Rob Marshall’s Volvo 460.
The blossoming interest in modern classics might lead you to think that any car from the 1980s and early 1990s that is either high-performance, range-topping, rare or all of the above, has become unattainable for anybody looking for interesting and inexpensive transport. Unfortunately, skyrocketing prices are edging out budget-oriented buyers of models that were, not that long ago, scrapyard fodder. Yet, it is just about possible to unearth a car destined for oblivion before anybody else has noticed.
The story of how G392 VYO came into my life started by stumbling across an ebay advert for a black Volvo 460 Turbo in 2011. I did not bid on the car, but another journalist ended up bagging it. I met him by chance at the wonderfully-unglamorous 2015 Festival of the Unexceptional which I attended with my 440 hatchback and found myself expressing an interest in buying the 460 saloon. Fast-forward to January 2017, the phone rang: was I interested in taking on the car?
A new mortgage and imminent house move saw me voting with my head and declining the offer, unless the owner could wait until the summer. Sure enough, once the weather was better and I had moved into my new abode (which came complete with a leaky roof, damp and various other maladies to suck up any spare time that I thought that I had), the mobile rang again and I found myself agreeing a £550 purchase price, including a wealth of spare parts located in the boot, plus delivery.
A wise fool?
For that sum, a newer and roadworthy car would have been within budget. I consoled myself that, as many 400-series Turbo Volvos are harvested for their high-performance Renault-based organs by 5 and Clio upgraders, I could recoup most of my investment by breaking the car. Furthermore, a look on the interesting (but admittedly not entirely accurate) How Many Left website revealed that Series One 460 Turbo survival rested with four examples, none of which was roadworthy, and mine appeared to be the only one with manual transmission. This information could be
a useful selling point if I had to dispose of the car complete in an attempt to get my money back. Also, the rare Volvobranded Momo steering wheel and 15-inch alloys, plus the complete spare leather interior, would raise some extra ackers if sold separately.
Despite being very dusty on arrival, the car was as described and in relatively good condition. Yet, any vehicle that has been dry-stored for five years is going to need attention and expenditure over and above a basic service. While I could have addressed the last MOT failure issues by replacing the exhaust, adjusting the handbrake and renewing a torn driveshaft gaiter, it would be foolish not to give the almost 30-year-old Volvo a more vigorous once-over.
Where to stop?
With an old car like this, it is too easy to get carried away. I was aware that I could not become embroiled in the time and cost implications of a full restoration, which would include being saddled with a half-dismantled, immobile car for several years. Whatever work required had to be carried out quickly, safely, costeffectively (which does not mean taking the cheapest option) and with as little external assistance as possible.
Once the Volvo had been unloaded from the delivery truck, I was relieved that the engine started instantly and appeared to be in good order, aside from a nasty misfire, minor coolant/oil leaks and a permanently-lit battery warning lamp.
The most obvious issues were the electric tilt/slide sunroof being stuck open (now remedied) and that the aged tyres were both hardened and cracked. Despite being dusty, the cloth interior looked tidy, aside from a deep gash in the driver’s doorcard and some minor trim damage.
Bodywise, several rust scabs and dents afflicted the lower portions of the driver’s side doors, with one of them maturing into a hole after being prodded with a screwdriver. Both front wings bore dents and rust, but two pairs of used replacements came with the car. The fact that both rear sill plastic cover sections fell off and revealed very little solid metal beneath them leads me to suspect that more corrosion awaits discovery. Fortunately, aside from several small holes in the boot floor corners, corroded rear seatbelt mountings and a crusty inner wheelarch, the underside appeared to be in good condition, with most of the underseal intact. The subframe wore some surface rust but a wire-brush revealed it not to be serious.
The most worrying issue rests with the suspension and brakes. The rear damping, particularly, is virtually ineffective. More seriously, the bump stops that act as assisters to limit rear spring movement have almost disappeared. The front wishbones are not only corroded but their bushes are also split, which makes me wonder how any driver could have kept the Volvo stable at any speed. While I cannot perform a road-test, manoeuvring the 460 on the drive causes the front suspension to creak and groan, mimicking the warped structure of an ancient galleon.
Although I have set £1000 aside to get the car safe and presentable again, a certain amount of ingenuity will be required, especially as the previous owner reported that obtaining 460 parts proved harder than those for his mid-1960’s Volvo Amazon. The next stage is to tackle the mechanicals, prior to bodywork and trying to improve the cosmetics.
This crusty power steering cooler will have to be removed to replace the radiator. New ones are unavailable – thankfully, this one cleaned up after being soaked in Bilt Hamber Deox C rust remover, prior to being painted in Rustbuster Epoxy Mastic.
The sunroof had remained open for at least three years – a gaffertaped bin liner protected the interior from rain on the journey from Manchester to Worcestershire. A new switch – a lucky main dealer clearance find – fixed the problem.
Crumbling metal beneath the plastic covers reveals that all is not well in the sill department.
A bodged accelerator cable prevents full throttle. Thankfully, a new old-stock item came with the car.
The bodywork came up fairly well after a clean and polish. The 1080kg 460 Turbo’s performance slots between that of a VW Golf/ Jetta MKII GTI 8v and GTI 16v.
The inside matches the rest of the car – relatively unmolested but in need of attention, especially the driver’s doorcard (see inset pic). The 78,000 miles is backed up by a substantial service history.
The 460 joins Rob’s 440 and 480 Volvos. He has set a generous budget to repair it, but would he be better off throwing the cash onto the fire?
The 460 was supplied with plenty of spares. The haul includes the original alloys, accessory mats and a replacement leather interior.