Daily Driver Update: 1972 Volvo 145E

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Using a classic car as your daily driver can be a challenge. Modern cars provide almost maintenance-free reliability, while older cars require constant vigilance. Gauges that display things like oil pressure become much important when they are not accompanied by flashing lights and beepers. Fluid levels must be checked on occasion and a missed oil change could be devastating. A lot more time and money must be spent to keep a classic humming, but there is just something satisfying about the whole experience. Sure, there are bad days, but hopefully the feeling of achievement you get after successfully diagnosing a problem is fulfilling enough to keep you going. Let’s just hope I can keep at it!

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I have been driving my bright yellow 1972 Volvo 145E through rain, snow and shine since I purchased it. For the most part it has been a pleasant experience. I may be getting soft, but sometimes I think I may be better served by a newer vehicle that doesn’t need to be choked on cold mornings or one that emits fewer sounds and smells from the engine bay. When those thoughts creep in though, I remind myself of all the money I’m saving! No car payments means there is more money to spend on other things. There are a few areas of my old wagon that could use attention though. Ironically, the blower motor seized up on one of the coldest days we have had in a while. That may be an easy fix though. There are also a few other issues that the car came with that I would like to address soon. When I bought the car, I noticed a loud ticking sound. almost like a sewing machine running. I knew these engines were noisy, but it just didn’t sound right to me. I figured a valve adjustment would remedy it, but upon further investigation I think it may just be an exhaust leak. A previous owner installed headers, but I can see some very sloppy welds down low and that makes me wonder if it wasn’t a patch attempt.

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This Volvo does surprisingly well in the slick stuff. There are no driver nannys like anti-lock brakes or traction control to keep you out of trouble though so you do have to pay attention. I like to think that the fact that the car came from Sweden is the reason it seems surefooted on the ice, but I have a feeling that the combination of gearing, weight, and lack of power have more to do with it. Anyway, I need to start fixing a few thing while still keeping everything else maintained. There’s that rust in the rear fenders and the cracked windshield. Oh, and the seat needs to be put together right. Then there are the gauges… As you can see, sometimes classic car ownership is not a walk in the park. There is always an adjustment to be made here and a fix to be done there, but isn’t that part of the fun? For those of us who enjoy figuring out how things work, there is no better way to do it then by driving an old car everyday. It forces you to keep up on things because if you don’t, you may not have transportation tomorrow. I wouldn’t recommend adopting my beaternomics mentality though unless you have a job where they don’t mind if you are late to work every once in a while…

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Comments

  1. Jeff Lavery Staff

    I’ve often thought that the only reason my hobby works is because the mechanic’s shop is within walking distance of my office.

  2. motodog

    I have never owned a car that was easier to work on than my ’71 142E which is practically the same car as your ’72 145E. I don’t know what is wrong with your seat but be aware that the seat cushions can be easily interchanged between the front seats if needed.

  3. Tirefriar

    Such are joys of having an old car as a DD. I drove my Berlina in a So Cal heat wondering why? And then Id findvthe answer on my runs through the Malibu canyons. The dash lighting is an easy remedy with led bulbs available. I thought you were replacing that anyway? Might as well address the bulbs then. Cleaning the inside of gauges helps as well.

    • Jesse Staff

      The gauges in there all work fine. A few need new bulbs and I would like to install that Rallye gauge cluster I purchased. The only problem is that someone cobbled it together from an assortment of gauges, so I’m not sure it is worth the work of ripping the dash apart to put in something that may not work correctly.

      • Tirefriar

        Personally, I like the strip speedometer better but that’s me. How are the headlights? You may want to install relays with existing set up or upgrade and take s look at the rest of the lights. To me, improved lighting is safety. My Beemer is going in for complete lighting upgrade (except for license lights ;-)). I’ll do a relay upgrade on my 69 Alfa Spider as soon as I’ll make a decision to keep it.

  4. Jimbosidecar

    I have 3 four wheeled vehicles, with the newest being a ’67 VW. The others are both 1950s. Something’s do need Maintainence but they are easy to diagnose

  5. Jerry

    Sometimes headers don’t fit the head exactly right on the Volvo, especially ones from IPD. You may have to install 2 manifold gaskets to even things out, very common. Spray some chock/carb cleaner along the gasket edge to determine any leaks. My header emits a “tinging” noise and comes from engine heat. Also check that the header is not hitting the bellhousing. I guess I am old school and never had a problem checking oil, tire pressure or driving anything that didn’t have all the electronic crap like new cars. This new stuff makes for distracted driving MHO.

