By on February 22, 2016

1971 Volvo 144 Sedan front 3/4 in California junkyard, © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

The Volvo 140 was the first of the beloved brick-shaped Swedes. It was built for the 1967 through 1975 model years, and it served as the basis for the legendary 240. I owned one, briefly, and found it was a very competent machine for its era. These cars are not worth big money today, unless they’re in excellent cosmetic shape, so the ones that stay on the street tend to do so because their owners can keep them running for cheap.

1971 Volvo 144 Sedan badge in California junkyard, © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

In fact, these cars are not uncommon in self-service wrecking yards, even though it has been 42 years since the last one was built. In this series prior to today, we have seen this ’68 142, this ’69 145, this ’71 144, this ’71 142, this ’72 145 wagon (plus this 140-based Volvo 164).

1971 Volvo 144 Sedan engine in California junkyard, © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

I spotted this one about a week ago in a Northern California wrecking yard surrounded by billboards advertising Bay Area rapper E-40’s new malt liquor. The demand for Volvo 140 parts isn’t so high, so not many parts had been picked from this ’71.

"Epic Beard Man" SF Weekly cover found in 1971 Volvo 144 Sedan in California junkyard, © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

It had the look of a car that had been sitting for a few years before being towed off to this sorry final parking space. Inside, I found part of the cover of the May 2010 issue of SF Weekly, the one with the story of Epic Beard Man.


Is your wild animal-named car really a house-eating dog? Get a Volvo 140!

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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55 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1971 Volvo 144...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Jeze ~ I had one of these , a 1970 with nearly the same shade of blue paint , I bought it from the impound lot after the Hispanic lady owner got arrested for DUI .

    It ran O.K. , much better after a full tune up but the engine was shot and burned a lot of oil and had little power going up hills .

    It handled very well indeed and was anvil reliable .

    It was _SO_ dull , though , I simply couldn’t stand it and sold it cheaply ($600) just to be rid of it after a year .

    Good cars to be sure .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Joss

    Sure the 164 was no Mercedes but it had the best power to weight ratio in this series. Though it wasn’t available with the wagon body. By the early 70’s it gained fuel injection and a very decent 175 hp. The manual had an electric overdrive. You got a slight jolt when it engaged. But very, very relaxed highway cruising. I loved the chromed parking & turn signal bezels atop the 164’s front bumper. Then in 75 they ruined it all with the much touted PRV 6.

    Yeppa the rarer 164 the better pick in this series.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      With emissions controls, which were already required in the US, the 164E didn’t make much power. IIRC, the 164 peaked at 145 hp in 1971 with carburetors and PCV, and it was all downhill from there. They didn’t enjoy the 4 cylinder Volvos’ reputation for durability in the US. Camshafts and timing gears wore out early everywhere, but US cars also had issues relating to underhood heat from emissions controls in later years and lubrication issues from people using the wrong oil filters.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      The 164 did have a few wagons made, like 2 or 3 at the most.

  • avatar
    mcs

    There’s a beautifully restored 140 wagon in yellow running around Topsfield MA. I think it’s owned by a local dentist.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I love the little numerical + crown badges they used to use. What was the last Volvo to wear one?

    • 0 avatar
      Jesse

      The 140 series was the last to have that particular badge. The early 240s also had a fender badge that stated the model number, but it was a little different.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      http://www.partsmonster.co.uk/ekmps/shops/stephenlawes/images/genuine-volvo-s80-xc90-executive-emblem-badge-8157-p.jpg

      They brought it back in the later years of the XC90, although I haven’t paid enough attention to see if it carried over to the 2nd gen.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Yaay! I have seen these badges before, I have never been able to determine in what situations they were used. I think it was only on higher trim XC90s. You can go on ebay and look – and for the same model year, only a couple will have the badge on the pillar.

        It is not on the gen 2.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Its final resting place is next to a great, great granddaughter – Beth the XC70. She’s not as hearty as her older kin. Prone to emotional transmission failures and early deaths.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      I’d bet that that there background wagon is just a standard V70. It lacks the lower black beltline trim and upper bumper trim as well as the standard roof rack rails.

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/1st_Volvo_XC70_–_03-21-2012.JPG

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Good point! I was thinking the V70 had a different headlamp assembly at the time to the XC – but of course they were actually identical. I also pondered there were some monotone painted XC models, which is wrong too.

