Baking interior trim Down Under and a Wild Ride Across Europe (1984)

In 1984 the 780 was ready for endurance testing for warm climate durability. So several of the pre-production cars were sent to Australia where the Volvo and Bertone team drove from Sydney to Perth, across a grueling baking hot terrain, some 42 hour and a 2,500 mile journey. The interior components were of special concern. Nuccio, in an interview with Auto Design magazine, described, “The interior hits us with the perfume of leather, and the reappearance of wood, elements, shall we say, highly linked to the tradition of a certain class of cars.”[1] But all of that elegance had to withstand the rigors of temperature change. After all, the typical buyer of such a luxury coupe would have no tolerance for poor buckling trim or fading seats.

Paolo Caccamo described the interior testing process. “All of the components on the interior of the 780 had to withstand extended exposure to 225 degree temperatures without suffering the slightest distortion or variation in color. Volvo is the only manufacture to have such rigid specifications.”[2] Overall, the car did well, but there were some interior trim panels that did endure and began to fade and warp, as the Australian sun beat down. Back in Turin, a meeting was called with the suppliers, who Bertone had partnered with to produce the interior panels; the foiling method, which is the process of gluing the fabric to the panel itself, was reviewed and improved to address the concerns. Several modifications were made, and more tests were needed, but a trip back to Australia was not feasible. They were at risk of not meeting the production schedule.

Sven-Gunnar had an idea. He wanted to get these new panels back to the high temperature test facilities in Gothenburg. But, as he explained, “We didn’t want to fly them back and risk the potential for the panels to be exposed to cold temperatures on the flight, throwing off the test results. We had a 760 in Turin that we used as a shop car. We took out the back seats, and as many of the interior parts to maximize space. We then filled this wagon to the top with the newly redesigned 780 door panels and trim pieces. Two Volvo employees were then tasked with driving the 760 all the way back to Gothenburg without stopping, even though the car wasn’t registered in Sweden. Upon arrival at Volvo, the panels were sent for testing and the two drivers were rewarded with the opportunity to drive one of the prototype 780s home for the weekend. They became instant celebrities in their community and had bragging rights for years to come. Fortunately, these enhanced improved trim pieces passed the endurance testing.”

[1] Auto Design Magazine pg 6

[2] Auto Design Magazine pg 7