By on March 5, 2013

A Volvo 140 doesn’t always jump right out at you, thanks to its similarity to its still-with-us-in-huge-numbers descendant, the Volvo 240 (especially when viewed from the rear), so I probably overlook a few of these in junkyards. The 140 isn’t an uncommon sight in Denver, and I’ve found this ’68 142 and this ’69 145 just in the last year. I’ve always liked these cars (though I’ve only owned one example, and it was quite troublesome), so it makes me a little sad to see another one about to get crushed.
SU carbs just aren’t worth pulling these days, looks like.
The rust wasn’t so bad by Midwestern standards (i.e., the car still exists), but it probably rendered this car not worth restoring.
The “thermometer” speedo in the 140 was a nice piece of design.
Adjustable lumbar support way back in 1969!

“Nine out of every ten Volvos registered in the last 11 years are still on the road.”

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41 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1971 Volvo 142...”

  • avatar

    It’s got a bit of old Roller from the rear 3/4 view. I like it.

    What sort of person bought a Volvo back then though, college profs? Aged hippies?

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve always thought a 100 or 200 series Ovlov with a Rolls Royce grille would be a great social destabiliser but your comment makes me wonder if a Silver Shadow with a Volvo front clip wouldn’t be better.
      Maybe a 240 estate with a Rolls front clip is the best of both?

      • 0 avatar

        You should check out the Volvo 164 then:

        There have been a few conversions done where people move the front body work onto a 144 wagon. They honestly look pretty slick.

    • 0 avatar

      The exact same people who are driving a Prius today.

      • 0 avatar
        jim brewer

        Well, not quite. The Volvo purchaser would fit the same general demographic, but would be, as a group less political more suburban and have a family. I don’t know, but I suspect, a very high percentage of Volvo purchasers had owned VW bugs when younger. They had come to appreciate the durability and simplicity.

        They would basically be classified as Yuppies but a little older. Volvo in those days held a niche as the sensible luxury European import. (they were fairly expensive cars). We forget that in those days, it was highly unusual for a car to go over 100K. Volvo even made a big deal about it when they added a million mile odometer. The Volvo buyer in 1971 would be hoping to get off the new-car-every-three year treadmill. If he was a bit older, he would be interested in having a car that his teenage children might drive.

        • 0 avatar

          Volvos were fairly expensive, but they were definitely not apolitical purchases. Campus radicals drove Volvos for various reasons, and people with conservative values avoided them because of the association. I grew up in a college town that was chock full of Volvos in the ’70s, not a one of them driven by someone you’d allow to be alone with your collie.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    Quick someone call Brint A Trailer. It is a travesty to allow this Volvo to suffer any longer!!!! It’s a 2 door to boot!

  • avatar

    The 140 was always a sadly overlooked transitional model to the 240, even Volvo fanboys often accidentally overlook it. The platform and body structure transferred directly to the 200, so the fact that a 1960s era design was still meeting or exceeding current safety standards into the 1990s was pretty remarkable.

    One place where you can still see them out and about in the streets in some numbers is, strangely, Pyongyang. The Swedish government donated a fleet of them to North Korea in the ’70s and they’re still hard at work as taxi cabs.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know if I agree that it was sadly overlooked. I think the 140 was better than the 240 (I have had both). The 140 had a sturdier front end, the 240 had McPherson struts. 1975 with the 240 the indestructible B20 engine was replaced by the B21. I had a 1975 240 with B21, very weak and thirsty (B21 had an overhead cam, the B20 was like a half Chevvy SB, but even better).

      I bought one(I have had several) 1972 140 20 years ago and it had 200 000 miles on the ODO for 100 USD here in Sweden. I hade it for several years, great car. The engine was tuned (higher compression ratio) so one night I blew the head gasket. I drove for half of an hour to a gas station and of course they could sell me a B20 head gasket for approx. 10 USD. With the help of a spanner and a spider-type lug wrench I was on the road after 45 minutes. The car run fine, a modern car would have been dead.

      And those generic lights. They cost today 15 usd and fits also my 1977 HD Electra glide. A headlight assy to my 2005 Cadillac STS cost here in Sweden 3800 USD!! No wonder GM is not selling many cars in Europe, but if they fail they can get new tax money I guess.

      Regarding North Korea, the cars where sold to Pyongyang. But Volvo was never paid (the government had to pay Volvo for it) so Sweden has still this claim against N Korea (maybe for some truck and busses also?). I think it will never be paid.

