bids-the highest being $3400-ouch. The car had been priced at $10,999 on the lot and hadn’t sold. Seems Bertones only appeal to us Volvo nuts. I drove the car and liked it yet realized that it had some maintenance problems-the first one being a battery that was shot-it wouldn’t start the first time I stopped it ($100.00). There were puddles of oil under the car but hey it’s 12 years old already.
Knowing something of the history of the Renault/Peugeot/Volvo V-6 B-27/28/280F, I was worried about the cams and head being shot. I paid a $50.00 deposit on the car and requested that the shop pull the valve covers and let me inspect the cams. They agreed with the condition that if I was happy the car was mine-If not I paid for the service. I agreed. Two days later I returned to discover that it’s a lot of work to take off the valve covers and that the gaskets are special order pieces. The good news was that the cams showed no sign of wearing or scoring and that everything was really clean in the heads. I agreed to buy the car and pointed out that since they already had the covers off they might as well adjust the valves. They agreed, I’m sure just to get rid of the car to a committed owner.
Of course accompanying the car was a list of its ailments, some visible some not. If you want to buy a Bertone I strongly recommend you get a list of ills before you buy the car. The biggest problem was a leaking main seal that was coating the undercarriage with oil ($500.00), not good for an engine design notorious for oil circulation problems. The rear pinion seal was also leaking oil ($200.00). A front strut bushing was gone that created a queasy feeling whenever the brakes were applied ($200.00). Speaking of brakes, the 7 series Volvos seem to have a problem with front rotors warping. I felt the vibration the first time I accelerated and stopped quickly on the freeway, the steering wheel will wobble if you have this problem. I remedied the situation by using ATE power disc rotors from IPD. They were even on sale, so I put on new front rotors and pads all the way around ($500.00).
Volvo 780s are filled with a magician’s bag of electronics. When they all work the car is truly a sporting limousine. My car needed a few replacements; drivers side window switch, fog lamp out, hi-beam headlight(dealer fixed) the shift gate plastic cover was gone as well as the light. The under hood bulb was gone, one of the interior reading lights doesn’t work and recently my third brake light has separated from the rear windshield. The killer stereo has some sort of intermittent hum in it and a friend who also has a 780 says his radio wanders between stations. One Bertone I looked at had the whole center panel aborted and lying on the console. It could only be started by fooling with wires near the fuse box, so I guess I’m not in too bad a shape. If you buy a Bertone pay close attention to all these “little” quirks as they add up fast. Another friend’s motto concerning all the electronics is;us it or lose it; Meaning play with all the buttons on a regular basis just to keep the dust out.
So my mind wanders between “make it a hot rod” and “oh just leave it alone and enjoy its luxury”. After market parts are not easy to come by for Bertones. Because of the I.R.S. the stock shocks have to be used and sway bars are unobtainable. But who can argue with a car that has I.R.S.? Wheels in 16″ sizes are available but the stock wheels are really cool already. Engine mods are possible, Borla has a header system and I’ve seen a V-6 B-280F with a turbo but we’re talking big money here.
So in closing, I’ve obtained a car that originally cost $40,000.00, spent $5000,00 on its purchase, another $2000.00 on maintenance and have been rewarded with an incredible ride that’s like being in an Italian designers showroom. The car will cruise at 90 all day long, attracts stares like a magnet and is one of only 3 Volvo’s from the 80s that seems to have any value to a collector.
1988 780 #005124