in Overlanding / by Nick Jaynes
For this month’s Rig of the Month, we check in with Jesse Dehart. We caught a glimpse of his Roofnest-topped rig on Instagram and were able to track him down. Luckily, Jesse was willing to let us feature his rig. And what a rig it is.
Unlike some of the hardcore off-road 4x4s we’ve featured before, Jesse’s is a bit different. It’s a 2006 Volvo XC70 — Volvo’s premium high-riding, all-wheel drive wagon. Don’t worry, it’s not stock. As you can see from the pictures, Jesse has made some keen modifications to make this Swedish sled off-road ready. But before we get to that, let’s learn a bit more about Jesse.
He’s originally from Mercersburg, Pennsylvania with a population of 1,510. Now, though, he lives in St Thomas, Pennsylvania, where he’s lived for the last nine years. During the week, Jesse works as a forklift operator in a warehouse. He loves his work because it provides him opportunities to indulge in his hobbies on the weekends — namely, overland travel, which he does in his Volvo.
Jesse also works on cars (if the XC70 didn’t make that clear). He also hikes, fishes, and kayaks. Sometimes on his camping trips, he’ll even bust out his metal detector in the slim hopes he finds some buried treasure.
Jesse’s rig, as we established earlier, is a 2006 Volvo XC70. It’s powered by Volvo’s venerable turbocharged 2.5-liter inline 5-cylinder engine, which was in production in one form or another from 1993 to 2016. He bought the XC70 with 143,000 miles on the odometer. It currently has 189,645 miles.
The XC70 was originally purchased by Jesse as a daily driver — he has a lifted Jeep Wrangler for his off-road adventures. After experiencing the impressive traction capabilities of the Volvo’s Haldex all-wheel drive system, Jesse started exploring what he could do to the XC70 to enhance its capabilities.
After connecting with Alex from Battlewagon Gang on Instagram, Jesse was inspired to build his wagon into an overland XC70.
In the three years Jesse has owned it, he’s turned it from grocery-getter to trail tamer. He started with a 2-inch spacer lift, 1-inch subframe spacers and 1-inch strut spacers from Crosscountry Performance. He paired this spacer set with 2.0-inch Bad Swede springs.
With this lift combo, Jesse reports, you have to deal with the severe CV-axle angles that the stock axles can handle. In order to fix this issue, Jesse was able to use the axles from a XC90 AWD with the 2.5-liter 5-cylinder. The axles from the XC90 are designed differently. That means they can handle the new angles from the lift.
With a bit of lift, this allowed Jesse to run oversize tires — 255/70R16 BF Goodrich T/A KO2s to be exact. The problem with the bigger tires, though, was that the spare wouldn’t fit in the vehicle any longer. Jesse had to step up to a Wilco Offroad high-clearance solo tire carrier, which mounts to the tow hitch receiver behind the back hatch.
Up top, Jesse bolted up a Roofnest Falcon. He originally had a Smittybilt soft-shell tent on the XC70, but he didn’t like how complicated it was to use. After studying his buddy’s Roofnest Sparrow and its build quality and ease of use, Jesse knew he had to step up to a Roofnest. The next decision he struggled with was which Roofnest to get.
He ultimately chose a Falcon for how slim and functional it is. He hasn’t made any modifications to the Falcon yet. But that will change soon. Right now, he runs an ax off of the side accessory channel. However, in the future, Jesse aims to run LED lights inside. He also plans to buy the optional crossbars. On top of those, he’ll install solar panels to keep his portable power station charged. Eventually, he’ll add an awning to the side of the Falcon, too.
“I am more than happy with it, definitely money well spent,” Jesse said.
“The hard part about building a Volvo for an overland rig is that there is not much out there for aftermarket support,” Jesse said. “So, there is a lot of custom work to be done. But a lot of people are starting to see how utilitarian a Volvo is and how good the reliability and towing capability is. I have reached out to a couple companies to pique some interest in the Volvo overland builds. Hopefully more aftermarket support will become available soon.”
In the last handful of years, Jesse has driven the XC70 all over the place, form Watkins Glen in New York to Flagpole Knob in Virginia. His plan, though, is to head to Alstrom Point in Utah next year.
Over the 46,000 miles Jesse has driven and overlanded the Volvo, there have been little to no issues with the rig — only replacing a coil pack and a hub assembly. He reckons this underscores Volvo’s reliability.
If you want to follow Jesse’s adventures, you can find him on Instagram at @xc70overland.
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