By on December 6, 2021

1979 Volvo 245 wagon in Colorado junkyard, RH side view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsEver since I began my effort to document some of the interesting machinery that shows up in car graveyards, the quantity of discarded Volvo 240s has remained steady. Back in the late 2000s, I’d had an idea that just about every 240 owner would make the transition from safe and sensible Swedish bricks to green and sensible Japanese hybrids, and that the transition would be wrapped up by the dawn of the 2020s. Such has not been the case, although the 1970s 240s are getting harder to find. Here’s a high-mile 245 in a mile-high junkyard.

1979 Volvo 245 wagon in Colorado junkyard, speedometer - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMost car companies doing business in the United States didn’t bother to install six-digit odometers until well into the 1980s (some Detroit machinery kept the five-digit type until the 1990s), but Volvo and Mercedes-Benz felt sufficiently confident in their products’ longevity to do so at a time when few cars got close to 100,000 total miles. The highest plausible odometer reading I’ve seen in a boneyard was a 1987 Mercedes-Benz 190E showing a total of 601k miles, followed by a 1981 300SD with 572k miles. The most-traveled Volvo I’ve found was a 740 Turbo wagon that came tantalizingly close to the half-million-mile mark (while we’re on the subject, the winner of my personal Junkyard Toyota High-Mile Award is a Tercel 4WD wagon, of course). I’ve found Volvo 240s with higher final miles on the clock than today’s Junkyard Find shows, but not many.

1979 Volvo 245 wagon in Colorado junkyard, rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car has been around, and it has the rust to prove it. Most parts of Front Range Colorado haven’t used road salt for decades, so you don’t see many lifelong Denver cars with this kind of Chicago-style corrosion. Either this car emigrated from back east or it spent much of its life buried in snow in the Rockies.

1979 Volvo 245 wagon in Colorado junkyard, rust - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWith this sort of rot and so many miles, this car faced a death sentence the moment its final owner decided to part with it. We’ve got a glut of far more solid 240s around here, so the local Volvo Brick enthusiasts get their pick of the litter.

1979 Volvo 245 wagon in Colorado junkyard, gearshift lever - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car has a four-on-the-floor manual transmission with an optional Laycock de Normanville overdrive unit. Some Volvo 240/260 aficionados seem to love this transmission rig, while others shun it as too fragile. Feel free to debate the pros and cons of the M46 overdrive in the comments; bonus points if you write your angry transmission rants på Svenska.

1979 Volvo 245 wagon in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsHere we see the 2.1-liter SOHC four-cylinder B21 engine, rated at a pretty good 104 horsepower for 1979. These engines held together very well, and it’s possible that this is the one that was in the car when it left Göteborg more than four decades back.

1979 Volvo 245 wagon in Colorado junkyard, dash switches - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVolvo used a clever switch panel in these cars, so optional controls could be added by just popping out a simple block off plate and adding the standardized VDO switch or indicator desired (I grab these switches when I see them because they’re very reliable and I prefer them for use in my car-parts boombox projects). This car has just the standard controls, no fog lights or air conditioning.

1979 Volvo 245 wagon in Colorado junkyard, clock - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese VDO quartz clocks are very well-made and nearly always keep good time even after decades in a car. I’d have bought this one for my collection, but I already have a couple.

1979 Volvo 245 wagon in Colorado junkyard, fender badge - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFrom the time of the 240’s American debut (in the 1975 model year) through 1979, these cars used a very logical naming system: the first digit indicates the vehicle series, the second shows the number of engine cylinders, and the third refers to the number of doors. After that, things got a bit more confusing in Brickland. No matter; everybody today calls the two-doors 242s, the four-doors 244s, and the wagons 245s, just as the 122S name got dumped by American Volvo fanciers in favor of the home-market Amazon title in earlier years.

1979 Volvo 245 wagon in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen will the sad parade of doomed 240s into car graveyards cease? I think we still have at least a decade or two to go.

Later on, other car companies caught up with Volvo in the safety department, but no other company ever pitched sensible quite as well.

