The Original Volvo V90


When you hear “Volvo V90” nowadays, your mind probably goes instantly to the big wagon that went into production in 2016. But what about the original V90? Most people have forgotten that the Volvo 960–itself a somewhat forgotten car in the shadow of the 240 and 740–ended its life badged as the S90 (sedan) and V90 (wagon).


This particular Volvo is from the end of the run when 960’s came with a “V90” badge on the back. But this one says “V8”? Indeed.


We didn’t open the hood on this particular day, so here’s a snap of the well-used LS swap from last year when we drove down to LA. Simply put, this thing is an absolute hoot to drive.

Coastal Range Rally 2017 (Friday)

I’ve posted about this car before. With the beefy drivetrain and dishy OEM+ Polaris wheels it was always really cool, but a little bit vanilla in the looks department.


Now it wears this Nordica livery inspired by the Group A 242 Turbo fielded by RAS Sports in 1986, which is really the cherry on top of this Swedish cake.


It still looks a bit like an old man’s car, but now it has race car graphics. Which makes it even funnier.



When you hear the sound of an uncorked LS1 coming out of a homely Volvo station wagon, it causes uncontrollable laughter. Imagine pure NASCAR coming out of your grandma’s daily driver and you’re pretty much there.


It’s also a hoot to drive. The suspension is aftermarket and it handles much better than you would expect. Plus, all the tactile feedback harkens back to the beautiful 1990’s: the hydraulically assisted steering is nicely weighted with good feel, and the throttle pedal is connected directly to the throttle body using a physical connection, so your right foot feels an immediacy and directness that doesn’t exist on production vehicles anymore. It has a short shifter connected to the Tremec T56, so shifts are hilariously firm and tight.


A sporty Volvo?? You betcha. The experience of bombing backroads in a big Swedish wagon with a beefy aluminum V8 is a true treasure.


Sense of occasion? Pretty damn high.

Across the Pond


There’s only one place this could be.



Tiny shitboxes, coffee shops, and ugly-yet-practical taxis.


I went to England for one thing: Radwood. But, just because I could, I decided to fly out a few days early and tag along with the itinerary of the Radwood dudes: Art, Lane, Warren, Rick, and Brad. There’s a whole tragic storyline with Brad’s trip, but let’s stick to the fun stuff here. We spent the first two days in London just doing touristy stuff.


Since I had slept the majority of the flight across The Atlantic, I had pretty much zero jet lag. Plus, due to the higher latitude of England the sunsets are pretty late in the summer. So when we arrived at our rental pad right near Waterloo Station, we decided to walk around and explore. That clock is working fine; 8 PM and there was still sun.


It’s not always cloudy in London; in fact the weather seemed to change constantly.


Police cars in Europe are great. There were many different brands and types, very different from here with the big sedan (Crown Vic, now Taurus or Charger) or big SUV (Explorer). My favorite was probably the Volvo V90.


We wandered into a courtyard of a pub with old school bricks on one side…


…and The Shard on the other. Of course, like everything else in London right now, The Shard is under construction and looks like crapola. Oh well.


Sometimes we’d get to a junction and just wonder if we were in a movie set. It’s like Disneyland, but it’s Londonland (Englandland doesn’t quite have the ring to it). It’s just so “London” it hurts. I’m sure people have that reaction when visiting San Francisco, for example.



Most English names of stuff just naturally sound like they should be said with an English accent. Take the “Giggling Sausage” for example.


Super London scene: someone parking their tiny-yet-still-four-door econobox (“supermini” they call them, in this case an Audi A1) on the sidewalk next to their flat. And it’s always just ONE spot for like fourteen residences.


We’re all completely unfamiliar with the area; I believe Art was the only one who had spent any real time in London. So just walking around the area near the station was very interesting to us.


This tunnel had cool changeable lights for seemingly no other reason than to just be cool and trippy.


In the center of London there are almost zero interesting cars, so this 944 was pretty much the first interesting and old car we had seen on the entire trip.



Remember what I was saying about construction? Two of the other super touristy London things to see, Big Ben and Parliament, were also under construction.


These cool Citroens were being used as food trucks on the dock. We had quite a laugh because our missing team member, Brad, had written an article for Jalopnik specifically about how these trucks should not be used as food trucks. Unfortunately though, he wasn’t there to be able to defend his claims.


I was walking around with my 50mm, and was just barely able to frame this one. A little tight, but I couldn’t back up any further on the London Bridge.


Dammit Large Benjamin…I guess I’ll have to come back and see you again.


What’s the deal with phone booths every 50 feet? Were people in London making lots of calls when they were out and about back in the day?


