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

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
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.

For links to 1,800+ more posts like this one, head to the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

Join the conversation
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.]

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.