The Unique Body Design of the Volvo 262 Coupé
In 1977, forty years ago, Volvo dramatically changed the way people perceived its brand. The introduction of the Volvo 262 Coupé captivated everyone and exceeded sales expectations, even though its price was more than double that of the basic model in the 200 series.
The Volvo 264 was presented in the autumn of 1974, and two years later it was time for Volvo’s first six-cylinder estate: the 265. But that was far from the end of it - at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1977, perhaps the most unexpected model version saw the light of day: a two-door coupé with heavily slanting windscreen pillars and the roof lowered by 60 mm. To get the car to be perceived as sleeker, the rear spare wheel pods had been removed - the remainder of the body was identical.
A small Bertone badge on the front fenders
What really made the 262C into what it was could be found in the passenger compartment. This offered an extravagance of leather and hardwood. The seats, headrests, door sides - even the curve handles had been upholstered in leather.
When the Volvo 1800ES was phased out in 1973, there was no immediate successor to take on the role of the top-range sports model. This concerned Volvo's CEO Pehr G Gyllenhammar, as it was crucial to have such a model in Volvo's largest export market, the USA. A luxury coupé appeared to be a more fitting choice at the time than another sports car.
Volvo's chief designer, Jan Wilsgaard, created sketches for the prestigious car's design, but no clay model was ever constructed. Instead, he utilized a Volvo 164 that had been tested for new interiors. The car was brought to Italian designer Sergio Coggiola's company in Turin, Italy, where the four-door body was transformed into a two-door design with a lower roof. The roof was covered in vinyl, and the wide C-pillar was adorned with three crowns – Sweden's national heraldic symbol. On the production car, the three crowns were replaced with one larger crown, which is one of the few distinctions between the prototype and the production model, apart from the obvious fact that it was based on a 164.
The engine in the 262C was initially a 2.7-litre, 140 hp V6. It was shared with all the other body versions in the 260 series and had been developed together with Peugeot and Renault. Manufacturing took place in Douvrin in France under the auspices of the Société Franco-Suédoise de Moteurs-PRV company. Volvo’s engine designation was B27E and thanks to engine blocks and cylinder heads made from aluminum, it weighed less than 150 kg.
As a specialized product with limited production, it wasn't suitable for manufacturing at the Volvo facility in Gothenburg. Instead, the final assembly was carried out at the Italian Carozzeria Bertone, which was also responsible for the construction of the 264TE limousine. Kits were transported to Turin, where the car bodies were altered, painted, and assembled into complete vehicles. A subtle emblem on the bottom portion of the front fenders signified Bertone's involvement in the car's production.
Regarded as collectibles soon after the cessation of production in 1981
For the first few years, the 262C was only available in silver metallic with a black vinyl roof and it was sold for $14,700 in US. From 1979, it was also available in gold metallic without a vinyl roof. That year, all saloon models in the 200 series also received a new rear with a boot that went down at the rear edge. The tail lights were also new and went around the body corners. In 1980, black and light blue metallic and silver metallic with vinyl roof was phased out. In the USA, the model was sold under the name of the Volvo Coupé from 1980.
The model year that stands out the most was also its last. In 1981, the 200 series underwent a major update with new, more slender bumpers and a new headlight set up. The B27E became a B28E as the engine gained in terms of cylinder volume and had another 14 horsepower added to it. The new colour combination was a two-tone paint job in gold and nougat.
The aim was to manufacture 800 units per year, but expectations for demand had been set far too low. Apart from in 1977 when production started late in the year, and the final model year, production figures were more than double the forecast. When the final cars were sold in 1981, they were already considered to be collectibles. In total, only 6,622 cars were built between 1977 and 1981, giving it true exclusivity. Today it‘s not easy to buy 262C – in classic cars market prices can be up to $25,000 for the ideal condition models and slightly lower for the ones, who need some restoration.
It was only in 1985 that the successor to the 262C was presented, Volvo 780. The collaboration with Bertone continued, but the 780 was both designed and built in Italy.
Five things you should know about the Volvo 262C
- The 262C was not the first two-door model in the 260 series. In 1976-77, 3,329 262 GLs were manufactured exclusively for the North American market. They had a standard two-door body like a 242, but with a V6 engine and the far more exclusive front from the 260 series.
- The 262C is the only Volvo to be delivered from the factory with vinyl over the steel roof.
- The unique prototype built by Coggiola is now part of the Volvo Museum collection in Gothenburg.
- The independent firm Solaire built a cabriolet edition of the 262C on behalf of Volvo Cars of North America. Only five units were ever manufactured.
- Volvo’s CEO Pehr G Gyllenhammar had a specially made 262C as his company car. It was painted red and its entire interior was also red - even the headrests! It did not feature the usual V6 engine, which was replaced by the four-cylinder B21ET turbo engine. The body frames and grill were in matte black, which heralded the high black grill that the GLT and Turbo would feature in 1984.