History 440 460 480
The development of the Volvo 400-series is almost the same as the Volvo 850. Both cars were a part of the Volvo Galaxy Project. The Galaxy Project was started in the 70’s and should define the future of Volvo. Due the oil crisis and changed needs of consumers Volvo needed to change its path drastically. The new driver wanted a car that is smaller, bigger in the inside and much more economical. Other manufacturers dropped the rearwheel-drive concept and were starting to use frontwheel-drive (FWD). Benefits of FWD were pretty simple: cars can be smaller, and the interior can become bigger since the driveshaft won’t limit the wheelbase and doesn’t take a lot of interior space in the middle of the car. The space of the passenger compartment would increase a lot! The new project should also lead to a new engine and a new gearbox.
Volvo started the Galaxy Project, not only to produce 2 series of new cars (a small car and a bigger car), but also to develop new production methods and the usage of new materials. The small car should be about 1000kg (and consumes 1 gallon per 35 miles) and the bigger car about 1200kg (and a fuel consumption of 1 gallon per 30 miles).
Phase 1 of the Volvo Galaxy Project
The first phase was a pilot study, which took place from 1978 till 1981. The team members of the Galaxy Project produced a new prototype, called the Volvo G4 (which was ready in 1980). It has frontwheeldrive, new type gearbox and a 1.8 litre engine. This Volvo G4-prototype lead to two other cars: the Volvo G1 (to replace the 340/360) and G2 (which should become the 800-series). For the engine Volvo started developing the aluminium X-100 transverse engine, a four-cilinder in-line engine which was suitable for frontwheel drive. In the project there was also a 5-cilinder and 6-cilinder engine mentioned, but at the beginning of the project these engine-types weren’t sure yet (mainly because the oil crisis just ended).
In September 1980 the Volvo G1 prototype was finished and renamed to G4. The G4 was designed by Jan Wilsgaard and had a transverse 1.8 litre engine (codename X-100), frontwheel-drive and the new type of gearbox (this new type of gearbox was needed because the car is a FWD). As you can see in the picture below the Volvo 440 isn’t much different than the G4. The name G4 has been changed to G13 (a 2+2 coupe which became the Volvo 480), G14 (codename for the Volvo 460, a 4-door sedan) and G15 (Volvo 440, the 5-door hatchback) to diversify the different designs. An estate-version was also planned in the early stages of the project, but abandonded because its profitability wasn’t good enough (and it could be a danger for sales of the Volvo 740 Estate).
Phase 2 of the Galaxy Project
In the 70’s Volvo purchased DAF and took over the factory in Born (The Netherlands). In 1982 the G1-part of the Galaxy Project was sold from Volvo Sweden to Volvo Cars BV (the official name of Volvo in The Netherlands). The G1-project (including the G13, G14, G15 and 9 test prototypes including the G4 above) was sold for SEK 128,5 milion.
Volvo wanted to introduce the G13 at first, mainly because it was a very special car, but also because it’s a car which can be used as a “test-car”: when it’s introduced and on the road before the mainstream cars (the hatchback and sedan) many small problems and the new parts can be tested very well. The same trick is used at the Volvo 850 later: the 960 was the “test-version” of the 850: by introducing and selling the car one year earlier than the car that should be the big hit, many (small) problems can be solved and new materials, parts and production methods can be tested.
The G13 should also be sold in the USA and was the first sporty coupé Volvo had after the 1800ES went out of production. The G13 was designed in a way that it matches all American requirements, like the height of the headlights. That’s why the final version of the 480 had flip-up headlights: when the headlights were installed in the car’s design it wouldn’t match the USA-requirements. Detailed info about the development of the Volvo 480 can be found below. Enjoy!
