BF Exclusive: 1985 Volvo 240 DL Wagon

1985-volvo-240

New Volvos are nice and all, but why did they ever stop building the 240? It was functional, easy to work on, and could be driven for decades. In fact, you still see quite a few kicking around because they really were some of the most durable cars ever built. Take this one for example. It has 188k miles and is still going strong. The owner inherited it from his sister and has been using it daily for the past four years. It’s not perfect, but has a lot of life left. It’s located in Harrisonburg, Virgina and Ed would like to get $2,750. More photos can be found here and you can contact Ed here via email if interested.

back-seat

Here’s a view from the backseat and as you can see, there’s nothing fancy in there. This was still before Volvo decided they were a luxury brand. Their focus was still on building durable and safe machines. This may not have all the gadgets found in today’s cars, but the headrests and crumple zones really do make this a relatively safe place to be during your morning commute. The sight of the manual shift knob poking up is a welcome one because they weren’t exactly screamers.

volvo-power

They had enough power to haul you, your family, and a load in the back though. The 4-speed with overdrive is going to make it easier to keep up with traffic and you may have to learn to downshift for hills if you are used to having a V8. Luckily, these engines don’t have the oomph or thirst of a big V8 while still being just as stout. The block found in this wagon is just about indestructible so as long as you change the oil and motor mounts occasionally, you should be good to go.

wagon-load

It may not be powerful and it’s certainly not stylish, but as far a utility goes, these old Volvos can’t be beat! They are like a Swiss Army Knife – they aren’t exceptionally good at any one thing, but they can do just about everything. They are tough old birds too. This one evensurvived a hurricane back in 2011 when a tree fell on it. The damage was minor and has all been repaired. The clutch and starter have also been replaced recently and it just passed inspection in September. So, it’s ready for someone to see how many more miles they can add to that odometer.

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Despite the lousy color match on the front end, this looks like a great car. I had a ’78 240, great car, but very expensive to fix. I can’t imagine that’s gotten any better. I believe, the vanity plate is referring to Elvis. Normally, one would be wary of a car with so many miles, but if properly serviced, probably one of the best motors out there. Can’t go wrong here.

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    • Jake

      I recently had a ’92 240 wagon. Black with a tan interior, wonderful car. I got it for $500. It needed ball joints, 4 new tires, and tie rods. And an alignment after all that. What I can say is they’ve gotten very cheap in parts at least. All of that set me back $400 although I put in the ball joints and tie rods myself. Also with all that length in the back it does donuts phenomenally…. I’m told.

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    • Jesse Jesse Mortensen Staff

      Parts are cheap for these as long as you don’t go to the dealer.

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  2. Jeffro

    I know I’ll get some thumbs down but this would be excellent candidate for a small block ford and a 5spd.

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    • Howard A Member

      Hi Jeffro, not from me. I believe a company called Converse Engineering makes a kit for that. It’s more popular than I thought. I think it works better with the 700 series, but has been done to these, although, cooling is an issue, especially with a/c. http://bringatrailer.com/2010/09/21/converse-5-0-v8-volvo-wagon/

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      • Bobsmyuncle

        Made famous by Paul and Dave.

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      • Jeffro

        I have read some articles on the conversions. Apparently, Paul Newman had a love for volvo wagons with V8’s. I do think volvo has some tough motors. I have a friend who has a volvo with over 300,000 miles. But, there is no replacement for displacement.

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  3. Joe Nose

    That is one great looking car at a great price.

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  4. Chris

    The block and head is so over designed on these people add tons of boost and make great power. Would be fun to try that sometime. They actually have a real performance following.

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  5. Dave Wright

    In my foreign car shop (Ogden Ut) we used to buy all of these we could find…..many times with mechanical problems. We would fix and send them to San Francisco. Usually doubled in our money. These slant engines were hard on head gaskets, the earlier generation iron engines (B20) was a much more robust engine. These engines were easy to repair, once you fix the warped heads, expensive parts but straight forward. I remember heater cores being a problem and ugly to replace. We were one of the only shops in the area that would work on them outside the dealer.

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  6. Brian

    Way over priced. $900 car there.

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  7. Erik

    I bought a ’92 240 as a daily driver 5 years ago with 180.000 kms.
    Normal maintenance since.
    It has 310.000 kms now and no sign whatsoever that any problem is showing up.
    Every year I go to Beaulieu Autojumble with it towing a caravan and with half a ton of MGspares in it.
    No problem.
    Great Car

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  8. David Miraglia

    Like a Rock with Swedish Meatballs. always like the old 240’s. First car I ever drove was a older 164.