        • 0 avatar
          CoastieLenn

          Putting the XC grille on a standard V70 is a common upgrade though. The XC grille is much nicer. The only car in that line that different headlights (albeit later on) was the C70. They had clear lenses and rounded reflectors starting (iirc) in the 2003 MY. Again, a popular retrofit into the S/V70/XC70’s.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Egads. An ex-gf had an XC70 that looked like this. It was condemned by the Volvo dealer in 2006 of terminal underbody and mechanical rust. It was making a noise that had me fearing the common angle gear failure, but it turned out to be all the axles, driveshafts, and various steering, bearing and suspension pieces.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Modern Volvos are simply not robust. They have failures like that across the board, and are not up to par on trim and materials for cost outlay.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          But at least Volvo’s CPO program is highly rated. :-P

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m sure they’re great for those 9 months after going through CPO and getting little things like the transmission solenoids replaced, and buttons renewed which lost their finish.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          The minute Volvo went FWD was the minute things went downhill, awful glued on interiors, rims that broke like crazy, wonky transmissions, failing door stops (of all things).

          I’m disappointed to hear about that XC70s rust, I thought that was one of the few things Volvo did right at that point.

          • 0 avatar
            Jesse

            It would be pretty unusual for any FWD Volvo to rust (except for the first gen s40s).

            They do rust sometimes, but it’s usually because of accident damage.

            My ’01 v70 had 210k miles and it’s a New England car. Absolutely no rust.

          • 0 avatar
            CoastieLenn

            About the door check straps… These failures were isolated to the 850/S70 variants and were among the most common failures of any single component (apart from 850/S70 ABS modules and 99-01 ETM’s) I’ve ever encountered. Most of the time- if dealt with, the check strap replacement was a bolt off-bolt on affair to the tune of about $75 or so. If the owner neglected it and it lead to broken body structure mounts or inner door mount, the cost rose a decent bit (about $300 for repair and welding and painting in 2005-2006 dollars) but it was a completely avoidable cost at that point. Sadly, as those cars became second and third hand owned, the funds to properly maintain them lead to significantly costly repairs that made the car a rolling pile of poo.

            Just as any “premium” car requires, Volvo’s- while not exactly MB caliber, maintenance and upkeep needs to be tended to.

            Oh, and that “environmentally friendly” glue on 850/x70 door panels and headliners was a joke. Agreed.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            More often I see XC70s with clear coat issues. doesn’t seem like they rust, at least here in Ohio.

            But maybe it takes a while after the clear coat is gone, and they end up junked before that with transmission issues.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            My ex’s Volvo XC70 had no visible rust. It looked pristine on its way to the junk yard. All the damage was to things under the car.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        At that point, it wouldn’t surpise me if they were cheapening out their undercoating.

        Funny thing with the 850 is its drive train was originally tested in a Citation, kinda makes you wonder sometimes.

        If the 140 was a Valiant, the 240 was a Volare done right, tbe 740 a rwd Diplomat, the 850 an Audi.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    My ’70 was the only red car I ever did or will own. The deeper shade of it on the handsomely sober body shape offended me not at all.

    Dearly loved the elegant starkness of the Scandi Modern interior aesthetic… especially dat old two-spoke steering wheel with the 360⁰ skinny chrome horn ring!

    These cars felt like they were expressly designed for large, strong men who smoked pipes.

  • avatar

    I had the use of one of these for the summer of ’73, and drove it from Boston to Stanford at the end of the summer, the last cross country drive I ever made (I took the train in ’74 and rode my bicycle in ’75). It was a very nice car.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    It’s a ’71, someone, quick, save the high compression B20E (or at least the cylinder head!)

    Interestingly, though, being a ’71 it ought to have electronic fuel injection. This one appears to have been carbureted at some point. I wonder if an entire earlier engine was swapped in, or if the P/O simply lost interest in fiddling with 40 year old Swedish-German electronics.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, the B20E is the engine to go with for a brick. I had a 142E, Volvo’s idea of a performance sedan before they went with turbos. Bigger brakes, stiffer suspension, nice leather seats and about 10% more power. Great car. I owned three 140 series cars. If I wanted another Swedish brick, though, I’d go with the more modern 700 or 900 series turbos.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The 900 series looked legit and upscale, I’d have one of those.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I had a late 700 myself, good cars and the turbo isnt really a huge setback (slightly less mpg, one sparkplugs trickier to work with), just be on the look out for:

          1. Faulty AC, whatever system the 7-9 series had wasnt as sturdy as the 200 apparently. Leaky HVAC hoses.

          2. Sagging headliners, puffed out door trim inserts, faulty guages (thankfully most 900s didnt use VDO stuff, dont have to stock up on odometer gears).

