By on October 11, 2018

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.

Today’s Rare Ride is a relatively clean 1989 example, on offer via a dealer recently. It was bid up to $1,960 and did not meet the reserve. Still listed on the dealer’s site, the 780 asks $4,900.

[Images: seller]

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50 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Bertone by Any Other Name, the 1989 Volvo 780...”


  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    BERTONE…WHAT A DISGRACE!!!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Still listed on the dealer’s site, the 780 asks $4,900

    Get the leather fixed and then it would be a great candidate for a V8 swap. But not at that price.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      They’ve seriously got to invest in sprucing up the interior a bit (torn bolster, missing plastic cover, general dirtiness) if they want to get that asking price.

      It’s a seriously handsome car though, I am quite smitten by it.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Always found it to be kind of handsome, but then again, I do love me some boxy Europeans!!

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Flair, not flare.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I’d be halfway tempted by the Prancing Moose sticker.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    It’s no wonder the thing is still for sale- the seller’s website/IT is crap. There is a single picture, a single paragraph with a link to wikipedia, and the price. Maybe it would work better if I switch to IE or Edge… not.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    These arent bad looking cars, the biggest issue with them is that almost every body part is unique so you will NEED a second 780 parts car if you’re going to drive it around (and no the parts arent cheap/easy to find, despite what the internet would tell you).

    “a lousy climate control system in the middle”
    No 7-9 series really got a decent climate control system, either the knobs would stop working due to poor soldering, the vents would blow on your feet due to the poorly made vacuum system, or the compressor would go bad.
    The heaters were good though, like all Volvos of that time.

    The interior in this one isnt half bad shape-wise, even with the torn drivers seat. At least the dash mostly lines up and the headliner hasnt fallen down (or has it?).

    If you cant tell I’m not a big 7-9 series fan, it was the start of Volvo going from “Lets build basic but solid and slightly overpriced sedans” into “Lets build cheaply made pseudo-luxury cars”. Though they’re still miles better than the 850/SV70 abominations.

    PS: Had to log in several times to post this, using my PC.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “… they’re still miles better than the 850/SV70 abominations.”

      True…

      The 200 and the 700/900 cost too much to build but 850 was much less expensive. The company would have gone out of business by just continuing to build cars whose bones went all the way back to 1966. But yeah, the 850 cut a lot of corners, small details, to make savings and the S70 even more so. So much that the model turned me off of the brand. (The S80 even bigger corners- remember the collapsing front balljoints?!?)

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I actually didnt know that about the S80, I only knew of the 850/SV70s weak door stops, delicate rims, and eventually the “Lifetime transmission fluid” stuff Volvo tried to pull, and you needed VIDA to pull codes, lovely.

        To me, their issue wasnt them ceasing 240 production. The issue was them trying to be “luxury” on a budget. Killing the 240 was fine (heck the molds were wearing out, causing many to have a permanent bad alignment in the back), but they didnt try to recreate the philosophy behind it. The 850 was more of a FWD Benz when it should’ve been a Euro-Camry.

        Slightly OT: There is one thing that I find amusing about later Volvos, when Ford bought them out Volvo fans often blame them for Volvos unreliability, and yet Mazda fans hardly ever blame Ford for their issues.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I’ve considered a C70 convertible for a weekend cruiser. You can find decent but high mileage ones cheap in the $1500-4000 range but they can have issues since they are not built as robust as the old 240.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I thought the same but the truth is no bueno (and I have access to a Volvo indy).

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            A neighbor on my block has a neglected S60 sitting covered in dirt and on bald tires (one has gone flat), I think they bought a new car and just let this one sit on the street. I kind of wish I had the bandwidth to make an offer on it for cheap for a quick flip. But who knows what else is wrong with it.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Speaking of which, hows your 240 been? Did you find another engine?

            At gtem:
            Wise move, with later Volvos you need to buy Volvos own proprietary software VIDA, or take it to a dealer to sort out any codes. Volvo had become quite anti-shadetree mechanic at that point.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “Volvo had become quite anti-shadetree mechanic at that point.”

            Now you’re just bringing up bad memories. I remember the special Volvo dealer-only electronic tool whose only purpose was to reset the oil change light reminder in the 850/S70… nothing to do with the OBD-2 codes, just the friggin oil change mileage counter. IPD got a bunch of them and would sell them for a couple hundred dollars as I recall, probably not much more than they had to pay for them. The only way around the tool was a black piece of electrical tape to cover up the light. There was no getting at the lightbulb- the access up/around/behind the dashboard was OK but there was no easy reaching the little bulbs along the bottom of the instrument panel.

