Junkyard Find: 1994 Volvo 960 Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1994 volvo 960 sedan

While I live in Denver, my family and work ties in the San Francisco Bay Area make me a regular visitor at the incredibly well-stocked self-service wrecking yards of the region between San Jose and Richmond. These yards don’t have quite the selection of Subarus and IHC Scouts that I see in the yards around Denver, but they make up for that shortage by stocking plenty of BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, and Volvos.

Just last week, I found a half-dozen 240s, a 780 Bertone Coupe, and a pair of 960 sedans… in a single yard. Here’s the better-preserved of the two 960s.

I think the 960 is important because it was the very last model in the evolutionary line of sturdy, box-shaped, rear-wheel-drive Göteborg safetymobiles that began with the 140 in 1966 and continued through the 200, 700, and 900 series cars. The final 960 rolled off the assembly line in 1998, so that’s better than three decades of squared-off, sensible Volvos.

The 960 sedan came with a 2.9-liter straight-six engine rated at 201 horsepower, which was 39 more than the turbocharged four-banger in the 940 Turbo that year.

European 960 buyers could get five-speed manual transmissions in the 960, but North American-market 960s all had Aisin four-speed automatics.

The MSRP on this car was $28,950 (about $50,000 in 2019 dollars), which compared favorably to the $38,425 price tag on the 1994 BMW 525i sedan. The BMW had just 189 horses, but could be had with a manual transmission (and I’m guessing maybe 5 percent of American 5 Series buyers went for three pedals that year, so Volvo didn’t lose many sales by ditching the manual 960 over here). Of course, the 1994 Mazda 929 was bigger and swankier and cost only $30,500 in 1994, with nearly as much power as the 960, but few even knew that car existed by 1994.

Bay Area Volvo owners love their cars, and this one was nicely maintained until — most likely — it got traded in and the dealership couldn’t find a buyer that offered more than Schnitzer Steel.

Ah, the joys of a long road trip in Sweden with a new Volvo. Nice Tony Linfjärd soundtrack.

Here’s a US-market dealership video, showing the same 960 (or at least the same Sweden-influenced license plate).

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2 of 44 comments
  • HotPotato HotPotato on Mar 13, 2019

    One of the last proper Volvos. Big greenhouse, unbreakable engine, comfortable seats, a back seat with enough headroom for hat-wearing adults, much less expensive than the German luxury brands but expensive enough to be well built. We picked up a 2012 XC60 with crazy-low miles intending to keep it forever. But I'm not sure it's that kind of Volvo. Everything in the interior makes a little noise over bumps: the door panels, the cargo cover, the dash. You can feel a little chassis flex when you pull into a raised driveway. There are intermittent noises from the blower motor and from something underhood (alternator?). Some details seem uncharacteristically overlooked, like how your hand feels sharp plastic edges instead of padding in the door panel pulls. On the other hand, the interior is beautiful, the stereo is great, the ride quality is a lot better than you'd expect for a faux-truck on 18-inch rims, and the 6-cylinder engine has the torque delivery of a Kenworth. So I guess we'll see...

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Mar 15, 2019

    The most likely reason for this car to be in the junkyard is a broken timing belt, and thus mangled valves. VERY expensive to fix at this point. '92-'94 had a timing belt about the width of a shoelace, with a 30K change interval. And woe-betide you if it isn't changed RIGHT on time. On the plus side, it is probably the easiest timing belt in the world to change - my Volvo mechanic buddy did mine in 30 minutes. I had a '93 965 for a while, one of my baker's dozen of 7/9's. Later cars got a wider belt and a 70K change interval.

  • Chris P Bacon I had a chance to drive 2 Accords back to back as rentals. The first was a base ICE LX. I was underwhelmed. The next was a Sport Hybrid. Like night and day. So much so that I ventured on to the grounds of my local dealer. Was looking for a Sport or Sport-L. Autotrader showed nothing within 250 miles. Dealer confirmed. Told me I'd have to "get on the list" for a delivery, and there was a non-negotiable $3k "market adjustment". I guess I'll have to hope to see one on the Emerald Aisle again.
  • DungBeetle62 I just this past weekend rented one of these for 5 days in SoCal and with $5.29 the best I could find for gas, this ride's wonderful combination of comfort and thrift was welcome indeed. My biggest real beef is with the entire Accord product line - with that angle of backlight, not having this as a 5-door hatch seems a real waste of space.
  • RICHARD I bought my wife the exact car in the picture 3 weeks ago. Acceleration is average for the class. Smoothness of the powertrain, competent ride dynamics, quietness, and comfort are definitely pluses. The styling is restrained for sure, but we weren't looking for a shouty car that doesn't deliver on the design statement. She drives about 8,000 miles per year, mostly around town. At the current rate, we expect to buy about 16 gallons of gas per month. This really is a car that appears to do everything well rather than excelling at a few things to the detriment of others.
  • Ajla "2010-2019 Borrego"The Borrego only had model years 2009 - 2011 in the United States. The Borrego/Mohave did exist in international markets beyond them but the NHTSA of the United States would not be handling a recall on those. It's annoying that apparently the manufacturer, the federal regulator, and automotive press didn't notice this.
  • SilverCoupe The last Accord I test drove was in 1978, but I ended up buying a VW Scirocco instead. The Accords have put on quite a bit of weight since, then, but then again, so have I!