For many in those days, from managers to line workers at Bertone, the 780 days are some of the most positive. Three decades later, many of them still meet together to reminisce and attend the annual reunions. Interestingly, some 1,200 miles away in Gothenburg, a similar group of former Volvo 780 team members also gather once a year to share their collective memories. And many of the lessons learned and the technology developed for the 780 still influence current models being produced today.
The Volvo and Bertone leadership team met in the offices of Stiles Bertone, the design facility that was located not too far from the new Grugliasco 780 facility. It was there during the pre-production and design days that endless hours of meetings took place. Collaboration was not easy, especially given the language differences, and each team had to work in their non-native language English. Nuccio spoke in broken English, and was dependent on a translator.
There were also the obvious cultural differences. Mario Panizza, Program Manager for Bertone, insisted with a smile on his face, “Volvo had to follow us because in the end we were Italian and they were Swedish! In reality we reached a good compromise when we worked on projects. Sometimes we Italians are using too much fantasy, or not following the rules 100%, and the Swedes were a bit to “straight” so we were good for each other.” Those relationships extended beyond the formal meetings. Mauro Charriere shared, “Our families would get together on the weekends. I wasn’t married in the early days, but I was always included with the Volvo and Bertone employee’s families. I am still close to many of them even today.” Sven-Gunnar insisted it was the mutual trust, that was established during the years of extended meetings and collaborating together on the 780 project that has led to a 30 year friendship.
Language and culture aside, there were long technical planning meetings. Every aspect of the building and assembly had to be reviewed among the executive leadership. Sven-Gunnar recalled one of the marathon meetings in which they ended up burning out three overhead projector bulbs, over the course of the multi-day discussion, just discussing various technical issues!
The photo above was taken on March 4, 1985 as the Volvo and Bertone teams met in Geneva on the night before the debut of the 780.
Mario Panizza, Program Manager Carrozzeria Bertone
Robert Belfrage, VCC, Marketing
Eric de Graaf, VCC, Finance
Sven-Gunnar Johansson, R&D Volvo Technical Program Leader
Bengt Helgesson, VCC R&D Finance
Peter Davidsson, PPL, Product Planning
Ove Lindblad, President, Volvo Production Overseas
Hans Gustavsson, Vice President PPL, Program Manager
Gunnar Wikeby, Business Program Coordination
Kjell Johnsson, Coordinator Production Overseas
Leif Jansson, R&D Volvo, Program Koordination
Paolo Caccamo, CEO Carrozzeria Bertone
Egon Bergman, R&D Volvo Technical Program Leader
Olof Wendel, VCC Purchasing