By on November 1, 2014

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Volvo might have been one of the beneficiaries of the headlong rush towards European non-luxury in the Seventies but it, like Porsche, was permanently crippled by the American public’s confusion of “unhurried model cycle” with “should only make one specific car, forever”. For the boys from Stuttgart, it was the Yankee preference for the 911 that warped the next thirty years of their product plan into 911-looking things that were not at all like the 911, even if they said “911” on the rump.

Volvo made a different choice when they decided that the twenty-seven years between the 1966 debut of the 144 and the final 1993-model-year 240 were enough and that it was proper to make a clean break between those boxy RWD sedans and the boxy FWD sedans that followed. In so doing, they both doomed the company to permanent irrelevance and inadvertently created a cult.

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Whenever the aliens finally come, they will no doubt conclude that Volvo stopped making automobiles in 1993 and didn’t start again until about five years before whatever the invasion date turns out to be. The successor 700- and 900-series cars often fell prey to the first generation of Europeansdon’tunderstandelectronicsitis. The 850 and its successors raise absolutely zero interest from anyone unless they have a “T5” or “R” on the decklid. The S80 is a lovely automobile but it doesn’t have any enthusiast following whatseover. The SUVs, of course, are as disposable as any other SUV without a practical tow rating.

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For that reason, most of the Volvos you see on the streets nowadays fall into two categories:

  • recent model, possibly under factory warranty
  • 240DL or 240GL.

There’s just something about those old Volvos that inspires… passion. Most of them are now owned by young people who identify strongly with what the Volvo brand used to represent. They believe in the 240-series and they restore them for daily use, not the Cars-and-Coffee klatch. While the sedans are still popular, particularly the end-of-run aero-headlamp 240DL sedans, the hipster-Volvo equivalent of a ’63 Stingray Fuelie is the late 240 wagon.

As fate would have it, I’ve had a chance to experience two of these lately; a 240DL with glass E-code headlamps and a permanent interior cloud of cannabis smoke, in which I rode to a hilltop park outside Portland, and this 240GL, which I had the opportunity to drive around rural Ohio a few weekends ago. The DL was in like-new condition, thanks to a rust-free life on the West Coast and a thorough restoration at the hands of an owner with considerable mechanical aptitude. This GL isn’t nearly as perfect, being sourced from New York and with a reasonably long list of fixes yet to come, but it’s mechanically outstanding and a genuine pleasure to operate.

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First things first: this is not a large car. Dimensionally it’s similar to the 2003 Accord. Opening the square-shouldered door and taking a seat, however, reveals a quality of seating and available space that both exceed what you’ll find in any Japanese-brand mid-sizer. The almost complete lack of tumblehome allows the seats to be both wide and widely spaced. The overall feeling is airy but solid, thanks to pillar thickness that was rare in any of the decades in which this model was sold.

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The controls and instrumentation are absolutely straightforward, although the mouse-fur trim is no improvement over the more sparse appearance of the DL model. (Apparently there’s a bit of reverse snobbery among Volvo wagoneers, with the DL and its roll-up windows considered the more desirable car nowadays. More Volvo-ish, dontcha know.) Visibility is outstanding all the way ’round, with only the skeletonized rear headrests offering any significant impediment.

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Even after more than twenty miles, this “estate” feels impeccably solid as I pull out onto a 45-mph back road. The steering is trustworthy and the brakes seem up to par. Acceleration, on the other hand…

The Volvo 240 of this era mustered 114 horsepower from its four-cylinder engine, but I’m not totally sure that all of them showed up for work in this particular example. It’s remarkably slow. To the customers who looked at the midsizer Volvo as an affordable alternative to the Mercedes-Benz W123 240D, it was probably a rocketship. Compared to a modern Hyundai Accent, it might as well be a diesel. (Yes, there was a diesel variant, but it did not survive to the Nineties in our market.) Progress is steady but in no way quick.

In just ten or so seconds, however, I’m up to 45mph and ready to try a little bit of the old swerving back and forth for purposes of warming tires and checking lateral stability. Well, there’s not much of that either. Best to calm it back down and just enjoy the Volvo’s core virtues. The ride is steady and relaxed, with plenty of compliance for potholes and rough shoulders. Ten minutes behind the wheel of the 240 will make you feel better about your place in the world, assuming you’re not in a hurry to get anywhere.

What’s not to like about the Volvo, other than the lack of pace? It’s spacious, comfortable, quiet, and reassuring. It’s entirely and refreshingly free of the merest pretense of “sportiness” and all the better for it. It feels as if it will last another twenty years without difficulty. The old phrase “boxy but good” applies here. The current Volvos feel uneasy in their own skins, half-heartedly going through the motions of enthusiast focus and swoopy design, but this is the real deal. I’d rather have this than any brand-new car in a Volvo showroom, both now and twenty years from now.

The Chinese owners of Volvo are no doubt perplexed by the long shadow this vehicle continues to cast on their current lineup. But if they had any sense at all, they’d dig up the old drawings and build it again — or at least come as close to it as the current Mustang does to the Sixties car. In a world where “brand” is all-important, the Volvo brand is nearly worthless. The Volvo 240 brand, on the other hand? That’s a moose of a different color.

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135 Comments on “Capsule Review: Volvo 240GL Estate...”


  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Love that 245.

    Put a turbo four in it and I will order one asap.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    I have no experience with any of the new Volvos, with the exception of a (V70?) wagon I sat in at the St. Louis International Auto Show. The seat was to die for and to date it remains THE most comfortable automotive seat I have ever sat my ass in.

    Otherwise, yes, the 240 Volvo is so ugly its endearing. So utilitarian that its not pretending or faking anything. Its honest and sincere.

    I cannot begin to explain the large quantity of yellow, “hazy-eyed” 240’s running around the rough streets of St. Louis with well over 200k on the clock, driving SLOWLY but surely away from stoplights with no smoke pouring out of the lonely tailpipe.

    I can only imagine the robbing of power that occurs when the air conditioning is engaged.

    Its not even about driving dynamics with this car. Suppose its about getting a piece of that well-built, well-engineered “pleasure” (if that’s what you want to call it).

    You either get it or you don’t. I certainly do.

    Thank you kindly for the review.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I’m one of those who doesn’t get it – sorry. I see an old, square wagon that’s great only because other Volvo fans say it is.

      I understand nostalgia, but it’s really just looking at the past through rose-colored glasses.

      I can muster similar warm feelings for many old cars, just not this one.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        The styling is obviously subjective, and “I don’t get it” is an entirely understandable response. But I defy you to sit inside one or take a ride in one and not decide that the quality of the ride, seats and materials is on another planet from anything else that was sold for a comparable price at the time.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        The requirements that benefit from a wagon, are the exact same ones that benefit from square. The 240 was wagon done right; without compromises to it’s wagonness.

