When you talk to an enthusiast or read a vendor’s website, they often offer this warning: “Be sure to complete Stage 0 before performing any performance modifications.” Project T5 is one of those cars that needed a little more attention than I expected to get to Stage 0.

The actual definition may vary depending on the owner’s opinion of what is baseline livable, but at the core of Stage 0 is the return of your engine components and mechanicals through repairor replacement, bringing the car back to solid stock performance levels. Not everyone is a shadetree mechanic and most of us don’t want to get “taken” by an eager dealership service writer watching the dollar signs climb at the potential to fix everything and more. We have attempted to compile information on common repairs to give our community a realistic budget. After reading this installment, some owners may throw in the towel and opt to find a slightly fresher late model Volvo while others will grab an extra roll of duct tape and bag of tie wraps. We chatted with our friends at IPD and they provided us with a video clip where IPD president Scott Hart talks about the importance of Stage 0 and the components that go into it.

WATCH IT HERE (Stage ZERO footage starts at 3:56 and ends at 5:10)

After really getting to know Project T5 over the past 15,000 miles, I have come to realize that Stage 0 for one car can be completely different for another. For this project I view Stage 0 as returning the car to the point of being nearly stock, cleaning up and making it ready for daily driving. This is a little more than a tune up. But for a car with 160k miles on the clock, a little refreshing here and there can truly turn back the clock faster than any Just for Men product.

Besides a basic tune up, some of the items that –you find while going over the car might be various oil leaks, worn hoses, vacuum lines, and Flame Trap system service (PCV SYSTEM). These are the items that should be attended to for the Stage 0 process as poor drivability, misfiring etc will result as you attempt to wring more power out of a car that is poorly tuned, neglected or simply worn out. Yes, the service bill will start to climb but remember, the goal is to keep the car going solidly for another few years. That means two things: don’t cut corners and do it right while you have things a part. The last thing you want is to run the risk of damaging something once power output is increased during your project build.

The stack of receipts collected for this project over the past year demonstrates a level of commitment that some may say borders on mental instability. I understand those opinions and would agree, but through it all, we now have a reliable and rare ’98 V70 T5M with a thorough Stage 0 complete.

What does it cost to fix those oil leaks and those odd sounds and smells that have plagued your beloved for thousands of miles? It may be worth $150 to $200 to have your dealer or independent mechanic go over the car. The list below is an estimate to help you determine the sort of budget you may need for your aging Volvo. These do not all have to be done at once but over time the costs add up. The prices below are rough estimates and depending on your local labor rates, the costs could go up or down.

To get the aged suspension back into shape, budget $1500 to $3000, depending on what you replace. While you have the suspension apart, it is the perfect time to swap in a set of aftermarket springs, similar to the ones we chose from H&R. While the front springs are the same used on FWD V70s, H&R provided us with a set of rear springs specific to our Nivomat equipped T5. Since this is a daily driver, we choose to go with new OEM front struts and new Nivomat rear shocks. Going with the H&R springs pushes this element of Stage 0 into the “plus” category. If you want a firmer ride, consider a set of Koni or Bilstein shocks. All of these suspension components are available from IPD.

While I was talking with IPD about the H&R springs, they mentioned it would be a nice upgrade to install the IPD sway bars and heavy-duty end links. Without a doubt, the completely rebuilt suspension, in combination with the IPD bars, has transformed the handling characteristics of the V70. What once felt very worn and loose is now tight and confident on long sweeping highway ramps. The quality of the IPD sway bars is top notch.

To rebuild the suspension owners should budget the following:

-$300 for springs

-$350 for sway bars

-$100 heavy-duty end-links

-6 hrs of labor.

The obvious way to save money is to perform the labor yourself or solicit the assistance from a fellow Volvo enthusiast or three. A thorough Stage Zero is not only recommended for daily drivers but especially so for enthusiasts who plan to add more power. The turbo-equipped AWD, GLT, T5 and R models in particular may also need a few more items as the miles climb higher. Knowing the potential cost of ownership may cause shoppers pause but if you’ve owned your Volvo since new and it’s paid off, spending a few thousand dollars makes sense versus the purchase price of a newer vehicle.

Every successful project has a solid team. There are many members of our Swedespeed community and a few outside who have helped me tremendously and I thank you. The past year of ownership, in some respects, has been a long journey for this well-worn V70. We had a few unexpected repairs but also some unique opportunities. Our upcoming installments will cover the fun, frustration and experimentation and our project partner at IPD has a few new goodies to take this T5M beyond Stage 0. Stay tuned.

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