Vintage Roadtest: Volvo “Moby Dictator” Wagon – Anything But A Whale


As a show of what their newest turbocharged cars were capable of, Volvo’s American operations raided their parts bin and delivered a factory modified wagon to the mavens at Car And Driver magazine.  Inspired by that magazine’s series of Boss Wagons, engineers took a stock 1985 760 GLE, turned up the boost, mildly tuned the suspension and threw in some body modifications.  The result was the white wagon seen here, dubbed “Moby Dictator” by editors.


As the wagon variant of the 760 wasn’t introduced to North America until 1985, with turbocharged models coming online in 1984, it was one of the first chances the company had to prove how much better its new chassis was, and especially in the hands of those who created the Boss Wagon III, a modified 265 wagon with a special, turbocharged 2.7 V6.  A big difference between that car and Moby Dictator was the minimal work required in bringing the already turbocharged 760 to a credible level of performance.  Modifications mainly came from Volvo itself, with shocks and springs sourced from the 740 Turbo (which was more firmly suspended) and a wastegate from the intercooled version of the 240 Turbo (which, at only $75, doubled maximum boost to 14 PSI and added twenty-five horsepower using the stock intercooler).  The redblock, truly a stout engine, received no internal changes.  The rest of the drivetrain didn’t fare so well, with test runs twisting a U-joint and damaging the electronic overdrive unit.


Using very gentle methods, a 0-60 time of only seven seconds was recorded.  That was very fast for the day and would’ve likely been even more so, if the entire powertrain better tolerated enthusiastic driving.  At any rate, it was faster than even the turbocharged V6 in the last Boss Wagon, and did what Volvo wanted: prove that their new line of cars offered genuinely formidable performance.  By 1986, Volvo’s flirtation with turbo power was truly picking up steam and has continued strong until this day.  While most other carmakers distanced themselves from the turbo going into the ’90s, Volvo stuck with it through the end of the 700/900-series, reviving the concept to spectacular effect on the 850 and never looking back.  No Volvo Week celebration could be complete without an acknowledgement of this tradition.