      • 0 avatar
        IHateCars

        SCE to AUX….I hear ya….I don’t get it either. And I rode/drove in a ton of them during my high school days. A good buddy of mine then had acess to his Mom’s 240 (GT?) Turbo and that was a cool car…I mainly liked it because it had some of the coolest looking 5 spoke wheels that I’ve seen to this day….but otherwise not that remarkable.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        The 240 is the successor to the old school Beetle, especially in the eyes of the PBR drinking Peterbilt ball cap wearing hipster set.

        As such, it is a quick, very powerful alternative to 1300 to 1600cc and 36 to 40 hp.

        And it is reverse snobbishly immune to any attempts to outperform other poor drivers with old beater cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Add at least one 300k example I’ve seen in person.

      With the AC its not too bad, not much power but the 2.3 makes decent torque all things considered

      I’ve heard that IPD sway bars can make 240s handle pretty well.

    • 0 avatar

      The AC doesn’t rob any power because it’s not working.

    • 0 avatar

      My dad has had a succession of middle-class cars in his six decades at the wheel. Of those I can remember, his 1984 Volvo 240 GLE (which was a 4-cylinder model with the 6-cylinder trim minus the rear head rests) has to be the one I liked the most. The 80s were a hard time for a realtor in Ireland and for a spell before the Volvo arrived at our house, we had endured some lean years with a Renault 5. It blew a gasket in France at one point. Thus the roominess of the Volvo´s rear seats were a revelation to me. I also appreciated the rear-arm rest: in Ireland the high excise duties on cars meant these kinds of niceties were often deleted by the importer to cut the price. If had to buy an example of one of my dad´s former cars, it would be the 240, preferably in the same dark metallic grey over blue velour. That material was comfortable and hard-wearing. As to the driving experience, I was never given the chance to move the car as I was too young. I can´t say how it was to drive but as a passenger car it met and exceeded the requirements of Ireland´s dire roads and appalling climate. As a result, if you chance to see any car older than 20 years in Ireland it is a) a Mercedes W-123 b) a pre-GM Saab 900 or c) a Volvo 240. Option (d) is a Nissan Figaro. I can´t explain that. My dads´s penultimate car to date was the Volvo S70, a face-lifted and revised 850, I suppose. In many ways it´s a better car than the 240 but it is not any nicer. It is for sale and despite its excellent condition and nearly zero price it has found no takers in a year on the market. I toyed with the idea of taking it from my dad and shipping it to Denmark but after a brief consideration decided I didn´t like it enough to invest €600 of transport costs to move it across the UK and up the spine of Europe to where I live in Jutland. If my dad was getting rid of a 240 I would have made a different choice. That´s the kind impression that car made on me. And I suppose this echoes the main thrust of the article above. People don´t love the later Volvos though the five-cylinder cars might have some admirers.
      Can I add that I do rather like the S80 Mk1 and view it as an under-rated car. The interior is superb and the styling is first rate.
      The 760 did well in period reviews when matched with the Peugeot 604 and Ford Granada (the European version). As an alternative to the 240 I could consider that but only with the red velour interior and the PRV engine. I think Volvo lost their way when the “S” and “V” cars came in, with the exception of the S40 Mk 2 and S80 Mk1, both of which are handsome and Swedish.

      If you are interested, I have a link to a satirical “review” of the 1974 Volvo 244. It is written in the person of Archie Vicar, a jaundiced, chain-smoking English motoring hack who is entirely fictional. Those of you who hanker after the careless writing of the 70s (as you might find in ‘Car’ magazine then) will appreciate the style.

      http://driventowrite.com/2013/11/02/1974-volvo-244/

      Best,
      Richard in Denmark

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    About 20 years ago, one could buy a 240 wagon with low-miles for not a lot of money. “Low miles” meant the odometer stopped working at 140,000 miles. So after a complete fluid change, one had a good driver. Over a period of lucky trips to the u-pull-it lots, one could then have acquired the lower profile wheels from a 240 or 740 turbo, and the thicker sway bars from a 240 turbo, and with new tires, you then had an excellent driver.

    It would accelerate particularly fast by today’s standards, but it’s more than adequate. And the handling? With the 49/51 weight distribution of the wagon, you really couldn’t ask for anything better, especially at the price.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      If theres any bit of stupid design with these cars its the odometer gear, Volvo chose a really dinky plastic gear that will break 99% of the time, even with the 850.

      Luckily its a fairly easy fix with a 240, just loosen a few screws and the whole clusters out. With an 850…plan your weekend well. Never tried it with a 7900.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        were they VDO gauges? VWs of that era had the same problem

      • 0 avatar
        gzuckier

        Fluky point of failure, although I don’t know why it isn’t more frequent; caught the very corner of the rear bumper on a wooden stake one day. Inside of gouging the stake, the entire bumper just fell off the car. Inspection showed why: the reinforcement bar is aluminum. The bolts holding that bar to the shock absorbing struts are steel. Electrolytic corrosion had very precisely machined a hole the perfect size and shape for the head of each bolt, through the aluminum. Wouldn’t affect any impact, since there is a sizable plate at the end of each strut; but give a tug on the bumper away from the body on a 240, and I’ll bet you could remove half of them out there.

  • avatar
    Trick Fall

    I love the stripped down quality of these. It might be utilitarian, but all the basics seem to be of a high quality. I wish there were more cars like that these days. Also I think the Swedes must just know seating because the seats in my Saab were the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in. Better than any recliner.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    A small handful of observations from a one-time Volvophile:

    – 240s don’t have depreciation curves. A dozen years ago my then-girlfriend’s parents wanted to buy her a car for college, and bought a CPO Jetta for substantially _less_ than they were finding 15-year-old 240s. Well-cared-for 240s go for $8k or more around here.

    – The “around here” bit is key. I’m sure that the brand is less esteemed in Ohio, but here in suburban New England, the XC90 was for nearly a decade what I imagine a Suburban is in Texas: the default Mom-mobile for the well-to-do, just as a Volvo station wagon was when I was a kid. My own Mom (after she ditched the Grand Wagoneer) and three others took turns shepherding kids to school on alternate weekdays, meaning I spent my formative years in the rear-facing jump seats of _four_ different Volvos. That means that you _still_ see enough 850s and V70s on the streets around here that they may as well still be in the showrooms.

    – Unfortunately, their lack of quality product of late means that even New England has passed them by. Nobody thinks “sedan” when they think “Volvo,” and the S60 and S80 were never properly competitive anyway. Meanwhile, the XC70 and XC90 were left to rot on the vine, and the V70 was simply killed off. What’s a Chestnut Hill soccer mom to do?

