Boring Barn Find: 1968 Volvo 144S


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A four-door Volvo may not sound exciting, but these 144s are popular among road rallyists in Europe. They are well-built and the engine is bulletproof, making them ideal for endurance events. This particular example has been parked in this garage for over 30 years, but is claimed to be complete and rust-free. That is quite a statement considering the cars location. Find it here on craigslist in Ana Maria Island, Florida with an asking price of $2,500.


There’s the main reason these old Volvos last. The B20 four-cylinder has five big main bearings and should last forever with regular oil changes. Irv Gordon’s has chalked up almost 3 million miles on his P1800 with only one rebuild and it didn’t even need it. This one hasn’t been started in 30 years so it is going to need some work on the fuel system and brakes. Clean the tank and rebuild the carbs and you should be ready to go. The S in the 144 meant this one is equipped with dual carbs and a little more power over the base 144.


Things are simple in here, but the seats are comfortable and the long shift-stick is close at hand. The air conditioning unit is a welcome option, but may take some work to get it blowing cold again. It’s never as simple as a recharge. A set of round rally gauges would be a nice upgrade over the thermometer gauge, but it can be a challenge sourcing good ones. There are more exciting cars out there, but these Swedish boxes are starting to grow on us…

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  1. Allen

    I LOVE these old volvos

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  2. Kman

    I had two of these: 122S and a 142s. Loved them both but in the end, after a few years, I got bored with them and went looking for ssomething else. My wife was driving a Plymouth Horizon, hatchback, (first year), and we had 2 files of “issues” each about 3″ thick. Then we had a bad winter with a week of dry freezing weather, (unusual here in Victoria), and I swapped with her so she wouldn’t get stuck with the kids as I could usually get the little 1760 VW engine going. So dumped that and got her a brand new Renault Medallion. I loved the simplicity, comfort and adequate power of it but she never took to it. So, finally I traded my Volvo in on a Voyager LE. Just what all moms wanted. I took the Medallion and enjoyed it for a few years until I started having sensor problems. Being single again I got a white Le Baron convertible. But that’s another story.

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    • Horse Radish

      Even though it looks like your Volvos might have been your most boring cars , by far they were your best choices in that list you have there !

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      • Kman

        Oh, they weren’t my most boring by far. The first one should have read, 142 and the 2nd 242. It was just that after a number of years I got bored with them. But I had some fun with them. I’d have to say that the two most boring were a ’55 chevy 210 and a 56 Ford. But the Chevy was very reliable, the Ford wasn’t. The Medallion was amongst the most enjoyable to drive tho’ it didn’t last and parts became a problem. My 2 all time favourites including my TR 3 & 4 and a Fiat 124 Spyder were my 75 Firebird Formula 400 and my current ’94 Mustang GT convert. Don’t know what’s next but I also have a Ranger 4.0 litre. Would feally love to try a kit car Healy/Sebring. So many cars so little time.

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  3. BobinBexley Bob in BexleyMember

    Jesse, great find ! Dis-connect line from fuel tank, hose from gallon gas container to fuel pump, jumper pack & there you go- a nuclear car ! Should rattle a bit for a few sec but ought not to quit till fuel runs out. Just an amazing engine !

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  4. NLCTVWguy

    The price is about what it’s worth I guess. If you love them and you want a good one, this body is about as nice as the ever get. Assuming it’s as rust free as the writer states and it looks as good as the driver’s rockers I can see in one pic. Most in the snow belt got the cancer and had to be put down. Places to look are inside front of rear fender arches, rockers, floor seams, spare tire wells in trunk, and subframe welds to floors.

    That has to be a repaint. None of Volvo’s metallic paint lasted that long, and I’ve seen hundreds of these and never that color. Must have been a custom job, but that may also mean it was kept by someone who just loved his Volvo.

    Curious that it “hasn’t been driven in 30 years” but has 20 year old hubcaps on it, from a 740 or 940. The S doesn’t mean it has more power or anything, in the US, it just means it isn’t fuel injected (that’s an “E”).

