By on March 30, 2016

1968 Volvo 144 in California junkyard, RH rear view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

How is it that there are still sufficient Volvo 140s left, more than 40 years after production of the original Swedish brick ceased, that you’ll still find plenty of them in American wrecking yards? Not in the quantities you’ll find of their 240 descendants, of course, but anybody driving a 140 today should have no problem getting parts.

1968 Volvo 144 in California junkyard, front seats - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I don’t photograph every 140 that I encounter in the junkyard, but I shoot enough that we have a pretty good selection of scrapped Swedes. In this series prior to today, we have seen this ’68 142, this ’68 144, this ’69 145, this ’71 144, this ’71 142, this ’72 145 wagon (plus this 140-based Volvo 164).

1968 Volvo 144 in California junkyard, 1973 UCLA parking permit - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I found this 144 in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard, but it spent some time in Los Angeles in the early 1970s.

1968 Volvo 144 in California junkyard, rear disc brake - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Not many US-market cars had four-wheel disc brakes in 1968. In fact, even front discs were considered fairly sporty back then.

1968 Volvo 144 in California junkyard, vinyl roof - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I can’t recall ever seeing another Volvo 140 with a vinyl roof. In California, where the sun is harsh, the smog is corrosive, and the winters are rainy, vinyl roofs on cars of this era tend to cause rust problems.

1968 Volvo 144 in California junkyard, roof rust - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The rust under the vinyl appears to be the stuff of nightmares.

1968 Volvo 144 in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The car was quite rough all over by the time its final owner decided to give up.

1968 Volvo 144 in California junkyard, air conditioning compressor - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Air conditioning! Such luxury!

Here’s a pretty good selection of Volvo 140 ads from around the world.

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44 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1968 Volvo 140 Sedan...”


  • avatar
    e30gator

    Most of the 140’s I see for sale aren’t exactly cheap these days. I’m surprised people still junk them. Retro “nerd-cool” writ large.

    I currently have a ’92 240 and lately I’ve had a pretty tough time finding them in the junkyards in and around Sarasota, though most of the stuff I need can be found cheap on eBay. Maybe I just live in the wrong part of the country.

    Speaking to its longevity though, I don’t think I’ve ever owned another car that was as well-built and simple to fix. These actually make pretty good beginner restoration projects.

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      Well built and simple to fix claim is very disputable. Ever? Nah. Old Volvos have plenty of problems. My 240 stranded me 3 times in 9 years. Which is 3 times more than my 1973 2002. Relays go bad and the car leaves you stranded, crankcase ventilation, fried air sensors when air box flap stops flapping, leaks from AC system when drain plugs, soft engine mounts, rusted rocker panels from the leaves inside, biodegradable engine harness wire jackets, steering rack knocks, and, of course, the replacement of the interior vent fan. Simpler than the cars from 1980-1990? Perhaps. Simpler than some today’s cars with modular elements? Not necessarily.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Agreed, I had a ’92 740 wagon. It was far from trouble free. By the time of my divorce it was in my ex’s garage, not running, but in OK condition otherwise. I wanted desperately to do the Mustang engine swap in it (FRANKENVOLVO!!!), but that female dog had it towed away and donated.

      • 0 avatar
        e30gator

        I don’t know about the newer stuff. I’ve had three 240s (’84 240GL, ’88 240DL wagon, and my current ’92 240 sedan), a ’97 850 base, and an ’01 V70 T5.

        Compared to my old catfish Taurus (largely considered a “reliable” car), the Volvos seemed waaayyyy easier to work on. And as long as you’re fixing it yourself, cheaper too. Case in point: new aftermarket radiator for Volvo= $70. Taurus radiator: $120 (NAPA).

        Once you get past the ceramic fuses and learn to keep extra light bulbs on hand at all times, there’s not much that goes wrong with them. Granted, I did have a blower motor go out on my ’88 wagon, but it was a second car so never bothered to fix it.

        • 0 avatar
          Stumpaster

          240 tail lights – $400 still? Each? No, not the Estonian crap, the OEM ones that don’t melt.

          • 0 avatar
            e30gator

            The two tail lights that I got for my ’92 240 sedan? About $50 for both from Big Al’s Pick-N-Pull! ;) Granted, that was about 3 years ago, but apparently the pickings are still pretty good in certain yards across the country, just not in my neck of the woods. A good used one will set you back about $50-$80 on eBay.

            Who would really need to go out and buy new ones at this point? Probably the same types who take their ’02 Sebrings to the Chrysler dealership whenever the SEL comes on.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Had several 240s and a 740, most work was easy as long as it wasnt in the back of the engine (where the flame trap is), but they certainly were not trouble nor fool-proof, all had their quirks, and the interiors were despicable in all of them..

      None ever stranded me despite parts getting pricier and a bit more rare. Keeping their interiors in shape is a bit futile, always tabs or plastic breaking, always a new rattle, always a speaker going out from someones awful diy wiring.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Dull as dishwater but very reliable and safe should you wad it .

