Automotive history is littered with missed opportunities. The Volvo 480 convertible is one such; not a huge one but Volvo was probably kicking itself all the same.
Volvo launched the 480 coupe in 1986, the first front-wheel-drive car in the marque’s history. It was an odd little thing, not quite a coupe or an estate. Volvo had been here before as it had practically invented the sporty estate with the P1800ES.
If we’re honest, it wasn’t much cop. The handling was only almost sporty, the Renault-derived engines were gutless, the styling definitely wasn’t to everyone’s taste, it was expensive and quality control at the Dutch factory that built it was patchy at best. At least the interior was quite a nice, surprisingly spacious place to be.
On balance, there’s more bad than good here. And yet there was something about it. Maybe I’m biased – I knew someone who had a string of them and rather enjoyed riding in the back of it. Sales weren’t huge over the course of its nine year production run, but it sold well enough on both sides of the Atlantic.
Which leads us to this convertible. It was first announced as early as 1987, but various delays meant it wasn’t due to go on sale until ’91. This was a time when droptop Golfs, Astras and Escorts were flying out of showrooms, so the 480 could have done reasonably well. But a crucial supplier went bust just before production was slated to start and there were concerns about roll-over protection.
As I say, the 480 convertible wasn’t a huge loss to the automotive world, but it must have been deeply annoying for Volvo that a car that would have sold pretty well was scuppered for reasons beyond its control.