By on November 18, 2019

1990 Volvo 245 in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBecause Volvo made the 200 Series cars well into the 1990s, they were pretty reliable, and 240 owners tend to stick with their cars for decades. I still see plenty of Swedish bricks in the self-service car graveyards I frequent.

In fact, I walk by a dozen or two discarded 240s for each one I shoot, but I appreciate good manual-transmission wagons and high-mile veteran vehicles and this ’90 checks both boxes.

1990 Volvo 245 in Colorado junkyard, speedometer - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI see junked Civics and Camrys with this sort of odometer reading all the time, and I’ll bet most of the end-of-the-line Amazons and 140s I see have accrued interstellar mileage figures that don’t show on their five-digit odometers. Most of the forcibly-retired 240s I see have around 200,000 total miles, so this one was exceptionally well-cared-for.

1990 Volvo 245 in Colorado junkyard, rear seats - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe seat upholstery looks good for a 29-year-old car in a harsh climate.

1990 Volvo 245 in Colorado junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMost American Volvo buyers opted for the automatic transmission by the early 1990s, but the original buyer of this car wanted a four-on-the-floor rig. Maybe that decision came about because three-pedal cars are more fun, but the 240-wagon-buying demographic tended to be more about the fuel-efficiency and practicality benefits of the manual transmission.

1990 Volvo 245 in Colorado junkyard, HVAC controls - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhich isn’t to say that these cars didn’t have their frivolous side. Check out that air-conditioning! Stern, frugal Swedes might disapprove, but it doesn’t get very hot in Scandinavia.

1990 Volvo 245 in Colorado junkyard, stickers - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe stickers on the rear glass come right out of Volvo Wagon Central Casting, of course.

1990 Volvo 245 in Colorado junkyard, stickers - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsTo be fair, I do see some 245s with NRA or Gadsden Flag stickers here, but not many.

1990 Volvo 245 in Colorado junkyard, decklid badge - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVolvo nitpickers may take issue with my reference to this car as a 245, since Volvo North America dropped the third-digit-in-name-indicates-number-of-doors naming system after 1982, but at least I called it the correct name in the headline. The DL was the cheapest trim level in 1990.

1990 Volvo 245 in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsPower came from this 2.3-liter SOHC straight-four, rated at 114 horsepower. Curb weight on the wagon came to just a few cans of Surströmming over 3,000 pounds (the 240s always looked heavier than they really were, thanks to the brick shape), so acceleration with the base engine wasn’t so bad.

Safe from even runaway pianos!

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50 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1990 Volvo 240 DL Wagon with 393,888 Miles...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    I really miss boxy, solid, and sincere vehicles like this.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I can’t remember if one of my college friends had a 240 or a 740 wagon, but his 4-speed manual had an overdrive switch on top that you could toggle. Not sure if it was 5th gear or ?

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      It was a 4+3 overdrive, similar to that available in the ’84 Corvette.
      Basically, 1st was the same gear no matter what. The switch would engage overdrive in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. Typically, the driver would leave the switch on and just shift 1-2-3-4, but you could also leave it off and go 1-2-3-4 then flip the switch, which sort of gave you a fifth gear.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        The overdrive was locked out of 1-3 by the way the the switch was wired on all 240s. If you could engage it in any gear but 4th then either the wiring had been modified, mis-wired, or otherwise malfunctioning.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    After seeing these driving around for decades I became convinced that Volvo had a check box on the option sheet: Dog, How many,

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Au contraire, mon ami, Volvo nitpickers would prefer that you call it a 245 ;)

    I think this one might have been a true five speed. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of wires inside the shift knob in that hole at the top with the faceplate removed.

    The top gear in the five speed had a slightly shorter ratio than the overdrive in the four speed + OD. Towards the end of these cars’ production and when this car was built, the final drive ratios in the U.S. market cars also moved away from the second fuel crisis/malaise era numbers. A 1990 wagon had practically the same curb weight as a 1980 and a lot of interchangeable parts, but better acceleration and more fun to drive because of that gearing.

    The 240 wagon could swallow some pretty crazy cargo with the rear seat folded down. If you didn’t mind driving a short distance with the tailgate wide open, you could even fit a few sheets of plywood in there diagonally, with the last couple feet sticking out the back.

    One of the neatest surprises of these wagons? The same ridiculously tight U-turn as the regular versions of the car. This is a legitimate case of “kids these days don’t know what they’re missing.” 2019 Honda Civic curb-to-curb turn diameter: 35.4 feet. 2019 Toyota Camry: 38 feet. 2019 Ford F150 (regular cab/short box: 40 feet (never mind the dude ranch editions…). All years Volvo 240: 32.5 feet. These things were a cinch to park and you could whip a fast U-turn with no fear of hopping the curb or having an outside wheel go in the grass.

