The Volvo 262C had an unusual genesis, proving that the notoriously conservative company can indeed think outside of the box on occasion, much as it had with the P1900 of 1956 and 1957. In this case, the trigger for the chop-top Bertone-bodied 262 coupe was the Lincoln Mark IV.
Volvo engineers were fascinated by the Mark IV when Henry Ford II brought a number of them to Sweden. “The Deuce” was inspecting the works of Volvo in the 1970s as Volvo’s CEO Per Gyllenhammar reinvented the idea of factory work. Gyllenhammar reasoned that if teams of workers built each car, they would feel more involved; there would be fewer defects, fewer work-related injuries and lower employee turnover. This idea was viewed with much interest overseas, and Ford came to check it out.
Volvo designers studied the big Lincoln two-door coupes, with their cut-down roofs and wide C-pillars, wondering how they could build something similar. Starting from scratch would be prohibitively expensive, so Volvo turned to Carrozzeria Bertone at a European auto show. Bertone had already built the Europe-only Volvo 264TE stretch limousine and since 85 percent of the 262C already existed, all Bertone would have to make was the roof stamping, upper doors, windshield surround, and cowl.
Volvo shipped 262GL two-door sedan bodies to Turin, and Bertone finished the job, adding a leather interior. The end result generated much discussion and quite a bit of criticism. Chopping the roof three inches meant the windshield was laid back, and tall drivers would have to do the same. The seats had to be closer to the floor and the interior became a dark and gloomy place. However it was fully optioned with all power accessories, air conditioning and leather, and was powered by the 2.7-liter PRV (Peugeot/Renault/Volvo) SOHC V-6 engine, producing 127 horsepower. The only options were a limited-slip differential, a choice of stereo, and either a four-speed overdrive manual gearbox or automatic transmission.
The first 1978 models were only available in Mystic Silver with a black vinyl top and a black interior, costing a hefty $14,700. The standard 262 sedan trunk and tail lights were upgraded for the 1979 model, with a deeper trunk lid and wrap-around lights, but the price went up to $15,995. Gold or black paint colors were now offered, with black or tan leather interior. For 1980, the V-6 engine was bumped up to 2.8 liters (though only a 3 horsepower increase), and light metallic blue paint was offered along with a gold roof over bronze metallic—the price rose to $17,345. The final year of 1981 saw the vinyl roof disappear and the price climb to $19,550, about the same as a BMW 528i.
The combination of odd proportions and leisurely performance (0-60 in 11.4 seconds, top speed 110 mph) doomed the 262C to limited appeal, which was reflected in modest sales. In all, only 6,622 cars were built: 1,670 in 1978, 2,120 in 1979, 1,920 in 1980 and 912 in 1981. About 75 percent of the 262Cs came to the U.S.
Today these cars have a small cult following among Volvo enthusiasts, which are a small cult collective of their own. The low production numbers all but guarantee it won’t meet itself going down the road, and the chopped roofline lends a degree of style that other Volvos don’t possess. Rusty examples are obviously to be avoided; otherwise the 262C is a reliable and affordable choice for someone looking for something completely different.