By on October 5, 2020

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’ve documented quite a few discarded Volvos in this series, from the PV544 through the S60, and I never fail to stop and photograph a genuine Italo-Swedish Volvo Bertone Coupe. Here’s the latest, a 1989 780 in a Denver car graveyard over the summer.

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, Bertone badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVolvo developed a powerful reputation for sensible and safe cars by the 1970s, but few buyers looking for sporty or stylish machinery considered a trip to their local Volvo dealerships at that time. The 1800 sports car never got much of a foothold with that demographic, and so the suits in Göteborg decided to place a long-distance call to Turin, where Gruppo Bertone did its business. This led to the 1978-1981 262C Bertone Coupe, a genuinely odd-looking 200-Series Volvo with a chopped roofline and snazzy wood/leather interior.

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, Bertone badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSales of the 262C never struck fear into BMW or Jaguar, but they weren’t nothing. When the new 700-Series Volvo arrived, another Göteborg-Turin discussion resulted in the 1986-1991 Volvo 780 Bertone Coupe.

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Bertone restyle and coupe-izing of the 760 incorporated a bit less madness than we saw with the 262C, with a more subdued chop job on the roof and somewhat BMW-ish lines all around.

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, decklid badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis is the fifth thrown-away Volvo 780 I’ve found, after this ’88, this ’88, this ’89, and this ’91 (for 1991, this car was known as, simply, the Volvo Coupé).

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFor 1987 and 1988, American Volvo 780 buyers had one engine choice: a naturally-aspirated PRV V6, an engine best-known for powering the DeLorean DMC-12 (the V in PRV stood for Volvo, which developed the engine in partnership with Peugeot and Renault). That wasn’t much power for an alleged hot-rod European sports coupe, so Volvo added a turbocharged 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as an option starting in 1989 (and mandatory for 1991). That’s what this car has, rated at 175 horsepower.

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, air box - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAs we all know, TURBO was a magical word during the 1980s, but Volvo was pretty restrained about applying badging with that word.

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMSRP on this car was $38,975, or about $83,650 in 2020 dollars. A new 1989 BMW 635CSi went for $47,000, though the $29,950 325iS or $34,950 M3 probably enticed away more potential 780 buyers than did the E24 CocaineWagen.

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, seats - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNo Swedish designers ever would have though to do wild upholstery like this in a staid 740 sedan.

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, wood interior trim - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car was in decent condition when it arrived in the junkyard, despite some wear and tear on the wood and leather, but 780s just aren’t worth much these days and Volvo aficionados tend to go for earlier, boxier vehicles.

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, instrument cluster - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsJust over 160,000 miles on the clock, and now it stops forever (unless someone buys this speedometer and swaps it into another car).

Let’s hope there are still some 780s roaming Japan.

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19 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Volvo 780 Turbo Bertone Coupe...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Good grief, what’s the “STOP” button for on the seat controls? Is that a kill function for a stuck switch so the driver doesn’t get mashed into the steering wheel?

    • 0 avatar

      As per the 780’s owner manual (Volvo makes them available online for pretty much everything they’ve built), “The STOP button cuts out the other controls. This is a safety feature designed to prevent accidental movement of the seat, eg. when children are left unattended in the vehicle.”

      • 0 avatar

        That is a very “Volvo” feature. My plain vanilla had back door child locks, before a lot of people had ever heard of such things.

        What a different world, when it was acceptable to leave children unattended in a vehicle without an army of Karens to call the police on the parents (and yap about it on social media). I believe I can say for certain that no children in Sweden ever died of heat stroke from being left alone in a car.

        • 0 avatar

          “A father says he forgot to drop his toddler off at day care on Tuesday, after which his the two-year-old boy was found dead, still strapped into the car seat eight hours later during the hottest day of the year so far. The boy was left in a car parked in Eslöv, southern Sweden.”

  • avatar

    Somebody had one of these at work over a decade ago, I always thought it was a handsome machine. It was always clean, even in the slush, salt, and sand of winter.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure about the Bertone bodies, since they were nonstandard, but the 700 series were the first model Volvo with galvanized body panels. The factory rustproofing was much better on them, about what we take for granted and expect from any car made in the last couple decades.

      Maintenance and TLC is always important if you drive in the salt belt though.

