1997 Volvo S40

NZ Performance Car - - Historic Touring Cars Spotlights -

THE S40S PROVED A PO­TENT PACK­AGE FOR THEIR DE­BUT SEA­SON

Men­tion ‘Volvo BTCC car’, and, nine times out of 10, peo­ple will im­me­di­ately re­spond with, ‘ Oh yeah, the wagon!’ In 1994, Volvo burst onto the Su­per Tour­ing scene with the un­likely 850 ‘es­tate’ (to use the cor­rect UK ter­mi­nol­ogy) pre­pared by the ex­pe­ri­enced Tom Walkin­shaw Rac­ing (TWR) team and pack­ing a bark­ing 2.0-litre five-cylin­der. Switch­ing to an 850 sedan for ’95 and ’96, Volvo at­tacked the ’97 BTCC with an all-new car us­ing the 850’s show­room re­place­ment, the un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally swoopy S40.

While the body­work was fresh, me­chan­i­cally, these S40s were oth­er­wise an evo­lu­tion of the 850, and re­tained the howl­ing five-cylin­der en­gine. Unique to the 1997 S40, the en­gine ro­ta­tion was re­versed to run an­ti­clock­wise, some­thing TWR engi­neers the­o­rized would as­sist trac­tion. Un­like most other front-wheeldrive (FWD) su­per tour­ers, the cylin­der head wasn’t re­versed; rather, the en­tire en­gine was. Pump­ing out circa 224kW at the man­dated 8500 rev limit through an Xtrac six-speed se­quen­tial box, the S40s proved a po­tent pack­age for their de­but sea­son, with both cars fin­ish­ing in the top 10 by the sea­son’s end.

Re­tain­ing that sig­na­ture Su­per Tour­ing aes­thetic, the S40s sat close to the deck on Oh­lins re­mote-reser­voir sus­pen­sion and be­spoke up­rights. The 19-inch BBS cen­tre locks sank into stock-ap­pear­ing arches cov­er­ing gi­ant brake ro­tors, and, while some con­tes­tants in the se­ries em­ployed dual-caliper front ar­range­ments, Volvo elected to use eight-pot front and four-pot rear calipers. Kerb weight? A mere 975kg!

Now owned by Lind­say O’Don­nell, this par­tic­u­lar car started life in the ’97 BTCC. It’s stamped with chas­sis tags with the num­ber R7-004. Bri­ton Kelvin Burt oc­cu­pied the driver’s Re­caro for the ’97 sea­son, bring­ing the car home 10th in the stand­ings after fin­ish­ing as high as fourth on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions. For 1998, the car was sent to Aus­tralia with ex-pat Kiwi tin-top spe­cial­ist Jim Richards in the hot seat for the lo­cal Volvo team to bat­tle its BMW and Audi ri­vals.

De­spite tak­ing race wins at Phillip Is­land and Eastern Creek, Richards’ FWD Volvo was un­able to con­quer the barn­storm­ing all-wheel-drive (AWD) Audis (by then out­lawed in Europe), and he fin­ished third in the cham­pi­onship be­hind the pair of Qu­at­tros.

Re­cently recom­mis­sioned in the UK by tour­ing car en­gi­neer Jonny West­brook, the S40 proved a pace­set­ter at the 2016 Brands Hatch Su­per Prix, snag­ging pole in the His­toric Tour­ing Car class by a full sec­ond, be­fore be­ing swept across to New Zealand shores, where the car will be cam­paigned among the His­toric Tour­ing Car col­lec­tive.

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