Another Volvo Story

Expedition Portal is an incredible site.  It’s a forum, a blog and a community of people that like to explore and get dirty- usually with trucks.  Like I said, usually with trucks, so I’m sure you could understand my surprise when I stumbled across a blog post of theirs that followed a Finnish couple’s journey to Kyrgyzstan in an old 1988 Volvo 240 Estate.

I wish I would’ve found this story first.  I really do!  It has everything.  Volvo’s, road trips, weird food, living in your Volvo- everything!  Unfortunately because Expedition Portal got to this one way before I could I have to link you over there. Never worry, though. Before you get to the link, I put together a short preview with pics I “borrowed” from the post.  If you want the whole thing, you should head over there. It’s a good one.


Link: Tuusula To Kyrgyzstan In a Volvo 240 Wagon


The Breadbox

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.”



“Absolute Class”

I’ve noticed 2 themes among our beater submissions. Jeeps and Hand-Me-Downs. Jeeps are cheap, occasionally reliable and perform many, some questionable, functions. Hand-Me-Downs, on the other hand, serve one purpose, to be cheap. Cheap isn’t always a bad thing, however.

A couple of days ago Ty posted up his Benz on the Facebook page and instantly I knew we had to feature it.  Old Diesel Benz’s, like old Volvos, are pretty much bullet-proof.  So, being gifted one by an old hippie or your dad might be the best thing for your high school self to get.  They last for millions of miles and if they break, are cheap and plentiful to get fixed most anywhere in the world.

Check out Ty’s Classy Benz below:

“My dad was looking for another vintage Benz having just sold his 1973 450SE and I happened to find what would become my 1978 240D on Craigslist in Richmond, Virginia.

We went down to look at it and, after about a month of dealing with titling issues, he ended up buying it. It was a 2-owner, original matching numbers car, factory 4speed, and had 285k on the clock.
My dad ended up driving it for a few years as an around town car, occasionally going to D.C. or Richmond for a day.

When my senior prom came around I knew I wanted to take that car, purely because it was the absolute definition of class in my eyes. That was my first experience with it. Never had I driven anything so slow but I loved it.

About a year later I was driving a $900 ’95 325i and when the rear end fell out of it, I needed a car to drive. Dad said, “Take the 240. DO NOT WRECK MY CAR.”
going from a 220hp tuned bimmer to a slower-than-hell Mercedes was quite a game changer but I loved it. Being an 18year old in a Benz, I thought I was cooler than sliced bread.

After about a year of not having a running car, the bimmer left and a 69 Bug came along, but the Benz stayed. still in my dad’s name I drove it to and from work every day and around town with friends. One night a friend and I even found ourselves in Virginia Beach at 2am after going for a cruise in the old Benz.


Here’s where it gets good.

At this point I’ve been driving the 240D for about a year, I’ve put about 10k on it.
I’m driving home from school one day and I see an older dude driving a w116 450SEL, and me being and old Benz guy  I followed him to the gas station to talk about his car.
After a great conversation, this old hippy dude tells me, “You seem like you know a lot about these old Diesels. I’ve got an 80 300SD sitting in my driveway. fI you want it, you can have it. come get it”. about a month later of conflicting schedules i picked up the w116. you can imagine how excited I was to get a free car but I didn’t want to give up the 240D. I liked it too much. so, I made my dad a deal. I told him I would give him my turbodiesel for the 240.

Now the 240D was mine and I couldn’t be happier. About 6 months later I joined another band and put that old diesel to work. Touring all across the surrounding states playing shows. After awhile I left the band and went back to driving to and from work and around town, but I really missed road tripping that old thing after having made so many memories in that car.

While on vacation in the Outer Banks, my family was talking about having a reunion in Buffalo and I knew what I had to do.

The ultimate road trip.
4 states, 750 miles.
So, I started planning.

The time came for the trip. My friend and I loaded up the Benz at 1am and hit the road. Going through WV, PA and NY we saw some amazing sights and I got my favorite picture of the car at 7am in Harmony, PA. It took 10 hours to get there, and 13 to get back. It was hands down the best trip I’ve ever been on. It wouldn’t have been the same without that old Benz.”

Rust Collection

Every once in a while you guys suprise the hell out of us.  Every once in a while we get a submission of a Saab, a sweet Impala, or in this case a Ford Taurus SHO and Mercury Capri and we lose our collective minds.  When we started talking with Nick we were expecting the usual single-beater post.  Then his submission came in and we found ourselves with a collection.

We spent a good two days trying to figure out how to break this up into several posts.  Gutlass then SHO?  Gutlass and SHO then Capri? It just wasn’t going to work. We had to share them all.

