A Man, A Volvo And His Drag Racing Dreams

Professional Drag Racing, home to high horsepower low weight and stupendous speed. It is the natural stomping grounds of Chevelles, Camaros, Mustangs, ‘Cudas, Volvo and… Wait, Volvo??? Volvo is known for being safe and sensible not bat shit and insane. Especially early 80s Volvos. They look like bricks, they’re heavy, they’re hardly the first car you go looking for when building a professional level drag car.

Victor Ellinger is a man who moves to the beat of his own drum. He enjoys being different. So when he came across a 1980 Volvo Bertone he knew what he had to do. Even though it was the range-topping luxury model he saw its potential. He knew that lurking underneath the miles of brown and sensible Swedish-ness there was something special, just waiting to be set free. So out came everything, the engine, the “Luxury” bits, everything. In their place went a 440 Chrysler, roll cage, racing transmission and the fattest set of Mickey Thompson Racing Slicks any Swedish car has ever seen. The build was not without its challenges.

This is what a stock Volvo Bertone looks like. Hardly the ideal starting point for a championship drag car.
This is what a stock Volvo Bertone looks like. Hardly the ideal starting point for a championship drag car.

“There are no installation kits for a Chrysler-to-Volvo,” Ellinger said. “Plenty of parts, like the headers, had to be fabricated.”

This past weekend Ellinger took his extra special Volvo to the Summit SuperSeries. The annual Races held at Memphis International Raceway draws racers from all over the U.S. and Canada. It would have been easy to overlook Ellinger’s black and red Bertone. Pass over it as nothing more than an oddball entry not to be taken seriously. But then Ellinger started winning. He kept winning, advancing to the finals where he faced Bobby Paul Arnett of Winchester, Ky. and his entirely too traditional, but still awesome 1970 Chevy Chevelle. Arnett got Ellinger by a few thousandths off the line, however that wasn’t enough as Ellinger and his Volvo of destiny pulled around and crossed the line first. Ellinger ran the 1/8 mile  in 6.383 at 108.50 mph.

So there Ellinger was, standing in the Winner’s Circle, hoisting up the big ass trophy. But wait, there’s more as part of the sweet, sweet victory package Ellinger also received: $10,000 from Summit; a 28-foot enclosed Performax trailer; a $2,500 TrickFlow gift certificate; a two-post Gemini Auto Lift; a Jones Transmission Cooling System; an IHRA Gold Card; a World Champion Ironman trophy, and a World Champion diamond ring. Oh, and a seven-night, eight-day trip to Aruba including car rental, airfare and hotel, sponsored by, El Gaucho Restaurant, Tropicana Resorts.

So given the success of Ellinger’s Volvo and the excellent swag that went along with victory the question remains… Are we about to see a classic Volvo revolution in Drag Racing? Are we about to see Big Chief and His Crowmod get dusted by a roaming pack of Volvos? Probably not. But I sincerely hope Ellinger’s success inspires other people to start racing oddball cars. The sport of Drag Racing will be better for it.

Written by Chad Kennedy

Chad burst from the womb wearing a racing suit and a helmet. Chad's passion for cars is in his very DNA. His father was a gear head and passed on the tradition through owning such classics as a '66 Mustang and a '59 Corvette all while taking him to various race tracks in the area. Chad likes to wrench on his rides whenever possible, forgoing the stealership. Chad is an avid motorsports fan with particular interest in endurance/sports car racing. When not online writing for Shifting Lanes, you can find him working at the local golf course teaching people how to swing or hooning a golf cart at impossible speeds.


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