  • avatar
    319583076

    Do you listen to Helmet, Jack?

  • avatar
    Fred

    If I remember right sales of all Volvoes were pretty slow and most folks blamed the styling. “Too boxy!”

    • 0 avatar
      bimmermax

      “If I remember right sales of all Volvoes were pretty slow and most folks blamed the styling. “Too boxy!””

      yep I was selling Volvo’s at the end of the box era. Once they got better looking sales went way up. Problem was, the passion for the brand wasn’t there. It became just another nice car, like an Acura or Infiniti and you only sold cars if you have a great lease program. Before that, you had the true believers who really wanted a Volvo.
      I feel bad for where the brand is now. It’s neither here nor there.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    This was the kind of car wealthy socialists should still be building.

    Restraint, practicality, complete adequacy and an institutional imperviousness to lowest-common-denominator flash.

    Science-based instead of gland-based design, at the time it gave a scintillating and utterly refreshing whiff of European rationality as in the famous ads showing the ease of maneuvering a Volvo wagon amidst all the American behemoths in a supermarket lot.

    I’m thinking an entire leadership cohort in Volvo retired at the peak of the boxy era and we therefore got the “performance” oriented travesties of the ’90s and onwards.

    Poo, ick… bad modern Swedes and their Chinesese overlords.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Better and more paved roads, more powerful and efficient engines, better tires and brakes etc., etc. led more people to place higher emphasis on behavior at higher speeds that what slow boxes are optimized for.

      While all the added cost and complexity of the above, made Scandinavia an awfully small place for an auto industry.

      Pre adw/4wd for every soccer mom who may encounter hills larger than speedbumps; Saabs in particular, but also to some extent Volvos, in addition to their other practically useful quirks, were also good “winter cars”, and decent enough for rougher roads. Tall, Large rolling diameter, tires and good fender clearance. Both traits antithetical to the kind of tight handling and good high speed aero, championed by smooth road powerhouses the likes of BMW further south.

      But the world largely doubled down on Bavaria. And when those other Germans mainstreamed quattro, and soccermoms could afford RangeRoverLets, it was all over for old school minimalistic rationalism of the Scandi kind.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        “to place higher emphasis on behavior at higher speeds that what slow boxes are optimized for.”

        But there are pills and therapy for that. It needn’t have happened.

    • 0 avatar
      gzuckier

      The great aerodynamic scare of the 90s left both Volvo and Mercedes vainly pointing out that aerodynamics aren’t going to solve our fuel mileage problems as long as we do a little 0-30 drag race at every stoplight. Mercedes caved in to public sentiment before Volvo did.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        The little 0-30 drag race at every stoplight both saves time in a hurried world, even if only a little bit of it, and also provides the last bit of driving excitement in a regimented world of platooned-by-design cohorts of vehicles moving in lockstep.

        And as such, in a world plagued by expensive gas, numerically low rear end ratios become somewhat of a necessity, and hence 30mph is relatively far down on the power curve. This in turn makes the car with a broad power band and a lot of low end torque king, or at least prince consort.

        The only unreachable and unbeatable competition then becomes high dollar high performance cars and/or cars with much higher numerically rear end ratios, and correspondingly much worse mileage.

        But for the DD, one with a lot of torque down low becomes the car of choice, at least for the economical competitor with ADHD-like impatience.

        I know, I own a car like that, and I not only do a lot of little 0-30 drag races at stoplights, I do them well, and relatively quickly against all but a few sleepers and muscle cars.

        Even noisy ricers are not immune to being beaten at that game.

        And if you don’t “squeal tires on pavement”, you don’t even draw the attention of traffic patrol cars.

        Laissez le bon temps roullez.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    My Brother had a two door 240 Sedan , a 1981 I *think* , slushbox and dead AC , it looked O.K. and fit us two big guys easily .

    I owned a 1970 144S that was also slow but handled really well once it got up to speed ,mostly when going downhill in the local Mountains .

    Both cars were dog reliable but dishwater dull to me .

    ‘ hipsters ‘ seem to be dullards so who cares what they think ? whatever transportation they make hip is rapidly driven into the ground then derided and ignored as the next big thing comes long .

    (says the old geezer who prefers Sedans and trucks)

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Count me as one of the fans. One of my first cars was a ’79 242L, the abosolute base model with an underrated 80 something horse B19, 4 speed and no power anything. Everything about it was sturdy and heavy, and as it was a one owner car with only little over 300K miles on it it still ran like new, but it was not very economical, barely getting 20-25mpg.
    Base model equipment still included headlight washers and adjustable lumbar support though.
    The power problem can be easily solved by swapping the old tank engine for a Chevy smallblock, a modification that is so simple you’d think Volvo was planning to do it themselves. If you want to keep the 4 banger, be aware that it can possibly break if you turbo tune it to more than 450 horses, especially if it is a highmile engine. (no one knows for sure, and getting any more than 300 horses NA is going to cost you)) 700-750 is ok with some work on the internals and a well thought-out set-up, and 16 valve heads.
    The suspension is similar to the outgoing Mustang, so making it handle shouldn’t be too difficult, these used to be popular rally/race-cars too. The center of gravity and lacking width won’t make it as stable as a modern Mustang though, but you could go widebody ;).
    As for brake options, the stock brakes can be replaced with larger OEM commercial parts if you’re going above 300 hp, or aftermarket parts if you’re making a full-on race car.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “Chevy smallblock, a modification that is so simple you’d think Volvo was planning to do it themselves.”

      When the 240 was being designed it was being made with the intent that there would be a fancier V8 variant, instead said V8 became the PRV 6, so instead of a tanky 4-cylinder you could get a Delorean powered Volvo

      • 0 avatar
        gzuckier

        Plenty of room in the engine bay. You can actually change the oil filter from above. Sadly, the oil that drools out when you change the filter has the additional purpose of soaking into the engine mount that’s right there and turning the rubber into a sticky liquid every few years.

    • 0 avatar
      talkstoanimals

      I had a neighbor in Boston with both a 240 and a 740 that had Ford 302s swapped in. He said they dropped in with almost no modifications required. Those were mean rides that inspired much jealousy on my part.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Oui, American muscle in a sturdy Swedish body, the best of both worlds.

        What did he do as far as transmissions go?

        • 0 avatar
          talkstoanimals

          Both were manuals. If memory serves, he swapped both the clutches and transmissions to Fox-body Mustang bits.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Yeah, it’s crazy how easily a 302 and T-5 will bolt into a 240/740/940.