            When I went to buy my first non-Volvo, not being able to reset that stupid light without a special dealer-only tool would have been a deal breaker.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Yeah, I’ve only “worked” on an S60 very superficially before (replacing a part of a window regulator), meh it’s a European with all of their pluses and minuses. If I were to pursue this quick flip it’d be just that: buy for something in the $500 range, clean the filth up, throw some used or Chinese tires on it and throw it up on Craigslist for $1500 as is, with whatever issues there may be (dash display on the fritz, airbag codes, shot suspension). That’d be a guaranteed seller around tax time.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Ryoku75

            I sold it after I bought my house. Could not justify the expense after such a large purchase.

        • 0 avatar
          Tele Vision

          My Father-in-law has one, a 2004, I think. The gearbox reminds me of a Ford Tempo I once drove. It’s nice on the highway and in town, I guess, but it wallows in corners. Understeer, C70 is thy name!

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            The early V70s were roofless 850s…jist gives my nightmares thinking about it. That car didnt have a great chassis even as a hardtop.

            At Jimc:
            You mean the service light right? With the 240-7-940 youd just hold a button on the gauge cluster for half a minute. Or yank the light, as removing the cluster was easy.

            There is something online about using paper clip hocus pocus on the 850, but still. Was Volvo just paranoid of bad mechanics?

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            @Ryoku- I don’t think the paperclip thing would work with the S70. The reset tool plugged into the OBD2 port (I think… I’m pretty sure). At least I didn’t hear about it 15+ years ago, and not from lack of trying to find out.

            The light bulbs behind the 240 cluster were indeed very easy to get at- just a few seconds to reach up and behind.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    Shouldn’t an expensive car, even in 1989, have a leather wrapped steering wheel?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      You’d think it’d have cup holders too, Volvo was always stingy about smaller creature comforts back then.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Maybe so, but 1989 cars had 1989 plastics. Which were, in some cases, better than 2018 plastics.

      My old MN12 Thunderbird(s) had soft-touch plastic on the steering wheel, which had a very nice and semi-leathery feel to it. I wouldn’t mind that on a new car.

      Then again, some cars had rough and unpleasant plastics on the wheel.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I love these! If I won a lottery I’d have a restomod with a V-8 swap.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    A perfect candidate for a 5.0 Windsor swap, with a 5-speed.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I was looking forward to an article about a rebadged Fiat X1/9.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    Count as another who likes the 780’s style. An important point, though – Bertone did NOT style the 262C. It was designed in-house by Volvo – Bertone just built it.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I seem to recall a Bertone Camaro around that time… maybe a few years earlier.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    There was a Camaro Berlinetta, a buddy of mine had one in HS, cool digital dash and lacy wheels, but was as slow as my Mk1 GTI, as it came w/ a v6.
    Incidentally, I agree with the Principal.I like these.
    I’d get the upholstery fixed, find a Mustang Fox body drivetrain w/ T5 manual and have a fun touring car for probably under 8 grand.I had no idea they made IRS for this generation of Volvo boxes.I’m sure those are harder to find.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Believe it or not, the 4-cylinder version was a lot peppier in local driving, though suffered a bit when it came to top end. The transmission gearing was crap because even the V6 Mustang was slower off the line than the I-4 version. That changed, I think, in the ’90s when the sixes were given better gearing.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Count me as a fan of the styling. I agree it should be cleaned up a bit for the price, but honestly, it isn’t too far into crackpipe territory.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    I always love it when sellers, like this guy, say something like “these cars are going in price, you’ll make a killing in the appreciation”.

    Uhm, OK then why are you selling it? Do you hate money or something? :)

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Volvo is the worst piece of junk I have ever experienced. How do I know? I owned a 2004 Malibu. At least GM could build a reliable HVAC and PCV system, and transmission, and lighting system. Maybe that Malibu was pretty good after all!

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      What model of Volvo did you own? Some of them did actually use GM parts in their HVAC system.

      I do agree on the PCV and lighting systems though. Im glad to be done with flame traps.

  • avatar
    lon888

    I still preferred the gangster looks of the 262C, especially if fitted with proper euro-spec headlights.


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