Blipshift needed a company vehicle, so we sent our intern out to find something fun, interesting, affordable, possibly mid-engine, ideally manual trans (hey, we always need to both blip and shift) and preferably of the 6 cylinder variant. Something we could maybe take to the track.
We ended up with this...
It's our 1975 Volvo C303 Swedish military transport vehicle. Like the unholy offspring of a 7/8ths scale Unimog and a tool shed, the C3 series of Volvo military transport vehicles feature a mid-mounted B30 straight six, portal axles and locking diffs for ultimate off-roadage. This thing features all the best tech available in the early 1970s. Dual carbs. And points. Not one computer can be found on it. No anything-by-wire. Hell, even the brake lights are probably cable actuated.
The brutish zinc plated steel bodied c303 has perfected the words "body lines." Running your hand over each panel (recent tetanus shot required) will sing a braille symphony Johann S. Bach himself would be jealous of. We're particularly proud of the driftwood side trim. Bring tweezers.
The 3 foot tall first step poses an issue for the height challenged passenger. Even your author, at 5'11'' needs a firm yank on the military-grade oh-shit handles to yank himself up into the cabin. If you have anything larger than a size 10 shoe, you will be required to carefully snake and contort your foot around the pedal box to be positioned in the ready-to-mangle-everything-in-sight driving position. Sexy-like knobs and accurately-approximating gauges leave wires dangling dangerously close to your legs and bits. Fear not, the c303 does have a seatbelt! It doesn't really work to hold you back, but you can bet your ass it's there and clicks in flawlessly.
The seats are nearly as supportive as a racing bucket seat. That is, if racing bucket seats were modeled after stadium benches. These beautiful gonna-slide-to-the-passenger-side-if-we-turn-too-fast flat seats with ½" of flattened cushion fashioned from 38 year old horsehair compliment any Wall Street suit to perfection.
To preserve this interior, we also should add that the only food that will allowed to be eaten inside the Volvo c303 will be Swedish Fish. That should have gone without saying.
The radio is fantastic. It located between the driver and the passenger, and there is an access panel to it. The radio is controlled by the right-most pedal on the floor: when you push the pedal down, the radio makes more noise, when you let it go, the radio makes less noise. Military grade stuff here, guys. When you are done with the radio, you can put the panel back on and turn the key counterclockwise to turn the radio off.
The low, low gearing has the engine working hard at any speed and any gear ratio. I don't know where the engine is in this thing, but the radio gets louder when you accelerate. This is one of those fancy Swedish options the PO must have gone for, adaptive radio volume.
The trans is a synchroed 4 speed +Reverse with High and Low in the transfer box. High or Low, it does 0-60mph in a quarter to NeVeR. HAH! It doesn't do 60mph! I tricked you!
Since the Volvo towers over every sedan around you and gives no indication of just how much real-estate the right side of the vehicle is taking up, it encourages the idea that even 10 mph is too fast. This perception is not aided by the fact that the gauge is in KPH and not MPH, so you feel like you're going 20 mph, it sounds like you're doing more than 20 mph, the gauge tells you '20' but you're really going ~12mph LAWL!
This thing has enough drums to please even Neil Pert. When its time to slow down from that 12mph... you'd better prepare a few blocks ahead of time. The massive dual braking system does a wonderful impersonation of ABS chatter and noise, but without the ABS, and without actually stopping anything at all. The vibrations are not a sign that the vehicle is slowing down, but more of an alert that yes, you are about to plow into that box truck ahead of you. Not really a problem though, as we're likely to go through the box truck and come out unscathed like nothing happened.
Rides like a BOSS. The planetary axles allow for absurd ground clearance and the huge tires provide enough cushion that no swerving for potholes will ever be necessary. Heck, we aren't even changing direction for sinkholes. Come to think of it, we can probably go over just about anything. LETS CRUSH SOME CARS WITH THIS SUCKER! Accepting applications for vehicles for us to run over.
The steering wheel, seemingly lifted directly out of Mrs. Crabtree's school bus is power assisted only by your arms. It's wonderfully mechanical and damn near impossible to turn at a standstill unless you are Popeye. Fear not, parallel parking is a cinch, just climb over whatever car is in YOUR space. That's right, you own everything when you drive this thing.
YES! It's got a light switch to completely black out all the lights. Cabin, gauges, any interior lights, headlights, even the brake lights, everything, total super black-out stealth mode. Once we learn Swedish we can totally sneak-deliver tees to purchasers in the dead of night, in the middle of a jungle habitat. Added bonus: The neighborhood kids think you are a Navy SEAL when you drive this. Seriously, they asked us. Nothing will stop us now! We can be the Oprah Winfrey of T-shirt delivery; You get a t-shirt, you get a t-shirt, everyone gets a t-shirt!
It also features a genuine 38 year old Swedish solid wood wheel chock. And we thought they only grew particleboard forests there?
KBB says its so valuable they can't even list it. Its so rare, they haven't even heard of it, which by the transitive property (MATH) gives it a value of infinity (Fact proven by math). Now thats some value.
Total score: 99.4 / 100 ...it's damn near perfect.
Look, it needs work, and we want to take this thing around and give test drives in it. So let's first get it up to snuff. We're going to do some of what we can, time allowing, on our own. But we are looking for good shops that like interesting adventures to pitch in and help do some of the work that is needed as well. If you know of any in the greater tri-state area, feel free to drop us a line!
Welp, now what do we do? A few off-roading goodies are in the plan but generally we want to turn this into the ultimate track support vehicle. Probably add an exo, a top rack/viewing platform and a winch — not that we think we'll ever get stuck, more to yank Miatas out of the Armco. Maybe go nuts and build a mobile app driven targeting system for a turret mounted t-shirt cannon. We'll see… but we're supremely open to suggestions, so tell us what you think we should do.
Oh, and we'd like to credit Kamil K. @CarGuyDad for tipping us off about Not-Unimogs built by Volvo. Damn him.