    • 0 avatar
      eggsalad

      “I think this one might have been a true five speed.”

      Definitely by 1990. All 240s had the M47. I had a couple 90s among my hoard.
      -signed, former 240 hoarder

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “The 240 wagon could swallow some pretty crazy cargo with the rear seat folded down”

      This is true, though with my wagon I had to move the front seats forward a bit too close to the dash for comfort. The boxy shape really does wonders for cargo capacity.

      One of my biggest gripes with my ’92 Accord was its turning radius, having been spoiled on a 240 I figured that the smaller “nimbler” Accord would turn better, instead it was actually quite worse. In fact, I thought the Honda was a lesser car overall.

      Since you’re pretty familiar with older Volvos, I’m curious to hear your take on their strange chase after scans of the long OOP green books. People have mentioned it over at Brickboard.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “Since you’re pretty familiar with older Volvos, I’m curious to hear your take on their strange chase after scans of the long OOP green books. People have mentioned it over at Brickboard.”

        I hadn’t even heard of the scans but I understand why it would be a thing. I used to be active on Swedishbricks but that was a long time ago now. I get copyright but I think it’s a fool’s errand for the company HQ to chase down scans, not to mention counterproductive for the brand. It would be far better for the brand to declare any service manuals >30 years old to be public domain.

        I do have a green manual from 1974. One of my uncles (ran an independent shop (servicing lots of different makes and models) gave it to me about twenty years ago. It was kinda like “I don’t need it anymore and I was going to throw it away.” Nooooooo!

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          “It would be far better for the brand to declare any service manuals >30 years old to be public domain.”

          I’ve heard that Volvo technically never claimed copyright on the greenbooks themselves, thus they are indeed public domain.

          Some Volvo sites sell USBs with scans that are virtually impossible to share thanks to DRM, which makes me wonder if they’re the ones that went after online scans.

          Good call on saving that book though, I dont have any myself. I just have links to online scans to help out owners that need them.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Back when Consumers reports used to use an adjustable tube frame to measure station wagon cargo capacity the Volvo ranked quite well along with the AMC Matador. The Chevrolet Chevelle, Ford Torino and Plymouth Satellite were less roomy due their less boxy and more curvaceous styling.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    In the mid 80’s my girlfriend got a used 240 DL sedan – 4-speed.
    That clutch was the smoothest and easiest clutch I have ever used.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      Yep, can confirm. Easiest manual to drive ever.

    • 0 avatar
      pwrwrench

      IIRC the Volvos had a hydraulically operated clutch which worked well and was reliable.
      Unlike the BMW 3 series. In the 1980s-90s, we kept a BMW clutch slave cylinder on the shelf. Even though we did not have many BMW customers. They failed about once a year.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        The right hand drive 240 had the hydraulic clutch (too much stuff to squeeze next to the exhaust manifold- brake master cylinder and lines, steering column, and clutch cable) but the left hand drive 240s had a cable operated clutch. With a new clutch plate and cable it was a very nice system.

        I don’t remember if the later model year LHD 240s went to a hydraulic clutch though. I can’t tell in the picture for this junkyard find car.

        (I can’t remember if the 740 went to a hydraulic clutch or when.)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Couldn’t even keep it till 400? Quitter.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Since 1990 to 2016 that is actually medium to higher miles annually. Imagine a 3800 Series 1 seeing that mileage?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        They have.

        This thread claimed 360 on an LN3.

        https://www.gmforum.com/general-gm-chat-88/what-highest-mileage-very-heard-out-3800-a-197465/page2/

        I’ve personally seen an 88/89 Park Ave with the LN3 at 388, think it sold for $350ish.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          Whoa!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Probably the closest a domestic marque came to Toyota, although I have read reports of 500K-1,000K Panthers although that’s a completely different configuration.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            There are quite a few Acura Legends and first-gen RLs out there with well over 500k on the original C32 or C35.
            You have to faithfully clean the EGR tube every 60k or so miles to avoid head gasket failure, but otherwise the engine is bulletproof. (Mine is just breaking in at 201k.)

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      My nieghbor ( a landscape contractor) drives a 1999 F350 single rear wheel four-door pickup, with 7.3 diesel and a manual. Even though he has 420,000+ miles on the original engine and gearbox, he doesn’t want to replace it because he can’t–he is a manual transmission purist. (good man in my book!)

