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This is the SUV Volvo Dreamed Up in the 1970s

Volvo Prototype | Photo: Volvo
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Daniel Rufiange
The model never came to pass, but it would have competed with the likes of the Ford Bronco and Toyota FJ40

Swedish automaker Volvo launched its first SUV in 2002, for the 2003 model-year. That was the XC90. But in fact, the brand worked on an SUV model long before that – 30 years or so before.

Last Friday Autoblog reported on some sketches Volvo shared that show a prototype it drew up in the 1970s.

Sketch of the Volvo prototype
Sketch of the Volvo prototype | Photo: Volvo

The model has fairly rudimentary, squared-off styling, pretty standard for off-road-ready vehicles of the time, such as the Toyota FJ40 and Ford Bronco. Equipped with two doors and lots of glass fenestration, the vehicle had, one can imagine, a rather spartan style inside, again going by the standards of the time for this type of vehicle.

The story has it that the model was intended for foreign markets, notably Africa and developing countries. This explains the simplicity of the design and the easy-to-repair body panels. 

One of the images shows a front end that sticks close the brand’s styling of the time, notably for the 200 series. Ironically, the design of the headlamps seems to have inspired Volvo's next steps, as their shape, and that of the grille, are reminiscent of those on the 780 sedan, marketed in the late 80s and early 90s. 

Design of the new Volvo prototype
Design of the new Volvo prototype | Photo: Volvo

There’s no image of the rear, but the spare wheel there suggests a side-opening door. For the rest, the rear part of the roof was likely conceived to be removable, and there are clear signs the model was designed for off-road driving, for instance the short overhangs and angles in the bumpers, intended to make it easier to overcome obstacles. 

The impetus for the model came from Volvo's CEO at the time, Pehr Gyllenhammar, who asked then head of design Gunnar Falck to create a sport utility vehicle.

As for why the model never saw the light of day, we don’t know. 

Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists