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Volvo Corner

I have owned a Volvo automobile of one type or another since 1983 and logged a combined 500,000 miles behind the wheel of them. I can attest that they are fine little tractors cars.

Volvo started in 1924 or 5 as an offshoot of the Swedish ball bearing manufacturer SKF. (The word "volvo" is from latin and means "I roll" - a fun fact that forever links them to SKF.) The founders of Volvo wanted a homegrown Swedish car that would be tough enough to stand up to the environmental hardships of their nation. The Volvo PV4 Jacob was up to the task and set the tone of all their automobiles for the next 70 years.The joke among true Volvo lovers is that each new model introduced is only 1/2 the car of the previous model. I have driven all their cars from the PV-544 series up to the V70/S90 series retired in 2007 and feel that some advancements have been made. I have owned and driven cars from 5 Volvo series; 122/1800, 145, 245 and 740 and the 2003 V-70. I even spent a few years moonlighting as a Volvo mechanic to earn some extra money when times were tight. With the exception of the heaters in the late 140's and all 240's, and that miserable V-70, (I don't trust any car with 3 fuse boxes), they are wonderful cars to work on and will run forever. (The exception is the VPR V-6 that ranks with Chevy's Vega engine as one of the worst motors ever made!) I was very sad a few years ago when Volvo was sold to Ford. With the loss of their signature "B" 4 cylinder engine, rear wheel drive and utilitarian boxy style, I can't help but feel that their soul is gone too. (Remember, friends don't let friends drive Fords!) And then those pin-heads at Ford, due to their ongoing financial problems, sold Volvo to Geely Auto in China. (It is beyond me to express how sad & angry this makes me...)

1970 Volvo 145 & 1963 VW 1200 Sedan
1972 Volvo 1800E
1980 Volvo 245

I bought my first Volvo, a 1970 145, while working at my summer job in Maine during the summer of 1983. It replaced a 1971 Jeep Wagoneer that was one of the worst cars ever to ply the roads of America. The Volvo offered almost the same interior space as the Wagoneer and THREE TIMES the gas mileage! I had to give up the 4 wheel drive, air conditioning and automatic transmission - what I got in return was a car not built by AMC from leftover parts they gleaned from the big 3, better road manners and did I mention THREE TIMES THE GAS MILEAGE! It was also much easier to work on since it had 1/2 the # of cylinders and was very well and honestly engineered. On another part of this web site I mentioned my dad and his favorite vehicle. My dad was an old time American and would never entertain the thought of owning a foreign car, (I think he only condescended to ride in my VW once or twice!) Even during the horrible 1970's and early 1980's he stuck with his full sized Fords, some were truly awful and had serious quality issues. When I arrived home from my summer job in the Volvo 145 (to do laundry and get some of mom's cooking before heading down to school) dad took one look at it and said; "humpf, another friggin' foreign car".

Next day I caught him checking out the Volvo, eyeing approvingly the cars manual choke. (He never trusted automatic chokes) On closer inspection he also liked the 4 cylinder engine - like Henry Ford he felt 4 cylinders was all that were needed; one of the reasons he loved that poor IH Scout. I finally got to him when we went to move a large console TV, it wouldn't fit in the full size Ford but fit perfectly in the boxy Volvo. Had he not passed away in 1987 I am almost sure the replacement for his Crown Vic would have been a Volvo 240 or 740.

Volvo Club of America

1988 Volvo 745 GLT "the box that rocks!"
My 1992 Volvo 240

Today my daily car is a 1992 240 that was optioned from the factory with the Scorpius-X wheels and similar interior as found on the "Classic package" offered in 1993. A couple of years ago I was very sad to retire my old 740 GLT, despite trying to give it the best of care over the past 18 years. It simply didn't hold up the way my earlier Volvos had, with only about 150,000 miles on it, the paint and interior plastics simply started to crumble. (It now resides with a friend in Maine.) The V-70 we had until 2012 when I gave up on it, mechanically was the antithesis of the 240, virtually any job was miserable to do and it was always needing something. (Thanks Ford!) It was traded on a Honda Accord, but that is beyond the realm of this web page.

Why I Drive An Ancient Car Designed in the 1960s I don't give a fig for modern car styling and have no need to keep up with the Jones' by owning the newest and the bestest. I don't need a car that can do 0-60 in 5 seconds, I don't need a place to hook in my I-Pod (don't have or want one) and I don't need my cell phone to interact with my car. (Frankly, while I recognize it as a necessary evil, I don't like talking on the cell phone period!) Don't need the latest suspension or 20" rims, my driving abilities are very modest. What I want is a car that I can own (not lease) that is reliable, inexpensive to own and that I can do a majority of the maintenance on myself. It needs to have room for my family, be able to carry some stuff in the back and be capable of towing a small outboard boat. The Volvo 240 meets all of my criteria. It's tough as nails and is wonderfully straightforward to work on, truth be known, it is about as easy to work on as the 1963 Ford Falcon my dad had when I was a kid. But it also has the advantages over the Falcon of A/C, ABS, 5-speed manual transmission and air bag. It isn't fast or stylish, but for someone who wants to be able to understand and repair a car themselves, the 240 is ideal.

My 240 at Mystic Seaport - a backdrop reminiscent of Sweden!

Top Reasons for Owning a Volvo 240

  • Solid engineering that evolved over the 26 year life span of the 140 and 240
  • Easy for the owner to work on using common tools (The heater core & fan being the one exception)
  • Excellent availability of parts new & used from a variety of sources. Even Volvo still stocks a lot of parts, though less and less each time I go to the dealer....
  • Lots of good service information on the web
  • Because they were produced for so long most all their bad points have come out and ways to remedy them discovered.
  • Single stage paint (on my car) won't suffer clear-coat failure, can be polished back to a shine with elbow grease and, worst case, I can repaint it myself
  • No worries about depreciation. I paid $500 and actually seeing an increase in its value these days!
  • Inexpensive to insure
  • State property tax is only $32-year

If you are not mechanically inclined, (and not interested in learning), then I'd suggest you forget about the 240 and look into buying a Honda. As much as I have enjoyed the 240s I've owned, they do require a fair bit of tinkering to keep everything working. For example, the advantage of mechanical fasteners (aka screws, nuts, bolts) is that you can take things apart. Because if this, should your door speaker need replacement or your kid put a baseball through the passenger door window, you can take it apart to repair it. The disadvantage is that the same fasteners can come loose and whatever they are attaching - say a door panel - can fall off.

For the mechanically inclined like myself, I try to notice when an arm rest gets shaky, a door panel becomes floppy or when a bit of trim is misaligned. I then set about to correct the problem, most times all it needs is a tightening (or replacement of lost) fasteners. If you are clueless and don't notice the problem, then the panel falls off and more problems ensue. Modern cars get around this by designing things like door panels and trim with one-time use (plastic) fasteners. These things essentially snap into place permanently and gawd help you if you need to remove it at some point in the future. There are many cars from the 1990s that these parts are NLA, so good luck trying to replace them!

I'm quite sure that most of my criteria for selecting a car isn't on the list of any engineering, marketing or memo to top management at any automobile company in the world. The days of building a product that will give value to the consumer and outlast the competition are as over as the days of maintaining your car yourself. Too bad because I'll bet that if you have read this far, you're a candidate for a Volvo 240!

1988 740 GLT (since retired) 1992 240 I currently own and my wife's 2003 V-70 (also retired - with prejudice!)

Art's Auto Rollcall | 1966 Lincoln Convertible | 1968 Subaru 360

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