Development of the Volvo 480
In 1980 the design work of the Volvo G13 was started. About 80 sketches were made and Dan Werbin (the product planner of the G1) said it was a though job to make the right decision. The G13 should be a sporty car which should be pretty practical, but with a very low fuel consumption. That’s why the G13 was called a “MPG-car”: it should have a better Miles Per Gallon than a regular car. The G13 should be designed for the USA-market and should have a wheelbase of 2400mm (2m40), FWD (as mentioned above) and a length of 3900mm (3m90). Bertone and Coggiola were also hired for designwork, but Coggiola was dropped in the stage before a clay model was produced. Of the 80 sketches 4 designs were chosen and should be build as fullscale models. Two prototypes were designed by Volvo Sweden: a proposal of Jan Wilsgaard and one of Rolf Malmgren, a Dutch prototype of John de Vries and a design of Bertone (Italy).
The Volvo G13 prototype of Bertone, it doesn’t look bad at all! It looks pretty much the same as the design of De Vries, but that isn’t strange since the 80 sketches were an inspiration for this design
In June 1981 it was time to make a decision which design should become the new Volvo. Rob Koch (who leads the project at Volvo Cars BV in The Netherlands) went to Sweden to convince the Volvo board members why they should choose De Vries’ design. The management of Volvo didn’t see the design as a real Volvo, but they were very pleased with the looks and the practical design of it. The design of John de Vries didn’t have much gimmicks and that’s also a good point of the design. Another good thing of this design was the more “rounded” curves of it. In the early 80s cars were becoming a bit rounder and producing a boxy sporty car shouldn’t be the right way. Volvo decided to take De Vries’ design to become the new Volvo, but there would be some work left to do. The design of the interior was made by Peter Horbury.
One of the most difficult decisions of the G13 was how to determine the look of the front and the back. Since De Vries took his inspiration of the Volvo 1800ES the tailgate should be made of glass, but which design of it and which look of rear lights should be used wasn’t decided yet. Finally there were three designs left, see the picture below.
Three sketches with options of the back of the Volvo G13. As you can see the rear is inspired on the Volvo 1800ES and the team of Rob Koch decided to choose alternative III for the final version of the car
Another issue was how to design the final version of the front. Since the Volvo G13 was designed for the US-market there were some legislations which should be meet, like the bumpers (bumpers should survive 5mph crashes without any damage) and the height where the front lights should be mounted. Rob Koch and his design team wanted to create an aerodynamic look and not have a big grille with big headlights at the front, and to meet the US legislation they decided to use head-up headlights. When the design was finished the legislation was changed but it would be too expensive and there was no time left to re-design the front. And it looked very cool!
Also the front grille of the car was a hard issue. The grille was mounted into the bumper, but Volvo Sweden wanted the logo and diagonal bar on the car. But placing it between the headlights (just like all other Volvo cars, trucks, construction vehicles and buses) would look a bit strange. A nice solution was found (based on the Ferrari-solution): re-designing the grille in the bumper and placing the chrome trim, logo and diagonal bar on it. Problem solved!
The door lock is located just above the door, instead in the door. Because the doors are pretty thin at the height of the door handle a lock wouldn’t fit. That’s why a small triangle is placed between the window and door. A nice benefit of it the owner wouldn’t damage the paint when trying to find the door lock in the dark. Another nice thing was the four seats of the car. In the back of the car there wasn’t a rear bench mounted, but two seperate seats which could be adjusted seperately. The interior provides a lot of space and is very comfortable. The first designs of the coupé had a fibreglass hood, but it appeared the steel version was slightly lighter and also cheaper. The wheelbase of the car is also larger than the original plan: 2503mm (instead of the 2400mm which was determined in the 70s), but if the wheelbase was shorter than the original plan the car was a lot smaller at the inside and the roadhandling would be worse.
After some heavy testing (like the Australian desert for extremely hot conditions, winter tests in Lapland and a lot of trips in Germany and the Netherlands) the car was finished in 1985 and the name of the finished G13 was Volvo 480. The press release of the Volvo 480 was on October 15 1985 and the new Volvo coupé was first shown to the public on the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland in March 1986. It was Volvo’s first front-wheel drive car and also the first car with pop-up headlamps.
