The Big Debut Finally Arrives – March 5, 1985

On March 4, 1985 representatives from Volvo and Bertone gathered on a cold, snowy night in Geneva Switzerland in the Palexpo, the massive exposition center near the Geneva airport for the 55th gathering of the Geneva Motor Show. The Monday evening was one of celebration, but a subtle anxiety was mixed with excitement because the next morning, after three long years of work, the 780 would be unveiled. As Sven-Gunnar commented about his expression in the black and white group photo taken the night before the debut, “I looked rather intense.”

The next morning the Volvo and Bertone teams worked behind the scenes inspecting and making last minute adjustments. The Volvo corporate leadership, including Nuccio Bertone, Peter Davidsson and Leif Jansson, entertained guests and had a chance to inspect the two models that were now in position on the Bertone and Volvo stands, one silver and one black 780. A third, a light blue, would be on display afterward, for the press to sit in and see up close.

The actual unveiling of the 780 was held in a separate arena in the motor show building. After the press meeting, Volvo and Bertone used their respective exhibition stands in the big hall to display the 780 to the public, along with other models in their 1985 line up.

As the official time came on March 5th for the debut, Vivaldi’s Four Season’s Spring played over the speakers to set a tone of elegance and classical refinement. The ceremony began with Nuccio Bertone stepping to the podium before a crowd of eager journalists and leaders from the automobile community who attentively listened. To the right of Nuccio was the veiled 780 and behind him were large placards emblazed with the Bertone logo and “Volvo 780” printed.

Nuccio, who spoke in English, with a strong Italian accent, read from his prepared notes, “Our meeting here today and the agreement signed with Volvo for the development and production of the new 780 model represents a goal of great significance for my company and myself… Bertone today is but a midget in a world of giant manufacturers and it is thanks to this very characteristic that it represents an excellent mechanism for the design and small scale production of high-quality, prestige vehicles beyond the reach of the industrial colossuses.” He continued on for a few minutes and then concluded with, “My long experience in the design and manufacturing of high quality cars, permits me to say that the Volvo 780 is the best product we have ever made!” There was an enthusiastic applause. At that point, he turned the microphone over to Hans Gustavsson, the Volvo Project Director, who stepped to the podium.

Hans gave a detailed description of the 780, highlighting the fact that it is 100% Volvo with the attention to quality and safety, but is a wholly unique car both inside and out.

A comparison of the two speeches in itself epitomizes the strengths of the partnership. Nuccio had presented the vision, passion and hopes for this new model and Hans focused on the technical descriptions and engineering accomplishments with mentions of gearbox, emission standards, cooling systems, front and rear deformation zones and the all new seat belt pre-tensioner. He then paused and looked out at the crowd. “So far we have not shown you anything but the details of the car. What does it look like? Well ladies and gentleman it is a pleasure for me to present the Volvo 780 to complete the model range of our new 700 series cars.” At that moment the covering, with the Bertone logo, was pulled from the car to reveal the silver 780. The crowd erupted in applause. The 780 had officially been launched. For the next two weeks, eager automobile journalists and aficionados toured the show and the world finally saw this much anticipated car forty-five months after the deal was first signed to create the 780.