- This original Polar White Volvo 850 R Estate wears forged Volk Racing TE37 wheels and stops on a dime using Porsche brakes.
- Volvo successfully campaigned the 850 Estate in the British Touring Car Championship with back-to-back third place overall finishes in the late-’90s.
Photography by Drew Manley
As automotive enthusiasts, there’s a special place in our hearts for the vehicles that we learned how to drive in. Ask anyone who is into cars. I guarantee they carry some sentimental attachment to the car/truck that both physically and metaphorically got them moving in the right direction. The transition from reliance on others to self-transport freedom is a glorious stage in life and remembered fondly for decades.
One Southern California resident, Jacob King, not only held fond memories of the 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon he learned to drive in at the age of 15 but has been building one in his head ever since.
But, Why A Volvo?
“To be different. I love being the only Volvo — let alone wagon — at a car show,” says Jacob.
Jacob’s answer for building a Volvo is not so different than why many of us choose to create whatever we build. Whether it’s chasing a rare part or being just plain bored of seeing the same things at events, there’s a certain allure that comes with being unique in the automotive field. This feeling wills examples like Jacob’s wagon into existence and betters the entire industry in the process.
“There is so much potential when you do your homework,” says Jacob.
It’s true. The 850 wagon was notorious for its successful display in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) from ’94–’97. By meeting all of the criteria needed to enter the world’s most prestigious standard car series, Volvo showed up to the starting line in an untested 850 wagon in 1994. With the first season chalked up as a publicity stunt and a learning curve for the team, a pair of 850 wagons flourished in subsequent years. After consecutive third place overall finishes in 1996 and 1997, it was clear that Volvo had built the 850 chassis into a real competitor. The rulebook changed in 1998, allowing the use of more extensive rear spoilers. Because the wagon wouldn’t benefit from this advantage, the team ditched it in favor of a sedan, and Volvo clinched the championship. Still, the 850 wagons laid all of the groundwork and left us with some spectacular images of race-trimmed mom-mobiles jumping curbs in anger on two wheels.
Finding The One
Always on the hunt for the right Volvo 850 wagon to satiate his lifelong desires, Jacob found this particular 1997 Polar White 850 R while scrolling Craigslist. As a sign of how much it meant to him to finally get ahold of this car, he remembers the trip to and from buying it quite vividly.
“Four years ago, on December 28th, on a Thursday, it was raining,” he says.
“I remember driving it home with my wife, just thinking of all the things I have wanted to do to this car.”
Personally, I can’t remember what I was just about to say three seconds ago. Still, Jacob keeps the memory of this trip secure in his mind. After dreaming of ownership for so long, he forever stores that day as his favorite memory with the car.
The Initial Vision
“Clean and simple with some British touring car flair. OEM+ is how I like to build my cars,” says Jacob.
The wagon is his daily driver, which explains his willingness to shoot the feature images in the rain — perhaps reminiscent of the day he brought it home, too. But its usage caters nicely to the plans he had for the car from the get-go.
The Build Begins To Snowball
After only a brief four-month period of ownership, the daily driver wagon turned into a little more of a project than anticipated. It needed a new engine, and things began to snowball from there. Over the next year, Jacob got busy outfitting it with features he had lusted over for years.
His favorite of which is the Porsche brakes affixed to the front axle. Not only do these garner quizzical looks from the uninitiated, but they also increase the stopping potential of the vehicle.
Switching gears to another notable modification nearby, let’s focus on the sumptuous Volk Racing TE37 wheels equipped at all four corners. Because, well, it’s a Volvo wagon with TEs, and getting the proper stance is never going to be easy without abundant wheel selections!
“Wheels are usually the hardest [piece to find for this chassis]. The 5×108 bolt pattern sucks. This car doesn’t like wide wheels, either. The TE37s are a dream come true,” says Jacob.
Looking Toward The Future
Jacob has even found that he is not alone in his love of the Volvo wagon. Since getting the car to this point, he’s run into countless people who reminisce about growing up with one or having posters of the BTCC wagons up on two wheels.
His family even loves it. Whether it’s his parents, wife, or kids, he’s grateful they all share and appreciate his love and passion for cars. So what’s next on the docket for this family cruiser? Well, Jacob said he’s looking to upgrade it with some KW Suspension V3 coilovers and finish the full VST conversion. Whatever the future holds, we’re just happy the capable Volvo 850 Estate’s legacy lives on!
Jacob King’s 1997 Volvo 850 R Estate
|Exterior:||All original Polar White paint (!!), Volvo Composites front lip, E Code headlight lenses, European-market corner lenses and side markers, V70 R taillights, IPD egg crate grille|
|Interior:||Viva Performance wrapped steering wheel with thumb inserts and Alcantara, IPD boost gauge|
|Engine:||IPD/Snabb air induction, IPD straight flange downpipe, Snabb/Forge blow-off valve, do88 aluminum intercooler, do88 aluminum radiator, Bosch 550cc injectors, Walbro 255 fuel pump, ARD engine management, MSD ignition, Mishimoto oil catch can, Mitsubishi TD04HL turbocharger (20T compressor, 9T turbine)|
|Chassis:||BC Racing coilovers, IPD sway bars, Kaplhenke Racing subframe bushings, Powerflex bushings|
|Wheels/Tires:||17x7.5-inch Volk Racing TE37 wheels (5x108 bolt pattern), 215/40-17 Bridgestone RE71 tires|
|Brakes:||Porsche 986 four-piston Brembo front calipers, Volvo S60 R four-piston rear calipers, Girodisc S60 R two-piece rotors, Hawk Performance brake pads, IPD stainless steel braided brake lines|