It's not every day you see a Volvo wagon with Nordica Ski graphics on it. When we spotted this Volvo V90 Mk II that was incredibly fitting for Radwood, we couldn't leave without talking to the owner and shooting some photos.
Volvo enthusiasts seem like a rare breed. A brand all about safety and efficiency shouldn’t have performance enthusiasts; however, that isn’t the case.
Even this Swedish brand had a performance side prior to Ford’s ownership that made a high-performance Volvo a thing thanks to Touring Car racing in the 1990s. They were successful at it, too, which is why cars like the V90–better known as the 960 Estate Mark II–have a cult-ish following.
Though, some owners would probably question Drew Greenslate’s choice of engine to swap in his 1997 version of the model; especially since this was the last generation of Volvo RWD cars.
The engine is the ever-popular engine swap choice of people across the US, the LS1. This is a true LS1, too, not the iron block truck versions we see called that.
Why did Drew LS Swap the V90, though?
Well, he bought the Volvo V90 without its original Whiteblock 2.9-liter and Aisin AW30-43 automatic. The first owner was fine with the combination, but the second owner decided to rip it out in 2010 and didn’t put anything back in before Drew purchased it.
The LS1 came from a wrecked 1999 Chevrolet Camaro and included the Tremec T56 six-speed transmission. The transmission also uses an MGW short shifter for quick, precise throws into each gear.
Of course, when you swap a V-block engine into something that originally was only designed for an I-block, fitment will be tight. A set of Hooker shorty headers gave Drew just enough room to clear the OEM Volvo steering column. Good luck getting your hands between them, still, as there is just enough room to clear them as you turn the wheel left and right. The windshield washer reservoir was also removed so that a custom-made cold-air intake would work in the engine bay. This included an upgraded thermistor so that Intake air temperature readings would be more accurate for the EFILive tune done by Patrick Guerra.
The only other performance upgrade done to the LS is a camshaft with a higher lift and a duration to match, but it doesn’t remove the streetability of the all-aluminum V8. That doesn’t include the custom three-inch single exit exhaust. While it does feature a high-flow resonator and great sounding muffler, it’s kind of a necessity in a swap of this kind. Though, Drew did install a QTP electronic cutout at the Y-pipe merge for unrestricted sound on-demand.
Despite all the extra power, which is about 150 more horsepower than the 2.9-liter put out, the original Volvo G80 differential with its 3.73:1 gearing works just fine with it. Even the stock V90 radiator and electric fan are enough to keep the LS1 cool in traffic. I guess Volvo really did overbuild their cars.
To keep in touch with its performance roots, a set of Kaplhenke coilover front struts with camber plates level the stance of Drew’s wagon. The rear retains the fiberglass Volvo transverse leaf spring and trailing arm suspension.
Drew's wagon sits on 17x7 Polaris wheels, which were offered by Volvo for the European-market only. They look perfect on this Nordica liveried Swedish speed demon. They are wrapped in 225/45R17 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, a breed of high-performance summer tires that also match the performance of Drew’s V90.
Inside is nearly all-original Swede and made to work with the LS1 and Tremec six-speed swap. Yes, nearly everything from inside the Volvo cabin was retained, and everything is functional–including the air conditioning, OBD-II warning lights, and ABS–except for the cruise control. The only pieces inside that aren’t Volvo are the shifter, the Momo steering wheel, and a pair of 2002 Subaru WRX bucket seats.
Here's a close up of the MGW short shifter, which sits right in front of the OEM Volvo stereo cassette deck.
Despite what people associate in their heads when you say “Volvo,” the brand has a great high-performance history behind it and that’s why people like Drew Greenslate exist.
They recall those years and even their short revival with the K-PAX and Polestar teams’ efforts in the 2000s. While those efforts have seemed to be closed for now (until Geely decides to change Cyan Racing’s Lynk and Co car to a Volvo), Drew and enthusiasts like him will help us remember that Volvo has a performance history. Even if they have to swap in a new engine into it.
Story by Justin Banner
Photos by Antonio Alvendia
Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to Europe, and now has sights set on restoring a classic Mercedes. Antonio was a principal photographer on the limited edition hardcover book on Singer Vehicle Design's Porsche 911 builds, entitled One More Than Ten. Future goals include returning to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and driving the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS