Junkyard Find: 1994 Volvo 960 Sedan

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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  • 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.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.