1980 Volvo 262C Roadtrip - Our Shed

By: Glenn Torrens, Photography by: Glenn Torrens

Presented by

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Torrens and Morley cruise the High Country under a low lid

Morley doesn’t realise how soul-soothingly relieved I am: I’ve turned the ignition key and my latest acquisition, my porn-brown Volvo 262C Coupe has started! So what? Well, yesterday morning in my driveway, 550km north of the southern NSW town of Cooma – where we are now – the bloody thing didn’t start.

Piece of shit.

If you’ve been keeping-up with my regular ‘Our Shed’ scribblings in Unique Cars, you’ll realise I’ve bought a few cars recently – Mazda MX-5, Holden Calais, a Commodore wagon or two… and this Bertone-built chop-top Volvo 262C. I’d had a thing for Volvos ever since my grandfather bought one as his retirement present when I was a kid in the 1970s. In my late teens, I bought a 1974 Volvo 164E sedan and had vague ideas about sticking in a turbo Holden six (I didn’t) and as an adult (?) I’d shoved a fuel-injected Holden 5.0-litre V8 into a Volvo 242GT for a crazy MOTOR magazine project.

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Somewhere during that time, I became aware of Volvo’s rare, top-line Coupe and thought, yeah, that’d be cool to own one day. To cut a long story short, I’d spotted this one sitting forlorn in a yard in Cooma and made an offer. Trucked to my home, I drained the putrid eight-year-old fuel, changed the oil and filter, fitted fresh spark plugs, a fuel pump, replaced critical coolant hoses and installed brand new tyres.

So I’m a bit embarrassed it didn’t start on the morning of our road trip. I’d proudly babbled to Morley about how well I’d got the old Swede running after eight years off the road. I’d cruised several hundred kays over a few weeks so I was confident it could be driven to Melbourne and back. Suitably impressed, and owing himself a long weekend, Morley had decided to join me after I told him of my plan, booking a one-way flight for a bromantic road trip. Anyway, after tinkering with fuel hoses and pumps and fuses and whatever else in my driveway for an hour or two, I had the 262C running again and with the two of us reclining in its bourgeois leather-trimmed seats, I slid the stick into D and pointed the Volvo’s bluff nose south.

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We’re in Cooma because I thought it’d be fun to show the previous owner what I’d done with his old car. Cooma is also the start-line for one of Australia’s truly great drives – the Snowy Mountains Highway. You really can’t accuse one of these Volvos of being a great drivers’ car – although it’s light years ahead of most 1970s Aussie ironmongery - but a trek across the Snowies sure beats the boredom of the Hume.

My ecstasy at having my Volvo start first turn of the key is magnified by the fact that it’s not as cold in Cooma as it has been in the prior few days. Cooma in winter is chilly – it’s the gateway to the NSW Snowies and its ski-fields – and my Volvo isn’t filled with anti-freeze coolant. Yeah, stupid, but I’d topped it up with water when I’d replaced the coolant hoses a few weeks before, with the ambition of draining and flushing the entire cooling system ‘next weekend’. Yeah. I know...

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Our arrival in Cooma was also tarnished by: a) the previous owner not being able to come for a look (we’d arrived unannounced on a Saturday afternoon so he was out of town) and: b) almost not getting accommodation (we’d arrived unannounced on a Saturday afternoon in the peak of the ski season so everything was booked-out). With no swags and freezing nights, car-park camping is definitely not an option… but after around 10 phone calls, we stumble on the last motel room available in town. With beds booked, Morley and I fill our bellies with a good Chinese feed and beers, and our minds with our usual crazy ideas. Worried about a frozen radiator, I warm-up the Volvo’s engine just before going to bed and I set an alarm for 4am to start and quietly idle it again.

After breakfast the next morning, we wander a few kays out of Cooma to the world-famous Flynn’s Wreckers, a yard of several thousand cars dating back to the 1930s. I’ve been there before but Morley hasn’t, despite his living around here as a teenager. It’s Sunday; the place is closed. Morley is of course disappointed but it’s an excuse to return, right?

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The rest of the day is a magnificent drive rising from Cooma over open plains and terrific timbered mountain roads, across the icing-on-the-cake snowy crests of the Main Range, down the steep western slopes of the Snowies into Tumut, through Batlow and south to the Corryong Valley in Victoria. Morley and I have both driven these types of roads for magazine tests in exotica such as Porsches, FPVs and HSVs over the years but even in my 100kW (maybe?) V6-with-auto Volvo, the day is a brilliant blend of corner-carving and high-speed cruising.

Just before sunset’s gold glow, we arrive a few kays out of Tallangatta to catch-up with Steve and Mark – two salt-lake racing mates – and their families and smash into some beers and camp-oven tucker around a cheery campfire.

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The next day, after a morning coffee and pie, we aim my Italian/Swedish chop-top toward the Hume Freeway for a boring drive to Melbourne, interrupted only by our stopping to look at a (shall I tell them?) ’86 Nissan Skyline in some little town. We arrive at Morley’s local pub in Melbourne’s south-east in the late afternoon. Over a refreshing Carlton, we reflect on and laugh at what we’d just done in a car that – although not ridiculous – was a rather unlikely interstate cruiser.

So, we’d done a great Aussie road trip for little more reason that because it’s there. I reckon all you readers out there should jump in something cool – who cares what? – and do one every once in a while, too. Just do it!

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And you know what? I’ve driven my Volvo stacks of times since returning from Melbourne and it’s started every time. And no, I don’t know what the no-start problem was.

Piece of shit!

 

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