In-Motion Classic: Volvo S90 Executive – Nobody’s Talkin’

(first posted 4/4/2018)      I must say my Volvofanböi status has dipped somewhat in recent years. Having owned a 145 big bumper wagon bought from my father, I’ve felt a kinship with the marque since the age of five. But with CC delivering so many automotive wonders daily, I’ve let attention to my first automotive girlfriend’s family slip. Nevertheless, I still seem to have an intuitive grasp of the Swedish manufacturer’s output because when this example presented itself I knew immediately there was something special about it. That long rear door was the kicker.

Normally when I surround a car stuck in traffic to capture it with as many angles as possible, the owner seems quite pleased to get the attention. This time, no. Nary a smile nor even a glance. So what, I’m here on a mission and I’ll do what I damn-well please given this thing is sitting in the public domain. That badge on the right under the taillight was the gateway to the doors of perception via the interweb expressway.

Volvo S90 Executive by Nilsson.

Back in 1966, a guy called Fred Neil wrote a song called Everybody’s Talkin’. In 1968 another guy called Harry Nilsson covered it and released it as a single. It reached 113 on the US charts then disappeared. In other words, nobody was really listenin’. Or talkin’ about it.

Then another guy called Derek Taylor convinced yet another guy called John Schlesinger to include it on the soundtrack for a film he was directing, and then all of a sudden everybody was talkin’ about this song. US No. 6.

All of which makes for a clunky segue to our feature car.

It seems nobody is really talking about this model online. In fact CC (yet again) features a discussion within the comment thread for an article on another Volvo that seems to have more information about these cars than almost anywhere else. So let’s see what I can put together.

The Swedish coachbuilding firm of Yngve Nilsson Karosserifabrik was founded in 1945 by Yngve and his wife Linnea. Here we can see their work on a Volvo PV444 with some seriously curtailed front doors.

The 1960s saw their first commissions directly from Volvo.

Their single most delicious creation was the 165 wagon built in 1972. This bespoke body was loaded to the nines for Sture Levin, who was an employee of Volvo. Below is the car with second owner Ove Janerby. This rarity was tracked down, bought, refurbished and celebrated by automotive journalist Fredrik Nyblad.

Volvo’s official wagon output for their six cylinder one-series models was a production of one built for the Australian market (*cough* Volvo Australia Managing Director). Either that one or this would be very welcome in my life. Very welcome.

In the 1980s, Nilsson won the contract to supply the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (East Germany) with Volvo 260-series limousines and landaulets. 123 were built, not sure how many of which but Head of State Erich Honecker was known to be a backseat occupant of the top-down model.

The commercial variants continued to pour out of the Laholm factory, and the 1980s also saw Nilsson manufacturing expand into Asia. Limousines were built in Thailand and Malaysia, and hearses in Indonesia. Perhaps due to the large order from the DDR also being produced in Laholm, these Asian bodies were destined for the English market. Standing in front is, I believe, the president of the Indonesian chapter of the Bruce Springsteen 1975 fanclub.

In 1982, Volvo stunned the world with a new model. The 740 and 760 series were housed in a completely new body following the 16 year reign of the previous 1- and 2-series shells. With those sharpened contours the Swedish brick was made more brick-like.

Nilsson offered a limousine on this new body, as well as fantastic looking ambulances.

With the launch of the 760 GLE Executive, they also added directly to the official Volvo showroom offerings. And here the information trail gets a bit cold.

The wheelbase was extended 15 cm within the rear passenger space. The C-pillar was completely reworked, losing that awkward pinch crease at its base on the standard model. The trailing edge of the pillar was made more upright and the quarterlight deleted in the name of (or for the impression of) greater privacy.

Can’t tell you much about differences in trim.

In 1990 the 7-series gave way to the 9-series which from a styling perspective was essentially a softening of the form and a loss of the pinch crease.

The Executive was continued into the 960s, and here the information trail gets a little warmer. Richard Herriott, occasional CC presence and consistent Driven to Write scribe, found this example in a listing and wrote it up here.

The 960 limousine by Nilsson was brochured by the factory. Maybe the 760 version was as well, but I don’t know for sure.

In 1994, the 960 got a body update which made it even more softer-looking.

And the 960 Executive received the same body changes.

But wait, there’s something different about the C-pillar.

Nilsson changed the C-pillar treatment on the second series of the 960. The fully-flush blanked pillar was replaced by something featuring a quarterlight – though smaller than the standard sedan’s and with a separate panel inserted to fill the gap. It seems like the Executive was moving down in the world as Nilsson tried to save costs on all that C-pillar-smoothing labour. Or were customers complaining about the lack of a greenhouse in the rear?

But wait, the one on the right has a ‘Royal’ badge.

The Royal would appear to be a version of the LWB body destined for the Asian market.

You’ll notice too that this is an ‘S90’ Royal. From 1996, certain markets dropped the 960 designation and replaced it with a model number anticipating the next range.

Here is a promotional video for the S90 Royal in all its period-correct finery including fridge behind the rear seat, in-car telephonic device and a hijack-avoidance manoeuvre (at 0:50 secs).

And here is a promotional video for the S90 Executive, exactly the same except for different shots of the badge and the voiceover callout at the end.

So the S90 Royal and the S90 Executive would appear to be the same car for different markets.

Sort of.

Here are brochure pages for the S90 Royal Hermès, which looks like it featured a unique upholstery offering.

Here are more brochure pages for the Royal. The specification page tells us there were three variations, Royal 5 seater, Royal 4 seater and Royal Hermès. Unfortunately, I can’t read the rest of the brochure, although there seems to be some variation between them in a couple of the dimensional line items.

I’m not sure if the S90 Executive got a Hermès option as well, nor do I know whether the Royal was part of the 960 series one or 760 fleets. Nor numbers produced. Nor much else about these cars.

What I do know is that I spotted this from about a hundred metres away and ran to capture it. Jogged actually; it was more than apparent the traffic was going nowhere. In any case, it’s gratifying the residual Volvofanböiness within is of sufficient strength to sniff out a rarity like this from afar.