      • 0 avatar
        Jagboi

        ” I have read reports of 500K-1,000K Panthers although that’s a completely different configuration.”

        Highest I have seen on a Panther was 1,300,000 km. Odometer was showing 500,000km and there was a Ford sticker in the door jamb showing the odometer had been replaced at 700,000km and the new one set to zero.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Maybe the owner gave out first.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Right on – especially for the condition of the car. The front seats seam split can be repaired, and the black bumpers freshened up, but otherwise, it looks like it’s got years of life left. The drivetrain probably developed a too-expensive-to-fix problem, but it’s nothing an engine or transmission swap couldn’t cure.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Its actually semi-common to use “245” in place of 240 wagon, same goes for the 7-8-9 series. Volvo should have held onto it longer if you ask me.

    Recently I inquired about a ’92 Wagon, it seemed solid enough, but not $3000 solid. Certainly not with a busted wiper lever, bad headlight relay, worn interior (fun!), or a goofed up auto that requires you to do a thing to move a thing to get out of park.

    I do find the Volvo groups a bit odd if I’m honest, they hoard up scrapyard parts, literature, and more often than not have a fleet of semi-broken cars. When it comes time to clean up they’ll offer it for free, (in my particular case I had a new 740 blower motor), but other fans wont take it. Meanwhile they bow at the alter of IPD sway bars and other silly stuff (pro tip, just replace the worn shocks and rubber bushings and these things will handle fine).

    As much as I respect RWD Volvos it isnt easy finding a mechanic that will work on one, let alone one that I’d trust. Then you have Volvo lawyers deliberately chasing after online scans of their ancient, rare green books. Nah, you gotta buy heavily DRM’d USB devices if you want to keep your old car alive. I’ve yet to see another carmaker artificially limit out of print literature.

    I’ve done the Volvo thing, I dunno if I’ll go back, but I wish the best of luck to those who’re trying to keep these things alive. My Ford gives me the whole dated RWD box thing but with less needless drama.

    • 0 avatar
      millmech

      740 blower motor -PishTosh! One needs to spend a day or two excavating down to 140/240 blower motor a few times to absorb the zen of the new blower motor, having only a mild resemblance to the old. Thinking 740 blower motor from GM. Weenie person! On 740, one with long & skinny arms can reach under dashboard & TOUCH the blower motor.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    My cousin, a beltway power Mom married to a Clinton admin lawyer, had one of these. She loved it. Now of course she’s got a Tesla S.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    ” Gadsden Flag stickers”

    no step on snek

  • avatar
    volvo

    240/245s continually improved up to the end. The only feature in later models that wasn’t an improvement was the replacement of sealed beam headlamps with the plastic covered reflector casing holding a halogen bulb. After a decade replacement was needed not just because of hazing of the cover but deterioration of the reflector surface.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    I was a big Volvo nut through the mid 1960s. Then the Granpaw, pipe and slippers car 144S came out for 1967. It was a sloth compared to the 544 or 122S. Extra weight was to blame despite the on-paper 25 hp increase.

    Then they dumped the double A-arm front suspension sometime in the early to mid ’70s for a MacPherson strut front end, bored the B18 engine to 2 liters and called it the 240 Series. My best friend at the time bought a 1976.

    It really was a heavy beast to wheel around, not particularly economical or quick, somewhat trucky and noisy. The engine wasn’t a revver nor did it show much of a sign of even moderate life. My Audi 100LS was a far superior car to drive and made it to 92,000 miles before i sold it to my younger brother. Which in five years was all I needed from it. My pal got fed up with the Volvo early but held on to not lose too much by trading too soon, but by 1980 got the best wagon going — a Chevy Impala. Really no comparison, the Chev was way better as a vehicle than the 245. Except, of course, to Volvo nutbars. One Caprice wagon and one slightly used Olds version of the same thing carried his family through 20 years with not much more trouble than a new carb kit every now and then, plus usual consumables. They rode better, had way more room, were quieter and had power steering and an automatic. Best old style RWD cars ever made, imho, including the later bloated whale ones. The A bodies dating from 1978 weren’t even close, and deteriorated far quicker.

    Never did get the appeal of these brick Volvos. Around here they rusted badly. If you kept the tin worm at bay and managed to keep it roadworthy enough to get your annual Vehicle Inspection sticker while the poor beast had that multicolor look from junkyard-rescued fenders, doors and hoods, then you faced the prospect of thumping around for hundreds of thousands of miles in an old crate as things gradually fell off or broke. Ain’t life great?

