Bertone by Any Other Name, the 1979 Volvo 262C


Today’s Rare Ride is an example of the first time Bertone added heaps of Italian build quality to an ordinary Volvo midsize. We’ve covered Bertone’s second effort (the 780) long ago, so it’s past time we talk 262C.

Though Volvo fancies itself upscale today, the company was not a luxury manufacturer in the Seventies. The Swedish purveyor of boxy and practical was ready to step outside its traditional mold in 1979. That year, the company offered two (!) exciting new cars with only two doors. The more attainable two-door was the 242 GT we’ve covered previously, but that coupe was fairly spartan and focused slightly on performance. What about luxury? What about the grand touring businessman customer in America?

Volvo had previously not bothered with said luxury coupe customer, so what changed? Circa 1975 one Henry Ford II paid a visit to the Volvo factory in Sweden and shipped over a very Personal Luxury Lincoln Continental Mark IV to drive while he was there. Swedes in the local area and at the Volvo facility were most interested and intrigued by the enormous Lincoln. “Ett ögonblick” (one moment) said Volvo, as they set their designers to work on a Swedish take on the personal luxury coupe.

Volvo kept the new 262C’s work in-house: The two-door was penned by Jan Wilsgaard. Changes to the standard 262 two-door sedan included new pillars and roof, windshield surround, upper door frames, and cowl. Like the later 780, the 262C featured a chopped roof – nearly four inches lower than the standard car. 262C was not for fans of big hats.

The luxury coupe’s interior was much different from the 260 too, with standard equipment like central locking and power windows. There was air conditioning, cruise control, heated seats, and an interior swathed in button-tufted and ruched leather with luggage strap motifs. Unlike other Volvos, there were also big slabs of real wood inside. It was all very 1979. Most examples in ’79 and ’80 also had that special American touch: a vinyl roof. That option was removed for 1981.

Power carried over from the top end of the 260 and was provided either by 2.6- or 2.8-liter PRV V6 engines. A four-speed manual was the standard transmission, but most customers chose the three-speed automatic.

Volvo had no spare manufacturing capacity and handed the construction of the 262C over to Bertone. The Italians assembled the expensive coupes at their Turin factory. The majority of 262Cs were destined for the United States market, which was supposed to thoroughly appreciate an upscale coupe from Volvo. In North America, Volvo aimed directly at two established luxury coupe names: the Cadillac Eldorado and Mercedes 280CE. It did not go well, as the emeritus professors and practical people who purchased Volvos didn’t want such a garish coupe, and luxury customers respected a Cadillac or Mercedes badge far more than a Volvo one.

The 262C was canceled after the 1981 model year, with just 6,622 examples built. Afterward, Volvo took a break from luxury coupes for four years until the 780 arrived in ’86. Today’s 262C is a silver over black example from the early part of the model’s run. Yours for $24,000.

[Images: Volvo]

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