    A generator in 1968 ~ that must have been close to the end of those .

    I sort of miss my 144S….

    Sort of .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      So they switched from generator to alternator because… what? All before me time.

      • 0 avatar
        pbr

        Wiki page is a decent read:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternator_%28automotive%29

        Highlights:
        – The first car to use an alternator was an unusual system fitted to early Model T Fords. (the rest is too intricate to summarize here)
        – Alternators have several advantages over direct-current generators. They are lighter, cheaper and more rugged. … The brushes in an alternator carry only excitation current, a small fraction of the current carried by the brushes of a DC generator, which carry the generator’s entire output.

        In my experience, cars with generators tend to drain the battery at idle and cars with alternators can idle for reasonable intervals with little risk of drawing down the battery charge below a point where it could be restarted. Police- and taxi- option packages often include a higher-output alternator, an overdrive pulley for the alternator, or both, to provide capacity for extensive add-on equipment and indefinite idling.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Thanks

        • 0 avatar
          dcp8

          I know this is an ancient thread, but I figured I’d jump in here to add an interesting bit to the conversation.

          In addition to what you said, another key difference is alternators use electro-magnets, compared to a generator’s permanent magnets. This allows the alternator’s output to be more or less independent of the engine RPM (at least, up to the maximum output of the electro-magnets), which is why cars with alternators easily keep the battery charged even when idling for long periods of time.

          Basically, if more power is needed from the alternator, more current is applied to the magnets, increasing the amount of their “pull.” This increases the energy required to turn the alternator, but the ECU adjusts the idle air control valve to maintain the idle speed. This is why it is unnecessary to rev up the source vehicle (if it is equipped with an alternator) when jumpstarting another — you’ll also notice, if the source vehicle is idling when the last jumper cable connection is made, that the sound of the engine will change; this is because the alternator has increased its output, and the engine has to work harder to turn it. It is also why you cannot push-start an alternator-equipped vehicle with a dead (or missing) battery – without at least a little power running to the alternator, it cannot generate electricity.

          Generators, on the other hand, output a set power for a given RPM, since the amount of “pull” created by permanent magnets cannot be varied. Often (and especially for older six-volt systems), the RPM at idle is insufficient to meet the accessory/engine power demand and the battery charged. However, you can push-start a generator-equipped vehicle even if it has no battery, since the permanent magnets do not need a charge to create a magnetic pull.

          Oh, and lastly, if you run an electrical charge to the generator (with the proper voltage it is rated for), you’ll notice it will spin, since it’s just a glorified electric motor. So if you pull one from a junkyard, that’s a good, old-school way to test if the generator is functional.

    • 0 avatar
      Jesse

      Yes, my ’69 has an alternator and 12v system. They changed around the same time they went from b18 to b20 engines.

  • avatar
    Jesse

    Only 56k miles! That’s 200k less than my current daily-driver ’69 145s.

    • 0 avatar
      e30gator

      The plastic odometer gear is notorious for breaking on these. My guess is that the odo is broke and that it actually has significantly higher mileage than indicated.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Arent 140 odometers mechanically driven?

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          “Arent 140 odometers mechanically driven?”

          Yes. Late in the 240 model run (late 1980s or early 1990s) the mechanical speedometer cables went away and got replaced by modern impulse senders.

          Tachometers in both cars, by the way, used electric pulses from one of the coil terminals. No mechanical tachs in the 140/240.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    How many horsepowers has it got? 70? What’s a 0-60 time on one of these, and how many minutes more does it take if you’re on the AC!?

    This is one of those cars you might actually have trouble driving in modern freeway situations.

    If they had a more poncy grille and bright work, they’d look like a little Rolls Royce. I like the styling. Looks so honest next to the relative grandeur of the XJ8.

    • 0 avatar
      Jesse

      It has closer to 100 horsepower. I have absolutely no trouble keeping up with Boston freeway traffic. I feel no more unsafe driving my 145 than I do my 855T which has more than twice the horsepower.

      That being said, 0-60? As they say, the 140 doesn’t really accelerate so much as it gains momentum.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Can you manage an entrance ramp and be at speed by the end of it?

        • 0 avatar
          Jesse

          Yes.

          • 0 avatar
            Jesse

            I should add two caveats though: mine is a manual 4-speed with a B20. The B18 with an automatic might be a different story, though my 1800 (before I converted it to manual) wasn’t too scary. And you’re right about the AC. It’s like throwing a boat anchor down.

          • 0 avatar
            JP

            Jesse,

            You have a 145S as your daily car? When did you obtain it?

            I know this may be a long shot, but a friend of mine is looking to sell his 2008 BMW E90 328i (6-speed) within the next few months. Are you much of a BMW man and/or would you be interested in it.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      Keep in mind that, not too long afterwards, the nation was blessed with a 55-mph speed limit.

