When Volvo launched the T5 variant of their 850, the Swedish automaker needed to spice up its profile in an effort to acquire market share. As an alternative of a standard advertising and marketing marketing campaign, Volvo took the 850 racing within the British Touring Automotive Championship.
How the choice to make use of the 850 property happened wasn’t intentional although. Volvo commissioned Steffansson Automotive to develop a BTCC prototype, however once they went to gather a physique shell solely property variants have been left. This information shortly reached the Volvo board, who noticed it as a golden alternative to interrupt the stereotype of solely promoting estates to middle-aged geography lecturers.
Because it turned although, the 850 property’s lengthy roofline really proved advantageous, with the race automotive producing extra downforce over the sedan equal. An extended wheelbase and extra glass did equate to elevated weight, however being under the minimal meant there was nonetheless alternative to maneuver ballast round.
Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), who at this level have been extra generally recognized for his or her Group C racing efforts, have been enlisted by Volvo to run the works program with a three-year contract.
From when the 850 property first lined up on the BTCC grid at Thruxton Circuit in April 1994, opponents noticed it as extra of a advertising and marketing train than the rest. The Volvo staff was undeterred, and as a tongue in cheek measure stuffed a toy Border Collie within the again for a parade lap.
The Volvo’s distinctive sound got here courtesy of its TWR-developed naturally aspirated 2.0L five-cylinder engine, which made round 290 horsepower and put in on par power-wise with the remainder of the BTCC area.
Sadly, the 850 property solely noticed competitors for the one season, the place Volvo positioned sixth within the constructors championship. For the 1995 BTCC championship, TOCA altered the principles to allow extra spoilers, however these couldn’t lengthen previous the bumpers or the roofline. Sadly, any benefit the property had was now gone, so the T5 850 sedan took its place for the following two seasons, the place Volvo drivers frequented the rostrum extra usually.
This explicit automotive, which was on show on the current Manufacturers Hatch Tremendous Touring Energy occasion, has an fascinating historical past. It began life as a BTCC 850 property, however was transformed right into a sedan by changing physique panels, after which used for aero testing forward of the ’95 season.
Since its buy from a vendor in Holland a number of years in the past, its present proprietor has returned the Volvo to its unique property kind. Proper now it’s nonetheless present process some mild restoration work, however the plan is to have it again on monitor once more at basic motorsport occasions sooner or later.
Success may be measured in some ways and whereas the Volvo 850 property by no means took house any British Touring Automotive Championship silverware, I’d argue that all of the publicity it obtained outweighed any trophy. In spite of everything, is there something higher than a quick property?
BTCC Racing Photographs by Volvo Automobiles