  • avatar

    As I remember from the old Swedish Bricks list, the PRV V-6 was a good engine with frequent oil changes. (Crud would tend to build up and the top end lubrication was marginal, combined with cam lobe-lifter wear problems… IIRC the case hardening on the lifters was the specific problem, rather than the cam lobes, but in any engine when either surface begins to wear then the other will soon follow). So frequent oil changes, or synthetic oil (barely available in the mid-1980s). Without that, the PRV V-6 was a bad engine.

    The turbo four was the old red block, a really amazing engine whose guts traced back to about 1960 and of the “make it stronger” school of engineering thought, along with several detail changes in the turbocharged version.

    The styling, well, the same thing you can always say about styling- either you like it or you don’t.

  • avatar

    I grew up in a not-affluent area, and 80’s Volvos fascinated this teen at the time. I have very specific visual memories of times and places where I saw Volvos.

    Anyhow, one of these in blue or burgundy with tan leather and a V-8 swap would be my sleeper dream.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’m posting the YouTube link to the 1989 740 Motorweek segment. Posting since Motorweek apparently never tested a Bertone.

    One of my main takeaways is that in 1989 ANY cars were available with standard ABS and an air bag. Let alone one that wasn’t the top trim/model.

  • avatar

    “MSRP on this car was $38,975, or about $83,650 in 2020 dollars”

    Let’s not lose sight of this fact for all of those complaining recently about safety and electronic features making new cars “SO EXPENSIVE” these days. Or pining for the 90s as some golden age.

    • 0 avatar

      The true expense of new cars is not only in the purchase price but when they start aging and all that complex technology begins to fail. They can easily become endless money pits that in many cases only the dealer can work on.

      On the other hand, you can repair 90s cars yourself with relatively simple tools, maybe an OBDII reader for 1996+ models, and they’re modern enough to have fuel injection, disc brakes, and a decent enough level of safety equipment. A low-speed fender bender isn’t going to knock out a web of complex sensors that will require huge $$$ to replace and program to the car. The bulk of the emissions and fuel economy problems were solved by that time, it’s been tons of $$$ for diminishing returns ever since. So yes, the 90s were a golden age and cars from that era are very desirable. (Except perhaps to sniveling young snowflakes.)

      • 0 avatar

        I’m sure there were no rare, complex, or expensive parts on this Volvo, no sir.

        Why, in my day we could rebuild the engines in our $83,000 imported luxury cars in our driveways with nothing more than a screwdriver and a trip to Napa.

        You’re right though, 175 hp and a mid 8 second 0-60 time while returning 18 mpg combined and costing $83K certainly doesn’t leave much room for improvement. Surely us sniveling snowflakes have it all wrong, and car design should have just stopped back when they had it perfected.

  • avatar

    Not enough miles to trigger the KILL switch in Bosch Motronic. That happens @ 300000m/500000k

  • avatar

    I remember seeing a 635CSi in a BMW dealer’s lot back then, and falling in love with it. Unrequited love, of course, I was in no position to spend that much money on a car, I thought it was lust-worthy. This Volvo, not so much, but then I’ve never understood the appeal of Volvos.

    I do very much miss the days where carmakers tried to increase sales by creating sporty variants of their cars, rather than creating yet another non-flavor of their CUV offerings.

  • avatar

    Buying this Bertone in 1987 is the equivalent of showing up in a Taurus SHO, a Saleen whatever, an Altima SE-R, or something equally bizarre and awesome in an otherwise crowded field of other normal, but still awesome, vehicles.

    Somewhere out there is a guy willing to share the story of his decision making process to purchase a brand new 1987 Bertone Coupe. What other cars did he look at? What else did he test drive? How did he pull the trigger on the Bertone? What did his wife, his neighbors, his workmates think? Did he get thumbs up from enthusiasts as he drove around? Did anyone ask him about the car at the gas station?

  • avatar

    -the Scott,

    B5 passat, GTI, hell even the Focus ST are anything but veggie burger. I like rwd as much as the next gear head but id much prefer a livable alternative to the miata and brz.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m going to follow you around and tell you how delicious veggie burgers are errytime you mention them.

      Veggie burgers are flippin’ good, man.

      Serve mine with sweet potato fries.

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