      • 0 avatar

        Stroker – During the 8 year period that I drove a 145 wagon, I always longed for the earlier, less modern 122 Amazon.

        The Amazon had style and a certain je ne sais quoi -such as the way the dash panel curve into the doors. The 140 series was definitely a clean design – maybe too clean.

      • 0 avatar

        I recently acquired a clean 1993 240 and once I got a little used to its quirks, I am very impressed with it for what it is… a repairable 1960s design with a few amenities and above average build quality which I purchased for $2200. If you’re telling me the 140 is even better, despite those examples probably all being but gone in the US, I’m going to have to find one. It simply amazes me the Volvo Car Corp would spend forty or so years building excellent bricks and then devolve into its current expensive and lower quality offerings (FWD vs RWD not withstanding).

        There is a huge demand from regular people for durable “brick like” simple cars they can buy, own for a long period, and then pass them along to others so the cycle can continue. Building complex cars at a purposely limited lifespan only wastes valuable natural and labor resources.

  • avatar

    I worked on many of these. Much rather deal with the carbs than early EFI injection.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Bought a new 140S (Sport) manual 4-speed in ’71 in the popular mustard yellow color with brown cloth seats. No car I’ve owned since has had seats that even came close for comfort. It was a solid, roomy car, absolutely unbreakable mechanically. Silly things went south: the fan clutch, shifter fork, etc. The SU carbs were no trouble.

    Put 10 years and 115,000 trouble-free miles on before the tinworm started munching. In those days few cars made it to 100,000 miles without major work. It fetched good money when I finally sold it.

    Friend had the 142E version. Identical except for Bosch fuel injection and leather seats. He had nothing but trouble with the FI. Finally had it ripped out and carburetors substituted, Stromberg Carlsons I think.

    If Volvo still built cars like mine it wouldn’t be waist deep in the big muddy now.

    • 0 avatar

      I drive a 1987 240 and have to disagree. Its reliability is crap compared to my prior Nissan Stanza and 200sx both of which had over 100K miles while the 240 is under. Call them silly things, but they are things that break and need fixing at cost. Clogged breather box results in oil spewing through the rear vent hole. Replacing the flame trap is a pain and is not identified as a regular maintenance item. Rear lights circuit is a nightmare. Replacing front lights was a pain and required Dremmel tool and epoxy because the bolt heads rotated in plastic enclosures. The engine and tranny mounts don’t last long. The rubber driveshaft connector and its bearing. The clogged AC drain leaking into the carpets. And finally, drum roll please, the fan motor replacement!

      Nice car though, still enjoy driving it.

      • 0 avatar

        Later blower motors are easy- just remove the car from around it.
        I had the dashboard & such out of one; I asked the boss: “How about a raise”?
        He looked at me, looked at the car; I got the raise.

    • 0 avatar

      The 142E was more than just fuel injection and leather seats. It had bigger brakes and different springs. The B20E has about 10% more horsepower than the B20B, I think it had higher compression in addition to the FI – it was the same engine that was in the 1800ES sportwagon. I loved my 142E and it was actually pretty reliable.

      I owned three 140s, I think they were all two doors. Great car and in many ways the car that established the Volvo brand in most consumers’ minds.

  • avatar

    Back then these reminded me of Swedish Alfas. You did get those hubcaps, didn’t you?
    Looks like the interior is holding up better than either of my 740s, but both have another 80K also.
    Are the red levers for the heater or seat belts?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    My father bought the 4-door cousin of this car in 1970 . . . the 144S. A very comfortable and reliable car, that saw many years of service with my parents and was the first of, IIRC, 5 Volvos that they owned. My dad, who survives and is healthy at 85, still drives an XC70 around. My dad’s car did not have air conditioning and had the 4-speed. I worked for a guy who had one with both of these enhancements and the result was not so successful. That car felt slow.

  • avatar

    I traded in a Fiat 124 spyder for a Volvo 142 when we had our first child. It felt like a tank and did have great seats. It had the SU carbs. It had a very rudimentary cruise control in that if you drove on the highway with the throttle in the same position, the linkage would freeze it that position until you reached and pulled the gas pedal up. My son didn’t like as he would immediately throw up when placed in the car seat even before the car was started. After three years we traded it in to get something with four doors.

