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19th Annual Davis Car Show & Swap Meet

Nestled away in the shadow of Sacramento is a little college town called Davis. Known mostly for the college (UC Davis) and the town’s obsession with bicycles, it also serves as the home of one of the largest Volvo-only car events in the country.

Yes, you read that correctly. Volvo-only.

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FLYING UNDER THE RADAR

If there’s a list of things most people typically associate with the Volvo brand, speed isn’t on that list. But especially back in the 80’s, Volvo was one of the first manufacturers to bring performance to the people. Among the most popular of models within the community are the 240 and 740 turbos, factory turbocharged cars from an era when most economy cars still featured carbs or rudimentary fuel injection systems and made abysmal power numbers.

Still, a number of owners today use that “slow and practical” image to their benefit, concealing big turbos, engine swaps, fully custom EFI setups and new graboxes under sensible, safe Swedish steel.

 This particular wagon had a T3/T4 hybrid turbo pushing over 20psi, Megasquirt fuel injection and ran on E85.

This particular wagon had a T3/T4 hybrid turbo pushing over 20psi, Megasquirt fuel injection and ran on E85.

Performance modifications of all types, and from all eras, were on display. V8 swaps aren’t uncommon and at least three different generations of Chevrolet small blocks found their way under the hood of sensible Volvo bodies, producing some pretty entertaining results.

 One such V8 was a modified 5.7L LT1 lifted from a C4 Corvette and fitted into a 240 Wagon.

One such V8 was a modified 5.7L LT1 lifted from a C4 Corvette and fitted into a 240 Wagon.

Among the best cars were a 1979 Volvo 244DL with a turbocharged GM LQ4 6.0L V8 under the hood. That particular car ran 11.4 seconds in the 1/4mi at Sacramento Raceway on Saturday, before getting kicked out of the dragstrip because of insufficient safety equipment. According to Erik, the owner, the track stewards were “not happy” as they ran down the list of equipment that was missing, and told him to leave. Naturally, he took pride in that. There aren’t many Volvos out there running 11s and getting kicked out of dragstrips.

 The LQ4-powered Volvo mentioned above. It was every bit as quick and surprising as you'd expect.

The LQ4-powered Volvo mentioned above. It was every bit as quick and surprising as you'd expect.

A DAY IN THE PARK

The weekend’s festivities kick off on Saturday, which I unfortunately missed this year. But I was present for the show on Sunday, when everybody gets together to hang out, talk Volvo and grill in the park. Cars from all eras were represented -- from the 1950s all the way up to brand new 2018 models.

 A Volvo V60 Polestar, in Polestar Blue, with a clear matte vinyl wrap on top. As you can see, the park was divided up by model with a row of "R" cars followed by a row of 240s.

A Volvo V60 Polestar, in Polestar Blue, with a clear matte vinyl wrap on top. As you can see, the park was divided up by model with a row of "R" cars followed by a row of 240s.

The largest turnout was of 240s. Due to their relatively low price, ease of maintenance and repair, and fairly strong platform, they’re exceedingly popular both as daily drivers and as a platform for performance cars. The 240 is also undoubtedly the most iconic Volvo due to just how many of these things Volvo produced.

 A stock and very clean 240 wagon parks next to one of the most highly modified cars at the show, a 240 coupe with a 6-cylinder Volvo engine from a 960 and truly custom two-piece wheels.

A stock and very clean 240 wagon parks next to one of the most highly modified cars at the show, a 240 coupe with a 6-cylinder Volvo engine from a 960 and truly custom two-piece wheels.

Far and above though, the best part was hanging out with friends. The Volvo community is small but very close-knit. Mostly everybody within a certain club knows each other, and have for years. Friendly banter, grilled sausages, cheap beer and enjoying each other’s company underscores the theme of community on a beautiful Northern California day.

 One guy in particular always brings his grill and enough sausages to share.

One guy in particular always brings his grill and enough sausages to share.

Awards are given out near the end of the day, then the park wakes up to the sound of well over a hundred Volvos firing up to start their journey home. It’s always somewhat bittersweet to me, since I never want the weekend to end.