            Speaking of that, why is there so much 240 love while 740/60s and 940/60s don’t even get mentioned?

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            At Nogo:

            The name “240” stuck around longer, 740 swiftly became the 940 which quickly devolved into the S90.

            Plus the 240s just look more iconic, some 740s looked fine, but you’d have to squint to tell a 940 from an 850.

            The 760s and 960s were just like the 264s and 164s, fancier but less reliable luxury models that not many people brought.

    • 0 avatar
      anti121hero

      A friend had a 4bt cummins swapped into o 240. It is an absolute animal.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Back in the day, I always loved the fact there were these small brands doing their own thing. Each had a collection of unique attributes one could pick from. Because the Big-3 brands were so terrible back then, at worst, one could break even in ownership costs.

    Not anymore; the Big-3 are much better, finally. While the smaller brands still have the handicap: expensive parts, monopoly dealers, expensive quirks, limited popularity.

    And if China buys “The Name,” well… that’s an intelligence test if I ever saw one.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    “Boxy but good” – nice hat tip to Crazy People.

    My grandparents drove nothing but Volvo wagons – primarily 240s until they stepped up to a 740 for their last car. They really were pleasant to pilot in a relaxed fashion. But if you think the 240 GL is slow, try the 740 with a slush box and the same 114 hp motor. Molasses flows uphill in January faster than that car hit highway speeds.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I don’t doubt that, but the Turbo was a different beast. I remember being car-pooled in an “Intercooled” (said so right on the tailgate!) 740 Turbo wagon when I was about 9, and that thing had some genuine shove when the boost gauge swung rightwards. That was over 20 years ago, and I still remember it. Too bad the guy didn’t know how to shift; after he pussyfooted to the next gear, it would take awhile for boost to build again.

      I believe the magazines of the day had it doing 0-60 in about 8 seconds, which was extremely respectable for the time.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I’ve owned an even dozen 2’s, 7’s, and 9’s. There is no performance difference between a 240 and a 740 with the same engine. They weigh about the same. The 740 feels slower because it is MUCH smoother and quieter.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Love the prancing moose decal.

    I want a prancing Hello Kitty for our Hondas.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    I purchased a new 1968 245 back in the day and drove it 10 years and about 130k miles as I recall. It was truly an outstanding workhorse. Nothing fancy, a 4 spd on the floor, manual choke, crank up windows, etc. It raised 3 kids and one dog and delivered fire wood during the infamous ice storm that beset Connecticut in 1973 on its Michelin XZX radials for 6 days and moved the contents of a 3 bedroom house two blocks! It certainly wasn’t perfect but the car always started, got me where I wanted to go. It would backfire through the twin side drafts on occasion necessitating replacement of the paper air filter. Once in a while, the passenger side window would fall down in the door if the door was slammed, but that was about it. It worked. Should’ve kept the damn thing but I traded it for a ’78 242S cause I wanted a sporty car!!!

  • avatar

    I’m waving at you from the seat of my ’95 850 sedan with 260k miles on the clock, which is a vastly superior automobile than a 240.

    There is plenty of cult following to whiteblock fwd cars. It’s on Volvospeed not on TurboBricks.

    S80’s are garbage.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I beg to differ, I owned an 850 and a 240, yes the 850 drove better but the interior couldn’t hold a candle to the 240’s in terms of longevity. Plus it rode as stiff as a Pontiac Grand Prix. The 240 was a nice mid-area of stiff and soft.

    • 0 avatar
      swester

      The 850 is indeed a vastly superior automobile in terms of features, ride, and power.

      In terms of reliability? YIKES. An 850 is like Whack-a-Mole: spend a weekend fixing one thing and two other new problems spring up out of nowhere. They are also total oil-aholics, and the plastic materials used in the dash are abysmal.

      Luckily there is a huge community of DIY’ers and parts readily available. But I don’t miss that ever-present CEL on my 850 Turbo. Fun car to drive though, and hard to find a more “modern” vehicle on Craigslist for ~$1500.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Yep, take a brand new 850 and 240, the 850 is the better car.

        Twenty years later though the 240 will hold up much better, better interior plastics, better interior design, tougher suspension, simpler drivetrain, and much easier to repair.

        If you’re into modding you can get more out of a 240 too, both in terms of power and handling. Might cost more but since its RWD you can do more with it.

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        I have a 95 850 Turbo that’s just about to roll over 205,000 miles and I figure it’s got at least another 150,000 left in it. It’s a great daily driver and has never once left me stranded. I love it.

        That car is fast, tough and invisible to both cops and car thieves.

        It’s so reliable that I actually have to get out my notes because the times it needs service are so few and far between that I actually forget the vehicle-specific procedures I’ve worked out for certain repairs.

        The only time mine consumed any oil was before I pulled the engine to replace the rear main seal. Other than that – nothing.

        The only real headache is that you have to buy Volvo or Bosch parts for it, because there aren’t any acceptable aftermarket substitutes.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        Agreed on the whack-a-mole ownership experience. I finally found the rotted vacuum line elbow that was triggering the CEL on my 850 T5 — a week before I sold it.

        I miss that car, but with all the dash clips broken and staring at either $2000 at the mechanic or else $500 in parts and three days straight in my in-laws’ garage to fix the A/C, it was more than I could deal with at the time.

        When everything was working, it was everything I ever wanted and the most comfortable car I’ve ever driven. The best description I can offer is that everything felt like it was deliberately thought out and engineered, resulting in a car that was sporty yet stately.

        • 0 avatar
          gzuckier

          The Mercedes 190E of the era had one logical feature I wish Volvo engineers had thought of: an electrically adjustable outside mirror; on the passenger side only, because you don’t need one on the driver’s side. Can’t get any more logical/engineerish than that.

  • avatar

    My nephew still has a ’95 940 wagon, which was the last car my parents ever had. It has close to 200k. It is, as Jack says, definitely not a paragon of acceleration, but you could flog it without raising any NVH.

    There are a couple of very well preserved 240s I see every now and then in the Whole Foods parking lot in Cambridge MA. And I’m aware of a couple of million mile examples

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/the-man-for-whom-they-made-the-three-million-mile-badge/

    I love the wonderful visibility out of these cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I love the visibility combined with the strength of the roof, it boggles my mind why modern cars have to have such thick pillars for strength.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        The 240 weighs between 3,000-3,200 lbs. For comparison, a Chevy Cruze weighs between 3,000 and 3,500 lbs. Today’s car are much heavier than yesterday’s. That’s one reason for larger pillars. A second reason is that the upright greenhouse of the 240 allows the pillars to carry loads as almost pure compression elements while the sloped windshields and rear glass on more modern cars actually multiply the loads that the pillars must carry. Additionally, the most efficient pillar places the structural material furthest away from the center of the cross-section. For example, a hollow tube that weighs the same as a solid bar will generally be able to carry more load, all other things being equal. So the most efficient employment of structural material in a column places the bulk of the material at the perimeter and a larger perimeter is better, to some extent. There are obviously other variables involved.