The 1.7 litre engines were from Renault (who used the engine in the Renault 11, 19 and 21 and even in the Renault 5). But Volvo thought the engine wasn’t good enough for the new coupé and went to Porsche Development Devision in Weissach (Germany) for some modifying and tuning. Porsche managed to increase the torque, the top speed was increased to 190km/h and the acceleration from 0-100km/h should be done in less than 10 seconds. At the end of 1991 (when production of Modelyear 1992 started) the 2.0 litre engine was introduced. The 480 was produced in Born (the Netherlands) where the Volvo 340 and 360 also were build.
The 480 was developed for the US-market, but actually never sold there: the exchange rate of the Dollar wasn’t very helpful and would make the Volvo 480 way too expensive to be sold there. After delaying the export to the US several times and several years Volvo decided not to sell the car in the US. There are some 480s driving right now in the US, but they’re all imported by other channels.
In the first production years of the Volvo 480 had many problems with its electrical system. The electrical system was very complex and pulled out the battery within 2 weeks. Fortunately the issues were solved after a while, but the first modelyear (1986) of the Volvo 480 isn’t the best buy, unless you’re certain the problems have been tackled. The introduction of the Volvo 440 was delayed because Volvo wanted to solve the problems of the Volvo 480 before a new car was being introduced.
On September 7 1995 production of the Volvo 480 ended, after 80.463 480s were produced.
The Volvo 480 Cabrio
When work on the Volvo 480 was finished the maker of the scale models (Martin van den Heuvel) had a great idea: what if some of the final prototypes could be converted into a 2+2 cabriolet? The idea was pretty simple: take a prototype which wasn’t used anymore and cut off the roof. Otherwise the prototypes will end up in the shredder and now it could have a nice goal. Rob Koch liked the idea and made a contest for his design team: design a Volvo 480 Cabrio and maybe it will be showed to the Volvo management in Sweden! Cor Steenstra and Steve Harper (who was hired as a freelancer) accepted this challenge and were starting a new nice project.
The new Volvo cabrio should not be a simple car which is based on the coupe but with the roof cut away, but a car with his own image. And of course it should be a 2+2 seater which provide enough space for 4 passengers. Since Volvo has the image to produce safe cars the 480 Cabrio should also have a rollbar to protect passengers when a car would roll over (at those days convertibles without a rollbar were a new trend).
Rob Koch liked the design of Steve Harper very much and a prototype was made. But unfortunately the 2+2 concept didn’t work as expected: the rear passengers would stare at the rollbar all the time and that would be a bad idea. Harper also made another sketch (see above) where the rear seats were removed and replaced by extra storage compartments. It looked very good and the team decided to use this option (including the bit higher rear and the door lock just above the door).
Steve Harper left Volvo Cars BV in 1986 and Cor Steenstra took over the work on the Volvo 480 Cabrio. The picture above shows the prototype which is made with ASC (American Sunroof Company, settled in Detroit) in 1986. These pictures (and also pictures of a testdrive) leaked out and were shown in some magazines. The original plan was to show the prototype at the Dutch Autorai, but Volvo announced the 480 Cabrio was a mock-up and only a study model for future concepts (and of course: the car wasn’t shown at the 1987 Autorai, nor the Geneva Motorshow). It seems the 480 Cabrio project was on a dead end.
In the meanwhile ASC (Detroit, USA) also designed another good option: the Volvo 480 Targa: a 480 with removable roof panels and a very sloping roofline (like most Targas have). But Volvo didn’t really liked it, so the project was cancelled.
But at the end of 1987 EBS (a small Belgian coachbuilder, specialised in producing convertibles) was approached by a Belgian Volvo-dealer and they informed at Volvo Cars in The Netherlands to continue the 480 Cabrio project. A new prototype was build, with an electrical roof and without a rollbar. Also the English company Motor Panels was involved in the reborn project and produced a prototype with rollbar and was based on the design of Steve Harper and the ASC prototype. Volvo choose the Motor Panels-design and the car was presented at the Geneva Motorshow in March 1990 as a concept car, but Volvo announced production of the new convertible should start in the end 1990 (Modelyear 1991). The base of the car should be produced in the factory in Born and then be transported to coachbuilder Den Oudsten in Belgium and the car was also finished in England. Several improvements were made to strengthen the chassis, like a wider track, inforced floorpanels and some other panels that needed some more stiffness.
