By on August 3, 2020

2005 Volvo S60 in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’ve documented 60 discarded Volvos since I started my junkyard history project, but 58 of those Swedes were born in the 20th century, and 44 of those rolled off the assembly line before 1990. Just as I’ve done with BMWs in recent years, I’m going to try to document some of Göteborg’s (and maybe Hangzhou’s) newer products in my favorite kind of car museum.

Here’s a Ghent-built S60 with a super-rare three-pedal setup, found in a Denver self-service yard.

2005 Volvo S60 in Colorado junkyard, manual gearshift lever - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe slushboxification of the American Volvo buyer really got rolling when the cars’ image shifted from “safe and sensible” to “stylish and European” during the 1980s and 1990s. I’m always interested in finding those edge-case manual-transmission cars when I explore junkyards, be they Mercury Mystiques, Dodge Calibers, Toyota Previa All-Tracs, or BMW 7 Series.

2005 Volvo S60 in Colorado junkyard, pedals - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’d been keeping my weather eye open for a 21st-century Volvo with a manual transmission for quite a while, and that search had been nearly as difficult as the (ongoing) one for a junked Suzuki Equator.

2005 Volvo S60 in Colorado junkyard, decklid emblem - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese cars, like all technologically-advanced upscale European vehicles, need regular maintenance and repairs can cost plenty. That means the third or fourth owner of a somewhat battered S60 often lives on a Pontiac G3 budget and won’t spend more than the car is worth to get some fearfully expensive component replaced; a transmission that 90 percent of potential non-brick Volvo drivers can’t operate makes these cars worth even less. I’ve been seeing S60s in Denver self-service yards for at least a decade now.

2005 Volvo S60 in Colorado junkyard, HVAC controls and radio - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe HU-650 makes a lot of watts but has no cassette player, though you can see the blank area where it once lived in previous incarnations of the HU audio system. 2005 falls into that awkward period between the death of cassette and the rise of the AUX jack, so owners of cars like this must use staticky FM wireless transmitters or dive into the wiring harness if they want to listen to tunes coming from smartphones while driving.

This car had a nest full of angry wasps under the hood, so I didn’t photograph the engine. Instead, enjoy this pitch for the “German” S60.

Here’s Volvo repudiating the very brickness that established the Volvo legend outside of Sweden, from the 140 through the 960. That’s almost as disappointing as making a Caddy zig. Still, the first-generation S60 looked good.

At least Gustaf Larson gets a shout-out in this owner’s-manual video.

For links to better than 2,000 additional Junkyard Finds, Junkyard Gems, and Junkyard Treasures, featuring everything from a BMW 700 to a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith to a Saturn Ion Redline, head over to the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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23 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2005 Volvo S60 With Five-speed Manual Transmission...”

  • avatar

    There’s a bit of wear on that brake pedal, on the inside corner (middle corner), as if the owner understood a thing or two about driving a manual.

    If the pedals in these were laid out like they were in, well, every other manual transmission Volvo, then they don’t lend themselves to classic “heel and toe” downshifting, more like part of the ball of your foot and your big toe on the brake pedal and the other side of the ball of your foot to blip the gas pedal.

    I wonder what finished this car off and I wonder what mileage it racked up. 15 years is old enough to go to the junkyard but it’s also young enough to have a lot of life left too. :shrug:

    • 0 avatar

      Well, even if the owner only drove 10,000 miles a year, that makes this a 15-year-old Volvo with 150,000 miles, which makes ownership an expensive proposition.

  • avatar

    In 2012 my wife owned a super rare ’08 Volvo – a manual C30.