  • avatar

    In 1995 I bought a 1970 144S (dual S.U. carbys instead of the Bosh D-Jet F.I.) for a daily driver , from an Impound Auction for $175 ~ slow uphill , faster than I believed down hill , it was very trouble free and got 25 MPG .

    Back then So. Cal. was full of them .

    Terrific if stodgy .


  • avatar

    Nine out of every ten Volvos registered in the last 11 years are still on the road….

    …the rest of them made it home! Ha ha!

  • avatar

    Thomas was a young man with no resolve.

    He put on his flannel shirt and stepped out into the rain. Off to work again. It was the same routine every day. In fact, it seemed like it was cold and rainy every day. He shut the door of the Volvo with a solid bang, and nestled into the tweed seat. He twisted the key, gave two quick pumps to the gas pedal, and the B20 roared to life like an enthusiastic terrier. He switched the wipers to the squeak setting, and pulled away from his well-oiled parking spot. As he turned off the main boulevard, the tail of the Volvo began to come around. He quickly made the necessary steering correction, and the car oscillated for a moment before resuming a straight trajectory. “These tires are worthless”, he thought.

    He dwelled on his recent purchase of spending a weeks pay on the cheapest tires he could find. At the time, he considered just ditching the 142 and swapping to the other vehicle in the family motor pool, the Spectrum with a clicking CV joint and old tags. The Volvo felt solid enough, so he stuck with it. Now the misfire had re-appeared as well. It was going to need yet another timing adjustment.

    The radio belted out some profound lyrics, though Thomas failed to realize it.

    Down in a hole, feelin’ so small
    Down in a hole, losin’ control
    I’d like to fly,
    But my wings have been so denied

    He arrived at the Shell station, and grabbed his button uniform shirt from the back seat. He quickly checked his shirt for malodor, then put it on. His shift behind the counter was long, and uneventful as usual. He prosecuted the task of dispensing lotto tickets with robot-like precision. Jerry came to relieve him, and the same customary gaff followed.
    “Get robbed today?”
    “Sounds like you had a good day.”

    He closed his till, and went to the Volvo. It was time for his routine Volvo 142 daily maintenance. Tom opened the door, and popped the hood. He went to the trunk and grabbed a fresh quart of Rotella T from the case. He cracked open the bottle, unscrewed the oil cap and quickly jammed it in the valve cover upside down. While the oiling procedure was underway, he retrieved the necessary tools to calibrate the timing once again. He removed the empty quart, tossing it in the bin, and secured the oil cap. No need to check the oil level, it didn’t matter. He sat there while the engine warmed and burned off a fresh coat of sludge. “What is this life?”, he exclaimed while looking at his pathetic paycheck. The wipers squeaked. Raindrops fell in the beam of the headlights. Alice In Chains once again narrated his story through one crackling speaker.

    I’m the man in the box
    Buried in my shit

    He misfired his way home, and parked the 142 off in the grass so it didn’t block his sister’s Cavalier in.

    Upon entering the house, his sister Carol informed him, “Steve called”. He hadn’t heard from Steve in awhile. Thomas picked up the tethered receiver, and dialed the number. Instead of the customary greeting, Steve answered the phone with a plan.
    “DUDE. We’re all going to the Gorge. Everyone’s going. We leave in the morning.”
    Thomas looked at his paycheck, still in his hand.
    “OK, can you pick me up?”

    The next morning, a bubble Caprice pulled up at the house with 3 rowdy twenty-somethings. Thomas tossed his backpack in the trunk.
    “Hold on a second.”
    He ran to the Volvo and ejected the Alice And Chains CD. Then he went back inside and left the keys on the kitchen table. Somebody might need to move it while he was gone.

    He hopped into the back of the Caprice and started off on what would be a fantastic adventure, a paradigm shift, and ultimately a fresh new start.

    He never saw the brick again.

    • 0 avatar

      A CD??
      I have had also Caprices, like a 140 but bigger (and BOF). Love Caprices!

    • 0 avatar

      Well-oiled parking space, I’ve had a few cars like that.

    • 0 avatar

      If the sideswiped old p’up door shut with more authority, and the engine was a 22R, that first paragraph describes my mornings fairly often right down to the non-grip tires.
      Is this Red River?
      I don’t know if something happened at the gorge, or with the Volvo while he was gone.

    • 0 avatar

      Your mini stories are ! I love ’em .

      Only one tiny quibble : any engine equipped with SU carbys , you can pump the gas pedal all you like and it doesn’t do anything , they have an enrichment device instead , it works better than any accelerator pump ever made .