The start of the production was delayed several times due these improvements and the presale was started in 1991 (when production wasn’t started yet). Some more changes were made in the standard equipment. But when the production was finally ready to be started Motor Panels went bankrupt later in 1991. It shouldn’t be a big problem since EBS also could produce the car, but Motor Panels made some exclusive deals with suppliers. These deals weren’t possible for EBS and the price for the Volvo 480 Cabrio would be way too high. Volvo decided to cancel the production of the Volvo 480 in 1992.
These days there are some 480 Turbo Cabrio cars on the road: at least two in The Netherlands (a red one at importer Volvo Cars Nederland and a Paris Blue version with RHD in private usage), one was sold on Ebay UK a couple of weeks ago (May or June 2012) and of course there’s one at the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg (Sweden).
Changes and modifications of the Volvo 480
During the years the Volvo 480 was changed every year, just like most car manufacturers do. The list below is by modelyear. For example: a 480 that’s made in November 1988 has Modelyear 1989 (MY89), and if a 480 is produced in May 1989 it also has MY89. In August of each year Volvo applies the new modelyear for each produced Volvo (not the first registration). The following changes and improvements were made on the Volvo 480:
- Modelyear 1986: first year of the Volvo 480 (introduction in Oktober 1985 but for sale in 1986)
- Modelyear 1987: improvements in electrical system (due many problems), improvements in steering system (could cause spontaneous lock-ups in steering wheel), improvements in hoses and some rubbers (leakages).
- Modelyear 1988: less standard equipment for the Volvo 480 ES (for most markets), smaller side trims (for Japanese market since Japan has a tax-system also based on the width of the car, smaller trims made the Volvo 480 less wide), side trims aren’t painted anymore, bumpers black (instead of gray), catalytic converter available, moonroof and airco as option available, leather upholstery available, introduction of the Volvo 480 Turbo (which also has a front spoiler)
- Modelyear 1989: new colors available, new controls for the heater, again less standard equipment for the Volvo 480 ES. For some markets a 480 Turbo with B18FTM motor is introduced (which doesn’t have a catalytist and can run on leaded fuel). Original Volvo bodykit for the Volvo 480 now available.
- Modelyear 1990: new engines (B18EP and B18F), new automatic gearboxes of ZF, introduction of SRS airbags (optional), withdrawal of the 480 on the Arabian and Japanese market. Introduction of the Volvo 480 Cabrio concept car at the Geneva Motorshow (which should be produced in 1992).
- Modelyear 1991: the plans for a facelift of the 480 (the Volvo 480 Phase II) are withdrawn and for a moment it looks the production of the 480 will be ended. Due these ideas there’s nothing really new or changed on the Volvo 480 for MY 91. But Volvo didn’t want to end the production after all.
- Modelyear 1992: new mirrors, introduction of the Volvo 480 Twinline (with two-tone paint), small modifications in bumpers and trims, minor changes in the CEM (Central Electronic Module), small changes in the 2.0 litre engine to improve performance a bit.
- Modelyear 1993: 1.7 litre non-turbocharged engines not longer available for most markets, for some markets the Volvo 480 S is introduced which is a very sober car with only a few options as standard equipment.
- Modelyear 1994: white indicators, introduction of the Volvo 480 GT (a special version which has ABS, cruise control, airconditioning, alloy wheels and leather upholstery for a special price) and 480 Celebration (also with special options).
- Modelyear 1995: two new colors available, production of the Volvo 480 ends at Spetember 7 1995 but a lot of 480s were standing in the showroom at dealers in 1996!
History & development of the Volvo 440
The Volvo G15 (codename for the car that would become the Volvo 440) was also started when the G13 project was started. The G15 should have the same base as the G13 coupe and G14 saloon. It’s obvious the G13 was the sporty one of the new Galaxy cars and the G14 and G15 would become the new family cars. The new car should succeed the 300-series but Volvo decided to use the 300-series as a entry-level car (it was pretty cheap but very good and had a excellent value-for-money) and the new series should be positioned just above the Volvo 340.