  6. Robert J.

    My fiancee’s MK1 Cabriolet is leaking and getting musty (I use a dehumidifer on it) during this wet winter. At Christmas, she was telling her dad that she would like to get a newer (read; watertight) car. Her dad exclaimed; Well, why don’t you just drive one of the other cars you guys have. I own five cars already you see, so I had to spend the next half hour explaining why none of these fine vintage machines would be right for her to drive on a daily basis. It really does take a certain mindset to drive a vintage car daily. You can drive a more modern used car for the same amount of money really. I’m in to a modern daily driver with weekly excursions in the fun cars.

  7. Jesse Staff

    In a previous update one of our readers commented that I might want to detail the rims. Well, it’s not brake dust! The guy I bought the car from wanted to keep the black 240 Turbo rims that were on it, so I was more than happy to take a set of 1800 rims in their place. They appear to be painted with a darker silver than what would have been on a stock 145, but I actually like the look. I could always respray them the correct color later on. I’m guessing they are a little wider rim (5.5″) and tire than what would have originally been on there too. Nice for highway cruising, but a narrower tire might make parking lot maneuvers easier. There are old 185/70R15s on there right now and those are all but impossible to find. Any alternative tire suggestions for me?

    • TimVS

      If you use 185/80R15 you can buy Vredestein SPRINT Classics.
      Normally the tires are 155/80r15, Or so it is on my ’72 144 (in Europe). And that is the same size as a vw beetle so easy to find.

  8. Carl

    How much ? And where are you?

    • Jesse Staff

      It’s not for sale yet Carl, but I will be sure to let everyone here know if that ever changes. Thanks.

  9. David

    I too keep thinking about a new, newer car….yes, the payments and more insurance each year…but the upside is getting in and it works, the heater, radio…lights….I have had older cars since high school and I am able to fix almost everything. But I too am getting older and want some more comfort. I have sold them before only to yearn for it to be back sitting in my garage….a side project that I can take out and drive when I feel like it, not just when i have to go to work.

  10. Doug

    Ours was a good driver in Syracuse winters, if one had snows on all 4 wheels. But driver skill played a role, as evidenced by the attached photo where there was a lack of said skills. This 145 survived the adventure off the driveway, also survived rear-ending a garbage truck, and a t-bone into a Pinto. It was the road salt cancer that eventually did her in.

  11. Davew833

    About 1990 I had a friend that was a foreign exchange student from Austria living in Utah. She paid $800 for a 1968 145s that was the same mustard-yellow color. I was tasked with keeping it running, since I was the closest thing to a mechanic in the neighborhood. When she returned to Austria, she gave it to me. Like a fool I took it to the closest junkyard where they gave me $60 for it. I was a cash-strapped college student or I might have kept it.

  12. bradshaw from primer

    I two 142s ….one had wrapped about a tree but had great seats and tires!!
    When I removed the heater, i found it looked like a small nuclear reactor!!
    Heater design was very serious for the Volvo!!

  13. jim s

    i think right now your dealing with past owner mistakes, service failures, and mods. once you get past that mess you should have a very nice daily driver. these were very nice cars when new so they are worth the effort. but if you deside to sell i think the bidding would be very interesting. keep the updates coming please.

  14. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    I love seeing older cars on the road–keep the flag flying!

  15. Don Andreina

    I recently wrote up a story on the only 165 wagon in the world. The owner is a Volvo specialist here in Melbourne so if you’re needing anything especially difficult I’ll hook you up. Totally styling, guys.

    • Jesse Staff

      I have heard of this 165. Sounds like a very cool car!

  16. DT

    We are all a little wet and cold this winter..only rig I would want over your wagon would be a Toyota 4 wheel drive, Bask in the warmth of no car payments.The Volvos I had, had the heater blower right where you could get to them. Headers always make noise,but Im sure thats not that big of a deal to fix either.Lets hear your take on this rig this summer. Happy new year everybody!

  17. JW454

    Somehow, this one looks right at home sitting in the snow. Keep’em rolling! There will never be anything like “pre-seventy’s” models of any maker.

