Incidentally, I was reminded of the pretty and once so promising Indigo 3000 when I recently saw some of the key components of the last Volvo 960 or S90, as the final incarnation was named. Those parts certainly had real potential.
As a general rule of thumb the first model is usually the best, as most so-called “improvements” implemented thereafter are driven by those dreaded bean-counters who more often than not ruin what started as perfectly good cars. However, that was not the case for this range-topping Volvo – it was the last model which appeared to be the best. The Volvo 960/S90 was the last rear-wheel driven car from Volvo; a model which started life as the 760 using with the V6 “Douvrin” engine – which is of course the same as in the Alpine A310, owned by the Chief Editor of ViaRETRO, Claus Ebberfeld. It’s also a somewhat amusing twist, that the new and improved Volvo 960 was launched in 1990 – the same year as the “Renault Volvo Alliance” was announced, but also the same year as Volvo stopped using the “Douvrin” engine in their cars…
Instead, a completely new 3.0-litre straight-6 engine was developed and manufactured by Volvo in Skövde, in Sweden. The engine was a highly modern construction; In aluminum with forged connecting rods, two overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and initially developing a healthy 204 hp. The “B6304F”, as this engine was called, was in fact the first member of Volvo’s “Modular Engine family”, where the next member of the family was of course built in much the same way just with one cylinder less. Especially this new 5-cylinder engine in various sizes and either normally aspirated or force-feed became a very well reputable engine for good reasons.
As the last element, a newly designed multilink rear suspension was introduced in 1994, in which the actually suspension was left to a transverse leaf spring in fibreglass (composite material). Volvo was not the first ones to develop this, since General Motors in America had already introduced it earlier in the Chevrolet Corvette. The smart thing about this construction, was that the suspension became very compact, and the transverse leaf spring acts as a swing stabilizer at the same time.
Now with both the engine and rear suspension in place, the basis for a good car was ready; just as a good fond is always the foundation of a good sauce. But even though the Volvo S90 was – and arguably still is – the best rear-wheel driven Volvo ever produced, it never equated into a huge sales success. Instead, Volvo management got the idea, that the engine could perhaps be sold to low-volume car manufacturers, so among others, Volvo approached both Morgan and TVR with this idea, but without any luck. At about the same time, two Swedes, Bengt Lidmalm and Sven-Olof Fogelberg had come to largely the same conclusion: take the 3.0-litre straight-6 Volvo engine, a manual transmission from the smaller 2.5 litre version, the excellent rear suspension from the Volvo S90 and then build it all into their own tubular space frame. At the front they added a self-developed front suspension, in which they also utilised a transverse leaf spring in fibreglass. Finally the whole thing was covered with a sexy roadster body in fibreglass… Beforehand, they had established the manufacturing company “Jösse Car AB” in Arvika, in Sweden – and they were now ready for the launch of the car, which they ended up calling: Indigo 3000.
As Head of Design, they had hired the former Volvo designer, Hans Philip Zachau, who had also been involved with the design of the Volvo 850. The Indigo 3000 weighed only 1,000 kg. which contributed to make it quite a rapid roadster, and with a price of approximately 21,500 GBP during the mid nineties it was also not exorbitantly expensive. Nevertheless, the Indigo 3000 was not successful and after selling just 43 examples, “Jösse Car AB” went bankrupt in 1999. Maybe it was something with the design, because to my eye at least, it seems like the Indigo 3000 is just missing “that last little touch” to make it absolutely perfect… Was the front desinged just a bit too plump? Or was it simply manufactured in the wrong country? Perhaps the same car would have received a different reception had it originated from Turin or Milan?
In the clarity if hindsight, what’s the verdict according to our ViaRETRO readers?
Or is it the rear of the car that has issues? Have they stretched those lines just a bit too far?
It might well be, that the “B6304F” 6-cylinder engine is silky smooth when installed in the luxurious Volvo S90, but combined with the right exhaust, and it’s suddenly transformed with appropriately the gruf sound for a slightly retro roadster like the Indigo 3000. Out on the road, the balance of the Indigo 3000 is near perfect due to the engine being placed far back in the chassis, and with the modest weight as a furthermore advantage, both the handling and outright performance of the Indigo 3000 was quite convincing to say the least.
With so few produced and most of them residing at home in Sweden, we don’t get to experience the Indigo 3000 often. At least in this video, we can see and hear the Indigo 3000 driven on twisty Spanish roads. Our non-Scandinavian readers will simply have to put up with the Swedish commentary and the interview with Bengt Lidmalm, and instead enjoy the sound of the straight-six engine… They start of by calling it the “Smällkaramellen” which is of course Swedish and translates into “New Year’s Cracker”.
So was that the end of the Indigo 3000 then?
Presumably not, since it seems like the production of the Indigo 3000 is soon likely to recommence… Though, the new model is said to be called: Indigo 3000R (the “R” apparently being short for Revised). A company called VB Automotive in Skene, Sweden, has acquired the rights to the Indigo 3000 and has now started the development of the new version. The revised Indigo 3000 is said to have been modernised on several points, not least the engine. While supposedly still being a Volvo engine, it now sports dual turbos and 300 hp. The new Indigo 3000R will allegedly be available in three versions: Roadster, Convertible, Coupé and as a 3-in-1…
The price is claimed to be approximately 8,500 GBP less than a Porsche 911, but the big question is of course, whether that’s enough to make it a succes this time? Will there be enough customers for a car like this within that price range – a car which maintains an element of retro in its styling? What do you think?
You can find more information about the upcoming “Indigo 3000R” here: vonbraun3000r.com