For the Volvo Enthusiast

Swedespeed Project XC60 T6: August 2010 Update

So who is crazy enough to think a normal mainstream crossover is actually worth entering into a car show? Us, actually. Interested to see what Volvo loyalists think of the work we’ve done with our XC60 project car, we registered for and headed to the Volvo Club of America National Meet, which took place at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, just outside of Kalamazoo. For those interested in pre-war car history, the museum itself is phenomenal. But let’s keep to the point.

As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones to show up with a crossover, as the show field also included another XC60, an XC90, and a few XC70s (for those of you who consider them crossovers and not wagons with tall suspension). Among this mostly stock bunch, our lowered and big-wheeled mommy machine actually looked pretty extreme, though certainly not as desirable as the 142 GT, the Amazon Coupe, the spotless 242 Turbo, or the few dozen P1800s present.

The XC60 got a fair amount of attention, too, though many people may have just been coming over to figure out who would be strange enough to lower one. Most people we talked to had positive comments, however, other than the guy who asked how many wheels we’d bent. (Zero, for the record.)

Based primarily on the luck of our parking spot, taking the XC60 to an all-Volvo show was eye-opening to us from a design standpoint. Volvos have always been simple, subtle, minimalist machines, especially when they all got rather small in the mid-1990s. We actually consider the XC60 subtle among its modern competitors, but parked between a C70 coupe and a line of 850s (even one with a hood scoop!) it looks positively massive and despite its soft, coupe-like lines, pretty imposing. With all these classic small Volvos around, we may as well have shown up with a Union Pacific.

Leaving the show, we managed to stumble on something quite rare in the heart of the Midwest — ah geez, what’s it called? It’s like an off-ramp but without the highway? That’s right, a curve. Actually, we countered quite a few bends stitched together in the Michigan countryside and seized the opportunity, dropping the transmission into manual mode and pushing the car hard. The transmission is slow to downshift, but it’s also predictable. Bump the gear selector a second ahead of time and it works great, and with the stiff and low suspension this tall, heavy machine has a surprising amount of grip. Even with our truck tires.

No, the XC60 isn’t a sports sedan, but with our slight modifications and the strong T6 motor, we’re still quite pleased with its dynamics. Plus, now that Volvo has chopped its wagon offerings here in the US and confirmed that the V60 in particular won’t be sold here, our XC60 “Street Edition,” as we’ll call it, is as good as it gets for sport and utility together.

Our weekend in Michigan included one last stop, a mythical Volvo graveyard on the Michigan/Indiana border, right along the coast of the lake. We got off I-94 near New Buffalo, Michigan, and actually found it quite easily. Despite the threat of barking dogs and a strong possibility of shotgun fire, we stopped, got slightly emotional about a few rotting Amazons, and shot the photos you see here. It was a shame to see so many dead Volvos, but most were probably beyond salvation. We said our goodbyes and drove off with our strong-running XC60, confident that it’ll serve a few more decades before Death comes knocking. As different as it looks from its relatives, it left us wondering: What will Volvos look like when our XC60 dies?

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