Volvo V50

Nope, we haven’t gone mad, there re­ally is a Volvo V50 in FC and for good rea­son too…

Fast Car - - CONTENTS -

The idea of the prac­ti­cal supercar is one that’s been in­spir­ing de­sign­ers and dream­ers for gen­er­a­tions. It was the bedrock of Gor­don Mur­ray’s strat­egy for the McLaren F1 – not only was that to be the world’s fastest road car, but it had to have room for a cou­ple of fully stocked golf bags too. And you’ve got a num­ber of op­tions as a buyer to­day; you can stick a roof box on your Koenigsegg Regera, at­tach a ski rack to an Audi

R8, or just go the whole hog and shell out for a Fer­rari GTC4Lusso. But if you want to do it with a bit of flair and orig­i­nal­ity, you could do a lot worse than take a page from Smicha Thi­ra­mongkol’s book. This Bangkok-based mas­ter of the avant garde took a strictly log­i­cal ap­proach to the con­cept: what’s the most prac­ti­cal car you can buy? Well, for decades the go-to an­swer to that ques­tion has been ‘duh, a Volvo es­tate, ob­vi­ously’,

so that’s pre­cisely where he started. And from that point on­ward, things got dis­tinctly weird.

Now, the con­cept of cool Volvo es­tates has been a bit of a rocky road over the years. The car most peo­ple would prob­a­bly first think of when the sub­ject of Swedish barges arises, the old-school Volvo 240, is en­joy­ing a bit of a retro re­nais­sance right now, al­though back when it was new the model was al­ways more of a func­tional box than it was an ob­ject of de­sire. There were two key es­tates that re­ally pro­vided the con­cep­tual step­ping stones to what we’re see­ing here: one was the 850 T5-R (and sub­se­quent 850R evo­lu­tion), the car beloved of po­lice forces across the globe which proved you could shove an Ex­o­cet mis­sile in the back of a house­brick and make it han­dle. The fact that it was turned into a BTCC racer neatly proved the point. And the sec­ond was the orig­i­nal V40, de­but­ing in 1995; this was a smooth and rounded es­tate car, which we al­ways thought was a bit un­der­rated and over­looked – it had the per­fect pro­por­tions to look awe­some with the sim­ple ad­di­tion of big rims and air-ride. And all of this led to the start­ing point for this par­tic­u­lar project, the 2011 V50 es­tate. This Bel­gian-built box sits on the plat­form of the Ford Fo­cus, and of­fers plen­ti­ful po­ten­tial for mod­ding mis­chief. Al­though, it has to be said, noone’s ever thought to do quite what’s been done here be­fore.


Smicha’s idea was as fo­cused as it was in­spired: to build a ‘Hy­per Wagon’. The in­spi­ra­tion for this was, bizarrely, an ob­scure supercar by the name of the Lykan Hyper­sport. If you’ve not heard of it, this rare cu­rio is an­other el­e­ment in mak­ing this project truly in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal… we’ve al­ready got a bit of Thai­land, Swe­den and Bel­gium in the mix, and now we’re look­ing to Le­banon. This is the home of W Mo­tors, who built the Lykan Hyper­sport back in 2013-16, the first sports car to be de­signed and built in the Mid­dle East – it had a RUF flat-six and di­a­mond-en­crusted head­lights, but the el­e­ment Smicha re­ally wanted to chan­nel in­spi­ra­tion from was the de­sign of its nose. And so, with this slightly de­mented no­tion bub­bling away, he went to call in on our old friends at Garage Unique.

You’ve prob­a­bly heard that name once or twice. This Bangkok chop-shop is al­ways busy hand­craft­ing unique builds, tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the ex­treme bodyk­its of the 1990s and 2000s, fus­ing it with the con­tem­po­rary wide­body craze, and dis­till­ing it into a look that’s dis­tinctly mod­ern Thai. And while many bodyshops may look at you

a bit funny if you take them a Volvo es­tate and ask them to make it look like a supercar, this is all just an­other day in the life of Garage Unique. The merry band of Asian provo­ca­teurs set about the makeover with gusto, hand-craft­ing a full cus­tom front end to mimic the jut­ting ag­gres­sion of the Hyper­sport, a move which to­tally re­con­fig­ures the shape to star­tling ef­fect. It’s all beau­ti­fully crafted for a per­fect fit, with ex­ten­sive use of car­bon fi­bre, and – as you’ve prob­a­bly spot­ted – it’s not just about the nose job. Garage Unique also cus­tom­made car­bon sideskirts, flow­ing into the im­pos­ing wide arches at ei­ther end, while the tail en­joys a bois­ter­ously mas­sive dif­fuser and, most ear­ly2000s-ish of all, that frankly eye-wa­ter­ing roof spoiler. Have you ever seen any­thing like it? It’s won­der­fully de­ranged, har­ness­ing the spirit of the Lykan and tak­ing it to strange new places.

“hand-craft­ing a full cus­tom front end to mimic the jut­ting ag­gres­sion of the ” Hyper­sport


Nat­u­rally with great stance comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity, and those fat arches have to be filled with some­thing pretty tip-top. Smicha doesn’t dis­ap­point here, draw­ing in the

sump­tu­ous trea­sures of WORK Wheels, specif­i­cally a stag­gered set of cus­tom three-piece Meis­ter S1s. It all kisses the tar­mac with vivid en­thu­si­asm thanks to a cun­ning air-ride setup cour­tesy of Hop-Up Air­sus, tak­ing some BC Rac­ing BR Se­ries coilovers and con­vert­ing them to run bags. And the global reach of this con­cept reaches yet fur­ther as Ja­panese in­gre­di­ents start to worm their way into the for­mula; the brakes are pure Mit­subishi – sit­ting on cus­tom hubs we find the Brem­bos from an Evo VIII at the front and an Evo X at the rear – and in­side the cabin re­sides a pair of Re­caro CL7s sourced from a Honda Ac­cord Type R. Richly di­verse in­gre­di­ents, but all fused in glo­ri­ous har­mony.

The idea may have been bark­ing mad, but the ex­e­cu­tion is flaw­less and the fin­ished prod­uct is like an acid trip on the school run – at once sen­si­ble and prac­ti­cal, and ut­terly un­hinged. What bet­ter way is there to snag tro­phies at the showand-shine on the way home from pick­ing up your Billy book­cases from Ikea? And the best part is that this build is a true, global one-off. Sure, only seven Lykan Hyper­sports were ever built, sell­ing for $3.4m apiece… but how many V50 Hy­per Wagons are there in ex­is­tence? Just one. That unique­ness is price­less. ■

The in­te­rior is next on the to-do list

The ul­ti­mate load lug­ger

Switch­ing things up

Car­bon ca­nards are tasty

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