It’s no secret that I like old Volvo’s. I used to be ashamed of it much like my dad used to be ashamed he likes Barry Manilow. And, just like my dad, I now embrace the weird squares with my dad-like awkwardness.
I like to tell myself hat I like Volvo’s for their tank-like reliability. When’s the last time you saw a Volvo broken down on the highway? Nevermind that there aren’t that many sold here in Florida, that reasoning supports my delusion and that’s all that matters. It’s “Dad Logic”. I’m right, You’re wrong. Because I’m Dad, and I said so.
A couple weeks ago another cool Volvo appeared on the Facebook page. As with other Volvo’s I couldn’t say no. It was white, boxy, and looked like a turbo. It was the kind of Volvo I love. It was used, abused and worked on in a driveway. It was awesome.
So without further adieu here’s another great Volvo from Matt:
“When I got married in October 2000, my wife was driving a 1980 VW Rabbit Diesel. By spring 2001, we were expecting, and the Rabbit had lost its brakes. We decided that she needed something newer and safer to be carrying around the baby, and she decided she wanted a Volvo wagon – and old one, one that looked like a Volvo. After looking at a couple of 240’s, she found an online listing for a 1989 740 GL wagon, in white, just like her Rabbit. We went to a used Volvo dealer in Frederick, MD, about 40 miles from our home in Baltimore, to look at the car. It had 168,000 miles on it, and you could see it was taken care of at one time, just not recently. Other than the fact that the cruise control didn’t work, it seemed like a good car, so we bought it.
We took delivery a couple days before Mothers Day, 2001. My wife Eilean named it The Breadbox (big, white and square) and drove it almost exclusively, except on long trips, like our 2001 trip to Florida where a bolt on one of the trailing links in the rear suspension fell out and caused the driveshaft to hit the tunnel. My father-in-law had to tow us back home from Richmond, VA behind his RV. By 2004 we were expecting our third child. The Volvo wouldn’t hold 3 car seats across the back, so she reluctantly gave it up and we bought a minivan (aka the Blue Behemoth.) We decided to keep the Volvo as a spare car since my ’92 Tercel was coming up on 300,000 miles and starting to have problems. It was also right around the time our oldest started preschool, and it quickly became clear that unloading a preschooler out of the back of a 2-door Tercel in the carpool line wasn’t easy, so I started using the Volvo instead. It took about a month before I loved the car too. Except for one problem. The automatic transmission.
I hate automatics, and the AW-71 in the 740 sucks any of the little power it has out. Unfortunately, less than 20% of US 700 series cars had manuals, and most of them were Turbos, so good luck finding one. By this time the 740 needed its rear main seal replaced, and I was already thinking about dropping the transmission (which I had never done before) when the torque converter went belly up. I brought up the subject of converting the 740 to a manual, and after a conversation about “Do you really think you can do that?” I went hunting for a donor transmission. I actually found 2 at the first junkyard I looked in, which I still can’t believe, and pulled everything I thought I needed to swap it out. Well, after not getting all the parts I needed, several more trips to the junkyard, a mail order for a different flywheel, and 7 months, I had a 5-speed M47 equipped 740. These transmissions, I later found out, are notoriously weak. I’m on M47 #5 now, but having all the 700 series specific parts, I can use the much more common 240 5-speed and swap all the unique parts over. Another upside is that I can drop a Volvo transmission in under an hour now.
The next thing I dealt with was the suspension. 740s handle remarkably well for a car with exactly zero sporting intentions, they just wallow a bit. My wife solved this by getting me IPD sport springs and 23 mm sway bars as a present. God, I love her. The springs and sways firmed up the ride, without killing it, and got rid of the sinking freighter-level body roll.
The mileage was well into the 200,000’s by 2010 when I got a new job 38 miles from home, that’s when the mileage really started shooting up. My daily drive is somewhere between 80 and 100 miles, so 300,000 came and went pretty quickly. Shortly thereafter, another leaking main seal, combined with broken wire to the oil light, caused me to spin all but one of the main bearings. I figured that since I needed a new engine, why not get a turbo as well? Another junkyard yielded a 198,000 mile turbo motor from a ’94 960. The plan was to get the new engine in and put the turbo on, since a few modifications need to be made, like relocating the battery and intake box, later.
Well, that was 5 years ago, and I’m still running a turbo motor with no turbo and a bung stuck in the oil return in the block. I also managed to score most of a new interior. I was at another junkyard (big surprise) with my brother-in-law looking for parts for his 4Runner, when I saw an ’88 760 wagon with a perfect interior. The car was one owner, garage kept, and was junked when the engine died. I bought everything but the instrument panel and center console for $150. Along the way, it also picked up a set of Draco wheels from a 740 Turbo, the rare center console cupholders, and a glass, power sunroof from the late 90’s S/V90.
It’s caught on fire twice, blown up 2 clutches, had a short in the fuel pump wiring for 3 years that would cause it to randomly quit running, usually at the most inopportune time possible, multiple exhaust problems, more electrical problems than I can remember. We tow a 12′ pop-up trailer with it, load it full of stuff, abuse it, neglect it, and it still keeps rolling, with some effort. As it sits outside right now the mileage is 444,045, and there’s a big puddle underneath it from the leaking water pump seal.”