The Adventure Wagon: A 2004 Volvo XC70 Overland Build

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Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
Hey All,

I figure the best way to introduce one's self around these parts is rig-first, so at my friend Doobie_Dave's suggestion, I've decided to just dive right in with a rapid-fire build thread to explain the project and get you all up to date.

To put it quite simply, this project was a complete accident; and I have no history of working on or modifying vehicles in any way prior to this. While I've made quite a bit of progress in a relatively short period of time, there is much more work to be done. Some of builds on here are absolutely incredible as far as their attention to detail, utility, and overall looks and my little wagon seems feeble in comparison. BUT, Part of what's exciting about this community is its diversity, and having seen several other "oddball" or "atypical" build threads--but zero volvos--I thought it would be valuable for me to share my own....

With my first son about 1.5 yrs and the birth of my 2nd child imminent, I needed to clear some room in the vehicle stable for a more "family friendly" vehicle than my beloved 1987 Toyota 4Runner. Luckily I was able to find the perfect new owner in Doobie_Dave who'd basically been quietly lusting after it since I first parked it in front of our shop.

I had acquired the Volvo from my stepfather for a song about a year prior when they upgraded, and with the runner gone, I turned my attention to it with fresh eyes. Truth be told, the humble XC70 had never quite captured my heart with its soccer mom looks and quiet, Scandinavian confidence. I took it on board at around 78k miles, and though it was super well cared for, I struggled to really find things to appreciate about it. It was certainly no 4Runner [emoji17]



But once it was my only vehicle, with the runner safe in Dave's hands, I began to look at it and wonder if it had the potential to be something more interesting. The Subaru guys were doing all sorts of wacked out awesome shit with their AWD wagons; why couldn't I do the same sort of things with the Volvo? The seed was planted and began to take root much more quickly than I expected.

Soon I was knee deep over at Swedespeed forum asking any and all questions I could and absorbing information like and eager sponge. I spent hours studying both of the IPD XC70 builds (to which I remain greatly indebted) and days thinking how I might apply similar mods to my own wagon. Within a week the ordering began [emoji16] . . .

THE MODS & ACCESSORIES

I started about as small as one can with the accessory that any and all wagons need to compete their wagon-ness: a good set of crossbars!



While the bars were still in the mail, I was furiously researching racks and settled on a yakima load warrior cargo basket. After ordering that, I realized that it would look awkwardly short on my long roof, and put in another Amazon order for the extension right away (gotta love Prime!).



It was that first late summer afternoon after installing the rack that I came out to the gravel lot and saw the humble beginnings of something stirring beneath the XC's metallic silver skin [emoji3]



The next step was a few quick and simple OEM accessory purchased for the interior: front and rear all weather mats to keep mud and grime off the carpets, and a steel and nylon rear cargo area divider to keep assorted crap from being flung onto the heads of my two little guys.



Done......and done:



The world of IPD was brand new to me, and I dived in with zeal. They remain the largest manufacturer and supplier of aftermarket volvo parts and I looked to them out of the gate for some bits and bobs to help fortify the ride further.

I first installed their aluminum strut brace conversion kit to help tighten up the front end a bit:





Then I installed their aluminum DEM protective shield.



And finally I installed their beefy aluminum skidplate to replace the factory splash guard under the oil pan...



Solid [emoji41][emoji123].

After getting those few basic utilitarian and armoring steps out of the way, it was time for a few little cosmetic modifications to assist with my goal of making the wagon a bit more aggressive in the styling department of that was even possible [emoji23]. So of course......dip to the rescue!

Started in the back:









Then the following week moved to the front ....





While I had the grill out, I ordered the little known OEM auxiliary lighting kit, and a set of black Magic Hella 500s. First time doing any electrical work on the car, and was happy I didn't explode it or set off a million fault codes. These euros can be a little particular [emoji6] with the murdered-out grill back in and the black driving lights on the front, things were starting to take shape as i desired.






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Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
Next it was time to tackle my tires. Perhaps one of the easiest and most effective modifications I could do to make my AWD vehicle a little more dirt-worthy. After a ton of research, I settled on Cooper Discoverer AT3s in 215/70r16, one size up from stock.







