“The kind of Volvo you design when you’ve been designing Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Maseratis all your life.”
Designed and produced by Bertone and primarily based on the 760 sedan, the 780 was Volvo’s second attempt at a stylish coupe. The first was also a Bertone creation—the 262C built from 1977 through 1981. Beyond the handsome exterior, the interior was also specific to the 780—not merely a slightly re-purposed 760 design. Among the significant changes from the 760’s interior were a move from five seats to four, with individually-shaped seats for those in the rear.
The 780 used its design and a notably high standard equipment level as differentiators as Volvo attempted to move into higher-end markets. The 780’s base price was $34,785—about $81,700 in today’s dollars, which is well more than any Volvo vehicle’s sticker price in 2020. Back in 1987, the 780’s real competition was unclear. Was it the Acura Legend (also in its first year but much less expensive), the BMW 6-series (much more expensive), the Lincoln Mark VII (far less expensive—at least until many options were added), or some other car?
For 1987, the only powertrain available was the B280F 146 bhp 2.8 liter/174 ci V6 with Bosch LH-Jetronic fuel injection paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 mph times were in the 11 second range—Volvo did not intend the 780 to be a sports coupe. Mileage in the 3,415-pound car was rated at 17 city/21 highway by the standards of the day (15/20 by today’s standards). With a relatively small 15.9-gallon fuel tank, 780 drivers could expect 250 to 270 miles of range with a 10% reserve.
Standard exterior equipment for the 780 included tinted glass, a power moonroof with a sliding sunshade, dual power mirrors with a heating element, flush-lens halogen headlamps, front and rear fog lamps, and the Bertone name and logo on both C pillars. Mechanical features included power steering, four-wheel vented power disc brakes with ABS, and 205/60R15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15 x 6 inch 15-spoke alloy wheels.
Inside, the 780 came loaded, with full instrumentation including a tachometer, a power central locking system, power windows, automatic climate control, cruise control, and a driver’s side airbag. Upholstery highlights included heated eight-way power leather front bucket seats and beach burl wood trim. The standard stereo was an AM/FM ETR stereo cassette with a seven-band graphic equalizer, four speakers, a 200-watt amplifier, and a power antenna.
Volvo did not sell a lot of 780’s—but I don’t believe they expected to. Only 9,215 (other sources say 8,518) were produced over six years of production, with about 61% of those going to the United States market. There’s an enthusiast site at 780coupe.com, and folks do collect 780’s. You also sometimes see them in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors.
Make mine Blue Metallic, please.
This post is the first on a Volvo in Eighties Cars. There will be others—I definitely expect to get to the 240 wagon at some point.