Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
Stance. Fitment. Call it what you will, that implacable notion of wheel-positioning perfection that today's scene kids are perennially chasing is something that was actually nailed by Volvo back in the mid-1990s.
A pair of stickered-up 850 estates hit the BTCC series in 1994, which made for a fairly bullish entry into the series. The brand had form with European Touring Car racing back when the 240 Turbo was pounding the circuits, but their entry into the BTCC neatly leveraged the common perception of being a bit, well, mumsy, by throwing the estate cars back into the world's face. The model was repurposed, refocused, and did a lot to make people re-evaulate just what Volvo were all about. It's perhaps hard to imagine today that the idea of a performance Volvo was an inconceivable notion for many, but in such a beige environment the 850 BTCC cars really were a game-changer.
Volvo were, of course, very aware of the staid image, and delighted in installing a stuffed collie dog in the boot during parade laps. They were lapping up the attention, and while it may not have been a hugely successful race car (it never finished higher than 5th place in its debut season), the 850 estate certainly served as a gold-standard PR exercise. TWR's development was constant and fastidious, however, and Rickard Rydell took 3rd place in the championship in the following season, and again in 1996 - but for these years the team wasn't running an estate car. Those successes came courtesy of the car you see here, the 850 saloon.
And yes, the aesthetic is very much dominated by those massive wheels tucked deep inside the arches. But this isn't the product of a measured and fashionable effort to get the thing sitting improbably low on the showground - this is pure race car function. Which is, naturally, very cool indeed. Check it out, scenesters - you're lusting after a nineties Volvo.
Spotted at 74MM - more pics here.