By on March 30, 2020

1995 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen I’m strolling through my favorite junkyards and looking for significant bits of discarded automotive history, I’m always on the lookout for interesting Volvos. Thing is, my definition of interesting has long spanned the PV544/Amazon Era through the Late Rear-Wheel-Drive Brick Era, meaning that the universe of front- and all-wheel-drive Volvos beginning with the 1993 850 has been neglected in this series.

Lately, I’ve been making an effort to fill in some of those blank spots in the junkyard record, and so I went out and found a ’97 850R sedan and today’s find: this 1995 850 Turbo Wagon.

1995 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon in Colorado junkyard, odometer - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVolvo wagon owners tend to hang onto their cars for decades, come depreciation or expensive repairs, and this car stayed in action until nearly a quarter-million miles had passed beneath its tires.

1995 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis DOHC, 2.3-liter five-cylinder engine made 222 horsepower when new, making this 3,287-pound wagon good and quick.

1995 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon in Colorado junkyard, automatic gearshift lever - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAmerican Volvo shoppers couldn’t get a manual transmission in the 850 Turbo Wagon in 1995, though the factory-hot-rod T-5R version could be had with three pedals, one year later.

1995 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon in Colorado junkyard, radio - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsRemember when factory cassette decks use to be targeted by thieves, and some cars had these maddening radios that required you to input a security code after disconnecting the battery? When I had my last junkyard-parts boombox-building party, we ran into this problem with a Volvo radio from this era. Fortunately, a previous owner had written down the code on the radio’s case.

1995 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon in Colorado junkyard, tailgate emblem - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe MSRP on this car came to $32,345, or about $55,700 in 2020 dollars. The Audi A6 wagon sold for $35,550 that year, the Mercedes-Benz E320 wagon went for $47,500, and the Passat wagon cost $21,320; all of those European competitors had less power than the 850 Turbo Wagon. Meanwhile, the enormous 1995 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon cost just $27,070 and had an underworked V8 generating 260 horsepower. If you wanted to stand out from the rest of the wagon crowd that year, however, you went for the Mitsubishi Diamante wagon, priced at $28,250 and getting 177 horses from its 6G72 V6 engine.

This commercial is for the 850 Turbo sedan, but you get the idea.

The little red sports car has finally grown up.

For links to 2,000+ more of these Junkyard Finds, head to The Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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14 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1995 Volvo 850 Turbo Wagon...”

  • avatar

    It’s amazing the odometer worked… unless it’s been replaced. I LOVE square Volvo’s, especially the 850/S70, but anything from the 80’s till they switched to electric odometers in 1998 had nearly a 100% failure rate.

    DONT RESET THE TRIP METER WHILE DRIVING. Happened every time. Thankfully, the repair is pretty cheap, even at the dealer and on the OBD2 cars (96/97), the ECM stores vehicle driving distance and can be recovered with a proper scan tool.

    It’s actually fun to cruise any classified site and check out 200/700/900/800 listings and see how many (mainly 850’s) that have trip meters reading “000.0”. Tell tale sign of a dead odometer.

    • 0 avatar

      Mercedes W126s and W124s have the same odometer issue.

    • 0 avatar

      I had to look again at the picture. I forgot about the half mechanical/half electronic odometers and I didn’t realize they sucked so bad! I think it was the late model 240s that went to this system- replace the old fashioned spinning cable between the transmission and the back of the instrument cluster with an electronic sending unit (in the transmission/transaxle) that talked to a little motor (in the instrument cluster) that moved the little mechanical digits. I’m pretty sure the later 850/S70 used the rear wheel ABS sensors to talk to the speedometer and odometer, instead of a sending unit on the transaxle… maybe the early 850 as well, but I don’t know.

