Rare Rides: A 1979 Volvo 242 GT, Ready for Sports Driving

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a 1979 volvo 242 gt ready for sports driving

Today’s Rare Ride is from a time when a few of the sensible people at the Volvo Boxy Car Company created a special, sporty version of their mainstream model. From long ago and now largely forgotten, it’s the 1979 Volvo 242 GT.

The 200 Series was an immensely important one for Volvo as a small and independent car manufacturer. A new, modern entry into the midsize market, the 200 entered production in 1974. It was popular enough to stay in production longer than Volvo planned, and continued on through 1993. Volvo needed many production facilities for the popular 200, so in addition to two factories in Sweden, the 200 Series was also built in Belgium, Australia, Italy, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Canada.

All versions of the 200 were rear-wheel drive, and were sedan-shaped with two or four doors, or with five doors as a wagon. Many engines were used throughout its long run: The smallest was a 1.7-liter inline-four, and the largest a 2.8-liter PRV V6. Transmissions used had three or four speeds for automatics, and four or five speed as manuals.

One short-lived version of the 200 was the 242 GT, today’s subject. It was first made available in 1978 and 1979 globally, with an extended run into 1980 solely for North America. Aiming to draw customers who weren’t frumpy types with tweed jackets, Volvo pulled out several stops for the GT. A sports suspension was the most important change over standard 200s, which added stronger sway bars, and springs which were 30 percent firmer than on standard cars. The suspension changes were enough to make the GT oversteer where normal 200s understeered.

The initial engine was the same 2.1-liter inline-four as found in standard DL trims of the 242. It was the high compression version with mechanical fuel injection, and managed 123 horsepower. For 1979 and 1980 Volvo fitted a new 2.3-liter engine that produced a more respectable 140 horsepower.

Visible changes included a Mystic Silver paint scheme for all U.S.-bound cars, which featured red and black tape stripes developed by 3M. Canadian customers were also offered the 242 GT in black. All GTs had minimal exterior bright work, and additional black trim. The grille used integrated fog lamps for a more distinctive look, and the front end carried a chin spoiler.

Inside, all GTs had a black corduroy interior with vertical red stripes across the seats. Above passengers, Volvo installed a black headliner for the first time. Other interior changes were limited, but included a tachometer in the center of the gauges and a revised steering wheel cover. An aggressive red trim strip across the dash and doors replaced the black found in other models.

Volvo replaced the GT with the GLT Turbo models in 1981 as it upped its sporty sedan game with turbochargers (and never looked back). Today’s high-mileage 1979 example was located in Florida, posted on one of those sites which indexes old eBay ads.

[Images: Volvo, seller]

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  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Apr 03, 2020

    If ever there was a car that begged for a crate LS swap, this would be it.

  • Myllis Myllis on Apr 05, 2020

    Most powerful and fastest Volvo was 1984 yearmodel 242 Turbo. Engine was still B19ET, but now with intecooler (engine model was B19ETIC). 170hv/250Nm. Volvo's main competitor in Scandinavia was Saab and Saab was years ahead in Turbo technic. Saab 99/900 Turbo's both sold very well, Volvo Turbos weren't success story.

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