Italian Clothed Swede: 1988 Volvo 780 Bertone

Remember when Volvo's used to be scorned for being "boring" and "boxy" (before they became the frozen waterfalls they are today)?

The 1986-1990 Volvo 780 was supposed to combat the idea Volvo couldn't make a sexy and fast car to compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes.

All the 780 proved was that Volvo really couldn't compete with the big leagues. But not without becoming a cult classic in the process. It is the last rear-wheel drive coupe Volvo built.

The most noticeable difference is the styling by famed design house Bertone. Bertone had previously worked on a special coupe version of the 240. The 780 was a whole new car however. No body panel except for perhaps the doors were shared with another Volvo. This of course made getting parts difficult if you got into an accident in one.

Interestingly, the styling isn't that drastic or wild, at least when compared to other cars of the time. In fact, it's quite tame. Just as Pininfarina successfully created a look that was both predictable but handsome for Cadillac with the Allante around the same time, Bertone made the 780 undeniably Volvo and still good looking. It takes all of the Volvo design themes of the time but with the slightest differences. The sharp lines, creases and obsession with rectangles continues, but the front is a little smaller and narrower, and the c pillar is more sloped than on other Volvo models.

Bertone was hired to make a Volvo and they did that very well.

Mechanically, the 780 came with either a turbocharged 4-cylinder or non-turbo V6 engine. Early cars had the V6, such as this '88 example. I hear that some people prefer the later 4-cylinder turbo engines. Either way, with the car weighing around 3,400 lbs combined with an automatic transmission the 780 was no sports car by any stretch, but rather just slightly more powerful than your standard Volvo station wagon, in swankier wrapping.

Inside, occupants were treated to more hard angles bathed in warm earth tones, sumptuous leather seats and wood grain accent trim. If you liked Volvo's interiors of the '80s, you'll love sitting in a 780 Bertone.

The seller lists this particular example as having a whopping 212,000 miles. They do say it is a one owner car that has been "maintained to the fullest", with records to prove it, which is good. Still, I'd be leery of any 20+ year old car with over 200k miles. Sure, Volvo cars were known to last for a long time, especially their legendary 240, but the 780 was plagued with engine and transmission problems, so it is unusual to see one driven this much.They say it runs fine, however.

Since the rest of the car looks good, it could be seen as just a well-driven example with maintenance to match, which is desirable. The seller says the car is defect and ding free, yet I can easily spot some damage to the rear passenger side corner:

But hey, you can't expect perfection with 212k on the clock. The rest of the body does look good and this is a good color scheme in champagne over tan.

Fortunately, the buyer has this priced under $5k with an initial asking price of $3,000. Hopefully that can be chipped down as well. This thing could need a new engine soon or other major repairs. This could however be a great snag for diehard Volvo enthusiasts or fans of boxy 1980s cars. Only 8,518 of the 780 Bertone were built, and I'd make a good bet that only a fraction are left, as they have no inherent collector value and usually succumb to rust before they end up in a scrap heap.

Find the craigslist ad here in Cranston, RI and the dealer page here.

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