Now is the right time to buy this Volvo 480 ES

Major Waffle 90s cars 80s cars Volvo
To mark the anniversary of the unveiling of the Volvo 480 at the 1986 Geneva motor show, PetrolBlog thinks you should buy this 480 ES.

The photos of this 1990 Volvo 480 ES couldn't be more authentic. A sky weighed down with menacing clouds of drizzle. Damp asphalt. A building guaranteed to feature at least one willy scribbled on the wall. An overriding sense of foreboding.

You can almost smell the dog poo on the playing fields from here. Or maybe that's the whiff of damp coming from the Volvo's cabin.

It is, by a comfortable margin, the cheapest car available via auction on the Car & Classic website. There's a Jensen GT Shooting Brake with a current bid of £500, but that's likely to fetch around £20,000. The Volvo 480 ES won't achieve anything like that.

Practical Classics says you should pay £400 for a 'rough' Volvo 480 ES, while Classic Car Weekly quotes £300 to £500 for a ‘project’. In fairness, the auction Swede looks a little tidier than that, although the advert description uses phrases like “starter classic”, “few minor issues” and “project car”.

International bright young thing

480 ES for sale

The MOT history is remarkably encouraging. Having completed 44,500 miles by 2011, it fell off the radar until 2017, when it celebrated its return to action by passing the MOT at the first attempt. That's Swedish build quality for you. Or rather, a Swedish car, built in the Netherlands and powered by a French engine.

Registered in London in 1990, the Volvo spent its early years in Slough, so it's accustomed to being surrounded by a sense of foreboding. Judging by the Johnson's for Volvo dealer sticker on the back window, it also spent time in Redditch, before finding its way back to the capital.

Where it goes next is up to you. PetrolBlog fancies adding a 480 to the fleet, but this would be an unwelcome distraction when work is progressing on the 406 Coupe, ‘beer money’ Safrane and ‘spares or repair’ Range Rover. Numbers are dwindling fast enough to put the Volvo 480 on the endangered list. There are around 120 on the road.

You have to appreciate this car's authenticity; its deficiencies and defects are there for the world to see. Note the condensation on the instrument panel. Water ingress is a common problem, especially from the side windows and tailgate. Blocked drainage channels are the enemy of the ‘electronic information centre’.

Right here, right now

1990 Volvo 480 ES

At least one of the rear lights is cracked, while both are cloudy. Replacements are hard to come by. The velour is sagging in places, although this is unlikely to stop Vanessa Carlton from placing a bid. Its five-spoke alloy wheels require some work, while the rust you can see suggests there could be further rust you can't.

Still, the pop-up headlights are working, and that's arguably the most important thing when buying a Volvo 480. Probably.

It's almost 35 years to the day since Volvo unveiled the 480 at the 1986 Geneva motor show. The company's first front-wheel drive car and the coolest Volvo since the 1800ES.

The Volvo 480 ES won't impress you with its pace; the automatic ‘box will dilute what little power is on offer from its Renault engine. Instead, enjoy it for its four-seat comfort, wedge-like styling and pop-up headlights. ‘Swedish Aerodeck’ prices won't be this low forever.

Maybe PetrolBlog should place a bid after all...

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