        Beyond the mechanics of the situation, I’m nearly positive that legislative requirements have become more stringent, further increasing pillar thickness.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Thank you for that complex response, slanted windshields and all that have become necessary these days for the sake of aerodynamics. But then again you’d think more car-makers would use bottom-breather front ends for that too.

          I think its a combination of legislation’s and stylists having the bigger say in a cars design. I can’t recall at the moment but I know that there were a few modern cars with decent greenhouses.

          • 0 avatar
            319583076

            Check out “Euler Buckling” if you’re interested in the mechanics of pillars. The loads are figured by basic geometry/trigonometry. E.g. A pure column carried 100% of the applied load in compression. If the column is placed at a 45 degree angle from the applied load, the load is multiplied by a factor of 1.414.

            On my continuum of interests, structural mechanics is more interesting than cars. I can’t help myself from turning a conversation that way, I’m happy that you appreciated it.

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          Burger Dude,

          Thanks for that. It’s pertinent to one of my core obsessive gripes about modern cars.

          This is why *I* <3 TTAC.

        • 0 avatar
          gzuckier

          Actually, according to the CAT scale at the local truck stop, an 89 240 weighs 2800 plus change, in daily driving around trim. Pretty lightweight, considering. (I have a fetish about taking every car I own in to get weighed; 92 Civic EX was 2400 lbs, 2009 Civic Si is 3000 and some.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The reality is that Volvo 240s are deathtraps by modern standards. They have almost no side-impact protection compared to a modern car, much of which is provided by those thick pillars. Sure you can stack a bunch of 240s on top of each other gently, but you really don’t want to see the results of one getting broadsided. Yet another area where the 7/9 is MUCH better, especially the post-91 cars with SIPS.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Thats true, at most they have steel bars in the doors that were added in the 90’s models, but nothing more.

          7s,8s, and 9s were designed to absorb side impacts much better, and they were a little wider.

        • 0 avatar
          Athos Nobile

          ^^^ THIS

          And an ugly one at that.

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          @krhodes1

          “You’ll shoot your eye out!” never stopped anyone.

          And don’t you drive an MGB?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            A Triumph Spitfire, which is about 10% safer than a motorcycle. And I drive it accordingly.

            My point is there is a contingent of people who still think that a 240 is some sort of safety wondercar. It was a VERY safe car – in 1975. That was a REALLY long time ago.

        • 0 avatar
          gzuckier

          It wasn’t until relatively recently that anybody was killed in a 240 crash in the US. (Don’t know about other countries). Of course, a lot of that has to do with the demographics. But still…..

    • 0 avatar
      Jesse

      If you see a dark blue 245 in any Cambridge Whole Foods parking lot with wheels from a 780 Bertone, you are looking at my car. Same is true for a faded red 1800ES, orange 850, and grey-ish Diplomat series 745T.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Nice timing with this article Jack, I’m looking to grab a 240 wagon this weekend so this just gets me more eager.

    I’ve been shopping for cars in the 800-2000 range, mainly 80’s-90’s, and if I’m honest nothing really intrigues me like a Volvo.

    American cars? Only interested in something with a 3800 or a 4.6 V8, too many other domestics of that time were forgettable Camcord clones, imitations of imitations.

    Japanese cars? Same issue, lots and lots of clone-cars. Plus the sheet-metals a joke, any hail or parking lot dings will ruin a perfectly kept Accord. Wait a perfectly kept Accord? Whats that? Half of these used Japanese cars look like they were rescued from the local pick-n-pull!

    Volvo 240s on the other hand are designed for functionality, their mission wasn’t to compete with the Toyota Camry nor to make you think you were driving a racing car, their mission was and will always be: Be a good car.

    They have the suspension of a truck that can withstand rough roads, sheet metal that wont dent at any moment, simple engines that can take all kinds of abuse, and they look halfway decent even in the junkyards.

    I had a 1992 240 sedan that to date was one of my favorite cars, yea it was slow and handled crudely, but it did everything that you’d want a car to do.

    Cheap to buy, cheap to operate, and stupidly tough. I drove it in winter, through hail, road it hard through the windy country side, practiced Rockfords with it, and it drove no better or worse than the day I brought it.

    • 0 avatar

      The 240 is honest and unpretentious. And designed with function over form.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I bought a badly rusted 245 (salted roads area) to use as a spares car for my 242 , and I threw a fit at it because so many bolts were rusted completely stuck on it. I could barely dent it with a monkey wrench. Trying to kick the doors in just made my feet hurt. Compare to my dads old Honda, where you could pull out a dented fender with your fingers…
      The Honda was a lot more fun to drive though, as it weighed about half of the Volvo, and had similar power.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Funny you should say that, I chose a ’92 Accord to replace my 240 and I found it more “lively”, though the 240 was more interesting to drive.

        Plus I really could not stand the “BMW-wannabe” aura of the Accord, earlier ones look neater imo.

        The way that I see it the 240 makes a good work carbeater, if you want fun and economy a Honda, particularly a CRX, will do great. Just make sure you’re garage has a space.

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          I used to own a ’90 Accord myself, and although it was certainly faster and more economical than my old 242, the turning radius on those things are hilarious, comparing it to the Volvo that can actually turn on a dime makes it even worse. The engines are probably the only thing that is comparable between Hondas and Volvos I guess.
          Also Honda can’t make seats…(I’ve owned 4 or 5 completely different Hondas, ranging from ‘barely OK’ to ‘horrible’ seats)

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I think that was one of the issues that I had with my Accord, the limited steering meant less fun in windy roads.

            I dunno if I could compare the engines, I drove a Mercedes 190 once and the Accords engine felt like a forgery of that, both in power delivery and smoothness.

            My Volvo on the other hand really, really did feel and sound more agriculture, it felt like it had more torque, and sounded far more meatier than any Honda.

            As far as longevity and gas mileage go they’re comparable. I think that the 240s more vulnerable to neglect, but maintenance will make it last forever.

            The Accords engine (F22 was it?) will go up to 200k no matter what you do. The car will fall apart sooner.

            I agree that Volvos have superior seats, if anything I think that Honda saved their good seats for Acura.

    • 0 avatar
      gzuckier

      I do not enjoy it in the snow, even with snow tires. Maybe it’s typical of RWD cars in that way; I’ve forgotten the cars of my youth. (Except my Corvair; in the snow I felt like I was riding a giant snowmobile) Warm and toasty inside, with the heated seats, though.