This was maybe the first real benchmark moment in the build for me. With those A/T meats on, All of a sudden the wagon really seemed transformed. The offroad Adventurer I dreamed of was actually taking shape! There was no stopping it now...

Wheels were next. Id never seen anyone run Sparco Terras or any other gravel style wheel on a volvo wagon and I thought it would look sick. It was my birthday and they were on sale so fuck it, I splashed.



While they were on their way I also ordered some 25mm H&R wheel spacers from IPD. The rears on these cars are annoyingly inset which contributes to the sort of quiet, nerdy stock look. That had to change...





The volvo looked pretty mean with its new shoes and flush rear:



Buuuuuuuuuutttttt.........it rubbed like a motherfucker over bumps and in hard turns, sooooooooooooo........had to go back to stock.



Sometimes you gotta go back too be forward, right?

After much deliberation, and with winter around the corner I decided to go with a Weathertech mat for the rear cargo area.



Finally, I invested in a few pieces of interior storage and organization gear from the folks at blue ridge overland gear.







I love this stuff because it plays well with some of my other favorite equipment:





And with that, "Stage I" of the build was more or less complete. It was time for the adventuring to begin!


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alphawolfx45

Rank 0

Contributor I

60
Nice! I was just searching around the Internet for a Volvo wagon build and I'm very pleased I've found one!


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Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
THE ADVENTURING

When I began the build, I had a very vague idea of what "overlanding" was at best. I was much more familiar with the "wheelin'" side of the offroad world and honestly never really wanted any part in that.

I've been a pretty committed outdoorsman and adventurer for most of my life and prior to having kids lived a super active lifestyle. Cycling, climbing, backpacking, creek swimming, etc. If it was outdoors I wanted in. I originally saw the wagon as a conduit to these activities, but as things do, it really took on a life of its own and became an adventure vehicle in its own right.

I jokingly refer to what I do with this thing as "Naptime Overland" [emoji23][emoji23][emoji23] 95% of the trips pictured are no longer than 2-4 hours, and take place within 90 minutes from our Hudson Valley home while my two dudes sleep in the back. But within these constraints, we've managed to have an absolute fucking blast, and really push the limits of what this vehicle can do.

The response, excitement, and support from the volvo community has been huge, and im looking forward to pushing even harder and beginning to take longer Trips over more difficult terrain when time and vehicle preparedness allow.

Consider what follows a bit of a "Best Of" edit of the past 6 months worth of adventures....

At the Pecoy Notch Trailhead:


Exploring the red clay backroads of Andes, NY


First winter summit of Leonard Hill State Forest firetower:






Atop the (nearly impossible to spell correctly) Mt. Utsayantha weather station in 40mph wind conditions:






Traipsing through the clear cuts and haul roads of High Knob State Forest




Out of range in Bates State Forest:


A second trip to Mt. Utsayantha in milder conditions:


Bridging the gap and rolling through the cuts at Burnt Rossman Hills State Forest:




Leonard Hill State forest Trip II:


South Mountain Switchbacks:


Leonard Hill State Forest trip III w/ Doobie_Dave:


The green road through Lutheranville State Forest near Summit, NY:


camping with another XC70 at Devils Tombstone:








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Steve

lost again...
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Traveler III

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Lorain County, OH, USA
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Fantastic! This is exactly the stuff that Overland Bound is here for; vehicle dependent adventure, without bias toward the means to get there.

Your goals for the XC70 seem very similar to mine with my Subaru Outback build [LINK] and I think they would both fit this role admirably. I don't think there are as many aftermarket off road options for the Volvo as Subaru, but it sounds like you have made great progress. The Sparks are a staple in the Subaru world, and look great on the Volvo.

I look forward to your continued adventures, and welcome to the Overland Bound forum,
Steve
 

Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
THE LIFT

In stock form, the XC70 is a fairly capable vehicle. It has a 2nd generation Haldex reactive AWD system, 8.2" of ground clearance, and a really nice, flat bottom with no "hangy bits". It's got a shit ton of cargo space, and can sleep two with the passenger seats down. It's turbo-charged 5-cyl is one of Volvo's most tried and true engines, and even without an ECU tune it doesn't lack for passing power and gusto. It's also built like a fucking tank and is one of the safest vehicles on the road. Ask my mom who crashed this one over the center divider on a narrow parkway and walked away without a scratch.

