By on November 29, 2018

Today’s Rare Ride fits squarely in the I Didn’t Know About This file. It’s a military-grade Volvo from the 1950s, which the company transformed into a civilian vehicle nearly three decades later.

Presenting the C202 Laplander.

The Laplander range of vehicles began development in the early part of the 1950s. The Swedish Army, in need of new transportation, turned to Volvo trucks with their government contract money. By decade’s end, the first of the Laplander vehicles were ready. The initial test run of product was the L2304 model, and 90 were produced.

Those initial examples were made between 1959 and 1961, at which point the army had a few suggestions for Volvo.

Improvements took a while, but the new L3314 model was ready in 1963. Production was in full swing at that point, with several body styles rolling off the line (as per military request). The army could order the stylish Laplander in either tin or soft-top varieties, and there was even one with a place to mount anti-tank weapons.

By the 1970s, the old ’50s box was growing a bit stale. Volvo again upgraded the Laplander, changing its name from L3304 to C303. Around the same time, Volvo decided civilians might be interested in their own personal Laplander to drive about town. The civilian-spec C202 became available starting in 1977 at Volvo dealers around Europe.

Regular consumers were limited to one body style — the hardtop wagon. Fitted as standard was the larger engine option in the Laplander range, the B20 inline-four. Said power mill was introduced for military use in 1969. With two liters of displacement, the B20A had a single carb and produced 82 horsepower. Paired with the relative lack of power, the axles were weaker on civilian Laplanders, and there was no brake for the differential.

Volvo produced the Laplander here and there for civilian use, and eventually cancelled the model. But that didn’t mean consumer demand vanished, and Volvo restarted production (which moved to Hungary from Sweden) in a joint venture with Csepel Auto, at their factory. A trickle of new C202s continued until 1981, with around 3,000 total civilian examples produced.

Today’s C202 is located in San Diego and would be the perfect urban California vehicle. The condition is a bit rough, however, and the ask with 38,000 kilometers on the dial is $18,000. Potential purchasers should remember that all Laplanders run on 93 octane leaded fuel. Have fun with that.

[Images: Seller]

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22 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Serious All-terrain Truck From Volvo – the 1979 C202 Laplander...”

  • avatar

    Well, it’s no wonder that The Swedish Army hasn’t been defeated in hundreds of years

  • avatar

    Is it large enough to convert to an avocado toast-serving food truck?

  • avatar

    precursor to the Hummer!

  • avatar

    Vehicles like this are neat – however, I prefer the 6-wheeled Pinzgauers. Not fast or pretty but it would put any SUV to shame in an off-road situation.

  • avatar
    Ce he sin

    93 octane fuel might sound off putting to the Americans, but that’s presumably 93 RON. The equivalent in American units is something like 86 or 87 which I think is widely available there.

    • 0 avatar

      You missed the bit about it being leaded.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup Europe uses RON for octane ratings and the us posts the AKI or Anti Knock Index which average of the RON and MON numbers. A good rule of thumb is to subtract 5 to convert to the US number though the fact is two fuels might have the same RON but different MON or vice versa so it does vary.

      The fact that it was designed to run on leaded fuel really isn’t a big deal. All my IH’s were designed for leaded fuel and have been running on unleaded for decades as do many pre-75 cars. If it eventually takes it toll on the valves it isn’t that big of a deal nor prohibitively expensive to have a machine shop install hardened seats. Or just get a later US spec B20 head. Of course that is making the assumption that it didn’t get hardened seats from the factory It was very limited production so it is highly likely the used the same head as on the current cars with fuel injection.

      • 0 avatar

        Right, all older cars were designed to run on leaded. You can get a lead substitute at the parts store or Wal-Mart. If the engine needs some work then take the head to the machine shop and have hardened seats installed. This is par for the course with any car through the sixties in the US.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja


    The seller should offer people $1,800 to haul that ugly Hantavirus paddywagon away.

    • 0 avatar

      I would agree on the asking price. Seems a bit high for such a rough example, but what do I know. There’s someone out there that may find it to be a bargain for various reasons. Thanks for the article, Corey!

  • avatar

    Very similar in concept and execution to the Russian UAZ-452, which you incidentally can still buy brand new from the Ulyanovsk factory with a few nods to modernization like seat belts and the latest version of the OHC fuel injected 2.7L 4cyl. They’re substantially cheaper than $18k new, actually about half that using the current exchange rate

    These are comically-poorly assembled, notable worse than the worst of malaise-era US stuff, and depends on the new owner to get things up to snuff (forget about taking it to the dealer for warranty claims).

    • 0 avatar

      I love it! Especially the double cab pickup (Farmer).

      Do I want it more than a Niva? I think I might. Its awesome.

      • 0 avatar

        There’s a small but committed group of fans in Japan that buy these things and deck them out in different ways, the Russian news covered it and Russians (who chase after used RHD Japanese vans like the Delica and Town Ace) were absolutely dumb-founded why Japanese would go out of their way to buy a car that was slapped together by a crew of pretty hung over guys who may or may not have received their paychecks on time. We’re talking welding electrodes stuck on and painted over in door jambs, sheetmetal crudely bent in brakes, interior trim screws haphazardly attached without any consistency or pattern.

        They’re a common sight in rural areas like my grandma’s village, mining and gas/oil operations buy them up too where they get ragged out at about the same rate that they rust out (a few seasons). The ruble collapsing has given them a new lease on life I think, foreign cars are twice as expensive as they were in 2014.

        • 0 avatar

          Door not shutting and hilarious sheetmetal work:

          huge piece of electrode stuck from the factory and painted over:

          • 0 avatar

            Meh, that’s part of the charm! Just kidding, but I do like the design. I really liked that Toyota HiAce double cab pickup I found in California, too.

            But, I’ve got my crew cab 4×4 small truck now. Doesn’t have the character (including the neat cab over design), but is about 1000x easier to find parts for and work on than any of these.

          • 0 avatar

            @gtem: made my day!

    • 0 avatar

      I love them, they’re adorable. Thank you for sending me down the YouTube rabbit hole. All the YouTube reviews are in Russian of course, with hilariously inaccurate auto-translated closed captions: the one thing I’m picking up is that everyone calls these things the “loaf.” Here’s my favorite review: it’s of the luxury anniversary passenger van model. They take it deep into the forest, where they see dinosaurs born around the same time as the first loaf:

  • avatar

    As a person of Norwegian Lapland heritage, I am now offended by the Laplander moniker,…..not. I truly did not know that Laplander was a derogatory term. My deceased Norwegian mother would be thoroughly amused.

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