You hear about a car that’s got a full cage, stainless exhaust, a fuel cell… hell, even adjustable suspension. Sounds like serious business. Then you find out it’s also an early-2000s Volvo S60 road car. Plated up and everything. Okay. Then you find out it’s for sale.
Currently on the market in Galway, Ireland, is one of the world’s coolest Volvos, a tremendously modded Volvo S60 once owned by M-Sport rally team, who turned this sedate AWD drive sedan designed for safely and comfortably pickup up grandkids at the Montessori preschool into a 300 horsepower off-road-ready monster. But even though that sounds like a pretty wild thing to do, this wasn’t just a goofy side project. Aside from all of the technical improvements, this car worked hard for a living. It spent more than twelve years in service getting the storied team’s drivers familiar with their surroundings and ready for race day.
These cars were used by M-Sport, the descendant of Ford’s factory rally team (explaining why it’s based on the PAG-era Volvo), for recce. If you need a refresher, recce (short for reconnaissance) is the practice of tracing the course of each stage to develop pace notes for the co-driver to read over intercom during the race to keep things moving. These notes have to be pitch-perfect to keep drivers on-course (and right-side-up), so even though recce performs when the stages are open to traffic, the cars have to be quick enough to provide a driving experience relevant on race day. That’s why this car is the roll-caged, fuel-celled, lifted, stripped bruiser it is. On the loose surfaces and tight corners that make up so much of WRC stages, the car had to be up to snuff performance-wise and safe enough in case it wasn’t.
And though these cars are impressively modded out to put up with difficult terrain the world over, sometimes they don’t cut it and that safety set-up comes in handy. Just ask former M-Sport driver Ott Tänak, who got to find out first-hand back in 2017:
This car was one of a set of several S60s build for recce duty by M-Sport, and the cars were used extensively by the team’s drivers to prep for races. We last saw a group of cars (perhaps all of them) when they sold back in 2018 when M-sport swapped them out a Focus RS for star driver Sebastian Ogier and some diesel Ford Kugas for everyone else.
On the occasion of the cars’ retirement, Autosport’s David Evans got a chance to talk to M-Sport’s then-driver Elfyn Evans about the old Volvos and the Focus RS that replaced them. They told him that even though the Volvos felt a lot more like rally cars, the more modern (and more stock) RS’s comfort certainly was an improvement over the old cars:
“Because the Volvos felt quite like rally cars, you’d get out at the end of a day on the recce with your head banging. For a day on the recce, the Focus is a much nicer place to be.”
These days, Elfyn Evans is racing at Toyota (where Autosport reported that a WRX was on recce-duty) and Ogier joined him this year as well. Back at M-Sport, Finns Eskeppa Lappi and Teemu Suninen are behind the wheels of the Focuses, which seem to prep them rather well for race day in their Fiesta WRCs, even if Evans and Ogier seem to be outperforming their old team so far this season. Maybe they should have kept these, then.
If M-sport does decide that dropping their Focuses and Kugas for something more old-school might give them a leg up on their old racers, they can just snatch this Volvo back up and put it back to work. Though the seller makes the humble suggestion that these cars might have some collector value (remember, some of M-Sport’s most legendary drivers put those miles on the odometer) the ad also says that the cars could be pressed back into recce service with no problems at all. I don’t doubt that one bit, because last year another one of these cars was caught rallying in England. Very impressive for a car that’s at least 17 years old at this point, I’d say.
For a car that seems to have just as much promise as a working car or a collector’s piece, the €14,995 doesn’t sound outrageous, even if the car has taken some punishment along the way. This car is a legend after all, and either path would suit it well. I mean, unless it gets daily-ed. Now that would be hard to beat.
[h/t to friend of Jalopnik @midnightdorifto for shining a light on this]
Correction: Sunday February 23, 1:45 PM ET: A previous version of this blog incorrectly stated that Sebastien Ogier is still at Citroën. He has left for Toyota and Citroën have ended their WRC efforts for 2020.