THE most unlikely car brand of all was the first to tackle Bathurst. Volvo did it in the 1980s, at a time when it was fresh from the Australian Touring Car Championship, looking to build a performance push to counterbalance its safety stand. Of course, it didn’t work . . . But that didn’t stop Volvo Australia from closing Mt Panorama in 1984 and unleashing a freight train of its hero cars, the 760 Turbo, on the track with former tin-top champion Colin Bond as safety officer.
It was my first time at Bathurst and I still remember vividly the challenge of lapping the track, trying to go quickly without threatening the car or myself. The blunt-edged Volvo was capable of cracking 200km/h down Conrod Straight, before the Chase was added to slow racers, but it lurched and bumped and rolled over the top of the mountain at speeds that would have horrified anyone who actually bought a Volvo in the ’80s.
I can still remember the words from Bondy— who went on to become driving standards chief for V8 Supercar racing— as he made dire threats if anyone from the press contingent so much as scratched one of the Volvos.
Since the Volvo experiment a couple of other press preview drives have been held at Bathurst, but none on the full track.
Lexus was the most recent visitor, after hosting a press preview for its LS flagship at Nurburgring in Germany, but only for an uphill sprint to show the performance potential of its GS450h hybrid.
Swede heart: Colin Bond and the Volvo 760 Turbo.