Do you want your children to survive into adulthood? Forget the minivan and get a Volvo 245 (which was still being sold new in 1992).

Remember when wild pianos roamed the land, crashing into cars without warning? Another reason to get a 245!

For links to more than 2,100 additional Junkyard Finds, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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25 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Volvo 245 DL With 338,475 Miles...”

  • avatar

    RIP to the Maitlands.

  • avatar

    Now I want to know more about those two Thunderbirds flanking the 240.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Agreed. A high mileage Volvo of that era, while somewhat interesting is not unique. However at least one of those T-Birds might be worth restoring. Or at least both could make important ‘parts cars’.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, those two T-Birds are far more interesting then this Volvo

      Hey, Murilee, will we see the Thunderbirds in a future write-up?

  • avatar

    I have a huge soft spot for 240 series Volvo’s, probably from my Mom’s brick red 242DL that was the recipient of much teenage driver abuse growing up. I really want to find a clean but tired 245 manual, paint it silver or gray with black interior and drop a Ford Windsor with GT40 intake and a T-5 box into it. Find some decent 240 Turbo 5-spoke wheels and IPD suspension and have fun. Great cars that built the Volvo brand, wish they still used this more simple formula.

  • avatar
    Good ole dayz

    Ahhh, back in the days when Volvos were actually built like Volvos, Mercedes were actually built like Mercedes, and BMW’s made sporting sedans and coupes that weren’t fugly!

  • avatar

    Having owned a 78 240 Wagon for my car service, I can confirm these cars are certainly reliable with engines and transmissions that seem to last forever. I kept mine for 202,000 miles. However, I also remember that when used daily for many years, these cars are not to be considered low maintenance cars as there are quite a few smaller items that are constantly breaking (plastics), blower motors, rear main seals, transmission leaks, odometer failures, etc, and need repair. I still miss my Volvo.

    • 0 avatar

      Point taken on frequent broken plastics but:

      “blower motors, rear main seals, transmission leaks, odometer failures, etc”

      …do not constantly break. The odometer failures are well documented and caused by a plastic gear malfunctioning (fyi VW/Audi also had odo issues in the same period due to electrical gremlins). Rear mains in general will usually go around the 20 year mark, it did not go in my ownership on my ’93 (2012-2017) but in between 2017 and 2021 when I didn’t own it I’m not sure if that was replaced. AFAIK the blower motor has not been replaced, and they do not go constantly, probably once in its life. My AW71 does not leak and AFAIK never has, but if it did it would be most likely the seal on the pan which would be decades old.

      PSA: I overall agree with the point the 200/700 are not infallible and require regular attention due to advanced age. In their time I imagine they were more “fire and forget” but the newest models are around 25yo old. I would not recommend one as a DD *unless* one has mechanical skills and access to tools/a ship, IMO they are best as Sunday cars at this point for the most part.

    • 0 avatar

      Wife’s sister had a 240. Solid and reliable. She did have the rear main seal issue and the blower motor did crap out but the Brick ran and ran. Only “pattern” failure was with the rudimentary ECM for the fuel system would die at about 60K or so. I wonder why that would happen… I used to eat through MAP sensors in a Chrysler I had – found that the voltage regulator would occasionally lose control of the alternator and the MAP sensor would take the hit. Only way I found that out was at night I saw the headlights flare up for a very brief moment. Her Volvo never exhibited anything like that so the cause died with the car in an accident which she walked away from. She was almost to 200K!

  • avatar

    Finally got rid of my 1990 240 after the a/c turned into a big joke. Or were they always not serious, Sweden must never get warm like here. I do miss the IPD catalogue.

    • 0 avatar

      The AC really was terrible, I actually figured out a way on a Volvo forum to make the condenser fan always run as soon as the AC was turned on instead of when the temp sensor was tripped. I also installed a heavy duty “tropical” mechanical fan clutch that Volvo offered as a factory option in some climates. It helped, but still not great.