  18. Joe K

    I’m in agreement with your “condition” . I’ve been doing the original Mk1 GTI ( expense account) for 40years (bought new in 84) But my logic about racing Pintos had already infected me. I now have to state of CA making all my car purchase decisions leaning Pre76 to avoid Smog and other financial ruin factors.

    There’s no Cure , it’s Hotel California!

  19. Joe K

    yep , Pintos

  20. Allen Member

    My hobby cars are all MGs, but I’ve had wonderful experiences with the four Volvos I’ve owned. My current DD is a ’73 MGBGT I’ve owned for 28 years. Restoring and driving vintage cars teaches us what an old mechanic told me about 50 years ago: “cars do not wear out, people just stop spending money on them”. When our old cars were new – in the ’70s, even in the ’40s, we thought they were reliable. Yes, they required more attention, but we did not feel inconvenienced. That same level of reliability is still attainable, and yes, far cheaper than the costs of owning a new car that does all your thinking for you.

    I confess I do not drive my GT in snow/salt. I’ve done a lot of welding on this car in the process of restoration, and I’d rather not do it again if I can avoid it. For over 50 years I was a professional musician. For over half that time I relied on MGs to get me to rehearsals and performances. This is a profession in which being late simply is not an option. Musicians are fond of saying “on-time is late”. My vintage MG has never caused me any tardiness. Yes, there have been occasional close calls: the last one being the failure of a modern freshly rebuilt Saturn Delco alternator. ‘ Could have happened on a modern car… I carry tools and spare parts on long trips – and I’ve had occasion to use some of them. But I believe that we each ought to be responsible for our own transport.

    Often while driving and enjoying my 41 year-old DD, I’ll find myself thinking: “Isn’t this fantastic! There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that could go wrong with this car that is not worth fixing”. How many can say the same about our modern cars.

  21. Woodie Man

    Your Volvo and much older cars that we all own are like chicken soup for the soul.

    I’m scared to sell my couple of cars as the market is so out of whack( from my perspective) that I could never get back in, Well maybe with a Yugo.

  22. Roger Nelson

    Here here! I love having an old car as a daily. Fix it in the driveway, buy parts on clear-out pricing. loads of fun. I’m a bicycle mechanic by trade and own my own shop about a mile form my house to which I ride a bike all year long. Keeps the commuter miles of the old cars and saves them for adventures!

    Roger Nelson
    HalifaxCycles.com

  23. Hudson High

    Jesse,

    First off, stellar website. I really enjoy browsing through all of the incredible finds you’ve posted. Your Volvo looks to be in great condition – don’t ever give up on it!

    I too, have an older car as my daily driver. It is a 1987 FJ60 Toyota LandCruiser. I love it. There are days when I miss my newer F-150, but 9 times out of 10, I enjoy the simplicity of being able to diagnose and fix my own problems, while making the truck my own.

    I also have a ’59 Edsel Ranger that is the definition of a barn find. It came out of a barn in Northwest Arkansas in the fall of 2013, and I got it a year ago, in January of 2014. It is reliable and in great shape. Talk about a conversation piece. Why don’t you head over to my blog at etheltheedsel.wordpress.com and follow me as I restore/enjoy it! Have a great 2015 my friend and keep up the great Barn Finds!

    -Hudson

  24. Peter

    Jesse:

    Love the website–keep up the good work!

    To ANYONE interested in winter-driving safety:

    Get STUDDED SNOW TIRES, or forget about it whether your vehicle is “superior” in snow, as compared to other vehicles, because without studs, the differences between a vehicle’s STOPPING AND TURNING POWER are negligible, regardless of which axle(s) is(are) being “driven.”

    I don’t care how much ABS, ESP (Electronic Stability Control) and other “nanny-electronics your car/truck/SUV has, but if you do NOT have studded snows, you:

    1. CANNOT TURN any better than a two-wheel drive, at least under deceleration, and:

    2. CANNOT STOP any better than a two-wheel drive, be it front drive or rear drive.

    The reason for this is that RUBBER DOESN’T DO **** ON ICE

    Whereas, even a 2×4 pickup, with studded snows, becomes a TANK where ice is involved. And the studs help in packed snow, too. (I have about 30 years experience with such a configuration).