We went to Westminster Abbey and were literally the only ones there, which was kinda neat. When we rode by in a taxi the next day it was completely packed with hundreds of people in the area where we’d been hanging out alone.


The next morning was a fairly early start for a full day of exploring the center of London. Starting with the local garbage truck fleet. I love how Mercedes makes all kinds of vehicles, even garbage trucks. Garbage lorries?



A Suzuki Jimny!


Watch for the humps, they’ll get ya.


We went to the Borough Market when it was actually open, and they had…all kinds of food I guess. They had nothing ready to eat, so it wasn’t very interesting to me.


I got a really awesome, really expensive (£6) Turkish coffee though.


Cool as ice, mannn. At this hour, it was pretty much just us tourists everywhere.


Yup, that’s London.


We made our way to Brick Lane because we wanted to check out some “charity shops”–what we would call a thrift store, like Goodwill.


I love how their logo for “camera” looks like a dry plate camera from the 1870’s.


This seemed to be a place where normal people lived, because we saw some interesting cars street parked in this neighborhood.



Mildly bummed I didn’t step back and include the Saab behind.





Bit of a Haight Street type vibe in some places down there, except for the homeless people (or lack thereof).



London, like any city that grew up really fast (like SF, NY, etc), has many cool juxtapositions of old and new.



I suppose this is like a Londoner taking random pics of random areas stumbled upon in San Francisco, but hey. I am under no impressions that I am not a tourist.


We made our way over to the Mayfair neighborhood in a misguided attempt at finding fish and chips.



This neighborhood seemed a bit fancier than where we were staying.



Tally ho! Luxury metal was spotted at the Connaught Hotel.



I went straight for this white GT2 RS with Weissach Package. I love the 2RS gold mag wheels. Gorgeous car.


Aston Martin’s DB11 is also a beautiful car, but this understated two-tone paint scheme isn’t my favorite.



Uh, is someone street parking a Mercedes SLR?


And a Cullinan? Hey, get that E46 M3 out of the way…


I wonder what the owners of these cars were doing in this neighborhood; there didn’t really seem to be any shops or even many people walking around. I had to wait for a bit to get those people in my shot.


This sign explains a lot about seeing only boring cars though.


Still, there were a few 911’s to see which made me happy.


How to take your car everywhere and not rack up the mileage.


The bros, next to an omnipresent phone booth.


And then it started to rain a little, so we took off during a pause to seek shelter.


Sometimes the timing is just right. When we chanced upon this large arch, it started pouring rain.


I mean bucketloads. Biblical amounts.


People stumbled in completely soaked.


And then it stopped raining, and people just went back about their daily lives.


Any car just seems to look better in Euro spec. And they’re all lower!



Whoa, a Peugeot 1007. Check out that sliding driver side door.




Well, after two days of walking around, we were done with London.


On Saturday morning, we picked up our rental Volkswagen Transporter to haul us down to Goodwood with all our stuff.


The first stop out of the city was the hospital where Brad was being treated, which was a bit depressing, to say the least.


Pardon the rear seat snaps, but there were a few things along the way that caught my eye. Like this gigantic roundabout, for example. I love the concept of a roundabout, especially when it means deleting traffic signals.


However, sometimes you need to wait at a light to enter a roundabout. Look how many layers of lights there are.


The variable speed limits on the highway were interesting; the speeds would gradually lower to make a smoother transition into the traffic jam.


This guy was driving and rolling a cigarette!


Just by coincidence–it was on our way–we stopped into the only place I had already been to in England: the town of Guildford.


A few years ago I came here to visit EA for a media event when they launched Need for Speed Shift. This time, we were just stopping by for lunch.


On my first trip I didn’t really get to do anything besides work, so I was a bit surprised to see that it was quite a touristy spot on this Saturday.



The roads got smaller as we got further from the city.


Yes, that tiny white-and-red sign means 50mph on a narrow twisty road with driveways, blind crests, and no shoulder. You’d be lucky to get 45 on a road like this in California; most likely it would be a 35 or 40. The majority of people tended to drive swiftly, but we did see our fair share of trucks and vans.


And how about a giant Volvo trying to get through a village? We had to pull over, stop, and wait for this guy to drive by. It must be very stressful driving such a beast through England.


In this area it was mostly the usual mix of mini SUV’s and tiny shitboxes, plus work vans, with a nice sprinkling of Land Rover Defenders. So it was a big shock to see a 720S coming the other way.


Do English cows moo with an English accent..?


We then entered the beautiful, historic village of Cocking.