          3. -60 series, these used a slightly different interior thats a pain to work on. Look for one of these in the junkyard and take the nice bits.

      • 0 avatar
        CoastieLenn

        I briefly owned a 1985 764T. I purchased it in 2007 from its original owner (a customer of the dealer I worked at) with a HUGE stack of maintenance records from my dealer. Car had 337k miles on it when I bought it and apart from a rebuilt rear end, was completely original. It needed a little suspension work (RF shock was seized) and the fuel computer was toast ($50 from our local salvage yard) and it was back on the road. Heated seats, Auto climate controls… it was the bees knees. Sold it in 2008 with 351k miles and AFAIK its still lurking the streets of downtown Richmond, VA.

  • avatar
    April S

    No photos of the interior?

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Here’s the dash I so loved in mine:

      http://www.henkplatvoet.nl/images/dashboard.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        So the only vents were the defrost ones?

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          IIRC, there were under dash blacked-out ones at knee level.

          Dash, steering wheel and console design hugely changed during the production run.
          Here’s a ’73 and they changed further, too:

          http://new.volvocars.com/ownersdocs/1973/1973%20142%20144%20145/images/pg4.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Growing up I had a neighbor with a early 70’s 142 in blue. When you are young you thought they were nerdy cars considering the stylish vehicles that were around then. Then you get older and you realize the goodness and sheer simplicity of the brick. Click and Clack would tell callers who wanted to know what car to buy their kids. They would say ‘Just buy an Volvo 240″

        I never understood why the radio on these as well as the Amazon and P1800 was way over on the passenger side so the driver was unable to tune it while driving. Odd considering Volvo was way ahead of other manufacturers when it came to safety and ergonomics.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          Sweden didn’t have any radio stations until nineteen-hundred and eighty-one.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            It may have been way over there for some weird safety philosophy reason. This is the same company that claimed the air vent under the rear window improved driver alertness because it helped fresh air flow through the car. It was a good claim and factually correct, but who the heck comes up with stuff like that??

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Four photos? What, are they cutting Murilee’s budget? Jeez…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I just don’t get the cult-like appeal of these cars. It must be a Jeep thing.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “It must be a Jeep thing.”

      Very close! It’s a chick thing:

      >>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAgmQzC7rV0

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Brilliant ad like many Volvo ads of the era. I always liked the ad where old mostly American and Japanese cars are crushed in the wrecking yard as Volvos chug along to the David Ruffin song “What becomes of the broken hearted”

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I get the appeal, but rarely do I get the fans. Try selling one and they expect nothing short of perfection, and a Kelly Bluebook price.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      You should have worked on one back in the day. Except for the heater fan, everything on them was ridiculously easy to work on. The seats were the best of anything on the market- I always looked down on other brands that would offer leather seats with uncomfortable ergonomics (really basic mistakes like too little thigh support). You can cover up a crappy uncomfortable seat with leather but it’ll only ever be a crappy uncomfortable seat covered with leather. Other brand seats were kinda like a trailer park queen putting on expensive clothes and makeup (no thanks, she still has missing teeth and dropped out of school). Well, I guess that is a strange analogy…

      Um, back on track, the brakes in these cars had better stopping power than anything on the market except for some really high end cars and they were four wheel discs- in 1967!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Yes it is like a Jeep thing. Volvo RWDs, like Jeeps, are beloved for being ridiculous in a good way for what they are… these things were reliable, effective, relatively cheap, and overengineered for their time. The 200 series in the 80s was designed to have a lifespan of about 19.3 years, this in an era when a ten year/100K lifespan was “good”. The drivetrain while slow, thirsty, and crude, is capable of a million mile lifespan. The auto transmission (an Aisin Warner unit) is quite stout (for an auto) and does not typically fail. The seats and interior are designed for longevity and relative comfort for the time. The cars are easily serviced by the DIY and can be made to keep going for decades to come. If these had been offered in 4×4 I think they’d be considered the Lada Niva of the West.


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