    I should add that experts (correctly) recommend STUDDED SNOWS AT ALL FOUR CORNERS, and not just the back (or front). While I have gotten by for many years with just two studded snows, the experts ARE correct. Because otherwise, you will be subject to differential traction, front-to-rear, in a drift/sliding situation. (Which actually requires some expertise, leads to unwelcome surprises, and is simply not as effective as studding all four corners).

    For the few hundred dollars saved, it’s not worth it–the money difference between two studded snows or four, even WITH buying used (or new) wheels, is less than your insurance deductible, in most cases.

    We have a 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid (SUV). Toyota, in it’s infinite wisdom, DENIES Hybrid owners the option of a switch, to turn OFF the traction control.

    Result: a friend’s 1993, front wheel drive Nissan Sentra could get up our slightly snowy driveway, in 4” of snow, with ZERO problem.

    Our $45,000. SUV? Almost IMPOSSIBLE, on the NON-STUDDED *cough* “All Season” tries! I came from snow country, and I had to put on a “driver’s clinic” (or “clown show,” depending upon your perspective) for 20 minutes, just to get it out of the road and onto our property–never mind in the driveway!

    The Hybrid’s traction control will allow just about ZERO wheel spin before it clamps the brakes on (whereas the gas Highlander will allow you to turn off the traction control, and actually SPIN THE WHEELS!). And as experienced snow drivers know, wheel spin is sometimes ESSENTIAL to getting through snow/unstuck, etc….

    Four WHEELS and STUDDED SNOW TIRES later (because they don’t make 20″ studdable snow tires, apparently, so we had to go to higher-profile, 17″ tire, with NEW, 17″ WHEELS, of course, as well), and it is a TANK. (Happily, I prefer the higher-profile tires on a truck/SUV).

    I was very pleased with the price and service I got, in buying the new wheels and STUDDED SNOWS (and they’re ACTUAL SNOW TIRES, not “all seasons”) from http://www.tirerack.com. They delivered them, mounted on new wheels, to my mechanic’s location, for under $1,200.

    But wait! With an older (sub-20″ wheeled) classic car, you SHOULD be able to just get the tires themselves, saving a ton of money on new (in our case, aluminum) wheels. Tirerack also offers simple “steelies” (steel wheels) for many vehicles, and a very fair price, IMO. Just not our (then new) 2009 Hybrid. It was “stylish,” 17″ aluminum wheels, to go with the 17″ studded snows, or NO studded snow–period.

    Of course, the cheaper way is to just go get junkyard wheels in the same size as your regular wheels, and leave the STUDDED SNOWS mounted on them. (Again, we had to drop down to 17″ wheels, just to get the STUDDED SNOWS, so the junkyard was not an option, for our new car).

    I definitely recommend a second set of wheels, however, so that a tire shop doesn’t tear a bead, mounting/dismounting your snows, twice per year. Plus, you can swap them yourself, at home, if your have them already mounted, and save $14./tire mounting and balancing–not to mention, how do you fit four tires into the back of your car/SUV?

    I’m sure the Volvo wagon, with it’s weighty rear end, is inherently good in snow, but ANY car can be made to handle better than any NON-STUDDED, AWD SUV/PICKUP, simply by studding your car.

    Why?

    Because rubber front tires, on the front of ANY vehicle, be it Four Wheel Drive, ALL Wheel Drive, or TWO wheel drive, will NOT afford usable traction ON ICE, wheres as STEEL STUDS BITE INTO ICE.

    Period.

    Oh wait: in my “perfect world,” ALL (snow belt) vehicles would be required to run studs on all four wheels–and then we could GET RID OF THE SALT WHICH KILLS OUR CARS, MAKES OUR HOBBY NEEDLESSLY EXPENSIVE.

    I realize this will never happen, as it would be an “inconvenience” and an expense.

    As if needless automobile accidents are not “inconvenient” and EXPENSIVE.

    Not to mention dangerous. But requiring studded snows to be an “inspectable item” in snow country would make too much sense, right?

    Stud your Volvo and never look back (other than to scan your mirrors, of course).

    /rant over.

  25. Neil McGrath

    I had a 145S in the early 80s and loved the car. The engine was always a bit “tappety” and did sound a bit like a sewing machine. A mechanic managed to tune the valve clearances by ear and did get it to quieten down a bit. The car was a UK spec model, so did not have the repeater lights on the wings or the roof rack.

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