Maybe you saw this car for sale at this year’s IPD Garage Sale? It’s a 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo Platinum Edition. 1500 Platinum Edition (also known as the TLA model) cars were built, with a special 3-layer pearlescent white paint (Paint Code 424 – Platinum Pearl Metallic) and were loaded with nearly all factory options. Supposedly 1000 sedan models and 500 wagon models were made. Presumably, the platinum edition refers to the “Platinum Anniversary” (70 years) of Volvo Cars, which was founded in 1926 (although the first car rolled off the line in 1927).
The factory Platinum Edition cars looked a little different than the one pictured above.
As you can see, the factory platinum edition wagon lacked a spoiler and roof rails. Factory platinum cars also had smaller wheels – the 16″x6″ five spoke “Persus” wheels, as opposed to the 18″x8″ Volvo “Mirzam” wheels that are the factory option on the later Volvo C70.
So, did I buy it? Indeed I did. Wait, why not an 850R? They’re faster and cooler, right?
Well, here’s the thing. While 1995-97 R cars are plentiful (some estimates say 5,000 were produced globally, including 2,000 of the 1995 T5-R model, and other sources say 5,000-7,000 850Rs and 5,500 T5-Rs were produced, for over 10,000 total), many of them have been heavily abused and are often tastelessly modified. They are good looking cars though:
1995 Volvo 850 T-5R wagon
1996-97 Volvo 850R wagon
1998+ V70R wagon
Although, the later 1998+ s70R/v70R cars do not really hold my interest because of their unreliable (and unavoidable) all-wheel-drive.
So what about the 850 Turbo, which the Platinum Edition is based off of? Isn’t that a lower spec than the 850R?
In the US (where we didn’t get manual transmission R cars), the 850R has the same motor, transmission, and turbocharger as the 850 Turbo (just with a different computer with a higher maximum turbo boost for 23 more HP). The 850R also has a lot of styling accessories – bigger wheels (17″x7″ instead of 16″x6″ on the Turbo), a different interior (stainless steel door sills, “sport” leather seats” and so forth), a different front bumper, and the wagon models of the 850R got a rear spoiler (1996 and later anyway). The 850Rs supposedly also had firmer suspension (springs, shocks and sway bars).
But none of them had pearlesent paint, and the 850R’s almost all had the “R interior” which is one of those polarizing “love it or hate it” kind of things. Personally, I can do without it.
Two of my main reasons for looking for an upgrade to the 240 are safety and comfort. The 850 nails it in both of these categories. First, safety: 6 airbags (instead of 1), better design for side impacts (SIPS), transversely mounted engine for better frontal-offset impact outcomes, traction control, and engineers so confident that Volvo gave you a free a $1 million life insurance policy ($250,000 per occupant) on all new 850s during the warranty period. While the 240 is a very safe car (although designed in the 1970s), it’s hard to argue that it’s safer than the 850 (designed in the 1990s).
As far as comfort goes, the 850 has a nice ride, independent rear suspension (well sort of) and it is a lot quieter inside. The seats are more comfortable, and everything is more luxurious. There is also the 60/40 split rear seat, which is really nice to have when you need it. But that’s what you’d expect from a car that cost almost $40,000 back in 1996 (about $58,000 today, adjusted for inflation).
So why THIS particular 1996 Volvo 850 Platinum?
Well first, it’s been well maintained: timing belt, water pump, ignition components, PCV system, all done in the last year (and within the last couple years, brakes and ABS module replacement). The paint and interior are also in excellent condition for the age (except for the leather seats, which need to be recovered). Second, the modifications that have been done are tasteful: larger wheels, a black R spoiler, newer V70 tail lights, real projector headlights behind the stock glass (no cliche “angle eyes“), an aftermarket boost controller, a Volvo factory strut tower brace, a Volvo factory 850R computer, professionally tinted windows, roof rails, and a stainless steel exhaust (OBX brand, which has now been replaced by the IPD stainless exhaust).
Now for the downsides: 240,000 miles – that’s a lot for an 850, or any car. So, a compression check was in order, and the results were good: 165PSI across all cylinders (spec is 156-185PSI). Everything else checked out (the only engine codes were related to running the exhaust without a catalytic converter), and after owning several cars with low miles that had sat around without maintenance, I would much rather own a higher-mileage car that’s had proper care than a low mileage car that hasn’t. The other major downside of this car is that it’s been in a minor accident (about two or three years ago), enough that the hood and both front fenders were repainted. This isn’t a big deal to me as the title is still clean, and they did a great job on the paint.
I’ve made quite a few upgrades and repairs to the car so far. No big plans for it other than some maintenance and improved suspension (I don’t want to push the engine very hard due to the high mileage).
Repairs and upgrades so far:
- replaced all burned out light bulbs, including those in the cluster, dash and console
- adjusted shift interlock cable to prevent shifter and key sticking
- replaced PCV hose clamp
- fixed broken cargo cover
- fixed rattles in dash
- replaced tailgate shocks with new OEM units
- replaced cabin air filter
- replaced OBX stainless exhaust with IPD stainless exhaust
- added a set of new OEM volvo tan rubber floor mats
- added Weathertech tan rear cargo mat (designed to fit the 850)
- programmed two more remotes and had the dealership cut two new keys
- new license plates (old ones were peeling)
- new shifter interlock cable (adjustment is maxed out)
- new ebrake cables and/or pads (adjustment is maxed out)
- new seat back tilt motor cables (driver’s side had become disconnected)
- reupholster seats
And yes, this is why you replace your cabin air filter on schedule… you’re breathing through this thing remember.