Rare Rides: A Bertone by Any Other Name, the 1989 Volvo 780
What do you get when you cross practical Swedish design sensibility with some Italian flair? You get a very expensive and boxy two-door sedan with a Bertone badge on it.
Presenting the 1989 Volvo 780.
Design firm Bertone was used to putting their own spin on existing cars. In fact, the predecessor to today’s Rare Ride was the Bertone-built and chopped roof Volvo 262C, of 1978 through 1981. That car was the first time Volvo aimed their sights at the luxury car market. Pitching the 262C against established players like Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz, Volvo moved 6,622 copies of the thoroughly Malaise 262C.
Pleased with the result of their prior collaboration, Volvo turned to the Italian house once more, and said “Coupe again!” After a Swiss debut in 1985, the 780 made its way to the United States for the 1987 model year.
Based on the successful line of 700 series cars from Volvo, the 780 was top of the line. The only way to get anything but a standard sedan or wagon was to pass by the 740 and 760 models, and pony up for the Bertone 780.
All 780s were built at the Bertone factory in Turin, Italy. The coachbuilder reworked the original 760’s roof into a coupe format, and rearranged the hood and trunk to sit lower. At the rear the C-pillar had a smoother rake, which gave a faster silhouette when compared to the upright sedans. Learning from their prior experience, Bertone didn’t chop the roof like they did with the 262C, leaving headroom intact.
The first couple years of 780 production were hampered a bit by a single engine up front, a solid rear axle underneath, and a lousy climate control system in the middle. Originally Volvo offered the 3,400-pound 780 with the 2.8-liter PRV V6 (150 horsepower) in naturally aspirated guise. Volvo improved offerings for the ’88 model year; at that point an upgrade to the independent rear suspension coincided with the availability of turbocharged inline-four engines. One-hundred and seventy-five turbocharged horsepower in 1988 increased to 188 in North American cars for 1989 and onward. Four-speed manual or automatic transmissions were available, with the majority of North American examples possessing an automatic.
The 780 would live for a relatively short while overall. Production wrapped up in 1990, resulting in a limited run ’91 model year. For that year only, the 780 name disappeared and badging simply read Coupé. Volvo produced 8,518 Bertone 780s in total. Perhaps taking a hint from the market, the company did not offer another coupe until the more modern C70 arrived for 1996.
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.
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