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History 700-series

At this page you will find the complete history of the 740, 760 and 780. Enjoy!

History of the Volvo 740 and Volvo 760

When the energy crisis started many car manufacturers could be or were in trouble. Car buyers’ wishes for cars were also changing: they want more value for money, a car that was more efficient with fuel, a safer car and more enviroment-friendly (by exhaust filtration). Volvo needed a premium car which should be positioned just above the 200-series. The project NV80 and NV81 were started in 1975 (NV stands for New Vehicle and 80 for the introduction year).

A group of engineers (lead by Hakan Frisinger and Hans Gustavsson) started with a lot of market research and analysis to create the ultimate car that can fullfill all needs and requirements the public (and Volvo) has set:
– very reliable (at that time the 240/260 and 340 suffered many problems)
– better fuel efficiency;
– long service life;
– service-friendly;
– low noise level;
– new design;
– good performance and handling.

The new car should be smaller than the 240/260 but was allowed to be wider. The wheelbase should be 10cm longer to provide more space for the passengers. The car should also be 100kg lighter than the 240/260. The engines of the 240/260-series should be used but with some minor modifications to meet the upcoming emission regulations. All these requirements were bundled in a “Red Book”.

About 20 designs were made (including proposals by Coggiola and Italdesign) and in the winter of 1976 8 prototypes of clay were build. Volvo’s own designs (by Jan Wilsgaard) were liked more than the Italian designs. The project was renamed to P31.

Volvo Project NV80 sketches by Jan Wilsgaard
The first sketches of the NV80 prototype by Jan Wilsgaard

Volvo P31 P01 P1155 760 prototype
One of the first P31 prototypes by Jan Wilsgaard, a third side window was not fitted yet

In the meanwhile Volvo had some serious problems:
– there were about 43.000 unsold Volvo’s in the USA (a major overstock in 1976);
– a loan of SEK 1 million was rejected by the Swedish government (Volvo needed the money to insure the car production);
– Saab and Volvo were planning a merge since May 1977 but Volvo canceled further negiotiations in August 1977;
– the only way to survive was building small and cheap cars due the energy crisis.

Volvo 760 project 01 prototype 11
One of the 20 prototypes, in this case no. 11 which was a Estate

Volvo 760 project 01 prototype 12
And anothor prototype (no. 12)

The project has been renamed to Project 1155 (aka: 11:55, aka: five to twelve) because it was very unsure if the project could continue. Volvo had serious financial troubles and the project was too expensive to continue. Besides: the new car could be a cause for another financial setback because buyers want smaller and more economical cars. After a board meeting in the spring of 1978 Volvo decided to go ahead with Project 1155 because the progression of the project was in a stage that it would be a shame to end it (both financially and time being spend on it). The new direction for Volvo: updating and improving the 240, finish Project 1155 as the new car in the 80’s, design a small car (which should be the 400-series) and develop a completely new car which should be a big sales-hit in the early 90’s (see History of the 850).

To find out the public’s opinion about the new way of designing the car Hans Gustavsson came up with the idea to present the prototypes to the public. With these Product Clinics (held in the USA, Germany and many other countries) a selected group of people were asked to give their opinions about the cars. The cars didn’t have any Volvo-badges and this market research was presented as a anonymous survey with samples of a “European car manufacturer” (which could be Mercedes, Volvo, Audi or BMW for example). Not only the answers of the public were investigated, but also their body language. The survey resulted also to the VCC Concept Car which was presented in 1980.

Volvo 760 1155 product clinic survey
A Volvo product clinic, in this case with the Volvo boardmembers

In 1978 Volvo presented a solution to (partly) finance Project 1155: Volvo was able to make a deal with Norwegian government and Norway gave Volvo the right to drill for oil in the North Sea. With the money Volvo will gain the project could be financed. But in 1979 Volvo announced the deal was blown off because the shareholders didn’t support the deal. In the same year the first version was presented to the board members of Volvo (see the photo below). It was not the final version but it gave the board members the idea about the progression of the car and how it will look in a final version.

Volvo 760 prototype 1978 boardmember presentation
The first version of the new car as presented to the management in 1978. The final version had some modifications: the trims disappeared, the car got new mirrors, other type mudflaps, other bumper and of course: not the GT-wheels of the 240-series.

Unfortunately the future of Project 1155 was again under review in 1979 (caused by the blown off deal with Norway). Rumours inside Volvo said the project was about to be cancelled and again a board meeting was needed to talk about it. Most of the board members wanted to cancel the project, but Hakan Frisinger said: “We have no choice but to continue. [….] We must implement our plans. [….] The project will be completed!” The project was saved (again) and was renamed to Project 01.

