For the Volvo Enthusiast

Project C30: Visual Character Adjustment

It seems so formulaic � all those automotive build shows seem to go down to the wire in their efforts to finish a car before the big reveal. Chip Foose and his A-team thread the chronmeter on some spectacular muscle car build or the MTV’s West Coat Customs crew cuts it thin installing an aquarium or food processor in a random and multi-screen-fitted POS. Formulaic or not, if you modify cars, then you eventually can relate� running out of time isn’t always a play for drama in front of the cameras. For Swedespeed and Project C30, we found ourselves having just such an ‘out of time’ moment the day before the 2008 Carlisle Import Auto Show.

You see, Carlisle is the biggest Volvo gathering on the East Coast and likely the nation. Such status makes it well worth rushing to get a car built and that’s exactly what we found ourselves doing. Skipping the usual breakdown of one part or aspect of the car per installment, we covered several bases on our Project C30 in order to complete the car ahead of the Pennsylvania event, so we’ve mashed these components in but one article. We hope you enjoy the ride.

Rear Suspension Adjustment

As noted in our last article, the rear suspension on our C30 was not adjusted low enough, and thus there was some severe “rake” to the look of the car. We decided to take full use of the so-called coilover setup and even out the stance a bit. Adjusting the rear is relatively simple; however you it cannot be done while the springs are still installed in the car.

After supporting the rear of the car with jack stands, we applied some pressure on the shocks with a floor jack to relieve pressure on the lower shock bolts, and then removed the lower shock bolts to allow the control arms to drop down. While this frees up some space, it is still not enough to fully remove the spring, so some ingenuity was needed as only one person was working on the car. We don’t recommend it, though did find it worked for us. Do so at your own risk.

Installing the factory scissors jack between the control arm and the frame of the car, and then slowly expanding successfully applied downward pressure on the control arm. This allowed for easy removal of the spring and access to the adjustable spring perch, which is located at the top of the spring. After lowering the perch by about 1”, both springs were reinstalled, the lower shock bolts were tightened and the rear was done. It was not necessary to remove the sway bar end links, as both control arms were detached from the shock, the sway bar pivoted down with the control arms when the springs were being removed. The total adjustment time took roughly 30 minutes.

After setting the suspension to desired height, it was time to get an alignment. Aligning the car after a suspension install is vital as the suspension geometry changes from being lowered, this in turn changes the toe and camber. Furthermore, just because the car may still track straight after a suspension install, does not mean that an alignment is not necessary. If the car is properly aligned before the suspension install, it will still track straight, as theoretically the toe will be out an equal amount on the right and left sides, but this will significantly increase the wear on the tires. In addition to tire wear, the ride and handling of the car is affected without a proper alignment.

Given the minimal ground clearance of this particular C30, it was important to find an in-ground alignment rack and for this we turned to Lindsay Volkswagen in Sterling, Virginia. Once on the rack, the Hunter alignment machine measured the angles - the only adjustments available with the factory suspension pieces were to adjust the toe. In the rear, the toe was out and camber was at an aggressive -2.3 degrees, but in order to adjust the camber, adjustable rear control arms would need to be installed. In the front, only the toe was significantly out of spec, with the camber being tolerable at -1.4 degrees. The toe was dialed to “0” on all four corners, and we were good to go.

Wheels and Tires

Whenever we have a project, we always like to increase wheel diameter to something larger than what is offered by the factory. This is one easy way to make a car look better than stock and often performance. However, Volvo’s fitment of 18-inch wheels as on our Version 2.0 made this more of a challenge. Combined with a fairly aggressive offset, we found there simply aren’t many wheel designs out there that fit the C30. Wanting a 19-inch wheel for the P1-based C30 made for a very short list.

Custom modular wheels can be pricey, but are one option out there. Modulars also tend to be very obviously aftermarket � either not very stylish or contrarily much more aggressive that stock � sometimes both.

