By Jan R. Wagner
So there I was, preparing my Mustang for an SCCA autocross one fine Sunday morning at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, when it arrived. Looking quite regal with its gold paint and interior, crown emblems and distinctive chopped roof, the 1980 Volvo Coupé by Bertone attracts attention like a magnet. The un-Volvo-like roof is what does it. I hadn’t seen one of these cars in many years so, as I usually do when I spot a rare automobile, I went over to check it out. That led to a picture-taking session and a desire to learn more about this car.
I discovered that this particular Volvo Coupé by Bertone is owned by Larry D., a longtime acquaintance of mine and a fellow autocrosser, from La Mesa, California. I asked him if I could take some photos and interview him about his car for AutoMatters. Fortunately for us, he agreed. Here is what Larry told me.
This Volvo Coupé by Bertone was bought from San Diego Volvo. From all indications, it is one of only a very few – at least with this gold color scheme, in San Diego County. This particular example differs from the early Bertone Coupés in that they were silver with a black vinyl top and black interior. It was originally owned by Larry’s aunt and has been in his family since it was new.
The Volvo Coupé was built by Bertone in Italy. The majority of its parts were sent to Bertone from Volvo, but Bertone worked its design magic and changed just enough to make the styling of this car stand out from the ever-so-practical Volvos of its day. This car combined the safety and durability that Volvos were known for, with a certain design, flair and high style normally reserved for high-end luxury automobiles. Priced in the high teens, the Volvo Coupé by Bertone was considered to be on a par with the higher-end BMW and Mercedes models of the day.
The soft leather is Italian, with very distinctive, high-styled, raised leather trim unlike any I’ve ever seen before on automobile upholstery. The luxury in the interior continues with real wood accents, and the large trunk is fully carpeted.
Comfort and convenience features include electric seat warmers, an electric rear window defroster and adjustable intermittent windshield wipers. Remember that this was a car of the early 80s. Most of the features that we take for granted today were not available on cars back then.
It is getting difficult to remember what is was like living with cars that were pre-computer, but this is one of those. According to Larry, it is a bit finicky with today’s various blends of pump gasoline. Because of that, adjustments need to be made from time to time. Fortunately Larry has had many years of experience repairing autos in his own shop. He carefully and personally maintains this car, repairing or replacing what as worn. He has not restored it.
The Volvo Coupé by Bertone is powered by the Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V-6. It is a relatively heavy car so, while it is certainly no speed demon, it will maintain the speed limit on the freeways. It rides nicely and is a comfortable, spacious daily driver. It runs on regular gas and gets about 15 MPG.
Having such a distinctive car, Larry occasionally gets followed home. People ask him questions at stoplights and elsewhere – including in parking lots and at autocrosses. He considers answering people’s questions to be a joy. He said that for an older car, this one is a lot of fun.
If you would like to learn more about this special and unusual Swedish/Italian automobile, Larry and I both recommend an excellent feature article on the Volvo 262C Bertone Coupé from the January 2006 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car. Here is a link to that article on the Hemmings website: www.hemmings.com/hsx/stories/2006/01/01/hmn_feature10.html.
Do you have a special, unusual or rare automobile that you would like to see featured in AutoMatters? Are you and that automobile located in or near the San Diego County area? If so, I would really like to hear from you. Send an email, along with your comments and suggestions, to
- You never know. I might just pay you a visit with my camera and interview you for your very own feature in an upcoming AutoMatters column.
Copyright © 2013 by Jan Wagner – #289