In the late 80s and early 90s, Volvos RWD cars were viewed as staid and bland, and didn't sell very well. The cars themselves are amazing - solid, durable, easy to maintain and modify for fun, but they lacked a broader appeal. On the flip side, Volvo's first-generation FWD sedans were a big hit for the company in the 90s and pulled it back from the brink. While the 850 brought some verve to the Gothenburg-based automaker's lineup, it retained many of the virtues that Volvophiles truly adore. The 850 was freshened into the S and V 70 in 1997, which was essentially an improved 850 with updated styling. Taken together, those in the know call these models the "870" cars; and they're a great entry to European sedans and wagons.
Right out of the box, a turbo 870 is a capable affair - the GLTs offer inconspicuous light-pressure turbocharging that acts like a gain pedal for the powertrain, while the Turbo and T5 models are snorty, sporty rides. Portland, Oregon based iPd has been in the business of supporting the Volvo habit for 40 years and they offer quite the upgrade path, should you get your hands on one of these fort svensk skönhet.
More after the jump, then check out Swedespeed's writeup by clicking the Read link.
iPd offers a wide range of parts, accessories and upgrades for Volvos, and they wanted to create a showcase 870 series car. The first challenge was finding the best candidate. As card-carrying members of the Car Guy International Brotherhood, the search was on for a manual transmission T5 that hadn't been crashed or beaten mercilessly. Once the proper vehicle was located, they basically peeled the top back like a sardine can and poured all sorts of goodies in. Okay, so it was a little more complicated than that, but the point of this car was to show off how far you could take one of these unassuming (and cheap, as far as capable European cars go) cars with iPd as your parts and information resource.
The engine received an upgraded turbo, riding on an S60R's manifold for increased gas flow. A new exhaust keeps the lungs clear, while the intercooler plumbing was reversed to shorten the length of the intake tract. Aquamist water injection was added, and even though the water droplets occupy space that could hold fuel, it keeps combustion temperatures and pressures in check. The Volvo 5 is a robust engine, but to a crowd that's used to the "red block" four-cylinder's ability to withstand severe punishment, the extra care you must take with the 5 seems at first like it's a wimpier design. The 5 really is a modern powerplant that's well engineered, with tight tolerances, good performance and potential for even more. The red V70 spanks out 315 horsepower, which is about what the outgoing P2 based S60 and V70Rs are capable of. The 870s are a little bit lighter than the newer cars, so a car set up the same way as iPd's demonstrator should be faster than an R, if you can get it to hook up. AWD was available on the 870s, but we're not sure how happily it'll withstand large horsepower and torque in the long run; it'd certainly quell the inevitable torque steer you'd get from pumping 300+ hp through the front wheels, though.
Having a big power motor isn't so hot if the rest of the chassis isn't up to it. I have white-knuckle memories of a Dodge 600 Turbo that felt like it wanted to hurl itself into the trees, but would go like stink. Luckily, iPd offers an upgrade path for the suspenders, too. One of iPds long-heralded specialties is suspension tuning, and their swaybar setups are well known amongst the Volvo crowd. Sways were the starting point for their V70, as well, which also got an adjustable coilover setup from KW and various and sundry stiffening braces. Porsche calipers were bolted on behind a new set of wheels from Japanese Volvo tuner VST, ensuring the mean red wagon can go, turn and stop with aplomb.
Body mods are always such a sticky wicket - some people would prefer to go total-sleeper, while others want to stand apart from the pack. iPd managed to bisect those two extremes with the addition of an R airdam upfront, a tasteful spoiler on the tailgate and an iPd grille insert. The car doesn't scream garishly, but you're not going to blend in quite as easily, either. The beauty of this whole endeavor is that you can go catalog shopping and create virtually the same car. Get out your plastic and order up the Stage III, which is what they've dubbed the overall package of engine, suspension, body and interior mods.
The last Volvos that really got people excited about tuning were the 2 and 7 series Turbos, which have passed into near-vintage territory. The FWD cars, on the other hand, are in that sweet spot of being just old enough to sell cheaply, while being a modern driver and not yet on the radar of collectors and purists. Where I was lusting for a 242T while resurrecting an 83 240 wagon, I can see a 20-year-old kid going after a '95-'96 850 and having just as grand a time as I did a decade ago with my entry into the Volvo fold.