      Even before that…freeways weren’t so universal in the 1960s. The Interstate Highway system was still under construction. Speed limits were comparable to today – but there were plenty of slow cars. VWs come to mind, especially the Type II buses. And of course Rambler Americans, with flathead sixes that made 90 hp gross. To say nothing of the later 57-hp Pintos and the 40-hp Rabbit Diesels.

      So…there was the expectation that some cars would be putting along.

      The alternator, a Chrysler innovation, was exponentially more effective an electric power source than a traditional generator. A modern car with its electronic gear would be IMPOSSIBLE with a 1960s-style generator.

      Alternators became universal in the mid-late 1960s. VW and a few others held off as long as they could…I had a 1970 Super Beetle with a generator, but since it had power NOTHING, only headlights and a cheesy radio, it scarecely mattered. But today’s EFI and computer controls…all that would be impossible without a high-output alternator.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I forget about the 55 regulation. And how long ago 1968 was – but when I think of 1968 and cars my mind usually goes to a Toronado or a giant Lincoln which would not have such power worries.

        The small cars are confined to the edges of my brain!

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          Neither the Toronado nor the Lincoln were commonplace.

          SBCs were numerous; yes; but the far-slower Fords…even the replacement for the Y-Blocks of the previous era were not really powerhouses. This was a different era…for all the envy that’s cultivated today, those back then who could afford a Toronado, a Lincoln or a huge-block Cadillac were truly in rarified air.

          And there was a reason the automakers poured development money into the new “intermediate” and compact classes – there was demand for them. Six-cylinder Falcons, and four-cylinder Novas and Corvairs, abounded. Even the big Chevrolet and Ford offerings often had 100-hp sixes under the massive hood.

          Nor was there FI. And horsepower ratings in those years were “gross” as determined by the makers in their horsepower race. Not the standard “net” tests today.

          Twelve-second 0-60 times were considered fast. Not like today, when you get that kind of performance out of a GM Daewoo Spark. The big-block V8s of those luxury cars were quick, but not that quick – and they had to fight the early two- and three-speed automatic transmissions.

          For the performance-minded, we really are in an automotive Golden Age, today.

  • avatar
    threeer

    General Powell, your next Volvo restoration project has just been found…

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Say what you like about the car’s durability, but what I’m really impressed by here is the longevity of those 43-year-old parking stickers on the bumper.

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    This was the first car I bought with my own money. $500 in 1993. It was a 1974 142 with a stick and the mini tach which was always fun to look at. The car looked odd compared to other cars on the road. $4000 and two years later it was junked after getting nailed by a GMC pickup truck in an ice storm. It was near the end of its life cycle and virtually anything that could fail did fail. Parts were expensive. We had discovered it had a blown head gasket shortly before it was killed. Despite all this I truly loved the car. It had a certain Swedish “je ne sais quoi” to it.

  • avatar
    THEjeffSmif

    I live in Austin, Texas where Hipsters rule & I've seen quite a few of these around town, many with black or blue California license plates. I don't see them anywhere else in the state but Austin!
    In fact, I saw one last week at a coffee shop sporting a Bernie Sanders sticker. Hipsters.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      One of my new neighbors is feelin’ the Bern – she’s got his sticker on the back of her car.

      I’m not feelin’ Bern, but good to know I’m not the only Democrat in my complex anymore…but if I were her, I’d put that sticker inside her back window. Bumper stickers and lawn signs for non Republicans have a bad habit of disappearing or getting vandalized around here.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        There are similar problems here, pity something as trivial as a bumper sticker can result in vandalism.

        Although my dear departed father took a similar destructive view to those promulgating anything for the Cleveland Browns…

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        Having lived all across the country, from Buffalo to Denver to the Idaho panhandle…my experience has been the opposite. And that’s why one sees so few conservative/Republican bumper-stickers, except in very-docile outer suburban areas.

        It stands to reason. Someone who advocates law and order and personal responsibility, doesn’t go tearing up neighbor’s yard signs or keying their cars. Anarchists and those in favor of violent acts…tend to put their beliefs into action.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Holy cow! Cinnamon Toast Man!!

    • 0 avatar
      ReallyRandy

      Try living in Portland Oregon, where the hipster movement began. It’s just as awful, but, I do like their choices in old cars.

      • 0 avatar
        THEjeffSmif

        I’ve been to the PDX in 2014. Love that city! Hipster culture is way more advanced than in Austin lol
        & the beer choices in Portland are spectacular!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Late ’60’s to mid 70’s, I always remember Volvos, Darts and Valiants as the automobile of choice for teachers.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      My mom, who was a high school teacher in 69, bought a 69 Valiant in 77. Slant six, bench seats… awesome car for me to learn to drive in. OK, new lottery fantasy; I’ll build a stupid fast restomod Valiant.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    so much boxy goodness. Is anyone so far ahead of the competition now? I guess if the market goes that way, the Leaf or Prius or Model S may look this good in hindsight. Crumple zones, disk brakes and longevity in the 60’s.

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