      Trivia: the old 240 instrument clusters had “r, xxx” inscribed right near the “mph km/h.” That number (xxx) was supposed to help the parts guy figure out which little plastic gear was supposed to go in the speedometer cable drive inside the transmission. There were a few different plastic gears and the correct one depended mostly on which final drive ratio the car was built with- otherwise your speedometer and odometer would be inaccurate and read either too high or too low.

      • 0 avatar

        @JimC2- In 2007, I personally owned a 97 Turbo with a bunk odometer. Bought it TMU for a song. Brought it to my shop (a Volvo dealer) and had a tech hook’er up to the scanner. Turned out to only have just under 94k miles on it.

    • 0 avatar

      Never had any problems with our Volvo odometers all we’re working well until we got rid of them – maybe Canadian weather was easier on them???

    • 0 avatar

      Never had any problems with our Volvo odometers all we’re working well until we got rid of them – maybe Canadian weather was easier on them???

    • 0 avatar

      All VDO mechanical odometers do this since the 1950s. You would think VDO would have fixed it by the 1990s

  • avatar

    Looks well used but not worn out yet .

    I have some of those code radios made my Becker, what a PIA .


  • avatar

    So young, so young! I could use those wheels and maybe the grille and rear taillights for my 855 (non-turbo though). I am glad I didn’t get the turbo model and added complexity. My 95 has about 285,000 on it and runs great. I have kept up with the timing belt changes (maybe the cause of this one’s state) and regular maintenance. Still has the original alternator and radiator for example. I did have the rear main seal replaced at about 200,000 miles and finally had to replace the exhaust from the catalyst back, but Michigan winters will do that.

    My 855 has taken me all over, out of state to a new job, and back. Also many trips to school and vacations. I am not sure about the new Volvos, but this one will stay with me! Great car, great seats. Not a dragster but a highway cruiser. I even have the third row seat!

    • 0 avatar

      ” My 95 has about 285,000 on it and runs great. I have kept up with the timing belt changes”

      Ahhh, the pre-1998 white block engines had that very complicated hydraulic tensioner. It has to be compressed fairly slowly before removing the old timing belt (or you might damage the tensioner). This was actually one of the detail changes that turned me off of Volvos…

      The 850 was a really nice, modern car. It was much less expensive to manufacture than the 240 (which was important for the company’s long-term survival and success). But it was so much less maintainable and there were certain unnecessarily complicated, Rube Goldberg things going on with it mechanically. That tensioner got changed to a simpler, less expensive, more robust, and superior part in the 1998 engines- and the timing belt interval in the 1999 and later got increased.

      I never understood why the engineers made such a dumb choice with the original tensioner when these cars were on the drawing board in the early 1990s/late 1980s. The tensioner in the red block engines was a piece of beautiful simplicity and effectiveness but for whatever reason they abandoned it and created something ten times more expensive and marginally more effective.

      Glad you’re keeping up with the maintenance and that the car is giving you faithful service!

  • avatar
    R Henry

    To my eye, these are fantastically styled. I have always preferred the Volvo interpretation of good style over that of the Germans.

  • avatar

    My wife had a ’94 850 GL. I had a matching 850 GLT, with the turbo.

    Not particularly fast, but better than her car.

    And yes, her odom stopped spinning.

    Both cars felt like little tanks but weren’t the most reliable things on the road.

  • avatar

    These things were nowhere near as sturdy and simple as their 240/740/940 forebears. The old rwd volvos had a tiny little uncomplicated engine in an enormous engine bay uncluttered by electronics and hoses and were not too much more sophisticated than a lawnmower. Took about 5 minutes to replace most things underhood.

    These were very complicatd electronically and had lots of bugs, including transmission problems and electrical problems. A couple of people I knew had them and they were also VERY expensive to fix unlike the previous models.

  • avatar

    Single worst car I ever owned, and I owned a Malibu Maxx and a Sunbird. Every single system on these was crap, from the HVAC to the PCV. I bought it used for $3,200, spent $2,000 on repairs, sold it 10-months later for $1,100, one of the best days of my life.

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