Racecar. Volvo’s sporting credentials, firmly established by transcontinental rally teams in the 1960s, had all but faded by the early 1990s. Safety and ergonomics were the key focus at the time, placing any passionate pretense in the dark and squared-off cargo areas of its functional and conservative lineup. The 850 Wagon competed fiercely in the British Touring Car Championship, but its degree of success was essentially unknown outside of Europe. Competitors such as the Giugiaro-styled Lexus GS300 and BMW M5 proved the existence of an appetite for buttoned-up sedans with subtle strength. Could Volvo engineers sleep without answering the call?
Luckily for fans of Swedish speed, the answer was no. The Volvo 850 T-5R debuted in 1995 poised as a limited-issue demonstration of what Volvo’s engineering and motorsports departments could accomplish. Volvo enlisted Porsche to add finishing touches to the car inside and underhood, such as suede seat bolsters, a retuned engine control unit, transmission tweaks and extra boost good for 240 horsepower in the 3322-pound car. United States buyers were forced into a four-speed automatic transmission, but global markets had access to a proper five-speed manual gearbox. Motor Trend’s “Supercar Shootout” issue tested the car to its 155-mph speed limiter in the company of the Chevrolet Corvette and Acura NSX, searing the Cream Yellow wagon’s square silhouette into the minds of an entire generation.
All in all, 5500 examples of the car were produced worldwide. Production figures suggest the United States received 185 examples finished in the iconic Cream Yellow hue. We spotted a rare example of a Cream Yellow 850 T-5R in the parking lot of Pull-A-Part of Norcross, its owner likely scouring for spares to return the car to its full glory. Pull-A-Part has a Parts Interchange search that can be a handy resource when looking for compatible models. A later version of the car dubbed the 850R boasts several improvements over its limited-issue predecessor, and is slightly more common — but the 850 T-5R is accepted as the forerunner of the range, vaunted for its rarity and credited with making the brand appeal to the senses beyond common sense.