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WIDE-BODY VOLVO V50: HYPERACTIVE

Posted by Matt Bell on 22nd February 2021

The spacious and practical Volvo V50 is a perfect steer for those with an active lifestyle, and perhaps a family, a dog and a bunch of large sporting equipment. But when Garage Unique reinvented the formula as a wide-body Volvo V50 Hyper Wagon, well, that kinda changed its purpose…

Feature first appeared in Fast Car. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: SerialOne

The idea of the practical supercar is one that’s been inspiring designers and dreamers for generations. It was the bedrock of Gordon Murray’s strategy for the McLaren F1 – not only was that to be the world’s fastest road car, but it had to have room for a couple of fully stocked golf bags too. And you’ve got a number of options as a buyer today; you can stick a roof box on your Koenigsegg Regera, attach a ski rack to an Audi R8, or just go the whole hog and shell out for a Ferrari GTC4 Lusso. But if you want to do it with a bit of flair and originality, you could do a lot worse than take a page from Smicha Thiramongkol’s book. This Bangkok-based master of the avant-garde took a strictly logical approach to the concept: what’s the most practical car you can buy? Well, for decades the go-to answer to that question has been ‘duh, a Volvo estate, obviously’, so that’s precisely where he started. And from that point onward, things got distinctly weird.

Now, the concept of cool Volvo estates has been a bit of a rocky road over the years. The car most people would probably first think of when the subject of Swedish barges arises, the old-school Volvo 240, is enjoying a bit of a retro renaissance right now, although back when it was new the model was always more of a functional box than it was an object of desire. There were two key estates that really provided the conceptual stepping stones to what we’re seeing here: one was the 850 T5-R (and subsequent 850R evolution), the car beloved of police forces across the globe which proved you could shove an Exocet missile in the back of a housebrick and make it handle. The fact that it was turned into a BTCC racer neatly proved the point. And the second was the original V40, debuting in 1995; this was a smooth and rounded estate car, which we always thought was a bit underrated and overlooked – it had the perfect proportions to look awesome with the simple addition of big rims and air-ride. And all of this led to the starting point for this particular project, the 2011 V50 estate. This Belgian-built box sits on the platform of the Ford Focus, and offers plentiful potential for modding mischief. Although, it has to be said, no-one’s ever thought to do quite what’s been done here before.

Smicha’s idea was as focused as it was inspired: to build a ‘Hyper Wagon’. The inspiration for this was, bizarrely, an obscure supercar by the name of the Lykan Hypersport. If you’ve not heard of it, this rare curio is another element in making this project truly intercontinental… we’ve already got a bit of Thailand, Sweden and Belgium in the mix, and now we’re looking to Lebanon. This is the home of W Motors, who built the Lykan Hypersport back in 2013-16, the first sports car to be designed and built in the Middle East – it had a RUF flat-six and diamond-encrusted headlights, but the element Smicha really wanted to channel inspiration from was the design of its nose. And so, with this slightly demented notion bubbling away, he went to call in on our old friends at Garage Unique.

You’ve probably heard that name once or twice. This Bangkok chop-shop is always busy hand-crafting unique builds, taking inspiration from the extreme bodykits of the 1990s and 2000s, fusing it with the contemporary widebody craze, and distilling it into a look that’s distinctly modern Thai. And while many bodyshops may look at you a bit funny if you take them a Volvo estate and ask them to make it look like a supercar, this is all just another day in the life of Garage Unique. The merry band of Asian provocateurs set about the makeover with gusto, hand-crafting a full custom front end to mimic the jutting aggression of the Hypersport, a move which totally reconfigures the shape to startling effect. It’s all beautifully crafted for a perfect fit, with extensive use of carbon fibre, and – as you’ve probably spotted – it’s not just about the nose job. Garage Unique also custom-made carbon sideskirts, flowing into the imposing wide arches at either end, while the tail enjoys a boisterously massive diffuser and, most early-2000s-ish of all, that frankly eye-watering roof spoiler. Have you ever seen anything like it? It’s wonderfully deranged, harnessing the spirit of the Lykan and taking it to strange new places.

Work of art

Naturally with great stance comes great responsibility, and the wide-body Volvo V50 needed those fat arches filled with something pretty tip-top. Smicha doesn’t disappoint here, drawing in the sumptuous treasures of WORK Wheels, specifically a staggered set of custom three-piece Meister S1s. It all kisses the tarmac with vivid enthusiasm thanks to a cunning air-ride setup courtesy of Hop-Up Airsus, taking some BC Racing BR Series coilovers and converting them to run bags. And the global reach of this concept reaches yet further as Japanese ingredients start to worm their way into the formula; the brakes are pure Mitsubishi – sitting on custom hubs we find the Brembos from an Evo VIII at the front and an Evo X at the rear – and inside the cabin resides a pair of Recaro CL7s sourced from a Honda Accord Type R. Richly diverse ingredients, but all fused in glorious harmony.

The idea of building a wide-body Volvo V50 may have been barking mad, but the execution is flawless and the finished product is like an acid trip on the school run – at once sensible and practical, and utterly unhinged. What better way is there to snag trophies at the show-and-shine on the way home from picking up your Billy bookcases from Ikea? And the best part is that this build is a true, global one-off. Sure, only seven Lykan Hypersports were ever built, selling for $3.4m apiece… but how many V50 Hyper Wagons are there in existence? Just one. That uniqueness is priceless.

Tech Spec: Wide-body Volvo V50

Styling:

Custom ‘Hyper Wagon’ bodykit by Garage Unique – inc. Lykan Hypersport-style front end, front bumper and carbon splitter, carbon canards, wide wings front and rear, carbon sideskirts, roof spoiler and carbon rear diffuser, custom angel eyes

Tuning:

B4204S5 2.0-litre 16v petrol, front-mount intercooler (turbo conversion to come), 6-speed auto, FWD

Chassis:

9.5x18in -5 (front) and 11x18in -20 (rear) WORK Meister S1 wheels, 225/40 (f) and 265/35 (r) Toyo R888 tyres, BC Racing BR Series coilovers – converted to airbags by Hop-Up Airsus, Mitsubishi Evo VIII front Brembo calipers with 330mm discs and custom hubs, Mitsubishi Evo X rear Brembo calipers with 320mm discs and custom hubs

Interior:

Honda Accord Type R Recaro CL7 seats, Viair gauges and air-ride controls in centre console