One popular modifying style in the European car scene is OEMplus. This could-be-factory look uses mainly factory or subtly-designed factory-looking parts resulting in a subtle appearance that usually fools all but the trained eye� just right for us.

Though there are 19-inch Titan replicas out there, none are made to fit the offset of a P1-chassis car like our C30. Fortunately, German Volvo tuner Heico Sportiv does make such a wheel with their 8×19 Volution 5. The Volution 5 isn’t exactly like the Titan, but it’s very handsome, factory-like and close enough.

We ordered our 19-inch Volutions in hyper silver, which is more of a satin-polished silver � something similar to what you might see on a BMW M car.

Heico’s wheels aren’t cheap at $599 each, but they’re very high quality and the finish is perfect. Ours came with all lug nuts required, alloy valve stems and caps, center caps, and even cloth wheel socks imprinted with Heico Sportiv logos.

The offset though is a bit more aggressive than stock. It fills out the fenders wonderfully, though it does cause some rubbing with our particular tire fitment and lowered stance.

We fitted the Heicos with a set of 235 35 19 Yokohma S.drive tires. Having spotted a C30 at SEMA last year wearing the S.Drive, we became curious and picked up a set. At $189 currently from Tire Rack, the S.Drive also presented good value.

For an Ultra High Performance Summer Tire, the Yokohama S.drive does extremely well. Dry grip is like glue and cornering stability is excellent, as I found out on some mountain roads in Southern Virginia this past weekend. Coupled with the H&R coilover suspension, the C30 has turned into a cornering machine. Not once did it feel like the limits of the tire were being exceeded, and this gave a sense of security while carving some narrow mountain roads. As for road noise, which plagues many performance tires, the S.drive’s were whisper quiet on the highway. The only area that could use some improvement is wet traction and that’s not terrible � just not as impressive as every other aspect.



Heico Sportiv 8X19 Volution - V H7710901 - $599 ea.

Yokohoma 235 35 19 S.Drive Tires - $189 ea.


Heico Sportiv North America

The Tire Rack

Yokohoma Tire

Changing the Modular Looks of the C30

One of the most controversial and noticeable design elements of the C30 is the integrated body kit. Version 2.0 cars like ours come with a painted kit that appears to have a slightly more aggressive front lip. Our particular car was the popular-though-quirky Cosmic White Metallic paired with a deep brown metallic body kit.

The pairing of brown and virtually any light color seems to be all the rage in fashion and home design lately, but we were looking for something a bit more masculine. We like the idea of a contrasting ground effects, which reminds us of European cars from the early eighties and their matte black unpainted bits. Going for that look, we decided to order the same Version 2.0 body kit from Volvo in Titanium Grey Metallic.

Why the same kit and not something aftermarket? To be honest, we love the look of some factory options out there like Heico Sportiv. However, those kits all require cutting and or pasting with epoxy so are not easily undone. Further, we don’t have the facilities for paint, and all these factors combine to make body kits a costly and permanent affair. Last, our chin spoiler had become a bit scuffed up so we figured it was time for a change.

The beauty of the bolt-on design from Volvo is that it can be changed with your tastes. If the next owner of our C30 prefers brown, they can have it. And when you’ve sold off your C30, likely you can find a willing taker for the remaining hardware amongst other C30 owners to help offset your investment.

The body kit trim is relatively simple to remove and reinstall, as it is merely secured with a number of clips and a couple torx screws. After fitting our 19” wheels, we noticed some rubbing on the body kit pieces over the wheel wells. On the front driver’s side, the piece started to pop off the car. After removing the piece, we noticed that all of the yellow clips which secure the piece to the car were gone. Without having extra clips on hand, and in an attempt to make our C30 ghetto-fabulous, we removed three clips from the passenger side trim piece and installed them on the driver’s side. Surprisingly with only three clips and now another 1,000 miles on the car, the piece has stayed in place perfectly. Not to mention that’s with occasional rubbing to boot.

