Here's What Made The Volvo Redblock Engine So Special

Honda has its screaming F20C engine. Mitsubishi has the 4G63T. Meanwhile, Mopar fans have the Hemi, while BMW fanatics swear by the legendary S54 inline-six. But regarding Volvos, the Redblock series of engines are in the pantheon of automotive engineering greats. First appearing in the Volvo 200 Series in 1974, the Redblock has a red-painted engine block, hence the name. The most iconic iteration of the Redblock has 2.3 liters of displacement, a single overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder, and a substantial Mitsubishi TD05 or Garret turbocharger.

Volvo's "Turbobricks" enthusiast community praises the B230FT Redblock, arguably the most popular Volvo engine ever made. Furthermore, it is regarded by die-hard "turbobrickers" to be the most reliable and tunable turbocharged Volvo engine in history. The B230FT Redblock debuted in the Volvo 700 Series in 1982 with impressive credentials that would give any gearhead sweaty palms.

[Featured image by Terabass via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 4.0]

Volvo B230FT Redblock: Simple yet robust construction

The B230FT (and all iterations of the Volvo Redblock engine) would succeed the aging B20 powerplants from the late 1960s. It has a crossflow aluminum cylinder head, a cast iron block, and a belt-driven single overhead camshaft with sodium-filled valves. Meanwhile, it has shorter, forged dish pistons to deliver a lower compression ratio. At the same time, Volvo engineers also installed longer connecting rods, more miniature main bearings, and more counterweights on the forged crankshaft for smoother rotations.

Producing about 165 horsepower in various Volvo 200, 700, and 900 Series models, the B230FT was not about high-revving histrionics or mountains of torque from a standstill. Instead, Volvo engineers went the extra mile to design a compact turbo engine that's easy to fix and work on. As a result, the B230FT Redblock could handle more power with basic tuning mods and run like a clock without the usual hiccups, making it a favorite in the Volvo tuning community.

The finest iteration of the B230FT Redblock has to be the Penta. It has an updated valvetrain with 16 valves (four valves per cylinder) and a forged crankshaft. Although the Redblock gave way to the Volvo Modular engine family with four, five, or six cylinders by the early 90s, the former has retained its fabled status in the Nordic enthusiast scene for its simplicity and tuning potential.