Here’s another Beater Feature from our Canadian brother, Nick:

Number One

I’ll start with my daily driver, a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham Sedan. Bodied by Fisher. Also known as the Gutlass.
gutless 1
I got the car from a friend and fellow Oppositelock reader back in August for the grand sum of,  $0. He was moving out of town and just wanted the car gone, but not crushed. So I borrowed a pickup truck and a car dolly and made the 3 hour trek to Guelph Ontario from Kingston. The tow home was uneventful excepting the time I got caught on the Don Valley Parkway. At rush hour. Towing a 4000 pound sedan. With no trailer lights because the fuse popped on the way up there and I had no spares. A stop at a friends in Toronto was a welcome rest.
Guelph To Kingston
The car is powered by a 305 cubic inch Chevrolet small-block mated to a THM 200 (weak sauce) three speed automatic. I’m slowly fixing leaks and killing rust, though there was surprisingly little for a 32 year old Canadian car. Just the standard rotten dog leg that every single G body ever made has, and a little cancer in the wheel arch on the right front that you can see in the picture above. I still have the original wire hubcaps, I even have the factory tool to get them off. These (442? Rallye?) wheels came with  the car so I cleaned them up slapped a coat of paint on them and voila.
The next step is to do a dirtball rebuild on a 4 bolt main 350 that I got for $200 out of a ’72 Chevy truck and install it so i can shatter that flimsy transmission and find a beefier transmission. A 700-R4 would be nice so I can have the overdrive 4th gear.
And maybe some shocks.



Here’s my 1991 Ford Taurus SHO.
shoe 2
 To be more specific this is a 1991 SHO MTX (manual transaxle) with the ‘Plus’ package (just badging and some extra trim here and there) in Deep Jewel Green Metallic with black leather interior. Apparently that makes this a bit of a rare car, 1 of somewhere around 30 optioned this way in 91.
I didn’t find out about that until after I’d bought the car, I only payed $400 for it so that’ll give you a hint as to what kind of shape it was in, but initially I never intended to put the car on the road, it was supposed to be an engine donor for my third vehicle that I’ll get to in a second. But being the sloppy emotional dates us car guys are, I got attached to the car and thus I spent nearly 2 grand rebuilding the brakes and suspension. Whoops.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The best part of this story so far is what happened when I finally went to pick up the car. So I had bought the car off Craigslist where dude had it advertised for $600 US. I convinced my father, an ex military Vehicle Tech and a damn good shade tree mechanic in his own right, I’ll leave a picture or two of his current projects down below, to come along to look at the car. In the end I beat the guy down to $400 and agreed to come pick up the car in a couple weeks once the customs paper work cleared. So we wait, and three days before we go to get the car, my mother mails away my passport. Which is a problem because I live in Canada an the car was 2 hours away in upstate New York. The perils of freeloading off your parents.
Now, somehow all this time the dude selling us the car failed to mention that the car had no brakes what so ever. We never thought to ask. So because of the passport debacle, my father and one of his friends went to pick up the car for me. Great. They get down there and the previous owner wants his after market wheels off the car, fine, he gave me a set of the factory 16″ Slicers. Pull the car in his garage, swap the tires and be on our way, easy right? NOPE. Since the car had no brakes and the drive way sloped towards the garage, it rolled right into the door frame. That’s the first oops.
The second oops, and the one I’m still trying to fix, came last October while I was leaving work. I was making a U-turn to leave the parking lot when the steering jammed, either broke the rack or the k-member broke, and it steered me straight on into a steel fence post. I have found a fellow in Wisconsin who has what I need, I just need to get it.  So it sits. Waiting.
Time for specs. This SHO is the last year of the “Gen 1” pre face lift cars, so it is packing a 225 horsepower 3.0l Yamaha developed dual overhead cam V6 that screams up to its 7200 rpm redline like a motorcycle. Makes sense considering the Yamaha connection. The cool thing about this engine is that Yamaha guaranteed the engine to survive speeds up to 10,000 RPM! The only reason that its pegged back is that Ford couldn’t figure out how to keep serpentine belts on it. Underneath the car is pretty much stock with the exception of a trunk mounted battery and some subframe connectors.
Here’s my 1977 Capri. Sold through Mercury dealerships in North America, every one of the left hand drive models was built in Cologne Germany by Ford, and sold as Fords over the Atlantic.
The car is a basket case. Someone pulled the engine, a 2.8 V6 and 4 speed stick for a TVR replica as I understand, so its nothing but a roller right now. Plans are in the works to drop in a 2.0 litre Cologne V6 super charged with an Eaton Gen V blower from a mid nineties Pontiac GTP. But that’s down to road a ways yet. This was where that SHO V6 was supposed to end up originally.  Oh well.

Here’s some pictures of the Old man’s cars.

camonio 6
Here we have a 1970 Ford Ranchero GT, a factory GT  speed car/truck/thing with a 351 Cleveland living under the hood. Its currently being reassembled after paint.
van 7
And this is a 1989 Ford E-250 converted to a 4×4 by Quigley 4×4 for Bell Canada for use as a line service truck. The Hotwheels paint job is courtesy of the last owner, an avid Hotwheels collector. And yes, that’s a 10’000 pound Warn winch on the bumper. Its powered by a fuel injected 302 V8 backed by an AOD automatic running to a FarmBro 2 speed transfer case and a Ford 10.25″ rear axle and a Dana 44 front axle.
capri 8
And this is the family heirloom. A 1975 Ford Capri II John Player Special. This is number 46 of 50 built in 1975 for the German Touring Car series, and is currently powered by a 2.8 cologne V6 that’s boosted to over 300hp by way of an ancient Garrett turbo lifted from a Scania truck! 300 horses motivates this 2200 pound car pretty damn good.