Ah yes, the Cocking Church, which dates back to the 11th century. On another note, is it just me or do these twisty, flowing roads make you feel like an old time Grand Prix driver? Suddenly all the little roadsters and British sports cars just make sense.


The first sign! We have arrived!


Typical English design…it’s a two way street that barely has room for one vehicle each way. We tip-toed down the entrance, only to see a Land Rover coming at us. And he wasn’t stopping–so we had to back up, and try again.


What the fuck, man. Why would any English person (or anyone at all, really) decide a PT Cruiser is the right car? And it’s diesel! Horrible.


When we arrived, there was a little track day going on. So of course, we poked around.



The front duct on the 488 Pista is just insanely cool. I love how you can see the ground through the car.


918 and LaFerrari were present; there was a 720S but I was slightly bummed not to see a P1 in attendance.


The amazing thing, for us at least, was that anyone could drive off the street and right into the track’s parking lot. No security, no entry fee, nothing at all. Actually, it was set up so casually that you could just drive off the road, into the paddock, and straight out onto the track if you had the balls. The security presence in the United States, especially California, is quite a bit more elevated.

short, flat, with a train in the back

That reminded me of Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. The entrance to the track itself is a gate at the exit of Turn 4 that opens directly out onto a public road. When I was laser scanning the race track (for a video game), the gate was kept open as it usually is during the day when vehicles are going in and out (check Google Maps street view). While scanning the main straight, a car just drove onto the track and stopped behind us. I thought it was track staff coming to talk to me, but quickly found out it was some dude just driving by who saw the open gate and drove in just to see what was up! Sheesh.


Anyway, back to England. Sort of. This very American ’63 Ford Falcon Sprint was badass.


Sadly though, we arrived too late to see anyone turn laps. This, and pretty much everything else was already done for the day when we arrived.


We were seeing the venue for the first time, and although there had been talks going on for months, there were still some minor logistics to iron out.



Plus, I think you never know exactly how you want everything laid out until you see the actual venue in person.


And although it wasn’t necessary at all, we were treated to a ride-along of the circuit! I’ve seen it on Youtube a million times and driven it in Gran Turismo, but nothing ever compares to driving around a proper race track. Another circuit ticked off the list, I’m excited and proud to say.


This site was a base for Spitfires back in WWII, and a few of the war structures are still up, like this observation tower.


Even though it’s ostensibly a “simple” track, it still seems like it would be a bit scary to drive given that all the turns are very fast and what little runoff exists is slippery grass.


We saw the phrase “naked lights” a lot, which simply means “open flame”. One of the fascinating aspects of the entire trip was comparing the different words used in British versus American English.


We were all pretty enamored by this handsome workhorse. Would we be as stoked if they were offered here? Hmm, not sure. The “can’t have it, never seen it” factor definitely adds some intrigue.


But, I do think it’s objectively a handsome, clean design for a van.


Look ma, no hands! Warren had never driven a RHD vehicle, and since he had some trepidation about driving the van out on the open roads, he drove it around the paddock a bit.


This is a test pic of him hopping out. Long story short, I went to swap lenses, but there was some kind of weird malfunction and it wouldn’t focus, so this is the only pic I have of this particular moment. It’s okay, I’d make up for it the next day…


I did get the wide lens to work, but we were being kicked out of the track so I didn’t get a chance to take the shot I wanted. So here are a few snaps from the drive “home” with the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 mounted to the Nikon Z6. For the actual Radwood coverage, I had the 50mm f/1.4 on the Z6 and put the 16-35mm on my D750.




Our castle for the weekend. Actually, it was a kinda funky duplex thing.


It had a pretty interesting driveway. Maybe there’s some benefit to gravel in the rain? Or it’s some traditional thing?


For dinner, we went to meet up with some local car guys at a real pub. This involved going down a one lane, two-way road.


Since your car takes up the entire lane, what do you do when you come up to someone?


Well, somebody has to reverse until you get back to one of these tiny spots where you can pull over and squeeze past each other.


I’m glad they put fences up in this neck of the woods; I’ve seen plenty of clips from Wales and Scotland where sheep just hang out in the road, because they aren’t fenced in. That seems a bit dangerous for all the mammals and machines involved in such encounters.


We arrived at our traditional pub, or rather “Free House”. I’d never heard the term, but the internet tells me this is a type of pub that is owned independently from the breweries which supply it.

Our dinner was wonderful; we yakked about cars and culture over slightly cool alcoholic beverages and feasted on delicious pub favorites. Then it was time to hit the hay, because the next day was Sunday…time for Radwood UK, the first ever Radwood event outside of the United States!