Junkyard Find: 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo With Nearly 500,000 Miles

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
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junkyard find 1990 volvo 740 turbo with nearly 500 000 miles

One of the frustrating things about my job looking for interesting discarded vehicles is the fact that most cars and light trucks didn’t start getting six-digit odometers until the 1980s or even the 1990s. I find vehicles that I know must have racked up incredible total mileage figures, but their odometers all turned over (once? ten times?) when they got past 99,999 miles.

Fortunately, Volvo felt sufficiently optimistic to adopt the six-digit odometer way back in the 1960s, so I was able to read a very impressive figure on the one in this 740 wagon: 493,549 miles.

Yes, that’s close to 16,500 miles every year for its three-decade lifespan. I’ve found a Mercedes-Benz W201 with better than 600,000 miles and a Volkswagen Rabbit Cabrio showing a not-sure-I-believe-it 930,013 miles, plus lots and lots of junked Hondas and Toyotas (and one Oldsmobile) with readings of close to 400,000 miles, but this Volvo in the San Francisco Bay Area ranks near the top of the longevity sweepstakes.

One thing I’ve found with extreme-high-mile junkyard cars is that most of them were in decent cosmetic shape when they finally wore out (or, more likely, were traded in and then proved radioactively unsaleable at auction). That makes sense, because the kind of vehicle owner who takes care of all the maintenance over multiple decades also takes good care of the body and interior. A nasty hooptie with a shredded interior tends to get thrown out when something mechanical costing more than a couple of hundred bucks fails. Looking at this car, I’d have guessed it had perhaps 150,000 miles, not three times that. I see this phenomenon often with high-mile junkyard (rear-wheel-drive) Volvos.

The turbocharged engine is a bit of a surprise, though, because cars with forced induction run hotter, blow head gaskets more readily, and generally get hooned on harder than their naturally-aspirated counterparts.

Perhaps the automatic transmission served to keep the drivers of this car from getting too lead-footed with that 162-horse turbo motor.

To a radar gun, it looked exactly like a Porsche 944… though I’ll bet the brick shape of the Volvo made it detectable at a longer range.

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Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Writer d'Elegance Brougham Landau.

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2 of 16 comments
  • Hummer Hummer on Feb 10, 2020

    These went from essentially everywhere in the early 2010s to non existent in the late 2010s

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Feb 11, 2020

    The overall shape of this vehicle appeals to me very much. Minor issues: - The tailpipe is way wrong. - The clock does not deserve equal billing with the speedometer and tachometer. [This vehicle burned something like $50,000 worth of gasoline over its lifetime.]

  • JmanAF If I had all the money I needed and easy charger access I would not buy one. I would not even accept it if I won it as a prize. It is all for show and hype. Plus at being over 6 feet tall not sure i could even fit in the thing comfortably and safely see out the front windshield.
  • Marty S We had this car in the same color as a 2005 sedan, from 2005 to 2012. Was a nice car and had no major problems; AWD was a plus and worked great. Later upgraded to a series of XE's and XF's, but the interior on the X-Type was very old school and nice. Look at the burled walnut on the dash.
  • Tele Vision My 2010 F-150 Scab is enough truck for me - and it's long paid-off.
  • EV-Guy Yes. Yes I absolutely would buy this. I like to think if I won the lottery - what would I buy? Normally it is a Porsche 718 or Taycan for fun, then a Panamera, Cadillac Lyriq or Hyundai IONIQ 5 N for the fam...maybe one of each! Nothing too fancy though, no Ferraris, Lambos or McLarens. But for a family hauler - yes I would definitely buy this or a Hummer EV - big, safe, fun!
  • El scotto Tassos - the reason some luxury dealers have a quiet lounge.