Junkyard Find: 1979 Volvo 245 DL With 338,475 Miles

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1979 volvo 245 dl with 338 475 miles

Ever 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.

Most 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.

This 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.

With 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.

This 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.

Here 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.

Volvo 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.

These 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.

From 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.

When 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™.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Writer d'Elegance Brougham Landau.

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  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Dec 06, 2021

    ...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...

  • ClayT ClayT on Dec 08, 2021

    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.

  • RICK Lou, not sure about panthers and Cougars , BUT at 76,I now consider myself a vintage Rolls Canardly. I roll down one hill and Canardly get up the next! Wishing you a Very Happy, Merry HanaKwanzaMas. 🎅🎄
  • Lou_BC The dealbreaker for me is the $80k starting price in Canada.
  • Zipper69 The Grenadier was designed ground up to be a "better Land Rover" and by most press accounts comes close.What little we know about the Quartermaster it's clear that it's intended for serious off road work without additional aftermarket fettling needed.The price is clearly a barrier, but IF it's the real deal, it will have a slot in the market.
  • Michael Charging more for less. Hmmmm
  • FreedMike Meanwhile, over at Nissan, you can get a perfectly nice, well equipped Frontier four-door that has a V-6, 4wd, and is capable of all the "truck stuff" you could ever want for $36,000. And unlike the "pay over sticker or go f**k yourself" nonsense you get at the Toyota place, the Nissan store will probably happily make you a nice deal.