  • avatar
    bolhuijo

    Rearward visibility. This is what my wife is looking for. (though she would fold down those rear seats to improve it.) We are looking for a modern dog hauler that you can see out of. Is there anything besides a Forester that doesn’t suck?

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    As an 850 owner I take issue with some of these comments. Open your eyes. There’s thousands of 850 still on the street, including many with over 250,000 miles on them. People are keeping them on the road. Yes, maybe they’re not as iconic as the bricks but they still have a strong following, even non turbos.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Indeed, but how many of them still have functioning ABS modules? Or headliners that aren’t held on by tacks?

      And don’t forget the service light, that always works, always.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        240s are not nearly as reliable as legend would have it. They were more durable than most cars of their day, but their day was a heck of a long time ago. The only reason they don’t have failed ABS modules and CEL lit is they are too old to have CELs, and very few of them have ABS. The ones with ABS have mostly failed too. I’ll grant you the headliners though. That is an issue in 7/9s too. Relatively easy to fix, BTDT.

        Ultimately, these are all very old cars now.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Thats true, their durability makes them worth most repairs though.

          The one 740 I drove had a decent mostly solid interior, seems like 850s got the short end of the stick.

          I’ve never tried a Volvo 940, never cared for how Volvo tried to make it look like a RWD 850.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Since the only Volvos worth having are wagons, there is no difference in appearance between a 745 and a 945. :-)

            If you MUST have a sedan, the 940 has a bigger trunk and slightly more rear interior space due to the restyled rear end.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          If I had a choice I’d have a 940 wagon, they’re just a bit more rare than the sedans.

          Actually, I’d have a 940 wagon but with a 740 four-headlight front end, turbo 4 too.

        • 0 avatar
          gzuckier

          The steel parts are pretty durable; the electricals not so much, on the early models. No worse than most other cars, just that they would be the point of failure rather than mechanicals. Heater/AC fan is a famous Achilles heel.
          Mine has 200K on the original clutch. Even more impressive, in that the rear main seal started leaking oil into the clutch at about 100K.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Mine is a 1996 which has 152k on it and none of these issues. I replaced the headliner last year. That’s about it tho.

  • avatar
    sproc

    What’s most striking (and spectacularly appealing) to me is the reasonable belt line and thin pillars. You can actually SEE out of these things! I’m so sick of sitting in a bathtub topped by a roll cage thinly (thickly?) disguised in a muumuu that so many car designs have succumbed to.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    A couple corrections to Jack’s ramblings. The 7/9s did not succeed the 240, they were produced alongside them from 82-93, and continued on to 95 here and 98 elsewhere.

    7/9s also do not have “Europeansdon’tunderstandelectronicsitis”, quite the opposite actually. It is 240s that suffer from rampant electrical issues caused by the fact that their electrical system was designed for the ’60s 140, then had the various additions glommed on over the next 25 years. They had the horrible ceramic fuses right to the end, and no central relay panel. Relays just dangle from the harness all over the inside of the car. The 740 was designed from the start to have modern fuses and a proper relay panel.

    Ultimately, the 740 is a 240 with all the old stupid design choices engineered out of it. They are MUCH more rust resistant, handle better, ride better, are MUCH quieter, and getter gas mileage since the automatics have a lockup torque converter, which the 240 never got. They also have a much more robust suspension system that does not suffer from failed bushings like the 240 does. The 940 just added additional refinement to the recipe.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Actually a few select 240s got lock-up torque converters, my stock 240 sedan had one. 7 and 9s probably had it standard.

      740s and 940s are more than likely more aerodynamic than 240s, being less tall and more wider.

      I concur that 700s and 900s both ride and drive smoother than 240s, generally easier to service too with the alternators and other parts moved to better locations.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        No 240 ever came from the factory with a lockup torque converter, in any market. If yours had one, then someone bolted a transmission from a 7/940 into it. Which is an easy bolt-in, and does make a big difference.

      • 0 avatar
        gzuckier

        the early manuals were a 4 speed with electric OD; not sure when they switched to proper 5 speed. Lots of malfunctioning ODs out there. Typical Volvo fashion, the shift knob and lever had the hollow cavity for the OD switch and channel for the wire right up to the end, years after they had switched to the 5 speed.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Wikipedia isn’t necessarily authoritative but it states what I remember from the time involved, “The 700, designed by Jan Wilsgaard, was originally to have been a replacement for the 200 series, but production of that model continued until the early nineties.”

      Furthermore, I took more 7xx Volvos in trade for Infinitis than I care to recall and NONE of them were free from electronic-related issues.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        That may have been the intent, but it never happened. It did put Volvo into the same unfortunate situation as Saab – their cheaper car was actually much more expensive than their more expensive car to build, but had to sell for much less. And people wouldn’t stop buying the ancient things, so they kept them in production. One of many factors setting up both companies for the loss of independence.

        I’ve owned 5 740s, 3 940s, and a 960, and none of them had any particular electrical issues in many hundreds of thousands of miles, including the 740 that went over 400K miles before the tinworm got it.

  • avatar
    Lampredi

    “and a permanent interior cloud of cannabis smoke, in which I rode to a hilltop park outside Portland”

    For some reason, when I first read this I read it as “Potland” and not “Portland”…

  • avatar
    wmba

    Cannot understand the love for these things. I was a Volvo fan during my college years mid 1960s, entering quite a few rallies in a PV544. Those things were solid for the time, kept up with MGBs without the hot oil smells and general fragility and had a decent gearbox. We found the extra weight of the 122S, almost 300 lbs over the 544 to be a bit of a hindrance, so they were out.

    Then the 144 came out with the 115hp engine from the 1800S and another couple of hundred pounds again. That 115hp had to be just a paper number, and the car itself a pedestrian lumberer with zero joie-de-vivre, suitable for your pipe-smoking Grandpa born about 1900. They rusted badly around these parts too, myths aside.

    An engineer friend of mine decided to replace his Datsun 510 with a new ’76 244, where the front double A arm suspension had been replaced with MacPherson strut. After the new wore off, he hated it, the heavy steering and elephantine handling, and did the rational thing for his young family after 3 years – bought a ’79 Caprice wagon. A better car in every way except for interior quality and seating. Gosh golly, even power steering and automatic. Plus, you could actually enjoy hustling that beast a bit – to my mind the best old-school car ever built, certainly better than the Panther, another cult car for no apparent rational reason Looked after properly, the Caprice lasted 14 years until the kids were bundled off to college.