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  9. Glen

    I find that old building in the background far more interesting.

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    • Milt

      Like Glen, I regard the old building in the background as far more interesting. If this were located in Waco, Texas, Chip and Joanne Gaines from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” would be all over this place.

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  10. Joe

    The first pic reminds me of the old Monty Python bit from “The Meaning of Life” that ends with the Grim Reaper pointing to the salmon mousse.

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    • Glen

      A classic movie!

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  11. Anthony

    Early 240’s with sealed beam headlights – the early 164’s with the aluminum grills – and all P1800’s are my favorite. Love these cars – much more interesting than what we have today…

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  12. Bobsmyuncle
    • Glen

      That was good! He mentions Newmans’ name in the first clip, won’t in the second. Mr. Newman must have told him not to. I’d like to see the car.

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  13. Doug M. (West Coast)

    I had a guy that I loaned a few bucks to a few years ago offer me this car as payment. I always liked the 240 wagons, so closed the deal. This one is an 86 with the big headlights, but it does have leather interior and a stick tranny. Happens that I have a really nice set of Turbo wheels for these, so those will go on it. I happened to hit our local Pick-a-part when they just received a clean 87 240, so I scavenged all the little parts and nick=nacks I needed for cheap. I think this will be fun, and probably get the “240 bug” worked out of me?!

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  14. JohnM

    “He’s Gone” plate is a Greatful Dead reference, not Elvis. See also the sticker on the back window. ’85 is a transition year. Last sealed beams, first low-friction B230F. Unfortunately right at the height of the bio-degradable wiring harness problem. The rust on the tailgate of this one is worse than it looks–it’s had some sort of effort made to stop it, but once it gets going in the tailgates there isn’t really any stopping it. Once you see it on the edges it’s pretty far along on the inside.

    While the price has started to creep up on clean examples, for the asking price on this one I’d expect less rust, no missing trim, better front seats, a rear hatch panel that isn’t missing, good map pockets, a Volvo or Mann oil filter rather than Napa, matching tail lights, and records to show that the odometer hasn’t spent five or ten years dead. Plus mention of the functionality of the blower motor and whether the wiring harness has been replaced.

    That said, these are great cars. Some of the best ever built IMO. Incredibly durable, rugged, well engineered (minus the blower motor location), cheap to own and operate, roomy, comfy, and surprisingly fun to drive (50-50 weight balance). I currently have four of them, including an ’87 that’s up to 700k miles–original drivetrain, and still rock solid at 80mph. As as point of reference, these 2.3 liter 4 cylinders have as much bearing surface area as a small block Chevy. There are reasons they’ve earned their reputation.

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  15. JohnM

    “He’s Gone” plate is a Greatful Dead reference, not Elvis. See also the sticker on the back window. ’85 is a transition year. Last sealed beams, first low-friction B230F. Unfortunately right at the height of the bio-degradable wiring harness problem. The rust on the tailgate of this one is worse than it looks–it’s had some sort of effort made to stop it, but once it gets going in the tailgates there isn’t really any stopping it. Once you see it on the edges it’s pretty far along on the inside.

    While the price has started to creep up on clean examples, for the asking price on this one I’d expect less rust, no missing trim, better front seats, a rear hatch panel that isn’t missing, good map pockets, a Volvo or Mann oil filter rather than Napa, matching tail lights, and records to show that the odometer hasn’t spent five or ten years dead. Plus mention of the functionality of the blower motor and whether the wiring harness has been replaced.

    That said, these are great cars. Some of the best ever built IMO. Incredibly durable, rugged, well engineered (minus the blower motor location), cheap to own and operate, roomy, comfy, and surprisingly fun to drive (50-50 weight balance). I currently have four of them, including an ’87 that’s up to 700k miles–original drivetrain, and still rock solid at 80mph. As as point of reference, these 2.3 liter 4 cylinders have as much bearing surface area as a small block Chevy.

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  16. Cameron Bater

    If I remember my model codes correctly the DL was the Bog-o Basic model, if this IS a DL, it shouldn’t have that interior, that interior was mostly fitted to the GLT or Grand Luxe Tourers, some GLs had them but I’m pretty certain that all the DLs had a cloth interior

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    • JohnM

      Other way around. Vinyl standard on the DLs, cloth standard on the GLs, leather optional on the GLs. The cloth is by far my farvorite both for comfort and durability.

