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Redusernab Asks: What’s a fun or interesting to do with an old Volvo wagon?

Kamil Kaluski May 18, 2018 Redusernab Asks 38 Comments

One thing I learned in life is that if an opportunity comes knocking, I shouldn’t rush to the door. I now have an opportunity to own the above 1997 Volvo V90 for an extremely low price. The wagon supposedly runs well. The body is a little beat up, the radio is missing, and the front seat has a rip in the leather. I don’t know what the mileage is. But there is a catch. There is always a catch. 

In order for me take possession of this fine Swedish luxury wagon I have to promise, and follow-up on that promise, to do something cool or interesting with it. And this cool or interesting idea has to be approved by it’s current owner, first. 

My initial thought was to make a Lemons racer out of it because I obviously need a third slow Lemons racer. I did some research. This last of the true brick Volvos has a 2.9-liter inline-six that makes 181 hp at 5,200 rpm and 199 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm and a four-speed automatic. It weights 3461 pounds. This takes it out of contention of being any kind of a race car unless a V8 is swapped into it. A V8, or honestly any other swap is beyond my abilities and budget.

I kept thinking. Perhaps it could make a cool sports wagon – think lowered on some cool wheels, blacked out trim. Or a raised expedition wagon on some off-road tires, with some lights and a roof rack. But for this model, Volvo has ditched the conventional coil springs and installed a single transverse leaf-spring suspension in the back. It’s a design similar to the Corvette. Needless to say, it cannot be raised or lowered, at least not without some serious fabrication. 

I’d love to do something cool with a wagon like this but I really can’t think of anything beyond these options, none of which are great. The best thing to do with it would be to clean it up, fix up some things, and just drive it. Am I missing something? What else could I do with it?

  • wilson oberholzer

    Chop the back off and make it into a drift truck:

  • P161911

    Volvo-cherro is the obvious answer.

    • Victor

      Came here to post that , you beat me to it.

    • oldcarjunkie

      Yes – the only reasonable and correct answer here

      • SlowJoeCrow

        While the execution is not as refined as the first example Volvocheros always look better with a sedan quarter window to get the Coupe Utility look

    • je zalanka

      looks a lot like a subie BRAT. a little too much. Rancholvo just sounds better to me

    • Troggy

      Take it a step further – I suggest a box van conversion to tow the LeMons car, and carry all the spares while providing some sleeping space.

  • GTXcellent

    Shouldn’t Volvo’s strident crash testing be put to a real world test?

  • 0A5599

    Decorate it in Ikea livery and strap several boxes to the roof.

    • P161911

      No Ikea livery unless you can disassemble it and flat pack it.

  • wohho

    Safari wagon.

  • Jkedz

    Hoon it around a forest and treat it as hard as you can. Great fun!

  • tonyola

    Fill it with a bunch of pot-smoking hippies.

  • Saab engine swap?

    • I’ve been thinking. The fashion waves are somewhat like:
      – (over)restauration
      – matte wrapping
      – fiber plastic body kit w/stereo
      – stance/lead sled/bling/donk
      – ratty/outlaw
      – tuner car
      – safary/overlandy
      The challenge is to find something of novelty. Zombie apocalypse donk food truck or such..

    • Zentropy

      That’s not even funny.

    • neight428

      My car enthusiasm is thankfully not Swedo-afflicted, at least not yet, but that sounds like a perfectly terrible idea that would either be wholeheartedly embraced by the “eccentrics” that have such predilections or considered some manner of blasphemy. Or possibly both, I don’t understand you people.

  • Harry Callahan

    Dumb fun:

    • Rover 1

      Very dumb.

  • kogashiwa

    Gotta be a surf wagon. So easy too. Some whitewalls, lowered, woodgrain sides, a roof rack and a board.

    • Google Volvo Surf Wagon and yo come up with a lot of cool cars. Now that VW Squarebacks, Corvair wagons and Volvo Amazons are too collectible the Volvo brick is very popular as a surf vehicle.