Another picture of the Volvo G4 which was designed by Jan Wilsgaard. The Volvo 440 was designed by Peter van Kuilenberg but his design was based on this G4 (many thanks to Paolo from Italy for sending me this picture)
The Volvo G15 was designed by Peter van Kuilenburg, who used the very first prototype of Jan Wilsgaard as a big inspiration. Volvo Sweden interfered a lot more with the G15-project than in the G13 project because the G15 should be a much more “mass production” car than the G13, so its design should be really important and meet all the requirements the management of Volvo made. Many other designs and prototypes were made, but they just didn’t make it. It appears the first G4 prototype was the best to meet the requirements of the project: it provides a lot of space, the design is very basic but good (which is important for production), a lot of parts were interchangeable and the most important rule was: the car should be in line with the 700-series. The waistline of the car should be pretty low and the car should have three side windows (with the thirth window between the rear passenger door and C-pillar).
Because Volvo didn’t have much development capacity in The Netherlands (mainly because the G13 project was still running) the G15-project was transferred to England. Two companies helped Volvo in England, but 40 people of Volvo itself were also transfered and lead by Win Guns. The G15-project was finished in 1987.
In June 1988 the Volvo 440 was introduced to the press. Production of the Volvo 440 was started in June 1988. Since the Volvo 480 had some serious troubles (like the electronical system of the 480) the production was delayed a little bit, otherwise the 440 was introduced and produced earlier. My Volvo 440 of 1989 was one of the very first cars (with TY as the first licence plate letters, but the car was produced in 1988). In fact: I never saw a 440 with an older licence registration, until I saw an older 440 (with TS as the first letters of the licence plate, the press presentation cars had TH as starting letters) a couple of weeks ago! Unfortunately my 440 was demolished a few years ago after I sold it.
For MY 1994 (introduced in Autumn 1993) a big facelift was introduced: the Volvo 440 and 460 Phase II. The car has a new front including new hood with integrated new grille, new headlights and indicators, new bumpers, introduction of SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) for the 400-series, new interior details and upholstery, new rear lights, and some other small details.
In September 1996 production of the last Volvo 400-series ended, but the last cars of the 400-series were sold in 1997.
Development of the Volvo 460
Volvo Cars Netherlands also wanted a sedan-version of the new frontwheel-drive car, so they added the Volvo G14 project. But Volvo Sweden wasn’t really happy about it: they think a saloon-version of the new car would be too much competitive for the 200- and 700-series. But Volvo Cars Netherlands continued their plans and Volvo Sweden allowed the G14-project to continue.
The design-team of Rob Koch (Volvo Cars BV in The Netherlands) started to make some sketches for the new 4-door saloon. A new member of the team was Fedde Talsma. He was pretty young and just started at Volvo in Helmond. The story how he entered Volvo is a very funny one: back in 1983 there was a contest of a Dutch magazine called Autoselekt. The goal of the contest wasn’t easy: design a car which should be the successor of the Volvo 340 and 360. Fedde Talsma did a shot with a pretty nice design of a hatchback with nice bumpers and a new type of Volvo-grille. But not only the design was important, but also the vision of the usage of materials, production methods and the typical Dutch design (which was pretty minimalistic). He won the contest (where Rob Koch was a member of the jury) and won the price of a 1:2,5 scale model of his winning design. When producing the scale model (Talsma was allowed to work in it at Volvo) the team was very impressed by Talsma and offered him a job.
There were several proposals of the designs of the Volvo 400 sedan, but Volvo choose the design of Talsma as the best one (but the rear panel parts were used of Horbury’s design, see images below). In my opinion the 460 sedan looks much better than the 440 because it looks like a more complete car.
Also a member of the design-team was Cor Steenstra, who finished thirth in the Autoselekt-contest. Steenstra was hired as a freelancer, just like Steve Harper (which runs Shado, Stever Harper Art & Design Consultancy). Steve Harper helped Talsma with the clay models of the G14-car. Talsma (supervised by Rob Koch) started to finish the G14-project and the team started to take the Volvo G14 to the final stage by building some prototypes.