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      • JohnM

        Just to clarify, my comment here refers to mid 80s wagons. If it was a sedan from the same vintage it could very well have cloth as a DL, with the GL getting a more luxurious velour, again with leather optional. If it was a 70s or 90s car, it would be a whole different scheme as well.

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  17. John Frei

    I had a ’92 240 Sedan. Built like a tank, comfortable and always looked kinda cool in its reserved Swedish way.

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  18. Juan P.

    JohnM,

    I’ve always enjoyed reading your comments regarding vintage RWD Volvo “bricks.” I am a die-hard Volvo enthusiast and have owned a dozen of them over the last 15 years or so.

    I wanted to ask your opinion on a Volvo-related subject. Since you frequently mention the 240 Series, I had to ask – what do you make of the 740 Series? Do you find the 740s to be as well-built and durable as the 240s, or do you consider them to be in a different breed?

    The reason I ask is this – I have three 740s, two 1986 GLEs and one 1989 GL. The 1989 GL is the best one of the three. I have just 119k miles on it. I never take it out in the rain or the snow. In fact, when I bought the ’89 from the original owner last year, she requested that I never drive it in snow or salt. Just like she didn’t. It had 109k when I bought it.

    Both of the ’86 GLEs have the ZF 4HP22 4-speed automatic. As you may know, this transmission is not well-loved by a lot of Volvo fans, due to the fact that they can blow up if constantly revved over 2500 rpm. I like the 240s as well, but I highly prefer the 740s because they ride better on the highway and I do a lot of long-distance driving. Also, I can get them for way cheaper than good 240s. By the way, are any of your 240s turbos?

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    • JohnM

      Thanks for the kind words! I have nothing against the 7/9 series. I think they’re a little ugly, but that’s certainly subjective. They have their pluses and minuses over the 240 series. A big plus for me is the wiring is much closer to modern in the 7/9 series. Of course some look at that as a negative because with a 240 pretty much every single subsystem gets its own dedicated harness which makes any sort of change you can image possible–want to put power mirrors from a ’93 into a ’83? Go right ahead!

      If you’re into turbos, the 7/9s all came with LH fuel management rather than the K-Jet on the 240 turbos, which is a massive improvement IMO. At this point I’d rather swap a non-turbo 240 over to a LH 2.2/2.4 turbo setup than deal with the factory K-jet bag of snakes.

      I’d say durability/reliability/build quality is a wash. The blower motor on the 240 is a well known pain; it’s a 10 minute job on a 7/9, but OTOH many a 7/9 has ended up in the junkyard due to the mechanic’s estimate to replace a heater core. I’m more of a stick shift guy, but I don’t think the ZF four speed is particularly bad, or fragile. I think it’s more of case of a bad rep by comparison to the AW four speed which is totally bomb proof.

      My driving is mostly on curvy country two lanes–very little long haul highway stuff for me at this point. To me this is where I prefer the 240s. They’re narrower, lighter (especially in the front), and to me feel much more nimble on their feet. I enjoy them driving them spiritedly more than the 7/9s, and I’ve had more than one 7/9 with the full IPD suspension and Bilsteins, poly bushings, etc etc. I just prefer the lightness of the 240s for the type of driving that I do. That said, if I’m trying to put someone I care about who isn’t mechanically inclined into a Volvo (my mom for instance), I aim for a late build 7/9 as I think overall they have many few quirks that could puzzle the local gas station mechanic compared to a 240.

      Either way, I love RWD Volvos in any form, and you’re absolutely right about more bang for the buck in the 7/9 series. I’m not sure they’ll ever do the appreciating that good 240s are starting on. Cheers, and happy Thanksgiving!

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    • Goran Lundberg

      Juan,
      If you are a 700series fan, you may also want to know that these cars back in the days were nicknamed “sosse-containers” here in Sweden, “sosse” in turn being short for the Social Democratic Party, which, under the late PM Olof Palme (assassinated in Stockholm 30 years ago, murder still unsolved), where in undisputed governmental power during the 700 series haydays. Why so? Because the new Volvos were, supposedly at least, a massive hit with the family providers who voted for Palme.

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  19. Luki

    Still have our ’91.
    Odometer quit many years ago at 144,122.
    Pretty funny considering Volvo had a 144 model and the one before that was a 122 model.

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  20. chad

    My 240 GL (’82? 85?) kept goin till they told me the rear main leak could not be fixed (owned 15 yrs). The 850 replacement wasn’t 1/2 the car even w/the extra cyl & turbo (owned 5 yrs). Comments?
    700s robust as the 240. 900s over priced, less durable.

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