Rare Rides: A Very Exclusive 1998 Volvo S90 Royal Herms

rare rides a very exclusive 1998 volvo s90 royal herms

Long before the S90 moniker was applied to a Chinese-produced front-drive car, it was (for a short while) the last chapter in a series of luxurious rear-drive Volvo sedans. What we have here is a last-of moment for Volvo, and a very rare one at that.

Presenting the S90 Royal Hermès.

Of course in the beginning it wasn’t called an S90 at all, rather 940 or 960. The 900 Series was the 1990 replacement for the 700 Series in production since 1982. We’ve featured a special 700 Series car here before – the Bertone-edited 780 coupe – but the vast majority of 700s sold were of the sedan or wagon variety.

There was some 700 and 900 production overlap, but after 1992 the 900 was on its own. 900 was not an all-new car for Volvo but rather a rework of the 700. Everything aft of the C-pillar on the sedan was new, but most other things carried over including options and indeed drivetrains. The first model introduced was the 940, which correlated to the prior 740 and shared its dashboard and sheet metal ahead of the A-pillar. For 1991 the 960 debuted as Volvo’s top-tier flagship. As the name suggested, it was a replacement for the prior 760. 960 had its own exterior appearance, an independent rear suspension, nicer interior, and a unique dashboard exclusive to that model.

Though the two 900 Series cars shared some engines, the new and exciting DOHC 2.9-liter inline-six was exclusive to the 960. With 24 valves the engine produced 204 horses. It was often colloquially called the “white block” because of its unpainted aluminum block. Other engines for the 960 were of inline-four, smaller inline-six, or V6 varieties. Transmissions were of four-speeds if automatic, or four- or five-speed if manual.

Unlike its 700 predecessor, the 900 was never offered as a luxurious coupe. Both 940 and 960 were built in four-door sedan and wagon guises. The North American market largely shunned the 940 in favor of the cheaper front-drive 850 or the high-lux 960. In 1995 Volvo dropped the 940 in North America and focused on the other two models. 940 continued elsewhere through 1998.

The 960 received a facelift for the ’95 model year, after incremental fiddling and improvements for ’92 to ’94. Only six-cylinder power remained from 1995 onward, paired to a brand new multi-link rear suspension. In 1996, markets outside the US relabeled the 960 sedan and wagon as S90 and V90 respectively, to coordinate with Volvo’s new naming scheme. That change didn’t occur until 1997 for North America, and by then the 960 was not long for the world. Production of the 960 was finished by February 1998, but not before a very special version had its day.

In markets outside the US, Volvo sold a super luxurious version 960 and S90 called the Executive. Six inches longer than the normal sedan, it had a redesigned C-pillar and much longer rear doors. It also featured a rear center console and lots of wood and additional electric niceties. Based on the Executive was the ultimate S90, the Royal Hermès.

Not the first time Volvo worked with the French handbag company, the Hermès took S90 luxury to the next level. Focused more seriously on rear passenger comfort, its Royal badging did not disclose the discrete rear fridge or the fact that the interior was trimmed in high-quality Hermès leather. It was a fitting end to Volvo’s last full-size, rear-drive car.

Today’s Royal Rare Ride is located in Japan and is listed at auction for a present bid of $27,000. With low miles, it looks almost like new in navy over ivory. And that’s good because interior trim replacements are surely non-existent.

[Images: Volvo]

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  • Jeff_M Jeff_M on Jun 18, 2021

    We wouldn't be having these speed camera issues if speed limits weren't so low to begin with. It's almost as though traffic planners use the "Great Aunt Mildred Algorithmn" when setting speed limits: What speed would be most comfortable for Great Aunt Mildred? Meanwhile, the rest of us are either bored to death or drive in fear of getting pinched. Who in their right mind can drive 25 mph ANYWHERE? How about 15 mph school zones where there's nary a child in sight? The list goes on, but I am some tired of it.

    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Jun 18, 2021

      "Who in their right mind can drive 25 mph ANYWHERE?" The speed limit on most of the streets in my city is either 20 or 25 mph. You get used to it pretty quick. The audience isn't the people in the cars, it's the people outside. Just remember this: Speed vs. Probability of Death in Pedestrian Collision ≤20: 10% 25: 30% 30: 50% 35: 70% 40: 90% 45: 99%

  • Tele Vision Tele Vision on Jun 18, 2021

    I just bought a 2001 Volvo C70. Ragtop. Turbo. Manual. Transverse engine. Five-cylinder. All I've done with it is wrench on it. I haven't even driven it yet. Idiocy abounds.

    • See 9 previous
    • Tele Vision Tele Vision on Jun 22, 2021

      @Corey Lewis I'd rather the coupe but the wife wants a 'fun car' to match my '07 CTS-V. I got it both road- and legal-worthy and am disappointed. It's like driving a waterbed with a Jello gearshift.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.