Today is the first regular issue of my new and much anticipated 2015 weekly feature: Forgotten Classics.
As demonstrated in the Christmas Special issue, the goals of this series of essays will be to bring cars that are getting no love back in the limelight. FC is also a thorough analysis of why such cars remained obscure and never got the praise they deserved.
Subject of the first 2015 edition is the first generation of the Volvo C70 coupé.
For some reasons, people in Trollhatan like to have a coupé in their lineup that don't sell well.
The 1977-1981 262c Bertone
The 1986-1990 780 Bertone
After both sales flops, Volvo decided to go with a new approach for its third try, the 1997 C70.
First of all, they fired Bertone and commissioned in-house designer Peter Horbury, who would years later make all Aston-Martins look the same. Volvo then decided to use the FWD chassis of the 850 along with its engines. The C70 was born.
Volvo associated with Hollywood's Paramount Picture to feature its all new C70 in the hit movie The Saint starring Academy Awards Winner Val Kilmer.
The epic 1:20 scene with the C70 consists of Mr. Saint driving in reverse in a parking lot, doing a J-Turn in a effort to escapes villains from USSR before casually turning the radio on to listen to some Barry White.
The C70 was available with a choice of 2 engines, both being Turbo 5 bangers producing respectively 200 and 240 HP. A 5 speed manual was available for enthusiasts. The coupé was joined by a convertible for 1998, featuring groundbreaking safety technologies such as a fully automated cloth top that gets automatically stored in a rigid tonneau cover, a system that was pioneered by Mercedes-Benz on the 4th generation SL roadster.
Despite all these efforts, Volvo was struggling to move the C70 coupé. While the Convertible was doing much better, sales where not near as good as expected. Volvo only built 72,000 C70 during its 8 year product run, nearly 50,000 being convertibles, which coincidentally says a lot about the age of the average buyers.
In North America, Volvo even had to sell leftovers 2004 models for 2005, which led Premier Auto Group's CEO Jacques Nasser to call the situation a "Damned shame".
So, what caused this debacle ?
To be totally honest, I have no idea. It was a nice looking car, it was gracious, powerful, but expensive. Here it is. It was too expensive, and FWD. That's why it failed. People don't buy expensive front drivers.
Sadly, Volvo didn't learn its lesson, and two years later, a new Ford Focus-based $50K C70 hit the market with the expected results.
If all goes according to the plan, Volvo will propose a new coupé in the next two years. Hopefully it will be that brown shooting brake thingy they've been teasing us with over the last year.
Unfortunately, the odds are that it is going to fail miserably. On the flip side, it will depreciate heavily so we can one day own one.
Hope you enjoyed the first regular edition of FC, and see you next week !