Volvo P01 Project 1155 760 prototype
One of the final prototypes, notice the USA sealed beam lights and normal European headlight on the other side

Volvo 760 P01 prototype wooden mock-up
A wooden mock-up of the P01 protype

Meanwhile Volvo developed a new concept car (based on the P01-car) which was presented in 1980: the VCC (Volvo Concept Car). Volvo said the main reason for this concept car was the emission, its low fuel consumption, some safety enhancements but mainly: the new way of designing Volvo was using for the next years and to check the public’s reaction on the design. The VCC was a driveable prototype and was being used for testing new emission control systems. The new car will be based on the design of the VCC. The VCC was also the first estate-version of the new car and Wilsgaard already made about 50 sketches of the new car.

Volvo VCC concept car
The Volvo VCC, designed to find out the opinion of potential buyers?

To reduce costs Volvo decided to use the same engines and gearboxes (M46 and M47) as the 240/260-series. But a B21 should be too small for the new car (altough the car was lighter than the 240) and a better developed version of the B23-engine (introduced in 1979) will be fitted into the car. The B27-engine should also be available in the 740 but also as a new and improved version to meet up the new standards of the market.

For testdrives the car has been send to places all over the world: the Alps, Northern part of Sweden, the Australian Outback, the Rocky Mountains and many other places. Engineers and mechanics at Volvo got also a car (after it’s introduction) to drive it and that cars were investigated after a year to be sure how the Volvo behaves, wear of the several parts and to modify the car where needed.

Volvo 760 prototype testdrive camouflaged as Lancia
It’s a Lancia! Actually not: it is a camouflaged Volvo P01 prototype, taken to the USA (Nevada desert) for testdrives in hot circumstances. This picture was published at IntoVolvo Magazine for the first time and belongs to the personal archives of Hans Gustavsson who tested the car with his team in the USA

On February 2 1982 the Volvo 760 GLE was introduced: a new fourdoor saloon (aka: 764) with B28E (PRV’s engine, see History of the 240 and 260 for more info) engine which delivers 156bhp and electronic fuel injection (K-Jetronic, made by Bosch). The car was introduced at 9 points in Europe and was well-known for its bold body styling and high equipment level.

The first reactions weren’t really good: the European press thought the 760 was ugly and too boxy (the American press said it was a European car with a typical USA-design). But there was good news: the 760 was well built (thanks to Volvo’s testdrives including brake testing in the Alps, winter trials in the Northern part of Sweden and summer testing in the Australian Outback) and really cheap compared with Mercedes and other German brands and the equipment level was very good. Other good news was the good reviews the 760 was given by important car magazines like Autocar (Gordon Murray), Car & Driver and Road & Track. They all agreed the car wasn’t beautiful but its handling and performance were outstanding.

The equipment level included: power steering, electric windows and mirrors, electric sunroof, automatic gearbox (AW70 and AW71, both with overdrive, but also the M46 manual gearbox was available), alloy wheels, electrical heated seats, central locking and pluche upholstery (nice leather as option). A lot of these things were an option at other manufacturers so the 760-buyer really got value-for-money!

Besides the B28 PRV-engine the 760 was also sold with the 6-cilinder TD24 diesel-engine. It’s the same engine as the D24 by Volkswagen (which also was fitted in the 240) but this time with a turbocharger. It delivers 109bhp and 151lb torque.

There was also a 760 Turbo (introduced in MY 1984), but it has not a 6-cilinder engine but a 4-cilinder B23ET-engine (also B23FT-engine, later the B230FT) with Garrett-Turbo and intercooler. Differences with the 740 Turbo: less power (173bhp instead of 200bhp), a catalytic converter, emission control unit, expanded fuel tank in the trunk (total of 80 litre) and other compression ratio. Fun fact: in the Netherlands the 1985 and 1986 760 Turbo’s has the same type of approval as the 740 B23FT’s and B230FT’s (with catalytic converters and emission control unit) which were sold in Germany, USA and Switzerland. When a 740 will be imported to the Netherlands there is a big chance the car will be labeled as “760” in the vehicle registration papers (while the VIN-code clearly says “744” or “745”).

The 760 Estate (aka: 765) was introduced in 1985, together with the 740 Estate (aka: 745). It was based on the VCC but Volvo thought the Estate-version of the VCC would be too small (the 245 was enormous with its volume), so the car was slightly extended to provide more volume.

In 1987 the multilink independent rear suspension was introduced which improved the already good roadhandling of the 760 sedan. Volvo was the first manufacturer who introduced this system on a mass-production car.

The 760 replaced the 260-series but in some countries the 265 was still sold until 1985. The 760 was replaced at the end of 1990 by the 960.

