In 1993, Volvo joined forces with Tom Walkinshaw Racing, the team that had been their main competitor in the European Championship series during the 1980s when the 240 Turbo was competing against the Rover SD1. The contract was signed for three years and the decision was made early on to use wagons, but nobody outside the garage knew about that until the very last second, including their drivers Rickard Rydell and Jan Lammers. Rydell had this to say about the experience:
When I signed up for Volvo and TWR around Christmas 1993, I didn't know about the estate plans. If I'd known, I would probably have hesitated, so it was lucky I didn't know! We hadn't had time to test the car on the track before its launch at Thruxton on 4 April. Jan Lammers and I had been able to drive a few hundred meters at the entrance to TWR's development workshop, but that was all!
The Volvo 850 estate was by far the largest car in the series. Our competitors, who were taking part largely to strengthen their sporting image, were not pleased about having to compete with an estate. There were a few taunts from other drivers – but that was no problem. To wind them up, in one heat we drove with a large stuffed collie in the boot during the parade lap!
The racing 850s used a five-cylinder naturally aspirated 2-liter engine producing around 290 hp that went through a six-speed sequential transmission instead of the standard 2.3 turbo's five-speed manual. They also had catalytic converter which only become mandatory later on.
Still, the one everybody remembers is the 1994 car...