      My ’70 144S prolly hadn’t ever had the oil changed by the DPO judging by the waxy paraffin sludge I drained out of it .

      It burned a quart every 150 miles but never dripped a drop ~ every bit went past the collapsed rings and wobbly pistons . it never missed beat cold or hot , not once .

      You need to write a book or magazine column .


      • 0 avatar

        That is an interesting factoid and a major oversight on my part. However, I’ll offer this excuse. I manage a fleet of accelerator pump-less equipment and operators that have used them for over a decade STILL pump the gas pedal in the morning.

        • 0 avatar

          NO ‘ excuse ‘ necessary ! .

          As I said , your stories are fantastic .

          FWIW , when I set the enrichment on S.U. carbys , I always depress the throttle before pulling the knob to relieve stress and wear on the cable and linkages because I’ve seen so many worn out over the years .

          I wish I could write like you as I have 50 + years of hands on stories about The Auto Trade , please continue ! .


          • 0 avatar

            The enrichment (cold start device) on SU carbs did indeed work better than any accelerator pump… but years of wear on the throttle shaft bushings made for air leaks that the cold start device couldn’t overcome if it got cold enough overnight.

            This left the owner a couple of choices: fix the problem properly (new bushings) or keep a can of ether/quick-start handy. Or, WD-40 makes a reasonable substitute for ether.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    First European car I ever drove was an early 90’s Volvo 2 series, after driving American iron and a couple of Japanese econoboxes all my life, what an eye opener this was, finally I knew what they meant by driving dynamics.

  • avatar

    Bought an ancient black 4-door one in 1980 or thereabouts with 100k miles for next to no money. Fantastic car. Immediately felt well in it. Felt even better when I tarted it up with a more elegant 164 steering wheel. Regretfully, I tested the car in an accident. Yes, a very safe car. I had to take a taxi home, however.

  • avatar

    I had a 1970 145 wagon during the late 70’s to mid 80’s. It was fairly reliable for a European car.

    It drove like a Swedish Buick. The folks in Gothenburg were definitely into heavy metal. The drive train weighed at least a half ton. The B-20 four pot was cast iron. The four speed transmission was pig to pull, if you were lucky enough to have a Laycock de Normanville overdrive unit attached to the rear. The rear axle unit on the wagon wasn’t the lightest either.

    For the modernista, the 140 series lacked power steering and the heavy build could overwork those skinny 165R/15 tires coming down a curvy mountain road. You definitely kept both hands on the wheel.

    Looking at the B20 in the engine bay of that 142 pictured above, brings back memories of tuning dual set of SU HS4’s, the eventual engine rebuild and retrofitting the improved rear crank seal from a 73 140 series. Prior to 1973 Volvo used a felt rear oil seal on the crank.

  • avatar

    Perhaps –

  • avatar

    Perhaps –

    Someone in mid-managment at Ikea will pick up this one. Would not want to be seen driving something more expensive than the boss, would we???

  • avatar
    George Herbert

    My parents had a 145 from 1972 until the mid 1990s, 350,000 miles or so. Got it because with my younger brother being born they needed more space than the 356 had, and because it was safe (shoulder belts, crumple zone, rollover protection, etc all up to much much more modern standards…).

    But boring at launch, and Dad (who raced in his youngest days) ended up Q-shipping the damn thing. It was still a B20 motor, but not as god or Sweden had intended. Every bit of IPD rally racing part that could fit in the vehicle landed in it. At one point I was chasing stock 944s around the West Marin twisties in it, while I was learning to drive.

    Apparently 350k miles, 300k of which were in rally racing trim, reached the frame’s structural stiffness lifetime limits…

  • avatar

    The Saint didn’t drive no 142E. Who drove 142 in the 70’s? Tweed with beagles usually the sedan. Mariner knew wagon with roofer & hitch. The horsy crowd trotted in 164 with hitch.

  • avatar

    I have never looked very closely at the design of these 140s, but I really like the way the fenders wrap into the headlights and grille. It’s giving me some ideas for a killer resto-mod.

  • avatar

    That Galaxie in the first or second commercial is eerily reminiscent of the Lumber Jetta.

  • avatar

    My first car! I have many found memories of my red 142. filing points was about the only problem. The best part about the thermometer speedometer was the little red slider that you could set at a speed and a mechanical “ding” would go off when you exceeded that speed. It is the most honest car I’ve every owned.

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