History of the Volvo 740

When the 760 was introduced the 4-cilinder version wasn’t there yet, but Volvo needed to close the gap between the 200-series and the 760 so a downgraded version of the 760 was needed. Volvo seemed to plan to fit a B21-engine (the idea was to provide the same engines in the new car as the 240-series) in it but Volvo seemed choosing to give the car a B23-engine and the new developed B230. Reason for this should be the better performance: with a B21 the car couldn’t match up with his rivals. However: for some markets the B19E and B19ET was used due tax- and/or emission-restrictions (only in MY1984).

Two years after the introduction of the 760 the Volvo 740 was introduced (as a four-door saloon, aka: 744). Besides the 4-cilinder engine it was a lower-end version of the 760 with a lower equipment level: the car “only” has power steering, electrical heated seats and central locking as standard options (the sunroof, alloy wheels, powered windows and mirrors, pluche upholstery etc were skipped and added to the accessoiry-list). But it was a lot cheaper and closes the gap between the 240-series and 760-series. The first serie of the 740 was available with a B23A (carburator) engine or B23E (fuel injected) engine.

In February 1985 the Estate was introduced at the Chicago Autoshow. The Estate was mainly designed for the USA-market and Volvo had plans to only sell the car in North America. Fortunately they decided to sell the Estate (also known as 765 and 745) at all markets.

The 700-series introduced in 1985 some nice new safety features, like ABS and Traction Control. Mercedes already had a electrical anti brakelock-system but it wasn’t as good as Volvo’s ABS-system. Both systems were an option at the Volvo 760 Turbo and the options wouldn’t appear at rival cars for a few years.

In 1989 the B204GT and B204FT engine were introduced, based on the B200-series but with a 16-valve head, turbocharger and intercooler. The powerplant generated 200bhp. Volvo choose not to use a 2.3 litre engine (The B234F was without turbo but has 2.3 litre, already introduced in 1988) because it might be too powerfull for the gearbox. But the performance of the 2-litre engine was good enough and was able to beat cars like the Audi 100 and Mercedes 230.

Volvo 740 744 GLE sedan 1990
Our own 1990 740 GLE with full options and 940-front. It was one of the first facelifted 740’s

The Volvo 740 should be replaced by the 940 at the end of 1990 but was built until 1992.

History of the Volvo 780

When the production of the 262C Bertone ended in 1981 Volvo didn’t have a luxury coupé car in his model range. In the 70’s Volvo thought there was no need in developing a replacment for the 262C because the energy crisis and changed needs of the market should have change the demand for that kind of cars. But Volvo changed his mind: a new 2 + 2 seater coupé could be a new hit as a luxury car. Volvo asked Bertone (from Turin, Italy) again to design (and produce) a new car based on the 760. But it should also be a car which would be different than the 760.

Bertone was not really happy to design, test and build a new car (and Volvo didn’t have the capacity), so Bertone and Volvo made the deal all the testing work should be done by Volvo. The project was started and was called Project 1780. The project started in August 1981.

Volvo’s first plan was the same as applied on the 260-series: a chopped roof, 2 doors and the car should be ready. Bertone disagreed and started designing his own ideas.

Volvo 780 Bertone prototype sketch
One of the first sketches of the Volvo P 1780 by Nuccio Bertone

When Volvo saw the first prototype (based on the drawing above) the liked it but said it was too different from the 760. Jan Wilsgaard was sent to Turin to help the designing of the car and the rear window should be more straight like the 760 and not too sporty. Fortunately Bertone and Volvo agreed to get something in between and the 780 was born! A elegant design with some Maserati-influences in it. Very Italian but also Swedish!

Volvo 780 prototype Wilsgaard
A 2-door prototype of Jan Wilsgaard. The front didn’t make it to the final version, but the rear part was a inspiration for Bertone

Bertone created a car which didn’t share a single panel with the 760: it was still recognisable as a Volvo but the car has new headlights, front, grille, front fenders, new rear lights, a new tail, new headrests and modified interior and many other new details.

The 780 Bertone was introduced in 1985 at the Autosalon in Geneva and was available since 1986 in Europe and since MY 1987 in the USA. The 780 was a very luxurious car with leather, climate control, power steering, wooden interior trims, electrical adjustable seats, sunroof, powered windows and mirrors, electrical heated seats, cruise control and ABS as standard options. Late versions included an airbag for the driver.

