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History 940 & 960

The history of the Volvo 940 and 960 isn’t very long. The Volvo 900-series is a further development of the 700-series. It all started in 1988.

Operation Backlift

When Project Galaxy was running the Volvo 700-series was selling pretty well. Because the Galaxy-project (see History of the Volvo 850) shouldn’t be disrupted the number of model changes on the 700-series were kept to a minimum. Only a few adjustments were made during the years at the 740 and 760. A lot of these adjustments, modifications and changes were a result of the development of the Galaxy prototypes (like the new front of the 740 in MY1990 and the new dashboard of the 760). But at the next half of the eighties the strategy of minor changes collapsed: a huge overstock of unsold cars was appearing (the 200-series but mainly the 700-series), especially in Germany and the United Kingdom. But replacing the 740 and 760 with a completely new car wasn’t an option: the Galaxy Project was still running and not ready, and there was not enough money to develop another new car. Volvo decided to upgrade the 700-series with a more up-to-date look, especially the back of the car because it was really outdated. Operation Backlift was born!

But a decision about the engine was taken a few years before this project. At the end of 1985 some discussions about a more competitive engine for the 700-series were started. The PRV-engine wasn’t really powerful and not as reliable as the redblock-engines of Volvo. The X-100 engine (also known  as N-series, which were being developed for the Galaxy-project) was also suitable as a 6-cilinder engine because it was a very compact engine and expanding it with 2 extra cilinders wasn’t a big problem. The trio behind the X-100 engine (Peter Keen, John Petersson and Ove Backlund) started designing a 6-cilinder X-100 engine and on April 26 1986 the management of Volvo decided the new 6-cilinder engine should be fitted into the 760 and 780 from modelyear 1992 (just after the new Galaxy-car was introduced which also has a X100-engine, which was build in Skövde). During the development of the X-100 engine Project 7087 was started, which was the facelift of the Volvo 760, which was completed in 1987.

Volvo P90 Operation Backlift designer notes by Malmgren
Some designer notes and sketches of the P90 (aka: Operation Backlift) project

On April 5 1988 work on the new Volvo 740 and 760 was started (and the 780 should reach his End of Lifetime at 1992). Because the rear of the car was the most outdated this was the part of the car which really needed a change! Because time was running up the project was very little and it wasn’t a completely new car. In fact: the new car (also known as Project P90) was a modified 700-series car. The twin-brother of Rolf Malmgren, Hakan Malmgren, was the designer of the new rear of the car. The design he had made was heavy influenced by the designs of his brother and Jan Wilsgaard of a Galaxy prototype-car. But with a new rear bumper, new tailgate, new rear lights and rear window the car was different than the Galaxy prototype.

Volvo P90 Operation Backlift 740 900-series sketches by Malmgren
Some sketches made by Malmgren of Operation Backlift. At that moment Malmgren assumed the name stays “740” and “760”

Volvo 740 940 Operation Backlift drawing sketch by Malmgren
Another drawing by Malmgren as shown in Image 91 (the official pressbook by Volvo when the 900-series was introduced)

A prototype of the P90 (Operation Backlift) is made by Malmgren and looks almost like a 940 or 960
A prototype of the P90 (Operation Backlift) is in progress (made by Malmgren) and looks almost like a 940 or 960

When work on the P90-car was started the  ‘new” car was intended to maintain the name “740” or “760”, but because the market should know the differences Volvo choose to rename the car: because the 8-series should be taken by the Galaxy-car and the modified 700-series was a bit longer than the soon-to-be-850 the car was named 900-series. With a 4-cilinder engine the new name should be 940 and with the brand-new X-100 6-cilinder engine the new name became 960. As you can see at the sketches (which were made before the project was finished and a renaming could be done) above Malmgren assumed the name still should be the 740 and 760.
Volvo 960 prototype mock-up as shown in Image 91
A scan of the 960 mock-up as shown in Image 91 (the official Volvo introduction book of the 900-series). What is that hand doing there?

The new engine was called the B6304S and B6304F (with different horsepower and compression, depending on the market): the 6 stands for 6 cilinders, the 30 was the displacement (actually it was 2922cc) and the 4 was the number of valves per cilinder. The B6304S delivers 204bhp. For Modelyear 1995 the B6254S and B6254G (for countries with limited availability of unleaded fuel) were introduced. It is basically the same engine but with a smaller displacement (2.5 litre). The 960 became also available with a manual gearbox: the M90 (which already was introduced in 1994). The M90-gearbox is based on the M56-gearbox of the 850.

