In 1995 approximately 9 million over-65s were struck by a sudden and horrible event. The episode was so bad in fact that it caused the NHS to be on red-alert, people were panic buying in Marks & Spencer’s, the Navy was on stand-by and questions in the House of Commons were even raised. More seriously though, the event changed the car buying habits of the over-65s to this very day.
What was it you’re crying? Did BP have an oil-leak? Had Neil Sedaka admitted that he wasn’t a good singer? Was it that Magic Tree car air-freshners had gone out of business?
No. Volvo had launched a cool car. The 850 T5-R
Before we get to that, however, let me just explain to you a bit about Volvo before this nineties bruiser. You see, before 1995, the car of choice for the wrinklies was always a Volvo estate. Despite a sexy Volvo P1800 coupe having the star-role in the 1960s cult show The Saint, and a bright yellow Volvo 245 estate adorning Margot and Jerry’s drive in The Good Life, Volvos have always been the preserve of the elderly with more than a whiff of urine about them. Moreover, according to a Government report in 1994, 94.6% of Volvo owners were classed as insane (although, it is fair to say, I could have made that up).
Enter the Volvo 850 T5-R. Here was a car that threw its toys out of the pram for it was like no other Volvo before it. It was available in vivid shades of red and primrose yellow or mean black metallic, it had huge anthracite alloys wheels, a rear spoiler and a deep chin spoiler at the front, and it also had none of that old manish walnut trim; oh no, the T5-R came with light coloured birch trim. It was like a Swedish John Lewis in there.
But it was the engine that made this car rebel against its beige predecessors for it had a turbo-charged 2.3-litre engine that developed 250bhp, and took a more than youthful 6.7 second sprint to get to 60mph and went on to 155mph. This car was more shocking than J. R. coming back to life in Dallas. It was like coming home to find your grandmother high on crystal meth instead of glucosamine. This was the first Volvo that was insane instead of its owners actually being insane.
This did immeasurable damage to the wrinklies, for now they owned a car that was loved by hordes of under-50s – ‘youngsters’. Skoda seemed a safe haven for the wrinklies. So too was Honda, Rover, and Toyota. The wrinklies had disbanded.
Within in a couple of years of the T5-R, an even meaner 850R followed and then a S70R/V70R saloon and estate combo in ’99. These did even more damage to the wrinklies as these cars were even more hardcore, but in 2003 a new V70R estate and an S60R saloon were launched. However, even with their orange seats, 300bhp engines and sophisticated ‘Comfort’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Advanced’ settings suspensions, they failed to capture the imaginations of ‘the youngsters’. The wrinklies saw this and thought it was safe to return to the safety-conscious Swedish manufacturer, which they did. The ‘R’ for racing badge that had graced so many hot Volvos in the past was quickly becoming ‘R’ was rheumatism. Something had to change, and fast.
And this – eventually, you’re saying – brings me onto the Volvo C30 Polestar or, to give its full name, the Volvo C30 Performance Concept Prototype (PCP). Created by Swedish company Polestar, this C30 is not developed by Volvo themselves (hence no ‘R’ designation) but it could be the basis of a hot C30 in the future. Polestar is no stranger to souping-up Volvos however, for the company already prepares race spec C30s for Volvo in the Swedish Touring Car Championship, and the C30 PCP takes inspiration from those racing exploits. It shares aerodynamic-friendly front wings, a roll cage, Brembo brakes, and a double-decked spoiler with its racing brother.
If the bright blue paintwork doesn’t frighten off the wrinklies, then the performance of this teenage kick certainly will. Under the bonnet lies Volvo’s much used 2.5 litre turbo engine, but this time it is boosted to 405bhp launching the car to a scintillating 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds. It is believed the C30 PCP cost over £100,000 to create.
However, the car you are looking at is strictly a one-off says Polestar. Volvo has hinted that if the Polestar car generates enough interest, a hot C30 could be made in the future. If anything the prototype demonstrates that behind that safety conscious, slightly placid exterior which is loved by the wrinklies, Volvo can let their hair down.
The wrinklies should be afraid, very afraid.
On the radio: Undertones’s ‘Teenage Kick’.
Batchelor rating: 10/10
Batchelor says: A truly exciting car, made by people who think ABBA is the name of an old person’s disease.
For more of Batchelor, visit www.batchelorblog.wordpress.com