    Brick Volvos. If you love ’em, great. You’re only fooling yourself that you’ve got a great car, but then people do seem to love being part of some obscure “ins*de” culture for whatever reason, particularly in North America. Conspiracy theories appeal to this crowd as well, anything with a bit of self-induced mystique that reminds them of eating crunchy fresh vegetables, a big plate of granola and being part of the good old days that never were.

    In the late 1980s, I drove a restored 544, and to say it felt vintage compared to my Audi 4000 quattro is a vast understatement. Ponderous 240s were not any better. Things move on.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      The only issue with a Caprice is getting one without 24-inch rimz on it, otherwise, having driven several GMs from that time, they are fairly solid cars if dicey with build quality.

      If you’re into modding you can get much more out of a 240, they can be made to handle well if you have the money. And they readily accept Chevy 350s.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    I’ve started my automobile career with a ’77 242 DL, I’ve had a 1971 145 and a 1993 240 wagon with the special B230FX red block (136hp and the cold start sound of a mobile 50t crane).

    These cars are perfect. Yes, I know of all the real world weaknesses, but they do such a solid work. Engines take abuse like nothing else (see Hooniverse LeMons stats for reference). They can be taken offroad. Loadability is outstanding – eight chairs and a dining table? Bring it on! Fuel consumption is okay. Resale value will always be solid.

    I’m in a phase of work-child rearing-house fixing and thus drive a Honda and a Toyota now. But I will be back.

    When it comes to what is desirable: I’d say, the older the better. More solid materials, more character, better looks.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Its nice to see I’m not the only one which, on occasion, searches Ebay for some of the clean, lower-mileage 240’s.

    None of you all admit it… but you do it. lol

    I mean you pay the Ebay Premium but you cannot beat that selection.

    Eye candy.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    I never got the love for these things. A Honda Accord from the same years had a better interior and driving experience by far. Get into a 1993 Honda Accord SE vs a Volvo 240GL. This was the beginning of the end for Volvo. They weren’t a luxury manufacturer. They were a pseudo-premium manufacturer riding on their name.

    These old Volvos only redeeming quality is that they’re RWD. Every one I’ve ridden in was an absolute rattle trap from all the plastic up front. The FWD Volvos that followed may not have been as rememberable, but they sure as hell felt better on the road than the 200-series did.

    The 700 and 900 series are different stories. But the 200-series Volvos were nothing to write home about.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      These cars hold up so well on the outside its hard to tell a showroom model from a 300k junkyard dog, other than where they’re parked.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I dunno, I went from a ’92 Volvo 244 DL to a ’92 Accord LX sedan, I liked the more modern handling but it had zero character to it, plus the sheet metal was inferior.

      The 240 had a nicer interior too with an arm rest actually wide enough for the driver and passenger, though the Accords was pretty good too, MUCH nicer than the FWD Volvos that followed.

      if I lived in a city with rough roads I think I’d rather have the 240s ground clearance.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Well, as you can see, a 1993 240 is, essentially a 27 year old design. Lots pf changes, but still…old. It feels much more solid. The engines might be slow, but they pull well. I went from a ’93 240 to a ’96 Primera – worlds between! But back then, I’d gone back in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    Acd

    I had a similar revelation a few years ago when I test drove a 1992 Mercedes 400E and was blown away at how well that design had held up and how well it drove even compared to “modern” cars. At 20 years old and with 120,000+ miles it felt like a Mercedes should: solid, confident and able to cruise as fast and for as long as you’d like without putting up any fuss. The interior has actual knobs and buttons that controlled things without touchscreens and it has a timeless look. After driving the Benz my Acura TL felt like the tarted up Accord with a harsh ride that it is and not a real luxury car. Earlier this year I bought a ’96 SL320 and it makes me smile every time I drive it. None of the current model Mercedes interests me in the least but there’s a good chance I’ll replace my Acura with a 20+ year old W124 Mercedes in the near future.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I rather have a 9-5 wagon, thank you very much. The Volvo feos don’t do it for me. I’ve seen both the sedan and wagons and there’s a 244 sedan with 4 square headlamps in my street.

    Also, if wagon utility is super needed, a VT-VZ wagon will do the job with more style and the choice of V6/V8 power. A Falcon wagon would be another alternative… if you don’t mind the rear suspension…

  • avatar
    glwillia

    I got through grad school in the 2000s on a steady diet of Volvo 240s. I’d buy one for $500, drive it a few months, sell it when I had to go abroad for research, lather, rinse, repeat. Every single one had well over 250k miles on it.

    I love these cars, and here’s why they deserve their cult following:

    They’re insanely durable. I never had one that had worse than liftgate rust (and I went to school in the rust belt where pre-1990s Hondas and Toyotas had long since rusted away), and one of mine had a blown headgasket. Never mind, I drove it anyway and never had an issue. If the timing chain snaps, it doesn’t take out the valvetrain with it.

    They’re everywhere, including in junkyards, so parts are always easy to find. Their problems (brake light relays, glove box dropping open over bumps), are relatively minor and easy to resolve. For that matter, the car is so crude that *anything* is easy to do on it, and there’s tons of space under the hood to work.

    They’re comfortable, roomy, and far more refined than you’d think. They’re not too noisy, their seats are supportive, and you can drive it on the freeway for hours and not be sore and miserable at the end.

    I drive a manual E46 330Ci now, and while it’s a vastly better car in every way than the 240, I still catch myself admiring nice examples and thinking “maybe I should pick one up, before they’re all gone..”

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Jack will like this as a steering wheel actuator on a race track and so will other keen Volvo’ites.

    Volvo was quite involved in our Group A racing in the 80s and 90s. They even had an estate that was quite fast.

    Now Volvo has a V8, which put in a fantastic effort at Bathurst this year in our V8 SuperCar series with a 5 litre S60, yes a V8. It is one of my favourites. It looks fantastic. Maybe Volvo should come to Australia and make a VSV division.

    Here’s some interesting Volvo ‘stuff’. Have a read.

    http://www.speedcafe.com/2013/06/10/poll-australias-most-iconic-volvo-race-car/

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    One of the links didn’t work.

    Google Volvo Polestar Racing.

    Here’s an image I hope does work. Maybe TTAC or Derek can talk to his spam police and adjust the settings a little better………………forget it.

    http://www.swedespeed.com/artman2/uploads/1/polestar-wtcc-c30.jpg

  • avatar
    Cymen

    Growing up, my father was a Volvo enthusiast with a 240 sedan and wagon. He had two big sons and a daughter and we spent quite a few years going on road trips three across in the back seat of a 240 wagon. Then there was the one where reverse went out and he figured out how to drive it around Chicago strategically avoiding situations where reverse was required for a good 6+ months. Good times…

    So it wasn’t too surprising that the first car I bought was a 240 wagon. It was a nice brown one with a stick shift. I had it for all of 3 months before a pickup truck driven by some pool table installers rear ended me on the highway. The seat pop off the rails and that transmission just won’t stay in 3rd. It was a goner.

