Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two Cool (Too Cool) Swedes

One of these cars will hit 60 MPH just over 7 seconds. No one will notice you in it. The other car takes more than twice as long, but will attract as much attention as any exotic car will.

1994 Volvo 850 Turbo - College professors and soccer moms. Those are the stereotypical Volvo station wagon drivers. Volvo has a well deserved reputation for building safe, reliable, intelligent cars. They build some fun, fast cars, too. But, since they wrap them in Volvo bodies, few people notice them.

This might be the ultimate sleeper. It looks similar to every other Volvo 850 wagon on the road. It's what's under the hood that makes the difference. The engine is a 222 HP, turbocharged, 20 valve, I5. Besides bringing the car to 60 in a few tenths over 7 seconds, it gives the car a top speed of over 140 MPH (electronically limited). The car had the handling to match the speed. The rear suspension is something called a "Delta-link semi-independent rear suspension". It's a design that featured rear axle bushings that compress under load, giving the car a form of passive rear steering. In every way, this big, boxy wagon could stick with the BMW 3 Series and Audi 90 sport sedans of the day.

The 850 was the first FWD Volvo sold in the US. The exterior was typical Volvo boxy. The interior, while better appointed and more luxurious than any previous Volvo, was still from the function over form school of design.

The huge downside to the 850 Turbo is the transmission. A 4 speed automatic was the only transmission available. The transmission was slow to downshift, which, on winding, hilly roads, took some of the fun out of the turbo engine. Manually downshifting was a common solution, but often led to premature failure of the (expensive) transmission.

The car being offered on eBay is a dead stock 850 Turbo wagon with 150,000 miles on it. The seller claims it is overall good condition with just a few scratches and dings. It recently passed a Connecticut state emissions test. It's the type of car you could drive to and from work everyday, load up with groceries and stuff from Home Depot on the weekends and have a lot of fun doing it.

I'm a fan of station wagons and I love "sleepers". This is almost the perfect car for me. I have no idea why I haven't owned one yet.

Located in Waterbury, CT, click here to see the eBay listing for this car.

1971 Saab 95 - Unlike the stealth Volvo 850, this car will draw attention to itself. Essentially, it is a station wagon version of the Saab 96.

This is not a car built for speed. It takes over 16 seconds to hit 60 MPH. The engine is a 55 HP, 1700cc V4. The transmission is a 4 speed manual, with the gear change lever on the steering column.

This car, remarkably, seats 7. There is a rear-facing seat that folds up from the cargo area floor.

The seller of this car has done a lot of mechanical work to it. The engine has been rebuilt and it has a Weber carb (which should shave about 2 seconds off the 0-60 time, not to mention be far more reliable than the original). It has new brake lines, clutch slave, rear shocks, a Saab 900 alternator, a new battery and a high flow electric cooling fan running off a thermostat.

The body is solid, but needs paint. The interior needs some tidying. There is a crack in the dash and the seats, as they have covers on them, probably need repair and / or reupholstering.

Last week I ended a post about a Citroen with these lines "(This car) is a great chance to own a car that was built by a company that marched to its own beat, a company that didn't stamp out cookie cutter cars. Every car geek needs to experience a car like this at least once in their life." The same can be said for this Saab. Name another 7 passenger, V4, 2 door station wagon...

Located in Portland, OR, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

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