    The clutch in that car was like an on/off switch, it had no feel and a vague shifter, along with tiny pedals. To date its the worse car we have ever owned in terms of reliablity. And that is saying something since we also owned an ’00 (B5) VW Passat 1.8T. That Volvo broken down often for all sorts of random reasons, leaving her stranded twice. Anything that needed fixing required ordering parts from overseas and cost a small fortune. She just loved the interior and exterior styling. The car was the perfect size and configuration for around town / commuter type work. However the inline turbo 5 got only 22 MPG while my 350Z driving in similar conditions got 24! After running the numbers we realized the car was costing us basically another 1/2 payment a month in repairs so it had to go. It was replaced by an Infiniti Q60 which has been flawless expect for some trim and paint work. This experience has put Volvo on our “never again” list of brands.

  • avatar

    I’ve had 5 Volvos, I’m done. Last was 1988 740, died of electronic failure. Was decent enough to die in the driveway overnight. NO MORE VOLVO for me. No more Bosch.

    • 0 avatar

      One-and-done for me. In fact, I declared to the wife as our Volvo was being driven away by its next victim, “No European car ever again.” She’s held me to it, and I’m happy with our Lexus and Nissan.

  • avatar

    A 5 speed in a four door sedan seems nice to me .

    I well remember Volvos from the 1950’s and 1960’s, they were drab but very reliable and didn’t need much maintenance apart from the usual valve adjusts, spark plugs, points & timing checks, very few parts ever failed or wore out .

    Even my soul killing 1970 144S was dead nuts reliable if so boring it’s a wonder I didn’t fall asleep driving it .


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “the third or fourth owner of a somewhat battered S60 often lives on a Pontiac G3 budget”

    This is probably true of most near-luxury or luxury brands. In my poorer youth, I remember being enamored with the 1st-gen Audi 100 as a potential used car. Glad I didn’t get one.

  • avatar

    HVAC: Do I have to make temperature changes on both dials if I’m driving by myself? (I don’t see any kind of dual-zone defeat switch.)

    • 0 avatar

      We had a similar XC70 CC in the family for a long time. Yup, you have to adjust both. At least it’s done quickly without mashing a lot of buttons.

      • 0 avatar

        That is interesting – thank you for the reply. The idea of the dual-zone “fighting itself” always bothers me and I almost always keep it on ‘single control.’

        This week’s A/C lessons learned:
        • Manifold gauge sets don’t last forever – that ‘leak’ might be an instrumentation problem
        • If you haven’t used your vacuum pump in forever, *change the pump oil* – it is hygroscopic and will affect how much vacuum you can draw. (The bottle of Robinair oil I just got recommends changing vacuum pump oil after each evacuation.)

        • 0 avatar

          The dual zone in my S70 didn’t really fight itself if you set the dials wildly different. The driver’s side was definitely “dominant” and whatever you did with the temperature dial pretty much decided how fast the fan would run (if the fan was on auto) and what the mix of heater core and a/c evaporator air would be. The passenger side knob seemed to fine tune how much airflow was coming out of the vents on that side, I think by automatically adjusting a baffle somewhere inside the system. It worked fairly well but it wasn’t particularly sophisticated (that was probably a good thing).

          That was 1990s technology and I couldn’t tell you if or what anything was they did on more recent cars.

        • 0 avatar

          Homer Simpson set Climate Controls to fight each other, make storms.

  • avatar

    My uncle has a 2005 XC90 with the V8 still going strong with 230,000 miles.

    Neighbor has this S60, same color, still kicking at 220,000 miles.

    Not to say it hasn’t required some expensive maintenance, but the drivetrains at least seem to be pretty bulletproof.

    These are Michigan cars too. Not easy lives. The rustproofing seems to be excellent.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think the question is whether cars like this CAN last a long time – they can. The real question is how many people who buy these can keep up with the expense, and an even better question is how many of them decide it’s worth it. At the end of the day, that 15-year-old Volvo with a zillion miles that you just sank four grand into is still a 15-year-old Volvo with a zillion miles. If you can afford to do that, why not just buy a new one?

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve had the same experience with my 2008 V50. The naturally aspirated I-5 and automatic transmission have been trouble-free, but the frequent replacement of various suspension parts has cost plenty. I’m looking at another round of repairs, but I’m nowhere near the point where it makes financial sense to get something new. The repairs are on the order of hundreds of dollars, not thousands, and I still enjoy driving it.