All that said, it is FAR from a purpose built off-roader, and I will be the first to admit that it's FWD-bias AWD system is arguably inferior to Subaru's symmetrical AWD. It's electronic system can be finicky, and the trans is its weak point.

One of the first things anyone interested in overland and offroad adventure travel is looking for is more ground clearance. I was surprised and ecstatic to find that lo-and-behold, their WAS someone manufacturing lift kits for the P2 (first gen) XC70s!

I bought the springs and sat on them
For damn near 9 months (for reasons I'll explain later) and finally lifted it about a week ago. I couldn't be more excited.

Lifting:











Right after:







Settled:














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Last edited:

Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
Appreciate the warm welcome from everyone!

Nice! I was just searching around the Internet for a Volvo wagon build and I'm very pleased I've found one!


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Check out the P2 V70 & XC70 sub-forum on Swedespeed for a bunch more awesome wagon builds. If
You're looking for any information in particular Volvo-wise, I'm more than happy to help!

Great to have a Volvo on board! Nice build so far!


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Thanks Daniel

That looks awesome. A few years ago I really wanted one of those until I saw the price tag. And then I ended up with a Tacoma. I would still love to have an XC70 though.

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New, they are definitely not inexpensive cars. Buying used deals can easily be had, just have to be aware of what you're getting into as far as maintenance costs and upkeep go. A Tacoma ain't to shabby tho man [emoji41]. In fact, a regular cab first gen Tacoma remains near the top of my "future cars to own" list.

Well that's not something you see every day! Nice work


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Nope; certainly not, and that's part of the appeal for me. It definitely catches a few surprised looks here and there, but mostly flies under the radar #becausevolvo

Wooooooo

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Yewwwwwwww.
 

Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
Fantastic! This is exactly the stuff that Overland Bound is here for; vehicle dependent adventure, without bias toward the means to get there.

Your goals for the XC70 seem very similar to mine with my Subaru Outback build [LINK] and I think they would both fit this role admirably. I don't think there are as many aftermarket off road options for the Volvo as Subaru, but it sounds like you have made great progress. The Sparks are a staple in the Subaru world, and look great on the Volvo.

I look forward to your continued adventures, and welcome to the Overland Bound forum,
Steve
Glad to see you like the direction I'm headed in Steve!

I would agree that by-and-large our goals are pretty similar. I actually perused the rigs section pretty thoroughly when Dave Suggested I take a look and was excited to see your build thread amongst other less typical offerings. I'll have to go back and check it out further now that I've joined up.

The aftermarket options for the XC70 wagon are slim in general. The offroad selection is nearly non-existent. The lift kit is offered by a company called Bad Swede Auto Systems and is currently their ONLY product :-( They have suggested that more stuff is in development, but it's a one man passion project over there so I'm not holding my breathe. IPD (makers of thousands of performance volvo products) have shown some interest in an "adventure touring" aftermarket for the XCs, but again, it's yet to materialize into anything tangible.

I'll be the first to admit that because of the above, the (arguably) superior AWD system, and the Japanese reliability, a Subaru is probably a much more logical choice. But there is something to be said for taking the road less travelled and I've enjoyed the challenge so far.
 

GoHeels

Rank IV
Member

Advocate II

1,337
Wilmington NC
Member #

1377

Really like the build, and the Wagon. Looks great. :smiley:
I've seen those Subaru guys go some amazing places. I see them out on the beach all the time, not sure how the Volvos AWD compares.
 

Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
Really like the build, and the Wagon. Looks great. :smiley:
I've seen those Subaru guys go some amazing places. I see them out on the beach all the time, not sure how the Volvos AWD compares.
Thanks man!

The earlier generations of the Haldex AWD system certainly aren't bad, but for offroad purposes I would argue they are inferior to Subaru. Haldex is an electronic FWD-biased reactive system where as subaru is a full time symmetrical system.