Volvo had plans to fit a turbocharged V6-engine in the 780 but never became available due cooling problems with the prototype-versions of it (caused by the smaller engine room of the 780). The 780 was available with:
– D24 TIC diesel-engine with turbocharger and intercooler, with M46 gearbox (gearbox with overdrive) or AW71 automatix gearbox (also with overdrive);
– B23FT turbocharged engine with intercooler (for some markets), with M46 gearbox or AW71 automatic gearbox;
– B200ET turbo intercooled engine, with M46 gearbox or AW71 automatic gearbox;
– B280E (renewed PRV-engine) and B280F, with M46 gearbox or AW71 automatic gearbox;
– B230ET, B230FT, B230FTX (USA) and B230GT (USA) turbocharged engine with intercooler, with M46 gearbox or AW71 automatic gearbox;
– B204FT and B204GT 16 valve engine with turbocharger and intercooler, with M46 gearbox or AW71 automatic gearbox.

Production of the Volvo 780 ended in 1991.

Special models of the Volvo 700-series

Just like other Volvo-models there are some unibodies of the 700-series like hearses, ambulances and stretched limousines. In most cases these special-bodies were based on the Volvo 760. Most hearses, ambulances and limousines were build by Avon, Woodal-Nicholson and Yngve Nilsson. For limousines Volvo designated Nilsson as official limousine-builder of the 700-series. There were several options: a version that was stretched with 20 and 30cm (the rear doors were bigger, and the third window at the C-section was removed), a version which was 60cm longer and a 90cm longer version. All versions were also available at Avon. There were also 6-door version of the cars and even armoured cars! The DDR also bought some stretched (about 6 of 20cm and a couple of 60cm stretched) versions. The DDR used the 264TE before the 760 Executive and stretched limousine. The cars were build at Nilsson and included a 100L fueltank, listening devices, car phone, curtains to create blinded windows, flag mountings, higher roof to provide more headspace, attachable flashing light and some other specific options.

Volvo 760 DDR cars stretched limousines
The Volvo 760 Nilsson stretched limousines of the DDR

Models and modifications of the Volvo 740, 760 and 780

The 740, 760 and 780 had some modifications during the years. A modelyear starts in August and indicates the next year. So a car produced in September 1982 has modelyear 1983, but also a car produced in April 1983 has modelyear 1983. The 700-series were available as: GL, GLE, Turbo, GLT (almost the same as the Turbo but without Turbo) and SE.

1982: introduction of the 760.
1983: Turbocharged engine with intercooler introduced, turbocharged diesel-engine also available.
1984: introduction of the Volvo 740, also diesel-engine (without turbo) for the 740. The B19E/ET-engine that was used for some markets was only used in 1984.
1985: introduction of the 740 Estate and 760 Estate. Volvo 780 introduced at Autosalon Geneva. 740 Turbo introduced. Introduction of Traction Control and ABS. Catalytic converter introduced for 700-series. Introduction of 740 GL with carburator-engines and M47 gearbox and introduction of B200 and B230-engines.
1986: some better rust prevention of 700-series, 780 available in Europe, B23A replaced by B230A and B230K, some changes at B28 and B230, introduction of LH-Jetronic. Renewed heating system for Estate (solving the problem the passengers in the back didn’t get any heat).
1987: more use of galvanized parts to improve rust prevention, 780 available in USA. Rear headrests standard for all models, laminated rear window for all 780’s. Improvements at B230K (new camshaft and modifications at carburator with automatic choke). Introduction of B280 for 760 and 780 (with redesigned cilinder heads, new crank pins, new induction manifold, electronic fuel system instead of K-Jetronic and some more modifications). Reinforced doors for all 700-models.
1988: 700-series are full galvanized, many (2000+) updates for the 760 (which now only was build in Kalmar): new front, bumpers, headlights, grille, indicator lights, hood (aluminium), front fenders and dashboard for 760, LH-Jetronic upgraded from 2.2 to 2.4 for non-turbo engines. New (multilink) rear axle and suspension for 760 and 780 (including nivomats). ECC standard for all 760’s. Introduction of B234F-engine and AW72L automatic gearbox and ZF automatic gearbox (ZF4HP22).
1989: B204GT and B204FT engine were introduced, introduction of AW70L automatic gearbox with torque converter. New hub caps and new upholstery were available.
1990: new front for 740 (headlights, grille, hood, bumper, front fenders) and new rear lights (also for 760). At the end of 1990 the 760 was replaced by the 960. Improvements for B200 and B230-engines (new rods, Garrett turbo replaced by a Mitsubishi turbo, LH-Jetronic upgraded to 2.4 for Turbo).
1991: new dashboard for 740. End of production 780 (which was renamed to “Coupé” in its final year).
1992: mechanical fan replaced by electric fan during 1992. 740 replaced by 940.

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2 Responses to “History 700-series”

  1. hpmb says:

    did volvo ever put airbags in the 200 series and 700 series?

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