Volvo shows the off-roader project it worked on in the 1970s

Volvo began experimenting with the idea of launching an SUV well before the original XC90 made its debut for the 2003 model year. The brand released sketches of a rugged-looking, two-door off-roader that it considered bringing to production for overseas markets in the 1970s.

Had it seen the light that awaits at the end of a production line, the unnamed SUV would have undoubtedly been celebrated as the XC90’s spiritual successor. And yet, the sketches published by Volvo show a completely different type of off-roader. Its front end falls in line with the design language that characterized models like the 200-Series released in 1974 by adopting an upright grille with a diagonal “Volvo” emblem and rectangular headlights. No one would have mistaken it for, say, a Jeep

CJ, but it looks considerably more rudimentary than the XC90.

The sketches don’t reveal the back end, though we can clearly see wrap-around lights and an external spare wheel. While technical details haven’t been released, it’s not too far-fetched to speculate that the model was developed for serious off-roading. It features short overhangs, so it would have (in theory) offered high approach, break-over and departure angles, and it sits much higher than Volvo’s current crop of SUVs. It looks like the rear part of the top comes off; we imagine Volvo might have wanted to keep the B-pillar fixed in the name of safety.

Pehr Gyllenhammar, the CEO of Volvo from 1970 to 1994, asked Gunnar Falck, the design manager in that era, to create the SUV. The brief asked for “a rugged vehicle for Africa and developing countries,” which likely explains the proportions. Most of Volvo’s cars were shaped like the box they came in during the 1970s, but in this case making the sheetmetal flat and straight kept production and repair

costs in check.

We don’t know what the SUV was powered by or why it wasn’t built. We’ve reached out to Volvo, and we’ll update this story if we learn more.

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