Ever watch the Netflix show Ugly Delicious starring foul-mouthed food mogul David Chang? It's a TV series that explores homegrown culinary staples from around the world and delves into their mainstream emergence. Whether you have seen the show or not, the Volvo in front of you is the automotive equivalent of an "ugly delicious" dish: a vehicle with lowly beginnings and equally humble appearances, packing more heat and flavor than a fat slab of Nashville hot chicken.
By taking a vehicle that epitomizes '80s frumpiness and family safety and giving it the level of high-performance acceleration, braking, and handling one comes to expect from a C7 Corvette, owner Sean Fogli has crafted one of the greatest sleepers of our time. With beige and brown as its two primary colors and a stock-looking tan interior adding further covert cool points, this Volvo 242 makes people look twice every time its owner takes it out. And boy, does he take it out...
The Volvo was finished in March 2019, and Sean took it out for a series of shakedown tests at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during LSFest West. This was followed by trips to Goodguys Pacific Northwest Nationals in Puyallup, Washington; SCCA Time Trials at Portland International Raceway (PIR); and several Tire Rack Track Night in America events at both PIR and Pacific Raceways in Seattle. Like we said, he takes it out...
Aside from the paint in the engine bay, upholstery work, and a few one-off additions, all the work on this Volvo was done by its owner. That means every bit of fabricating, wiring, plumbing, welding, converting, swapping, assembling, and finishing work pictured was completed by one guy in his garage. Sean tells us that by taking aspects of the hot rod scene and blending them with import and European influences, then adding a couple dashes of drift car spice for extra flavor, he was able to turn his Swedish snoozer into a super stealthy sleeper.
Tracing his style of "cooking" all the way back to his childhood, Sean tells us he got the build bug from his old man, who was always knee-deep in some sort of '50s Chevy project. What started with watching his dad turn wrenches eventually turned into a part-time gig fixing cars at a local hot rod shop—an act of necessity when Sean realized he couldn't afford to pay someone else to do his custom work.
Like most car enthusiasts, he got into fabrication early on, and the self-taught gearhead discovered he had a knack for wiring and troubleshooting, along with TIG-welding, plumbing, and painting. As Sean's automotive skills evolved, installing stereos and water-cooled Volkswagen builds quickly turned into Foxbody Mustangs and made-from-scratch tubular framed buggies.
The transition over to modding Volvos came about five years back, when Sean found himself wrapping up a '68 Ford F100 pickup build. It was complete with custom paint, a Coyote swap, and a textbook hot-rod upgrade—and the realization he had just built something that was too nice to drive hit him like an anvil. So, he swore off show cars, ushering in Swedish street sleeper extremism in its stead.
While early Volvo "test batches" proved fruitful, the two-door 242 is easily Sean's best recipe yet. Like a faded relic of a Rubik's Cube, the 242 came into Sean's life scorched by the California sun and unable to move under its own power. With the obscure coupe obtained, swapping out the front end for an early-model nose quickly became the first order of business, thus allowing Volvo's iconic round headlamps and sloping grille to replace the quad rectangular headlight layout that originally came with the vehicle.
After pulling the front fenders a full 1.75 inches outward to accommodate his matte brown CCW wheels, Sean turned toward the task of tackling the rear quarters. This required significant amounts of work, since the only way to make the squared 18x10 three-piece alloy setup fit was to fabricate all-new wheel wells from scratch.
With the stretched corners complete, extensive steps were taken to help the 242 handle, with Sean engineering his own adjustable rear suspension based off the factory Volvo setup, which consists of a parallel four-link layout mounted to the body. Moves such as these required Sean to fabricate his own lower links, which sit alongside inboard-mounted RideTech coilovers. By mounting the suspension directly to the bottom of the rear axlehousing, Sean says he was able to achieve both upper and lower link adjustability.
While these suspension and sheetmetal mods required massive amounts of man-hours, Sean says the installation of the supercharged Chevy V-8 was a cinch, as was the fitment of the T56 six-speed manual drivetrain along with various other mechanical augmentations. Since aftermarket support for such a swap remains miniscule at most, Sean's determination to stuff the affordable 6.0L into a Swedish snoozer is applaudable.
Looking to maintain a balance between extreme street machine and unassuming weekend warrior, Sean began looking toward both performance and period-correct upgrades to complement his Volvo's newfound powerplant. On the race end, this meant installing a Racepak digital readout in place of the factory Volvo cluster, upgrading to Schroth ASM four-point harnesses, and fabbing up a rollbar that attaches to the rear unibody framerails for added rigidity.
With Sean's OCD approach to fit, finish, and function turned up to 11, the gravy-colored coupe proceeded to receive more interior work than any other build in his portfolio. Sporting vintage Recaro seats, modified door panels with pocket and speaker deletes, and a functional rear bench with custom-stitched tube holes for the 'cage to pass through, this 242's interior is a sight to behold.
As the project is nearing completion, Sean tells us his final goal is to get as close to 650 whp as possible and then add flared fenders and 315-series tires all around. With looks that border on being labeled as bland by the untrained eye and supercharged American audacity tucked within its frame, Sean's sharp-handling 242 is anything but ordinary. Its flavor resonates well with all different types of car enthusiasts, like a beige plate of hearty downhome cooking, all made from scratch and served up hot with numerous sides. Delicious.