Not their finest hour: Volvo 262C

Celebrating the greatest cock-ups in automotive history. This week we look at the Volvo 262C
By Sony Thomas, Deputy Editor
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December 25, 2016
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By the Seventies, Volvo had created for itself an image of being the purveyor of the world’s safest cars. As significant as this image was, it also made it difficult for the Swedish brand to be seen as an alternative to luxurious, good-looking or performance-oriented cars made by many of its German and American rivals. Desperate to alter the perception, the then CEO Pehr Gyllenhammar was eager to infuse some excitement into his cars. He had also ordered a complete revamp of the production and assembly processes, and commissioned a new factory altogether.

As word about the new plant spread, many carmakers from around the world came to Sweden to see it. Among them was Henry Ford II and his team. They brought with them a bunch of Lincoln Mark IV coupés. The Lincoln, with its low roof and wide C-pillars, caught the attention of the Swedes, and they wanted something like it. Volvo approached Italy’s Carrozzeria Bertone to create something similar to the Lincoln based on the 262 GL saloon. Bertone used the same floor pans, fenders, and the mechanical bits, and just reworked the roof, the pillars, and the windshield.

The result wasn’t exactly what Volvo had hoped for, it turning out to be a 262 with an awkward roof. And despite its luxuriously appointed custom leather interior, there was less headroom in comparison to the saloon.

Moreover, the special build meant a higher price tag, in the same range as established cars from Mercedes, BMW and Cadillac. Not many customers were willing to part with that kind of money for a Volvo, and production was limited to just over 6,000 cars. The 262C ended up being a half-hearted attempt at establishing Volvo as a luxury brand on a par with Mercedes and Cadillac, which failed.