    Some people apparently like punishment for the sake of it. That’s why they call them “afficionados” – as Webster says “a person who likes, knows about, and appreciates a usually fervently pursued interest or activity : DEVOTEE”. A Volvo Brick fan, in other words.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Untinted, honest comments like this are always a good read. My father owned one or two early Volvo bricks, neither were that old yet they required repairs that ultimately made a new car more tempting.

      Most Volvo praise comes from the late 90’s 240s, the internet and its repetitious fandoms often forget that problems of the older models, the bio-degradable wiring, the rockers that soak up dirt and moisture, the safety defects (ever wonder why the third row seat wasnt an option later on?).

      As far as the B-Body goes, didnt a Volvo back then cost as much as a full-size domestic? They werent cheap cars, despite having less engine than a Citation.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      When I was a wee newborn my dad had a 1970-ish Volvo wagon bought new. It left him repeatedly stranded. One time, as we were leaving church, the back window fell out!

      Sold in a few years for… a Chevy Monza! Which had an engine that died at 20,000- as he tells it – miles.

      Of course this is the same guy who owned an Oldsmobile diesel – died at 60k-something miles, and a ’81 Cadillac with the 8-6-4 engine. He is apparently a glutton for GM punishment.

      After the diesel fiasco we were Nissan drivers for quite a few years.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    My neighbor ( a landscape contractor) drives a 1999 F350 single rear wheel four-door pickup, with 7.3 diesel and a manual. Even though he has 420,000+ miles on the original engine and gearbox, he doesn’t want to replace it because he can’t–he is a manual transmission purist. (good man in my book!)

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Navistar must have upgraded the material the engine block was cast from with the T444e/7.3 Powerstroke. The 6.9/7.3 IDIs were tapered-cylinder oil guzzlers by 175k miles.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Clever commercial, and the woman reminded me of Patty Duke.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Back in the Brougham/Malaise Era (and before) I greatly disliked these and their drivers.

    Volvo was marketed as the ‘safe’ car. So many who drove them were the ‘white knuckle’, ‘speed police’ types who were deathly afraid of driving.

    The other primary market was teachers/professors who paid ‘top dollar’ (they were not inexpensive) but used them to demonstrate their social awareness and distaste for ‘status symbols’. That is one reason why putting on excess miles became a source of pride. Ironically by the early 1980’s putting a Volvo in the driveway did become a status symbol.

    Then there was the expense of maintaining, servicing and accessing parts for them. Quite a few 2nd and 3rd owners of Volvos that I knew were ‘scared’ out of this brand after just a few repair bills.

    Yet now in retrospect, I miss the ‘brick’ Volvo. And it appears that their market role has been assumed by Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      One of my best friends in high school had a mother who fit this stereotype perfectly. She had a roughly eight-year-old 240 DL and drove 35 on the freeway, panicking the whole time. I often drove my friend home because she didn’t want to drive with her mom.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Yeah, the Volvo 240 driver stereotype used to really irritate me (stereotypes sometimes come from reality…) because the cars drove just fine in their day and could keep up with contemporary traffic, merge onto a highway at speed, and so on. The brand’s snob appeal in the American market (and Canadian) was certainly a thing too.

        There was another kind of owner/driver of these, people who appreciated them for being well built, their form over function, and a little bit that the cars were just a bit different from other Euro iron, American, or Japanese cars.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I’ve had a baker’s dozen of 240/740/940s, and one 965. Good cars, not really GREAT cars, other than historically they were cheap well-used and reasonably reliable even at intergalactic mileages. They are like panthers that don’t completely suck. Tinworm generally kills them before mechanical maladies. I currently have a pretty minty and VERY rare ’91 940GLE 16V with only 85K on it (my mother drives it in FL), which oddly is the only one that ever gave me any running trouble. Still no idea what actually ailed the darned thing, but replacing nearly everything in the fuel and ignition systems seems to have cured it.

    As for mileage on junkyard cars 240 odometers usually fail due to cracked gears around 200K…

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Most are familiar with the terms, socialism, capitalism, communism. There is also Volvo-ism. If you are really into it you can be a Volvo-ista.
    Soon there will be a wiki page.

  • avatar
    mor2bz

    I remember going to some wretched dance bar as a 30-something male.
    I actually had decent clothing on. I approached a female of extreme
    beauty with whom I was somewhat familiar and attempted to make small talk.
    At this time her younger brother appeared, met me, and then went off,
    he said, “in search of some vulva”. I stated that my brother once had
    a Saab, at which the woman smiled broadly. Check but no checkmate.

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