Volvo 940 USA front
Strange to see for the European Volvo-lovers: at some markets the 940 has the same front as the MY90-MY92 740 (without foglights)

The Volvo 940 front USA-version with foglights
The USA-version with foglights. Partly glass and partly plastic

Volvo 940 GL Estate 1993 Tropical green
My old MY93 Volvo 940 GL Estate with (of course) European headlights and foglights. The European headlamps are made of glass

Besides the engine there were some other differences between the 940 and 960. The 940 has the dashboard which also appeared in the 740 from MY91 (introduced in August 1990) and the 960 has the same dashboard (but with some modificiations) of the 760. The 960 also has the multilink rear suspension (only the saloons) while the 940 and 960 Estate still has a solid beam-type rear axle. The 940 was available with manual transmission (M46 and M47 gearboxes) and automatic transmission (AW70L, AW71L, AW72L and ZF4HP22) and the 960 was for most markets only available with a automatic gearbox (the new electronically controlled AW30-43LE with extra programs like Eco, Sport and Winter, and the AW71L or M46 manual gearbox at 960’s with a 4-cilinder engine for certain markets). The 960 was also delivered with the old PRV-engine in 1991 at certain markets (like the USA, Japan and Austalia) due fuel regulations (and the new engine wasn’t ready for these new rules and in 1992 the new engine was sold in the USA) and some 960’s were equipped with a 4-cilinder 16-valve engine (B204FT) and M46 manual gearbox (with Laycock de Normanville overdrive) due tax issues at countries like Italy and Portugal.

A sketch by Malmgren which was used for the Galaxy and P90-project
A sketch by Malmgren which was made for the Galaxy and P90-project. Some elements can be found in the 940/960 and some of them at the MY95 960 like the smaller headlights (of course the front in the final MY95 960 were different but the idea found its origin here)

In 1994 the new 960 was introduced. Volvo says the new 960 has 1400 new components. The car has new front fenders, new front and rear bumpers, a new grille, new chrome trims at all windows, new front suspension and modified rear suspension, new wheels (because of the changed ET-settings), new steering wheel, new door panels, new seats and upholstery, new headlights and a new bonnet. It seems the front is a bit lower, but the height of the hood is exactly the same as the old 960. Another big update was the availability of the multilink rear suspension for the Estate (Volvo managed to reduce the size of the suspension by using leaf springs instead of coil springs). It was the first time Volvo produces an Estate with a independent rear suspension. Also new was the M90 gearbox (which became available for both models) and the B6254-engine 2.5 litre engine with 170bhp. Also the B6244FS was available for some markets (delivering 190bhp). The 940 didn’t get the big update (only some minor modifications were made, and the new M90 gearbox was available) and Volvo had the idea to maintain the 940 in its current form without any (big) changes during its lifetime. This strategy worked fine for the 240 and Volvo hopes it does the same for the 940. The new 960 was also designed by the Malmgren-twins.

The new MY95 1995 Volvo 960 with new front
The brand new Volvo 960 for modelyear 1995, a beautiful car!

The 900-series were build in: Kalmar (Sweden), Torslanda (Sweden), Halifax (Canada), Ghent (Belgium), Samutprakarn (Thailand), Indonesia and Malaysia. At the factory in Maylasia the ten-millionth Volvo was build: a dark olive pearl Volvo 960 Royal.

The 900-series were introduced in August 1990.

Special models of the Volvo 900-series

Just like the 700-series the 940 and 960 were available as special models. But Volvo didn’t make these special cars, but they were available at coachbuilders like Avon, Nilsson (who build the Executives and limousines for the Royal families), Woodal-Nicholson and the Dutch company Huiskamp (now Huiskamp rebuilds Nilsson’s hearses).  The 940 was build as hearse, funeral car (the car that follows the hearse), ambulance, limousine and Van (commercial break) and the 960 was available as ambulance, limousine, executive, hearse and armored version. The commercial break (945 Van) is mainly sold in Scandinavia (especially Sweden and Norway).

 The Volvo 940 Hearse made by Huiskamp

Volvo 940 Hearse made by Huiskamp the Netherlands
Two versions of Volvo 940 hearses made by Huiskamp

Volvo 960 ambulance by Nilsson
The Volvo 960 ambulance (made by Nilsson)

Models of the Volvo 940

The Volvo 940 was available with the 2 litre B200-engines, B230 2.3 litre engines, 16-valve DOHC engines (the B204 with and without turbo) and also low pressure turbo (LPT)-versions were available. Also diesel-engines (made by Volkswagen) were available: the D24 6-cilinder 2.4 litre diesel-engine with (D24T and D24TIC with turbo and intercooler) and without turbo (D24) were available. The following transmissions were available: M46 (4-speed with electronic overdrive made by Laycock de Normanville), M47 5-speed manual gearbox, M90 gearbox (based on the 850 M55/M56-gearbox and became available in 1994) and as automatic transmissions: AW70L, AW71L, AW72L and ZF4HP22. The AW71L and ZF-transmissions are the most common automatic gearboxes in the 940’s.

