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Volvo C303: The Original Volvo Cross Country

By Jan Nystrom, Editor of Rolling Magazine, Volvo Club of America's print publication
Reprinted with permission from the Volvo Club of America

The Volvo Cross Country name does not come from the Volvo XC70 Cross Country or the XC90 SUV. It comes from the C300 series of all-terrain vehicles introduced by Volvo Trucks in the 70s as a successor to the C202 Laplander (in Sweden called Valpen, which means ‘the puppy’).

Keep in mind that when the V70 Cross Country wagon was introduced in 1997, Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks were both part of Volvo AB. It was in 1999 that Ford Motor Company bought Volvo Cars.

In the late 60s, the Swedish Army started looking for a new allterrain vehicle. The Swedish terrain is tremendously varied and the military demands were high. There was a call for an amphibious version, and increased load and seating capacity. The design job was given to Nils Magnus “Måns” Hartelius, who had created the Laplander.

Work began in 1967. Initially there was a two-, a three-, and a four-axle version, however, the four-axle 8x8 was dropped after only a single prototype was built. Unfortunately the prototype was dismantled.

The two-axle C303 version was broader than the Laplander, which had a tendency to tip over. The prototype was equipped with the B20 engine, whereas the three-axle C306 had the B30 straight-six, 3-liter engine from the 164. When production began in 1974, the C303 was equipped with the B30 as well.

Paris-Dakar Desert Rally
In 1983 two teams from Volvo Trucks entered the Paris-Dakar desert rally. Hasse Henriksson, Sture Bernhardsson, and John Granäng managed to win the light trucks class (up to 10 tons total weight). They placed second of all trucks and 20th overall. Winner of all classes was the veteran racer Jacky Ickx and his navigator Brasseur in a Mercedes G-wagen.

The Volvo entries were two C303 in almost stock configuration. Notice the external roll bar in the picture. They were also equipped with additional 80 gallon gas tanks, communication radios, and cylinder heads adopted for the low-octane gas found in Africa. Navigational equipment such as clocks and trip meters were added to the instrumentation.

The winning C303 is on display in the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg. Hasse Henriksson was back in 1986, in a Swedish-Greek team together with Athanare Papadimitriou and Börje Rosvall, again driving a stock C303. This time they placed fifth amongst all trucks and second in the light trucks class.

Volvo C303

Photo courtesy of the Volvo Historical Archive.

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Additional C303 Photography
C306 Firetruck
This 1979 C306 firetruck, with PTO powered hydraulics and water pump, electric winch mountable front and back, is owned by Jeff Lenzner, Clatskanie, Oregon. It was previously an airport fire service truck in Arvidsjaur in northern Sweden. Features crew cab seating for five, engageable front and rear differential locks and six-wheel drive. Top speed is 60 mph. Jeff imports firetrucks and military vehicles from Europe. The C306 is currently for sale on eBay. It has 16,000 miles on the odometer. Photo courtesy of Jeff Lenzner.

Nick Fleetwood on expedition with his Volvo C-306. Here he is negotiating the easy part of the Garburn Pass, near Lake Windermere in the Lake District National Park, England. Photo courtesy of Nick Fleetwood.

Volvo 8×8 that never was. The four-axle version was dropped after only a single prototype was built. The prototype was dismantled.

The following are reproduced from an original Volvo Trucks sales brochure. Courtesy of Jeff Lenzner, BAT-Trade USA LLC. Jeff imports firetrucks and military vehicles from Europe. Visit for more information.
C303 Layout
Cross Country C303
C303 Off Road
Drivetrain Charts
C303 Uphill
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