Volvo S60 When talking about European cars, only a select band of diehards will discuss Volvo for any length. Better known among accountants and soccer mums, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for the brand, especially in North America where there are few tuners to tease us.
What's more, it's become hard to find well-executed Swedish project cars; god knows we've tried! The elite examples include previous SEMA concept cars from California tuner Evolve. Then there are companies like Heico and iPD. But while it's been a struggle to track down enthusiasts with a passion for Volvos, we're happy to introduce Koen Lauwereys who is the mastermind behind this superb '02 S60.
Born and raised in the blossoming Belgian car scene, Koen's S60 isn't as extreme as some from that country but it possesses many of the right elements - pulled fenders, wide wheels, turbo upgrade and custom interior. And applying it to Swedish metal perhaps makes this project even more exceptional than your average VW or BMW.
For those unfamiliar with the Volvo S60 platform, it was introduced in 2000 and was one of the company's first vehicles that said goodbye to the boxy sedans of the '80s and '90s. The S60 was later facelifted but shared many similarities with the previous model.
In Koen's case, his FWD example came with a 2.4 liter inline-five. The motor was good for a polite 168hp while the styling was on the conservative side.
Belgium doesn't experience extremely long winters like the Scandanavians, but it's long enough for enthusiasts like Koen to take their cars off the road for a couple of months of dedicated garage time. "The S60 is a car you don't often see in the tuning scene," he told us. "So whatever you do, it's original."
After purchasing the car from its original owner, Koen spent the next three consecutive winters massaging his Belgian theories into the silver Volvo. "As a young guy I will admit that I imagined hotter cars," Koen conceded. But perceptions would change once he swapped the stock wheels.
"Wheels make the car, and I'm a wheel whore," he smiled. Koen originally wanted HRE wheels but they were too difficult and too expensive to ship across the Atlantic. So he searched for the perfect wheel with polished lips and multi-spokes. Like Cinderella finding her glass slipper, Koen eventually discovered 19x8.5" RH AN Crosslines - his perfect wheel.
After driving on the wheels for several months, he wanted it to look "less standard" so he widened the rims to 9" in the front and 10" for the rear. To accommodate the extra poke, Koen pulled the front fenders a subtle half-inch and the rears 1.4". Stretched around the rims were 215/35 front and 235/35 Pirelli Zero Nero tires.
"With my fear of heights, the next logical step was lowering," Koen laughed. He then installed KW's Variant 2 coilover setup but the rear wasn't adjustable and only allowed a 1.5" drop. So the fronts were set to match.
The owner then shifted his focus to the S60's exterior. He wasn't impressed with the aftermarket offerings in Europe so he contacted Evolve. The full body kit, based on the '03 SEMA show car, included front and rear bumpers plus side skirts (et 3/04).
After months of waiting, the kit arrived and Koen didn't wait to filling the holes left by the tow hooks. While he was at it, the windshield hood washers were shaved along with the keyholes in the door handles for an ultra-clean look. A new opening was cut in the rear bumper for his ultimate plan of a dual exhaust setup.
Once all the bodywork was complete, he took the car to a local bodyshop where it was repainted in its original silver. To eliminate the amber reflectors, he switched out his head- and tail lights for clear versions from a later '05 S60.
At this point, the S60 body had taken a new and improved form. It was aggressive yet classy, plus it had the right wheels and drop. However, the interior needed to look the part, "I already had leather but I didn't like the factory grey color," he told us. "It gave me a 'daddy takes the kids to school' feeling."
From boring dad to stud muffin, Koen upholstered almost every panel in a caramel tan hide with a mixture of soft leather and alcantara. The dash, carpet, headliner, seats and trunk; everything was covered.
The audio wasn't overlooked. Koen's transformation provided high quality sounds with a combination of Focal mids and tweeters in the cabin to generate crisp vocals, while bass came from a 15" sub in the trunk mounted into the spare wheel well. Professional-grade Steg amps powered the sounds and a Rockford Fosgate signal processor allowed the integration of the OE head unit. To minimize road noise and vibrations, the Volvo was insulated with Dynomat.
Koen had a showstopper but the performance was missing. "I do a lot of track days but on one of them, I blew up my engine. I wasn't happy, but it made me start working on the performance," he explained.
A motor swap was proposed. It wasn't going to be too wild, but he set his sights on a T5 2.3 liter five-cylinder turbo from the higher S60 models. With 247hp it had plenty of grunt and would swap easily, but the challenge was finding a donor motor. "T5s are rare around here, but the cops use them and sometimes crash one," he said. Fortunately, Koen was able to pinpoint an old police car, removed its motor and painted it body color.
With the swap complete, Koen continued down the high performance road and upgraded to a Garrett GT2871R turbo. A new 3" downpipe was added with a custom stainless exhaust. The owner then fabricated a custom dual exhaust with tailpipes sourced from a Ferrari 612. To transfer power to the front wheels, a stronger Spec stage 3 clutch was added. Finally, MTE software ensured the new components would deliver the most efficient power curve, which was measured at 360hp - not bad for an eight year-old Volvo!
More stopping power would balance the car, so Koen got his hands on big brakes from the sporty S60R. Made by Brembo, the front and rear utilized 12.6" rotors and four-piston calipers.
Surprisingly, this Volvo has the best of both worlds. On one hand, it has tons of Euro flair. On the other hand, it's a car built to perform and be driven. In fact, he's even taken it to the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife in Germany. So this Belgian Volvo has all the right moves and we hope it'll inspire current and future Volvo owners to push the limits of Swedish tuning.
2002 VOLVO S60
Owner: Koen Lauwereys
Location: Gent, Belgium
Occupation: transport co. owner
Engine: 2.3 liter five-cylinder with Garrett GT2871R turbo, Ferrita 3" downpipe, stainless steel exhaust with Ferrari 612 tailpipes, K&N cold-air intake, color-matched engine compartment, carbon and chrome covers,MTE software
Drivetrain: five-speed manual with Spec stage 3 clutch
Brakes: Brembo/Volvo S60R 12.6" front and rear rotors with four-piston calipers
Suspension: KW Variant 2 coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 19x9" front, 19x10" rear RH AN Crossline wheels with 215/35 R19 front, 235/35 R19 rear Pirelli Zero Nero tires
Exterior: Evolve front and rear bumpers, side skirts, shaved windshield washer nozzles, key holes and tow hook, pulled fenders, dual-exhaust cut-out, new mirrors, headlights and tail lights from facelifted S60
Interior: front and rear seats, door cards, headliner, rear deck, pillars, dash, steering wheel and center console reupholstered in tan leather and alcantara
Audio/Visual: Focal Utopia 4W2 mid-range, TN51 tweeters and 6W1 mid-bass in front doors, 6W mid-range in rear doors, 15" 38WX subwoofer in trunk, Steg QMOSII QM220*2, QM105*4, QM75*r and QM75*2 amplifiers, Rockford Fosgate 360.2 signal processor, trunk trimmed to match interior
Thanks: Concept 983, Kean Suspensions