The 940 had some modifications during its production years. A modelyear starts after the summer break in Sweden (in August), for example: a car which is made in August 1994 has modelyear 1995 and a car made in February 1995 also has modelyear 1995. The following changes and modifications were made during the years:

  • 1991: the first Volvo 940 (saloon, 944, introduced in August 1990). The 940 Estate (945) was introduced in May 1991.
  • 1992: SIPS, improved seats and headrests, modifications in steering sections, maintenance interval is extended. 940 DTIC diesel withdrawn at certain markets (and only the non-turbocharged 940 D24 diesel was available at that countries).
  • 1993: new rear seat (including 3 three-point safety belts and optional child seat), bigger fueltank, new gear shift knob for automatic transmissions. At markets where the 940 DTIC was withdrawn the car became available again.
  • 1994: new M90 5-speed manual transmission, better insulation.
  • 1995: introduction of the B230FK LowPressure Turbo (LPT)-engine and new colors were available. In Sweden the production of the 900-series were moved to Torslanda (Kalmar and the factory in Uddevalla was already closed in 1993; production at the Canadian plant in Halifax was also discontinued).
  • 1996: less colors were available.
  • 1997: improved airconditioning system, more colors became available, in some countries the 940 was badged as “Polar” at the back of the car.
  • 1998: production of the 940 ended on February 5 1998.


 Models of the 960

The Volvo 960 was available as saloon (964) and Estate (965). The car was available with the following engines: the 6-cilinder inline B6304S and B6304F (the B6304S2 was introduced later), and in 1991 was sold with the B280FPRV-engine at certain markets (Japan and Australia) because the B6304F wasn’t ready yet. For other markets where the B6304F should be the 960-engine the B230FT turbocharged engine was fitted into the MY91 960-series. The B6304F was available since august 1991 when MY92 was introduced.  For other markets with special tax systems the 960 was also sold with a 4-cilinder engine: the Turbo-engine and also the 16-valve engine (also available with M46 and M47 manual gearboxes). The 960 diesel was only available until 1993 for some markets. For modelyear 1995 the B6254S, B6254G (without catalytic converter, for markets where unleaded fuel was limited available) and B6244FS were introduced. It is basically the same engine as the B6304-series but with 2.5 litre displacement. Also the M90-gearbox became available in 1995 which means the 960 was available with a manual transmission on all markets (except the USA). The AW30-40 and AW30-43 were the automatic gearbox which was available in the 960 (except the PRV-engine equipped cars in 1991, they had the AW71 automatic transmission).

In 1997 the 960 was renamed to S90 (saloon) and V90 because Volvo started to use new car names instead of numbers only. The S means Sedan (saloon) and the V means Versatile (as a stationwagon the car is a all-rounder). The C stands for Coupé or Cabrio but a 900-series is never build officially as a cabrio or coupé.

During the years the 960 has the following modifications (sorted by modelyear):

  • 1991: the 960 sedan is introduced in August 1990. The Estate-version becomes available in May 1991.
  • 1992: B6304F available, introduction of SIPS, new seats and headrests, modifications in steering parts.
  • 1993: new rear seat (including 3 three-point safety belts and optional child seat), bigger fueltank, new gear shift knob for automatic transmissions.
  • 1994: better insulation, new accessory-packs for some markets to reduce the purchise price.
  • 1995: new front and rear bumper, new crossmembers, improved SIPS, new headlights, new grille, new hood, new front fenders, new front- and rear suspension (with lighter spring leafs instead of coil springs), new wheels, new rear panel between rear lights, new seats and upholstery, new door panels and new steering wheel. The 960 Estate is now equipped with the new independent Multilink suspension. Introduction of the B6254- and B6244-engines. M90 manual gearbox is now available. The production of the 960 in Sweden is moved from Kalmar to Torslanda.
  • 1996: less colors were available. The ten-millionth Volvo was build: a dark green Volvo 960 Royal (made in Malaysia).
  • 1997: in november the 960-series were renamed to S90 (saloon) and V90 (Estate). Introduction of the B6304S2-engine (which replaces the 2.5 litre engine; the new engine has less power than the B6304S1-engine but runs smoother). New console between front seats (with higher armrest), new upholstery, new wheels, GPS navigation system available.
  • 1998: new upholstery, Limited Edition available. Production of the S90/V90/960 ended on February 5 1998.

 Volvo P90 940 production ended in 1998
Production of the P90 ended on February 5 1998. A 940 was the last produced car of the 900-series

© Volvotips 2011

5 Responses to “History 940 & 960”

  1. sunRize says:

    Thank you very much! very interesting! Volvo fan from Moscow) Will
    article about the S80?

    It is a pity that there are no more RWD Volvos

  2. sunRize says:

    In 90 years there have been rumors about a new rear wheel drive sedan with an engine V10. Dual in-line 5 Volvo. There is either what information?

  3. Bolzen says:

    What a great resource! Amazing job, guys!

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