The prototype of the new Volvo sedan was finished in 1986. The car didn’t show a logo on the grille and the fog lights were installed in the bumper but in another way than the final version had. The picture below is taken in Helmond (The Netherlands) where Volvo Netherlands-headquarters was settled for a long time. When Volvo left Helmond there’s a intermediate vocational education settled, and also some companies (mainly active in the automotive).
In 1989 the Volvo 460 was introduced to the press. The car is based on the 440, but with a different grille and different rear (it’s a sedan of course). Production of the new Volvo 460 was started in 1989 and ended in September 1996 (just like the 440). The 460 also received the Phase II facelift for Modelyear 1994 (introduced in June 1993).
Changes and modifications of the Volvo 440 and 460
During the years the 440 and 460 were improved and changed several times. The list below is by modelyear. For example: a 440 that’s made in October 1989 has Modelyear 1990 (MY90), and if a 440 is produced in May 1990 it also has MY90. In August of each year Volvo applies the new modelyear for each produced Volvo (not the first registration). The following changes and improvements were made on the Volvo 440 and 460:
- Modelyear 1989: first version of the Volvo 440, available as DL, GL, GLE, GLT and Turbo. Catalytic converter optional.
- Modelyear 1990: first version of the Volvo 460, some improvements in electrical system. New Solex-Cisac carburator for some carburated engines. Changes in gearbox for Turbo. Automatic transmission available (made by ZF).
- Modelyear 1991: changes in clutch, new gearbox introduced for Turbo, new mirrors.
- Modelyear 1992: new engines (1.6i and 1.8i replaces the 1.7-litre non-turbocharged versions), new grille for 440. Changes in electrical system.
- Modelyear 1993: better side protection, introduction of some special series to boost sales before Phase II was introduced.
- Modelyear 1994: big facelift (Phase II): new bumpers, new hood with integrated new grille, front wings, headlights and indicators, steering wheel, upholstery, rear lights, SIPS, introduction of turbo diesel engine (also made by Renault). Airbags and SRS available as options, small changes in the boot to secure luggage. Power steering standard for all versions. New trim levels for certain markets (like S, SI, Business Line, GLT etc). Carburated engines not longer available.
- Modelyear 1995: CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic gearbox available. ZF automatic transmission still available for some engines.
- Modelyear 1996: last year of the 440 and 460, no big changes were made. Production ended for both cars in September 1996.
The Volvo 440 and 460 Estate
Volvo didn’t plan a 440 or 460 Estate because it could damage the sales of the 240 and 740 Estate. But some coachbuilders and design studios thought a small stationcar would be a nice completement for the Volvo 400-series.
The Volvo 440 Estate design of ASC Detroit (who also designed and produced the Volvo 480 Targa prototype), it looks very nice! Unfortunately the design of ASC never made it to a prototype, which is really a shame because the car looks very good!
The French coachbuilder and design studio Heuliez also made a proposal of a 400-series stationwagon, but this time there’s also a prototype made. It was based on the Volvo 460 and was presented to Volvo at an airport. Volvo abandoned the prototype and concept because the car looked too much like a 740 or 760 Estate.
The Dutch company Toncar also had the idea for a Volvo 440 Estate, but instead of presenting it to Volvo they were offering it for sale immediately! But it’s not a complete car they’re selling, but a conversion. A customer with a 440 comes to Toncar, then Toncar removes the rear window and replaces it with an add-on plastic cover which was painted in the car’s color and includes a rear window and small side windows which filled up the area between boot lid and roof lining. The result is hideous (in my opinion) but it is a pretty cheap solution to create a lot of extra space.
Volvo wasn’t happy at all with this conversion offered by Toncar and Volvo was trying to block the sales of it (with succes). Today you’ll still see a Toncar-440 on the road and you’ll see them sometimes for sale on sites like Marktplaats (the crappy Dutch version of Ebay but it’s very popular).
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some nice 400-series related links:
– Shado design studio of Steve Harper, one of the freelance designer consultants for the Volvo 440, 460 and 480.
– Volvo 480 club Europe
– Joopiesplace weblog of Johan, which has some nice tutorials of fixes, upgrades and improvements on his Volvo 440.
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