      European car companies always bungled the AC. It just sort of took the edge off, I guess they never thought anywhere else went past 75 degrees in the summer. American and Japanese luxury cars understood the importance of powerful AC.

  • avatar

    I had a 240 wagon, loved that car. So easy to work on, simple design, and everything felt solid and substantial.

    I will say, I don’t know how Volvo competed with something like a Mercedes 190E at the same time up until the early 90’s. The Mercedes would be in the shop more, but in terms of driving dynamics, made the Volvo feel like an antique from a different era.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure the 200 or even 700 directly competed with the Mercedes 190E. The 190 as far as I understood was meant to be the entry into the Mercedes lineup similar to the later C-Klasse and current CLA – but the 190 was similar to the others in engineering. The 200 was an improved 100 which first debuted in 1966, the 700 was intended to replace the 200 yet never did. Instead some sort of two tiered model system emerged were the 200 became the “cheaper” model yet its build costs exceeded the 700’s and they essentially offered the same drivetrains. I feel as if the people shopping Mercedes and BMW in the late 1970s and through most of the 1980s were not the same people shopping Volvo (or Saab) in the same period. Those Volvo buyers were more eclectic but shared some values with Buick/Olds/Merc buyers of the period, near luxury without the flash for reliable mid to long term ownership.

      • 0 avatar

        The Volvo 240 owner I knew best growing up was my violin teacher. She was a deeply tight-fisted Scandinavian skinflint, who bought a bare-bones 1984 DL new and drove it until her death in 2001. Upon getting married in the late 1940s, she and her husband bought a house above Lake Washington in the then inaccessible and slightly disreputable working-class town of Kirkland. By the time of her death two cross-lake bridges later, it was a $5 million house in the hottest suburb of Seattle, even in the sorry condition it was in, but she would not lay out the cash for any significant improvements. Those are the values I associate with 240s: frugality, durability, and more than a bit of deliberate asceticism.

  • avatar

    When that second ad was shot in 1992, Donald Sutherland was only 57 years old. I still hear him doing voiceovers in 2021. (He’s Canadian, of course.)

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Clearly that transmission is weak and fragile… Of course, it may not be the first one in that car.

    The second commercial was pretty spot on with how unsafe the Astro actually was in offset crash results. But, it comes off very heavy handed and turned me off.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    It was that little dog’s fault.

  • avatar

    I logged in to comment on this, but instead got an autoplaying, unskippable Toyota Tundra video that occupied half of my phone screen. I think Im done here.

    • 0 avatar

      There was another Toyota something-or-other ad on here earlier this year that did the same thing!

      Can’t even look at this site because of that garbage if I’m not at home, because that stupid ad chews through data!

  • avatar

    …Volvo and Mercedes-Benz felt sufficiently confident in their products’ longevity to do so at a time when few cars got close to 100,000 total miles…

    Uh, no. Not at all the reason. 100,000KM is equal to 63,000 miles. Even back in the 60s most cars lasted well beyond that mileage, regardless of the manufacturer (yeah, I know there are some exceptions – Vegas, British stuff and a few others…). Foreign manufacturers were not going to make a new odometer for exports to the US; they simply re-calibrated the odometer to read miles. Because of this myth that the extra digit implied longevity, and the fact that most cars began to easily exceed 100K, all manufacturers adopted the extra digit. No more, no less. That said, Volvos of this era could certainly go the distance.

    It is interesting to note that there were some Japanese cars back in the day that actually were imported with only five digit odometers…

  • avatar

    I bought an ’83 245 with 200K miles on it, in 1995.
    Paid $3500.00, iirc.
    Drove it 15 years and another 200k* miles.
    Spent ~3500 along the way fixing things that broke.
    Mostly niggly stuff. Fuel pump. Relays. Leaky steering rack.
    Harness leprosy was the biggest pita to fix. Replacements were unobtanium so I rebuilt the existing one.
    A/C still blew ice cold when I sold it.
    $40.00 a month is pretty cheap transportation.

    *200k is a guess since the ODO gear crumbled to dust several years after I bought it.

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