So you think Volvo’s past is filled with nothing but boring station wagons, tailored to the safety conscious family man? Then a museum full of Volvo’s must be the epitome of sleeping aid! Think again. Volvo has been a supplier of government- and diplomatic vehicles for decades, and they have built some very beautiful 2-door coupe models over the years as well, some drawn by Italian designer Bertone. In fact, Volvo’s past is much more exciting than just the current line-up of cars. Some of the most interesting cars of this past have been put together in The Swedish Collection.
Hans Blokzijl is a Dutch entrepreneur and mass-collector. His most famous collection is born out of his passion for Sweden and for Volvo automobiles, he has created a private museum of exceptional Volvo cars and paraphernalia in a shed on the property of his tree nursery. It is a collection of exclusive or otherwise special models of the Swedish brand, some of which even the official Volvo museum in Sweden is jealous of. His private museum opened to the public for one day only today, giving visitors a look into the past and present of Volvo.
Looking like a regular large wooden shed, the museum on the outside reveals little from the pearls that hide inside its shell. But the interior immediately makes clear this is not your regular museum, this is the collection of a passionate Volvo enthusiast. Two floors with a three-story display in the center show a collection of Volvo’s with either incredible low mileage, special coachbuilt limited editions, with a significant history or just with a funny story. Some may not look all that special at first glance, but Hans has a story to tell about every single one of them.
The oldest of the collection is one of the 16 first Volvo PV444 A’s produced in 1947, of course painted black as that was the only color available at the time. But he also has the first PV444 AS that was painted in another color than black, and it still has its original paintwork. Though the quality of the Dove Grey paint job is not what we would find acceptable for a car today, its authenticity makes it more of a collector’s item than a fully restored model.
A 1959 P445 stretched Ambulance, of which only a handful have remained, has only 60.000 km (37.500 miles) and is fully equipped with lights, siren and stretcher. It is not the only emergency vehicle of the museum, though. A more than 40 years younger Volvo 850 fire fighter was a one off experiment for Quick Intervention Teams. It is equipped with a 100 liter water tank and foam tank, a fire hose and a water pump that is hydraulically powered by the car’s engine.
A 1965 Volvo 544 F Sport was an extremely fast car for its time. Thanks to the double Weber carburetors, it produces 90 horsepower and has a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph). For an almost 50 year old Volvo! Now who said Volvo only made boring station wagons?
Of course the P1800 and 1800 ES can’t be missed in a collection like these, but when asked why the collection contains no Volvo P130 or P220 Amazon, Hans answers “because they are not exclusive enough, there are still about 1.500 units registered just in The Netherlands, and I haven’t yet found one with let’s say 100 km on the odometer.”
A late 1970s Volvo 264 Top Executive is a stretched limousine version of the 264, of which most have been sold to former Eastern German government officials, who refused to be seen in either a West-German or Russian limo. The dark blue 7-seater that is part of the Swedish Collection was one of the few without an official communist past, as can be deducted from the blue interior instead of grey and the lack of curtains for the rear windows.
The museum does have a handful of other Volvo’s that belonged to former German communist leader Erich Honecker, like the six identical 760 GLE Executive that have been stretched 20cm and are equipped with bugging devices etc. One of them even carries the infamous government flag at the corner of its nose.
One of Hans’ favorite collector’s items is a 262 coupe whose 6-cylinder engine has been replaced by an employee of the Volvo factory with a very powerful Turbo Intercooler 4-cylinder engine, pushing out 225 horsepower. But a true mechanic knows that swapping the engine alone doesn’t make a great conversion, so the brakes have been tuned as well in order to handle the extra power.
A 1983 Volvo 760 GLE Cabriolet is one of only 2 handbuilt prototypes ever made by coachbuilder Mellberg. It was a case study for a large Volvo convertible to be sold in the United States in the ‘80s. A 4-door sedan was relieved of half of its doors and its roof to accommodate an electrically operated folding roof. This actually inspired Hans to chop off the roof of a Volvo 740 and convert it into one of the world’s few 4-door convertibles. As if this car by itself wouldn’t attract enough attention, he then gave it a vanilla yellow paint job, the same color as the famous 850 T5-R.
The Swedish Collection also has a couple of Dutch built Volvo’s, for example the only 480 Turbo with an automatic gearbox ever built. And it has only 85 km (53 miles) on the odometer! This was a prototype, meant to be exported to the United States, until the unfavorable exchange rate made this an impossible business case. Another Volvo 480 in the collection is the “student special”, which was a gift from Volvo to a technical school in order for students to study the construction of coachwork, engine, seats and safety systems.
The 2002 stretched S80 Limousine of the museum has a royal past. The 7-passenger limo, with opposing rear benches and a wheelbase of 4,13 m (13,5 feet), has been used as regular transportation for the Dutch royal family since 2002. And what completes this collector’s item is the 1:1 scaled prototype of the S80 Limousine made of clay, aluminum and wood.
A collection of coachbuilt Volvo’s wouldn’t be complete with a Volvo hearse, in this case a 940 GLE based stretched station wagon, with a vinyl roof, sliding floor to ease the loading of coffins and an automatic gearbox with crawl-mode to roll at pedestrian speed.
But just the cars don’t do justice to the collection, the museum is decorated with Volvo posters, advertisements, showroom paraphernalia, brochures, miniature Volvo models etc. The atmosphere can be enjoyed in the bar in the corner of the museum, of course with seats that used to be Volvo car seats, making clear this is a collection that’s born out of a passion for all things Volvo.
The museum is still searching for other exclusive, special or extremely low mileage Volvo’s, for example a 760 GLE L, a stretched limousine of which only 16 have been built in 1983 by a company named Volvoville in New York. Hans already has the brochure, but would love to add one of these to his collection as well.
Some of the cars are for rent (driver included), none are for sale, and some will stay part of the collection for ever. And all of them have something special, even if it’s just in the eyes of the collector himself.