TL;DR Uncut: Volvo 760 Turbo

This is TL;DR Uncut, a more detailed review of the title vehicle. For the original TL;DR Review, click here.

I derbied a Volvo 760 Turbo.

My story with this Volvo starts in 2006, a few months before my 16th birthday. A girlfriend’s mom bought it for $600 and let me drive her car back home with just my temps. My high school sweetheart used it daily for a few years, and I told her mom to call me first if she ever wants to sell it. In 2010, after my freshman year of college, she sold it to me for just $200.


I didn’t have any use for it, but I knew I didn’t want to let it go. Remember, this was slightly before the mainstream hipster Volvo craze in recession-era America. Also, before you get mad, this car was not exactly road worthy. My parents wouldn’t want it around when I left for school in the fall, so I formulated a plan to fulfill one of my childhood dreams: demolition derby. I had one month before the county fair.

The crew hard at work. Mostly.

It wasn’t easy. My friends and I had full time jobs, but managed to work on it almost every evening to get it ready. As an engineer, I was thoroughly impressed by the car’s resistance to being stripped down to a basic car. Everything had to come out, and everything was designed to fight for its survival.

Srripping the front end. Would the aluminum bumper hold up?

I came to appreciate the quirks. My favorite example is the interior lamps. A basic switch was simply not Swedish enough. Instead, the light had a dial and when you moved it up and down, a small glass vial of mercury rotated. The mercury connected two small metal prongs inside the vial, becoming a bridge for current to pass through. Electrons were free to give light to the passengers until it was rotated back and the mercury no longer covered both prongs. Genius. Insane, but genius.

You can see the mercury shining on the left. Photo from Ebay.

With the interior stripped, glass removed, fuel system relocated (by the way, it has two fuel pumps because Volvo), and safety cage welded, we started to “decorate” it and came up with a name. Since I was no longer dating the girl who had owned the car, we decided on “Ex-Terminator” because everybody likes puns.

Once at the derby, it was clear that we were the only rookies, which put a target on our back. To call more attention to ourselves, we also had the only foreign car. Most people who regularly do demolition derbies don’t take kindly to that type roun’ heer’.

Unloading before the show

This first chapter of demolition doesn’t have a glamorous ending; I took a few hits and then some wires by my leg started on fire, filling the cabin with smoke and give us a big, fat DQ. But the car was in good shape, and, just like Schwarzenegger, the “Ex-Terminator” would be back.


The next summer, I stripped all wiring that wasn’t necessary to make the car run. Also, the alternator had stopped working, so I wired up two batteries in parallel and hoped for the best. With that, it was off to another county fair, eager to have a real chance at destruction.

Headed to the second derby, wearing the damage from last year with pride

The Volvo was fantastic. Everyone had doubts about a rear drive, aluminum-wheeled, crumple-zone-having, turbo-whistle-making foreign job going against more typical American midsized cars. Despite my inexperienced driving, it proved them all wrong.

1st Heat

In my heat, a competitor and I were continuously ramming back to back at full speed until they told us we had won and were moving on to the feature. A tow truck had to bring me back to the pits. A splash of hot water to the face during the heat told me that I had radiator hose repairs to do. I also took a sledge hammer to my rear quarters to try and give my drive wheels a little extra breathing room. The time between heats was frantic and chaotic.

Yet, it was so invigorating. I felt like a NASCAR pit crew trying to get my car back onto the track as soon as possible, if NASCAR was even more redneck than it already is. I limped the car out there just before final call. A few hits in, and my rear tires were immobile. No amount of neutral drops could get me moving again and I was done.

Post derby

The car was hardly recognizable. The frame mounts in the rear were twisted over the top of one another. The trunk was in the back seat. Pieces of my aluminum front bumper were scattered on the track. I was bruised, but I was proud. I had lived my dream, and I had given the Volvo the gladiator’s death that it truly deserved. Rest in peace, 760. You did well.

The carnage

A special thanks to Rev, Dani, James Welding, Corey, Sue, my grandparents, and my parents, all of whom made this adventure possible.


In memory of the Volvo, and in memory of John. You will never be forgotten.

The Volvo in all its glory

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