Evolve Volvo S60 R
By MARK VAUGHN/AUTOWEEK
EVOLVE VOLVO S60 R
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $46,725 (est.)
POWERTRAIN: 2.5-liter, 370-hp, 365-lb-ft turbocharged I5; awd, six-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT: 3571 pounds
0 to 60 MPH: 5.0 seconds (mfr.)
>> EVOLVE (VOLVO SPELLED INSIDE OUT, sort of) is a Volvo tuner. Yes, there is such a thing.
Evolve was started by a guy of good hot-rodding lineage named Don Nicholson. He is the great-nephew of the legendary “Dyno Don” Nicholson of pioneering Funny Car and Pro Stock fame, No. 18 on NHRA’s list of the 50 greatest drag racers of all time. Don the younger saw the Dyno do many a run at Pomona back in the day and still has a touch of ringing in his ears from the roar of the engines.
As young Don grew, he also took an interest in shifter karts and autocrossing. “I found braking and turning could be enjoyable, too,” he says.
He graduated from college and went to work for Meguiar’s, the 100-year-old car wax company run by collector-car uber-rodder Barry Meguiar. Sounds good so far.
But three years ago Nicholson and his wife had a baby boy and, as so many had before them, they bought a nice, safe, square 1990 Volvo 740 turbo wagon. That’s when he saw a need for Volvo performance parts.
Coming up on his 10th year at Meguiar’s, Nicholson’s friend Mike Spagnola of Street Scene Equipment heard Volvo wanted to do some cars for SEMA 2003. Spagnola told Nicholson and Nicholson put together a fancy proposal and sent it off. Two months before SEMA, Volvo gave him two S60 Rs and told him to get to work.
Nicholson got to work, and produced the Evolve S60 R you see here, which premiered in November at the SEMA show.
Underhood is a new cold air intake, exhaust and ECU tuning, boosting output from the stock 300 hp at the flywheel to what Nicholson says is 370 hp.
While Nicholson was the idea man for everything on the car, the nuts and bolts of the underhood stuff was designed and executed by, of all people, Nicholson’s pastor, Mano Agulian, giving a whole new meaning to “The Power of the Lord.” Agulian, a custom-car builder before he entered the pulpit, fitted the 15-inch brakes, routed the turbo plumbing, installed the unique strut tower brace and selected and installed the exhaust tuning.
“I know what I want,” said Nicholson. “But as far as building the brackets and bending the piping, there are people who are a lot better at it than I am.”
We took a spin in the SEMA car and found that driving a safe family car has never been so much fun. Accelerating up an on-ramp, the car made all the right burbling, brapping intake and exhaust noises a Euro-tuner car should make. It sure felt like more power.
The Koni adjustable springs bounced around a bit, and the tires scraped the wheel arches a few times, so that stuff needs addressing. But cornering was fun. And the look was nicely smoothed without being so loud that police would pull you over. What better stealth screamer than a Volvo, after all?
That’s the story of Nicholson’s first car. But the bigger news is that these parts could work their way into some Volvo dealers in the near future. The questions still to be worked out are when, what, and for how much.
Nicholson is thinking big, though. He has proposals on his office wall for a very nice-looking Evolve S40 that would make perfect sense for attracting younger buyers and can be adapted to the European Ford Focus platform it sits on. That car will be at SEMA this November. There were also drawings for a V8-powered XC90 lowered with an airbag suspension so that it can transform from street cruiser to off-roader with a change in psi.
Let’s hope Volvo corporate likes it. It’s about time we had a car we thought was as much fun to drive as our spouses thought was safe. You can check out Evolve parts at evolvecars.com.