    The 4-speed transmissions are the most bulletproof piece of machinery made. This one does not appear to have the Overdrive, and that’s too bad because with a 4.30 rear it probably needs it. I recall regular models complaining a lot at highway speeds…. our always had OD. The automatics that were offered were useless Borg-Warner BW35’s, so thankfully it doesn’t have that.

    Question is, is anyone nostalgic enough or retro-cool enough to rock this old brick?

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    • William Robinson

      I am but I think that my wife would want a new daily first, Im looking at a well kept 05 s-60 t5 right now to replace my 98 s-70 glt, which replaced my 95 850 t5, which replaced my wanna say 89 (cant remember) 740 turbo, which replace my….you see a pattern here. Id love to have a 144 just to use as a weekend toy, I wish it was closer.

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  5. jim

    is this going to be the first Barn Finds project car? great great find.

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    • Jesse JesseAuthor

      If it were closer Jim… I actually know where a 142 is stashed. I could have picked it up for $500 a while back, but lost contact with the owner. They have since sold it to their father and now he wants $2k. Still not a bad deal, but I am having a hard time paying 4 times what I could have originally gotten it for.

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  6. DolphinMember

    This 144 is in amazingly good condition despite 100K+ miles and living right on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Looks like it was taken good care of, and that the main problem is that it has sat unused for a long time. Probably a good car for someone who wants a practical, rugged sedan like this.

    I have a very warm spot for vintage Volvos and owned many over the years (544, 122, 140, 240 series) in various rust belt locations, and they all ended up with rust problems even if I tried to stop it with undercoat. It took me a while to finally learn that the only way to make these cars survive in the salty snow was the underside spray-on oiling technique, done every Fall.

    It always surprised me that Volvos were from a Northern country with lots of snow, where they were said to last an average of 11 years according to the advertising, yet they rusted out in No America unless oiled every year. I heard that the Swedes would put snow tires or even chains on all 4 corners, so they didn’t need salt, which might explain it.

    Despite all that, my wife loves Volvos and refuses to drive anything else, but she won’t be pestering me to buy this. She has had a couple of V70s and won’t likely go back. The upside is that Volvo has learned how to keep them from rusting, even in the rustbelt place we used to live. Now that we never see snow or salt any more, she still wants nothing else than her V70. Trouble is, those have gone upmarket and are nowhere near as bulletproof as this 144S will probably be once it’s made good for the road again.

    Best wishes to the new owner. He/she probably won’t be disappointed.

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    • William Robinson

      I think I have the rustiest s70 Ive ever seen and it has three very small rust spots, one on the top edge of the drivers door and one for each of the rear wheel wells. All three spots still dont equal the size of a five dollar bill, and I live in the humidist (a new word I think) saltyist oceanist surrounded place next to Florida but on the same coast.

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      • DolphinMember

        Well, William I guess humid Florida isn’t anywhere as bad as rust belt salt is, especially when the car is stored inside, as this one was and I guess maybe yours too.

        Yet, we see some pretty deteriorated cars from Florida on BF. I remember a Healey in Florida that didn’t have much left of the floors and other metal and wasn’t too far from being a pile of rust flakes, but it looked like it had been stored outside in the sun & weather.

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  7. Manuel Tranzmicione

    Headlining this as “Boring” does little justice to what these cars were and are. If you’ve never owned and driven one, you’re excused. The 140 series like it’s ancestors, the 122 and the PV544, were very toss-able and huge fun to drive (if you loved to drive).

    The 4 doors are stiffer in structure than their 2 door sisters though not by much. Tractable as a stock package, these engines can make a surprising amount of power for a long time on pump gas. Phil Singher on Whidbey Island out in the PNW has built numerous rocket engines from the base block shown in this car, that run on plain old pump gas that can tread lightly in a grocery store parking lot and yet perform like track cars any time you abuse the loud-pedal. and with all that the only thing you’ll find boring is that these cars seldom break catastrophically. Cheap and cheerful.