Haldex operates in 95/5% front/rear and is able to send a maximum of somewhere between 30-50% of available torque to the rear wheels when it detects slippage (hard to find reliable info on the exact percentage). The key there is "when it detects slippage" meaning for it to "work", you've already gotta be losing traction. Sounds pretty weak, but I've found in practice that it works fairly well to meet most of my needs.

I'm very new to off-road driving, and NONE of what I do is rock crawling or legit wheeling; that's not the goal for me. But what I've learned very quickly is that as long as you have a decent set of AT tires, pick your lines well, and know you're vehicles limitations, you can have nearly as much fun as those in purpose-built offroad rigs.
 
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Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
The weather, light, and landscape coincided for some really great adventuring today.







We hit 4 forests in 4 hours (all of which we have visited before) to see how the new lift felt on familiar terrain: South Mountain, High Knob; Leonard Hill, and Bates. The verdict? It's great. Overall the extra ground clearance increases confidence in the wagon's abilities, and I finally feel like it's getting closer to the (re)purpose-built adventure-utility vehicle I only dreamed of 10 months ago.









It now fares far better on some of the more rugged haul roads and has an easier time dealing with big dips and quick changes in grade. On faster hardpack dirt and gravel the slightly stiffer spring rate makes for a less bouncy and more controlled ride







The problem? Increased Ground clearance begets the desire for MOAR increased ground clearance [emoji16][emoji12].

If all goes well I'll be throwing a new set of meats on later this week and going one more size up in the process. After that "Stage II" of the project will be relatively completed and it will be time to take a break on the ground clearance front to address other areas of the build before progressing to "Stage III" in 2017 which will call for some DIY ingenuity and maybe some body choppy choppy [emoji380][emoji380][emoji380][emoji15][emoji16]

Trying to keep momentum! Til next time........




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Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
Just placed an order for a set of these BFGs in 225/70r16:



one size up from my current set, and the largest tire one can run on our wagons on a 16" wheel without supporting modifications to suspension in addition to the lift, or cutting the body.

Why did I get them? Curiosity and reputation more than anything. This has been THE go-to A/T tire for years, and never having given them a spin, I figured now was the time. I wanted something a bit more aggressive than the coopers, and I also wanted a snowflake rated tire which the coopers were not. Their performance in the snow was adequate, but not spectacular. Of course dedicated snows would be ideal; but I have head these BFGs are quite competent.

I have heard some concerns about declining quality, sidewall weakness, etc and will report on that as they wear...
 
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Steve

lost again...
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Nice! I wish they'd come in a size to fit the 17" wheels on my Outback or I'd have gone that direction. Having them now on my 4Runner, they're no more noisy than the OEM tires, nor the Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S tires I put on the Outback.
 

Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
So my lack of recovery gear--or really ANY gear needed in the event of an emergency--has been an ongoing sore spot. Slowly starting to work on that in earnest.

Got these today:





I've yet to get this thing stuck (KOW) but part of that is due to the fact that I calculate risks fairly conservatively. While I won't get stupid now, these will hopefully give me a hand if and when I do. They aren't a winch obviously, but....baby steps.

Next i embarked on a bit of an underfloor storage reorganization project to take advantage of some extra space.

Before:



At a volvo buddy's suggestion I got rid of the stupid cracked tray



And pulled some of the insulating/deadening material from the other compartment:





This allowed me to better utilize storage space in and around the spare for other gear--with room to spare I might add--and enabled me to slide both traction jacks under the floor!





The rear portion of the floor sits nearly flush. It's about 1/16" or so off but my OCD-ass will have to live with it [emoji23].



All done!



Next on the list to be acquired as time and money permit (but soon): full-size spare & Small air compressor. Once the under floor spare is out of the car I'll have enough room for more gear! The traction jacks can also be secured to my roof basket very easily with a dedicated bracket, or other means to open up further space for other items.

Happy.




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Young Satchel

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
Nice! I wish they'd come in a size to fit the 17" wheels on my Outback or I'd have gone that direction. Having them now on my 4Runner, they're no more noisy than the OEM tires, nor the Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S tires I put on the Outback.
Glad to hear that. Was concerned about increased road noise and decreased fuel economy vs my Cooper AT3s which have pretty civil on-road manners.