      When I was shopping for the car I found a dealer with a manual S40 in stock. It was tempting, but I needed the extra space of the wagon.

  • avatar

    A girlfriend of mine had this but with the automatic and AWD. What a wretched car. The ride was harsh, handling sucked, the brake feel was crap, it was slow, had a huge turning circle, and the top of my foot would hit against an interior panel whenever I hit the brake pedal. She paid as much for it as a reasonably equipped 3 Series. I told her not to buy it but she insisted that “Volvos are the safest cars.”

    • 0 avatar

      I have no idea how reliable or well-made the recent Volvos are, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority are leased with zero intention to own beyond the lease/warranty.

  • avatar

    I seem to remember that the early to mid 2000s was kind of a dark patch for Volvo, and the S60 of this period wasn’t particularly – good.

    Certainly not built of the same stuff the 240D aka the Swedish brick.

  • avatar

    This is one of the favorite cars I’ve ever owned! My wife and I had a 2004 model just like this (black with tan cloth interior). Ace of base special. When we first met my wife had bought a 2000 Land Rover Discovery that was a piece of junk. She was really upside down in the loan, so I was looking for good deals to soften the negative equity blow and came across this at a Chrysler dealer near us in Southern California. It was 2 years old with 25k miles. The sticker on the car was $24k but we got it out-the-door for less than $17k. They wanted it gone, and it wiped out all her negative equity. The issues we had with that Discovery could be a post on it’s own.

    We drove it to just over 100k miles and never had a problem with it. A stick definitely turns what could be a boring car into an entertaining car. It had the most comfortable seats of any car I’ve owned, and one of the highlights was the reaction I’d get when taking it in for service because no one ever expected it to be a stick. This is the first time I’ve ever seen another one like it.

  • avatar
    Adventure One

    “These cars, like all technologically-advanced upscale European vehicles, need regular maintenance and repairs can cost plenty.”
    This just doesn’t make any sense. None. Why do we spend a load of money buying upscale cars? Because we want performance and RELIABILITY. If we wanted pretty, unreliable cars we would’ve bought a Daewoo for half of the money. These vehicles are NOT high tech. They are like eating a poop cake. Below all that pretty icing is just…poop.

    I own 2 Volvo’s, a C30 & XC70. I’ve been eating rice and macaroni for months to save up for a new vehicle. ANY vehicle besides a Volvo. When I’m finally able to buy said vehicle, nobody will end up buying my worthless Volvos. I intend to set them on fire. The reason you don’t see a lot of Volvos in the junkyard is because enraged and disillusioned owners who fell for those trumped up reliability ratings prefer to destroy the object of their hate rather than get a few dollars of their investment back. It’s more satisfying to set them on fire, push them off cliffs and sink them in lakes. Maybe by the time I get my next vehicle I’ll have gotten over my anger enough to simply drive them into the metal recycler and walk away without a backwards look. And maybe not. Probably not…

  • avatar

    My dad had the T5 version of this car so it had the pretty cool “spaceball” shifter. I would have inherited it when he was ready to move on from it but an early morning encounter with Bambi dashed those plans. He would have bought another Volvo, but by that time they no longer offered any manual cars in the US. So he settled for a 2015 WRX.

    My parents have actually had pretty good luck with Volvo’s. Their first was an ’81 240 wagon (4-spd with push button OD on top of the shifter – what I learned to drive on), ’89 740 (5-spd manual), then his S60 T5 (manual, of course). My mother also drove a S60 but it was a base model with an auto since she commuted to D.C. and she didn’t want to drive a manual in that traffic. Now she has a C70 (relegated to back-up car since she just bought a RAV4). The 240 had over 200k (odo stopped working at 188k) when suspension rust doomed it. The 740 and both S60’s were totaled in only minor collisions. All had well over 100k miles on them with no major issues.

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