    If that’s boring, gimme more!

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  8. Harry Andreas

    I rallyed one of these 144S for years in the 80’s. Rugged is right, but at the expense of acceleration. The thing was slow…until I made a few special modifications. I put on the head from the fuel injected model (bigger valves), full headers, exhaust from the 160, Holley-Weber downdraft, solid state ignition, remote mount oil filter, bigger front sway bar and added a rear bar, etc. Noticeably improved performance. Then the rally package (lights, timer, etc). BTW, the reason these don’t rust much is because the sheet metal is 2-sided galvanized.

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    • Jesse JesseAuthor

      Do you have any photos Harry?

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  9. Stan

    dollage qu’elle soit en Flrida cette auto , elle me plait beaucoup!!

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    • Larry


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  10. Harry Andreas

    Sorry. Sold it years ago.

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  11. scottski

    Maybe they’re not glamorous, but dependability makes up for that, in my experience.
    I admire their stodgy appearance… and ease of maintenance.
    “Beauty’s only skin deep”: I can attest to the fact, having lived with a ’67 Jag S-Type for eighteen years.
    Besides… 144s are scarce as hen’s teeth. I live around Charlottesville, VA (rotten with Volvos, according to “Click & Clack”), and haven’t seen one in years. Still looking for a local 145, to no avail.

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  12. Manuel Tranzmicione

    Just a minor caution: This car is fitted with 14 inch rims from a 240 as evidenced by the full plastic wheel covers only found on a 240. Hopefully the original 15 inchers are included. You may like having taller 15 inch tires in place if you intend to do much highway cruising. Having the 14 inch rims in place may show you a quicker-off-the-line effect, but it seems unlikely you’ll be buying this old girl to drag race with.

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  13. ConservativesDefeated


    I think you meant to type “dommage”…:)

    As for the car: I was good until I read:
    “The headliner is almost completely intact”……….If only it didnt say “almost”……oh well if it was on the other coast I would snap it up….

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  14. David Nopper

    I wonder how the opinion BORING got in the listing header?? I have owned a few Volvos and they never owned me!! Boring?? Not!! Sensible but never boring!!

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  15. Bernie H

    As A young Army officer in Kaiserslautern, Germany, I bought one of these in 1968, same as this one, green/tan interior/4speed for approx $2640 US dolllars. Drove it for 104,000 miles, couldnt wait to sell it!!. The windshield leaked badly-stained the headliner, dealers could never fix. The B-18D engine required constant resetting of the SU’s, I must have rebuilt these 4 or 5 times to get straight. When the A-pillars started showing rust (from the leaky glass) I sold it off to a used car dealer in Ann Arbor, MI. I have fond memories, but wouldnt buy another, too antiquated in design and performance. Been thru six BMW’s since, still have two.

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  16. Richard V

    There really were few inherent problems with the SUs used in this range of Volvos as long as they were:

    1) Initially set up properly Including centering the needle and jet (very important!)
    2) After the above, left alone!!!

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  17. Manuel Tranzmicione

    Had a ’68 Four door with factory installed overdrive, one of less than 500 built, that I bought in the late 1970s. Just a superb car for my young self. It got stolen off Hayford St. in Lansing, MI and it got it back the next day badly bent.. I was mighty proud of the thing.

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  18. Stan

    plus d’envoi merci

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  19. --Robert

    If they were 14″ rims, with the correct tires they would be the same diameter as the 165R15 tires that these usually came with. (164 models got 175-15’s, good luck finding those.)

    The 240 sedan came with 185-70R14 tires throughout its life and the rolling diameter is very close to the same, as are the 195-60R15 on a 240Turbo or a 740 with 15″ wheels.

    Not that it makes a huge difference in this little beast. It’s got what? 109HP stock? And 2900 lbs to push around, and probably 4.30 gears in the differential. Acceleration is sedate and the top speed isn’t real fast.
    Here. Specs. From R&T magazine on a ’74 model.
    And more info:

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