CC Global: 1977 Volvo F88 And 2008 Scania R500 – The Evolution Of The Long Distance COE

Scania and Volvo, the renowned Swedish manufacturers of heavy trucks and tractors. Both developing and producing top-tier machinery with an excellent reputation and image in the world of trucking, for decades at a stretch. All of the major components (engines, transmissions, axles) are in-house products. The Swedes, with their 16+ liter engines, also literally outpower all competitors.

A senior Mr. Volvo and junior Mr. Scania were parked next to each other at the truck show I recently visited. That’s a good opportunity to visualize the evolution of the European cabover, more specifically the long distance tractor unit.

Starting with senior; the Volvo F88 was introduced in 1965, exactly 40 years prior to the launch of the Scania R-series.

It was this model that started the rock-steady global growth of Volvo. Currently, Volvo Trucks is the world’s second largest manufacturer of heavy trucks, after Daimler Trucks.

The 1977 tractor is powered by a turbocharged 9.6 liter inline-6 engine, maximum power output 260 DIN-hp. It’s all dressed up with period correct accessories. In the seventies comparable 4×2 tractor units were also used to haul freight from Northwestern Europe to far and exotic destinations, like the Middle East and Africa.

A more powerful Volvo F89, with a turbocharged 12 liter inline-6, was introduced in 1970. In 1977 the F88 & F89 were replaced by the completely new F10 & F12 models, so this article’s F88 was built in the last year of the series’ production run.

The most striking difference between these two is the size of the cab. Over the years the driver’s compartment grew wider, longer and especially much, much taller.

Needless to mention that the levels of comfort and ergonomics also improved massively in the 1965 to 2005 time frame, let alone the maximum power output and torque numbers. Typically a long distance tractor has a 500 to 550 hp engine these days, displacement around 13 liter.

And now to the younger Viking. The Scania’s Topline cab is 3.86 m (152”) tall, an adult can stand up straight in there. The steering and liftable pusher axle is widely used on European tractors.

The power unit is a 500 DIN-hp, 15.6 liter V8. At least in Europe, Scania is the only truck maker left that offers a V8. Currently with 16.4 liter displacement, which makes it also the biggest engine.

It’s always a pleasure to see an old trucking legend from my youth in such a perfect condition. But I know which one I would choose as a daily driver…

Related reading:

Automotive History Capsule: The Reason Why European Long Distance Trucks Are So Tall