Changing a dark brown body kit for a dark grey body kit, you wouldn’t expect much of a difference. Surprisingly, the overall look of the car is totally changed � no doubt in part due to the new wheels. That said, while the paint looked like a metallic off-white against the brown, it took on more of a platinum khaki metallic tone when paired with the neutral gray. We love the new look � decidedly more masculine than the previous configuration.

If you have a Version 1.0, then you’ll likely want to pick up a pair of exhaust tips listed below as the ‘Pipe Kit’. Otherwise, the pre-painted kit runs $1,610 at Volvo list price. We’re told that if you factor in the average national work rate at Volvo dealers, this’ll run just over $2,000 installed. As body kits go, that’s pretty affordable and the fact that it can be removed, traded or resold makes the investment easier to justify. Special thanks to Stadel Volvo in Lancaster, PA for helping us with the part numbers for this kit.



Version 2.0 Body Kit (Titanium Grey) - 39851060 - $1610.00

Pipe Kit � 30793159 - $147.83


Volvo Cars North America

Stadel Volvo

Carbon Fiber Mirror Covers

Having fitted the Titanium Grey body kit for a subtle ‘80s Euro look, we continued the modern interpretation with a re-skinning of the mirrors with carbon fiber mirror covers from Carbon Fiber Works. At $210, these are real carbon fiber and not plastic finished to look like the exotic material.

Installing the mirror covers was relatively straight forward, with the hardest part being the removal of the factory covers without breaking the fragile tabs that secure it to the mirror base. We learned this the hard way after breaking one of the clips on the first attempt.

While not a suggested practice, we will say that it is extremely easy to remove the factory covers once the clips are broken. Since there are no tabs on the new carbon fiber covers, these are installed with copious amounts of double-sided tape applied in strategic locations � literally anywhere you can place tape on the mirror housings, especially around the edges.

We found that often it was necessary to “double up” on the tape and adhere one strip of double sided tape to another strip of double sided tape so that full contact could be assured between the housing and the cover. Fitment was tight with the covers, and letting the covers sit overnight while firmly wrapped the mirrors with blue painter’s tape, to ensure the double sided tape had a strong bond, was a good idea.

We absolutely love the subtle look of the new caps. Some small fitment issues were experienced, with the left cap in particular had more bend than the factory unit. This left a very minor gap at the far edge of the mirror. If we were more concerned about exact fitment, we likely could have shaved some plastic to make the placement more precise, but we’ve decided to live with the minor imperfection for now. Installation for these parts took roughly 30 minutes.



Carbon Fiber Mirror Caps - #CFM6001TYPEI - $210 Shipped


Carbon Fiber Works

Carbon Fiber Mirror Caps - #CFM6001TYPEI - $210 Shipped


Our C30 has never been much of a sleeper. People on the road have been commenting to us in traffic since the day it arrived. However, we must say that the visual transformation made during this period has also been well-noticed and appreciated by the general public. Where comments on the car had waned off more since the C30 is no longer as rare a sight, we are almost constantly hit with comments or questions about the car all over again.

One popular question is about the wheels. “Are those factory?” is the main quizzed. They’re subtle for sure and match the car’s lines quite well, but their large diameter confuses people.

Stylish, but not too stylish. Aggressive, but not too aggressive. The current setup might go unnoticed at a Hot Import Nights, but it gets the car plenty of attention parked amongst its peers from BMW, Audi and Mercedes. We get thumbs up from GTI owners and the like all the time. To us, that’s just about perfect.

Now if the tires didn’t rub in hard corners, all would be right in the world. It’s not that the rubbing prohibits us from exercising the C30 on back roads. No, it does quite well there, but it does get annoying on choppy roads or high-speed aggressive expansion joints. It’s more nuisance than anything and, given the looks, we’ve learned to live with it.

Soon to Come�

Project C30 v2.0 isn’t done yet. We’ve got more installs on the way � upping power, performance and usability. Stay tuned.

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