  • avatar

    850s and V70s have a large enthusiast following in Europe, though. Have a V70 myself, bought that almost 3 years back, never had anything wrong with it until the radiator for the airco gave up. I’ll replace that soon. Car has now 300k kms on the clock. To be fair, I went to a shop for mandatory yearly checkup, and the screwed the cc up. Never admitted it. I took my business elsewhere. I absolutely love that car.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I bought my wife a used 1970s-era 244DL when we lived in Florida in the 1980s. To date it’s been her favorite car. We left it with our daughter when we moved back North and she drove it for quite a number of years until the transmission went. A Toyota Camry replaced it and it provided yeoman’s service but our daughter says it was a lot less interesting and satisfying on some level.

    Meanwhile, what do the best and brightest say is the closest to a replacement for the Volve 240 series that’s on rhe market today? I’m not speaking in technical terms – number of four-door sedans might qualify. I’m mean in a spirtual sense. I would humbly submit that Subuaru’s Legacy sedan and (now discontinued) wagen, and maybe even the Outback wagen come closest. A large number of New Englanders and residents of the Pacific Northwest would seem to agree. Thoughts?

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I don’t see Volvo 240s anymore. Lots of bumper-sticker progressives drove them straight to the smelters when they converted to the AGW religion and bought 2nd generation Priuses.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      This was a very common theme in Ithaca NY, with most of our granola crowd first transitioning to Subaru Outbacks before buying their Prii en masse. A lot of them had this weird pride in not taking care of their cars (some sort of statement against materialism I presume), so it was a sad sight to see all the 850 gen cars driving around with blue smoke pouring out the exhaust. There’s a very successful indie Volvo shop/used dealership smack dab downtown, they always have some 240/740 cars for sale, always for way too much money.

  • avatar
    JohnnyFirebird

    Well, I just handed my actual money down for a 2008 V70 3.2 with about 40,000 miles. It was cheap, and I wanted to get rid of my Caliber SRT4 because that car got seriously annoying.

    I pick it up on Wednesday. Given that I’ve been working with these cars for a while perhaps I’m a little biased, but they’re nice. And the terrible resale value means you can pick them up for equal or less than the equivalent Subaru.

    But! I can see why you might think it’s a dumb choice.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    I have a terrible idea of taking a turbo 20V Volvo 5 cylinder and dropping it in a 245 with a stick shift. Get wagon utility, RWD fun, Swedish winter driving stability, and an engine note similar to an Audi Quattro.

    The 850 GLT I’m driving is OK, but it needs more manual transmission and front suspension travel. They designed out too much compliance over the old RWD cars and this thing is HARSH over frost heaves and pot holes, even with all new components. That said, it isn’t as evil to work on as I thought it would be, and it is a comfy and quick car on the highway.

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    In the last five years, I’ve owned the two holy grails of Volvo-dom, a 1990 Volvo 240 wagon and a 1996 Volvo 850R wagon. Both were great cars, for different reasons.

    The 240 was solid and stable, well made and boring as heck to drive. The interior plastics were from Playskool, but it could swallow loads of yard waste with the seat down. It had all of the hipster cool, but it also lacked ABS, more than one air bag and a functional A/C. I loved it and cried salty tears when it was totaled by a college student who thought a STOP sign was a mere suggestion, not a command. Even then, the car sustained remarkably little damage, except it was a enough to total out the car.

    I replaced that car with the 850R. What a difference! It hauled a– like no one’s business, handled WAY better than the 240 and I would have felt every stitch in the pavement were it not for the excellent seats. It also leaked oil like no one’s business and a host of repairs that helped keep my excellent independent Volvo mechanic’s retirement account pretty safe and secure. As much as I loved driving the car, when I got rid of it at nearly 220K miles, I was not really all that sad. The nickle and diming on repairs had worn me down. Nevertheless, it died in the driveway of a guy who was test driving it when I was selling it on Craigslist and he still decided to buy it. I guess hope springs eternal.

    The 850 is a great car, when it works. A much better vehicle than the 240 in almost all ways and it really represented Volvo’s attempt to play in the BMW category of cars. The wagon was a great sleeper car — and it also left me stranded more times than I could care.

    In the end, though, I think both of them cured me of my unnatutal Volvo obsession. Replacing the 850, I looked at more modern V70’s, a few 960’s, and even at some 240’s. Finding a decently kept 240 is no easy taks now, unless you are willing to spend at least $3-4K. And frankly, I couldn’t justify that kind of money on a car that was designed before I was born and was built when George Bush I was president.

    I ended up with a 2000 Lexus ES300. I know boring Japanese, but I have to say, I doubt it will give me a quarter of the fuss the 850 did and it comes from the era when Toyota managed take a lot of pride in building quality, generally easy to use, no fuss vehicles. After the Volvo’s ups and downs, I’m ready for no fuss.

  • avatar
    Calico Jack

    Oh, God, it’s been too long since I drove a 240. Every time they’re mentioned, I start feeling massive withdrawal pains.

    The 240s were great because they were the ultimate examples of the philosophy of intelligence. The exterior form strictly follows the functions of driver visibility, crashworthiness, and cargo space. The interior is designed around comfort and ease of daily use. The driving experience assumed from the start you didn’t give a damn what the 0-60 time was because you didn’t spent a lot of time doing burnouts in your driveway like a teenager trying to impress his hormone-ridden buddies. The whole car was built well and with high-quality materials that have proven to stand up to several decades of daily use. In other words, they made the responsible, adult choice every time they were faced with a design decision. No wonder they ended up with a car that sold for decades.

    Dammit, I’ve been without a 240 for too long in my life. If anybody needs me, I’ll be lurking on fleabay.

  • avatar
    Joss

    164E with M410 electric o/d waa a better choice. No wagon though. 244 with Borg Warner was downight raccous. Knew both. 260 with PRV upper oiling issues.

  • avatar
    bergxu

    Jack,

    Next time you’re in Cinci, give a holla and you can do a Capsule Review of my French Volvo 240 wagon, a 1989 Peugeot 505 SW8 turbo.

    Sorry it’s not a Bentley Turbo R again, I’ve since gone a bit more pedestrian, lol.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I need a Pug wagon to go with my Volvo V90…the BMW Store used to sell them next door at the Peugeot Store, where MINI Cincinnati is now. I’ll take a white one with gray mousefur seats, please.

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