      • outback_ute

        How about ski wagon?

        • That’ll work.

  • “…because I obviously need a third slow Lemons racer.”

    You seem to be against this idea, so perhaps ask instead whether you need a tow vehicle with plenty of enclosed space. (This is in no way meant to invalidate my previous answer.)

  • discontinuuity

    I know you said that you don’t want to engine swap it, but the B6294T version of that engine makes 268 hp and you could probably find one in an XC90 at a junkyard. You might even be able to make a B6304T5 work, which would give you 349 hp.

    • Zentropy

      Will that pair up to a RWD transmission? The XC90 engines are installed transversely, aren’t they?

      • Amoore

        The V90/S90 used the first iteration of the modular engine found in subsequent FWD Volvos so AFAIK the architecture is easily adaptable for any of the inline Volvo engines between 2000-2012ish since I’ve seen RWD Vo’s with the twin-turbo T6 out of the first S80.

        • Zentropy

          That bit of info is very interesting to me, thank you. I have had a restomod 122 Wagon on my mind for years, and really wanted to go with a Volvo engine. This opens up the possibilities considerably.

          • Amoore

            Do some research, I’m no expert (besides an internet one, which means nothing!) Sounds like an awesome project though, have fun with that! And if all else fails, the straight six from one of these V90s fits pretty well and can make upwards of 700 horsepower as one Koenigsegg employee discovered (Google Volvo wagon beating Ferrari 😉

  • Zentropy

    I saw “960” and read “V90”, and did a double-take. I didn’t realize Volvo adopted that nomenclature so early on. Hey, at least it’s RWD. And honestly, I don’t think the 900s were bad to look at. As for the engine, my E28 has merely one more horsepower (ha!, as if it still held stock numbers) with maybe 200 fewer pounds, and it’s still huge fun. The slush box is the only thing holding your car back.

    If you don’t want to change the drivetrain, then I agree that an off-road look might be cool. Hell, I ran oversized white-letter ATs on my last minivan (full disclosure: I received frequent WTF stares). If it were mine, I’d find a dirt-cheap salvage Crown Victoria for the V8, a Mustang 5-speed, and pedals out of a 940, and create a fun beater.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    Drift car? Probably not enough power so make it a camper or a hearse.

  • Fuhrman16

    Huh? 180 HP and 200 ft pounds torque sounds pretty racing to me…

  • Sjalabais

    Dude, I am away for a couple of days and you start asking the most existential question there is.

    Swedish kids treat these to 5-600hp, but I have never researched how. So racing it shouldn’t be entirely impossible. But what these do real well is grand touring – relaxed mile-hunting. Not sure what the giveaway threshhold is for the current owner, if it needs to be exciting? I have very fond memories of my time as a student, when combining a long Volvo wagon with a madrass, neverending, winding mountain roads and a random girlfriend was the perfect recipe for a long weekend.

  • Lokki

    Well duh!

    • Vairship

      Yes, but it will require a LOT of bodywork to make it look like a Lamborghini towing a trailer.

      • Zentropy

        Honestly, I’d rather have the Volvo.

  • Don Karnage

    Body style aside, the last true Brick was the 940. The 960 and V90 were quite different animals in terms of the engine/drivetrain, suspension and electronics. It may all seem to be progress, but there were SO many more problems due simply to the added complication. Add to that the fact that these were only produced for a short (for Volvo) number of years, and these can be both expensive to repair and service. I see these for sale locally on Craigslist, and there is ALWAYS something wrong with them that make me avoid them like the plague. Now, the 940 with the turbo inline four really is a brick, and it’s bulletproof. Lots of parts available at reasonable cost,and the car is easily serviced by the home mechanic. I always keep an eye out for a post-93 passenger airbag equipped 940 wagon, a truly excellent car. The 960 and later cars had jumped the shark.

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