Volvo is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its first-ever European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) victory. The Swedish car maker was awarded the driver’s championship after a heavily-modified 240 Turbo won a race that took place on the Estoril track in Portugal on October 13th, 1985.
The Swedish car maker began looking into touring car racing after the international Group A regulations were introduced in 1982. Broadly speaking, Group A was open to models that had at least four seats and of which at least 5,000 examples were built annually. The 240 Turbo ticked both boxes, so Volvo executives gave the project the green light because they saw it as a way to harness the marketing power of winning a touring car race — or, better yet, a championship.
To comply with the regulations, Volvo also had to build at least 500 street-legal examples of a so-called Evolution model that was closely related to the car used on the track. Introduced in 1983, the Turbo Evolution models benefited from a bigger turbo, a modified engine control system and, interestingly, a technology called Water Turbo Traction.
Water Turbo Traction essentially injected a small spray of water into the engine’s intake manifold in order to reduce the temperature of the air that entered the combustion chambers, a process that boosted both power and gas mileage while increasing the engine’s longevity. BMW has been making headlines this week with the limited-edition 2016 M4 GTS, which is equipped with a similar system, but the technology was developed and patented by Volvo over three decades ago.
Campaigned by independent teams, the 240 Turbo only won two races in 1984, one in Belgium and one in Germany. Determined to beat competitors like BMW’s 635 CSi and Rover’s Vitesse, Volvo officially sponsored two teams (named Magnum Racing and Volvo Dealers Team Europe, respectively) the following year.
The Rover Vitesse won the first three events of the season but the 240 Turbo ended up finishing first in six of the 14 races, allowing Volvo to take home the coveted driver’s championship. The manufacturer’s championship went to Alfa Romeo for the fourth year in a row.
Surprisingly, Volvo was nearly kicked out of the ETCC about halfway through the season because race officials didn’t believe that 500 examples of the Turbo Evolution had actually been built. FISA, the ETCC’s governing body, asked Volvo to release the names of the 500 Turbo Evolution owners. The company fell silent at first, but it eventually responded by showing officials a list of the Swedish customers who had purchased a Turbo Evolution. Although the matter was highly controversial, FISA was satisfied and the 240 Turbo was allowed back on the track.
The engine that powered the Flying Brick was based on the 2.1-liter that was found under the hood of the regular-production 240 Turbo. However, it was equipped with an aluminum cylinder head as well as forged pistons, forged connecting rods and a forged crankshaft. High-octane gasoline was delivered by a sport-tuned version of Bosch’s K-jetronic fuel-injection system, and a Garrett turbocharged provided up to 1.5 bars of boost. All told, the turbo four made about 300 horsepower, enough to send the race-spec 240 on to a top speed of 160 mph (260 km/h).
To complement the extra power, Volvo added four-piston brake calipers and ventilated discs. All detachable body panels — including the hood, the doors and the trunk lid — were made out of thinner metal in order to shed as much weight as possible.
To put the aforementioned figures into perspective, the street-legal 240 Turbo was powered by a much tamer version of the 2.1-liter that made 155 horsepower. It could reach 62 mph (100 km/h) from a stop in nine seconds flat before going on to a top speed of 120 mph (195 km/h). At the time, the 240 Turbo wagon (pictured below) earned the honor of being the fastest station wagon on the planet.
The pictures in this article were kindly provided by Volvo’s archives department.