When I set about buying a Swedish car, which is something I haven’t done in my YouTube follies so far, the legendary turbo brick with a stick was on the top of my wish list. I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find a manual transmission Volvo station wagon with a snail resting under the hood, but I came to discover that finding one was nearly impossible. When I did eventually find this 1987 Volvo 760 Turbo, I felt like I bought something that belongs on the same endangered species list as white elephants, Bengal tigers and rhinos, which really surprised me, since it’s one of the greatest cars of all time.
Sure, these old Volvo wagons are as tough as rhinos, but Iike those majestic, blocky beasts, nearly all of them are gone. Other than being an admirer from afar, I know next to nothing about old Volvos. Back when old station wagons were plentiful and cheap, I found myself gravitating towards Mercedes diesels, but prices on those have skyrocketed well beyond reason, in my opinion. Volvo wagons have appreciated as well to some degree and seem to be going up, so I figured I should try one out while I still can.
I’m probably not the only person who was confused by Volvo’s model lineup during this era, as the model designations were a seemingly illogical series of numbers. For example, the 700 series was designed to replace the 200 series but never did. Originally, models with two doors were called the 242, or 5-door wagons the 245, but by the time the 700 series arrived, the numbers were consistent across all body styles, unless in some cases when it was a lower trimmed model. In addition, there were further trim designations such as DL (for Deluxe) to GL (for Grand Luxe?) or some, like my 740, just have a giant Turbo badge on the back. The 700 series was eventually replaced by the 900 series, which was then replaced by the S70, perpetuating the senseless naming theme. Given the confusion, it’s no wonder people began nicknaming these things, and given the shape, the brick made sense. The turbo brick is the holy grail among these cars, as these luxurious Swedish machines had some respectable performance for the time.
"For the time" is key here, as this turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine only has 180 horsepower and accelerates to 60 in around seven seconds, which is laughable by modern standards. Thanks to its 4-speed manual gearbox, though, and power delivery to the correct set of wheels, the Volvo feels a lot more fun than most modern offerings. Unfortunately, my turbo brick also feels very sick.
I bought this 760 Turbo wagon for $4,000, and while it was the cheapest example for sale that I could find, it was also the only example I could find. So I have no idea if it was a good deal or not, and when you look at the weathered paint on the outside, it seems like I massively overpaid. It has the expected bumps and bruises of 160,000 miles of use, but on the inside, the black leather interior is well-preserved. It’s also extremely comfortable, and despite its seemingly un-aerodynamic shape, very quiet — until you hit the throttle.
The moment the turbo delivers a big, dramatic lump of power in typical ’80s fashion, I’m also greeted with a horrific squeal from the engine bay. Thanks to blown shocks and ancient tires, the ride is absolute garbage as well. The belt is completely off the AC compressor as well, so the climate control system is lacking a critical element and it leaks a lot of various fluids.
So I have an absolute mess on my hands here, but I can see the potential. I’m starting with a rust-free shell, which is a plus, and the drivetrain does seem very solid, so it’s not a complete disaster. Hopefully this turbo brick doesn’t crash through my wallet to sort out and gives me a warm introduction to the world of the prancing moose. Find a Volvo 760 for sale