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It’s Alive! The Volvo Roars To Life


We have some good news and some bad news. First, the good news. After adding some fresh fuel and a few squirts of carb cleaner we were able to get the 142 project car running. We knew it hadn’t been sitting for that long, so after checking the brakes, we went ahead and took her to a spin! The car ran well and drove great considering that it had been parked for about 2 years. The brakes did pull to the right a little, but we didn’t mind because we were running off of the adrenaline from getting an old car started for the first time in a long while.

Here is a video of our first attempt at starting that B20. The owner had let the car run out of gas before parking it, so we checked the filter and pump for clogs. It was all clear so we attached a battery charger and removed the air filters. After adding a little oil to the top of the valve-train, we went ahead and turned her over. Then with the help of some carb cleaner we were able to get that tough little four-cylinder to fire long enough to allow the mechanical fuel pump to do its thing. After letting it clear its throat a bit, the engine purred like a kitten.

It may have been unwise, but we couldn’t resist the temptation to take the car out on her maiden voyage. We inhaled our fare share of dust and fumes, but it was a fun trip. With its oxidized black paint and faded red upholstery, it must have looked like the project car from hell coming down the road! After a quick run around the block, dark rainclouds started to form so we headed back to the owner’s garage for cover.


Unfortunately, by that time it was too late to make a trip to the bank. The seller had already written up a bill of sale and notarized the title, so I figured it was safe to wait until tomorrow to complete the transaction. Little did I know that my wishes to buy this old piece of junk would stir up the desire in others. That night the owner and his wife had a discussion and decided that it was not the right time to sell. The son had expressed interest and the father’s flame for the car had obviously not been extinguished.


A message was left on my phone last night to break the bad news. It was a shock. These are good church-going folks who presumably keep their word, so I had trusted them. It is too bad that the car is going to sit in that garage for the next 10 or 15 years before being hauled off to the scrapyard in the sky. Perhaps it is for the best though. There are better cars out there. We just have to find them…

Moral of this story – always bring cash!


  1. Jamie Wallhauser

    You say these are church-going people? Oh for heaven’s sake! What the hell is wrong with them? Go ahead and send them a mechanic’s bill for the time and product you used to get it running and you’ll quickly be able to determine just exactly which church they worship at.

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    • Lee Fogel

      I could not agree more…they deserve the hassle and loss of time and money.

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      • George Bishopric Member

        Agreed. You should at least get reimbursed for your efforts starting the car.

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  2. Shuperman

    Nicely done.

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  3. Lee Fogel

    Well, that’s garbage. People that act like this are classless and rude. Yes, you are right that you should have had cash with you but I guarantee that they made a call to the son and all of a sudden he forced them to change their mind. Sorry you went thru all of this for nothing…people like this make me so mad.

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  4. CarGuy

    Find another Volvo in better shape. Get it running and drive it to this owners house to deliver the bill. Make sure you tell them how much better the one you bought is than theirs and then wish them luck ever unloading their POS.

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  5. scot

    ~ rude message to the liars who agreed to sell the Volvo and then broke their word;
    when did you decide your integrity had no value ? wrong choice on every level.
    i’ll bet you the Volvo will not receive the same stewardship from your family, which left it to rot, as it would from the Barn Finds crew. guilt and misfortune upon you. shame and disgrace for the family that raised you.

    btw, to modify a notarized title requires notarized affidavit in most states.

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  6. Horse Radish

    I guess you had to have it, couldn’t let it go….?
    I feel for you, because:
    Of all the cars that I bought over the years I mostly remember the ones that got away for some silly reason or another.
    Use the momentum that you have to get as much done now while your enthusiasm is up, because it will fade.
    Don’t ask me how I know.

    Good on you and Good Luck.

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    • Horse Radish

      Ooops, I guess I should have read the story first.
      I just assumed that you bought it first and then fired it up.
      (Rule number one)

      My brother and I also learned the lesson to pay a car in full when negotiating a deal, yes one of those that got away…. (rule number 2),
      We made a deposit on a car once and the seller changed his mind overnight, he figured for as cheap as he would let it go he’d let his daughter drive the car……
      Unfortunately my brother lost the receipt and bill of sale/contract, so we were lucky to even get the deposit back……

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  7. Robert j

    What a wonderful opportunity to practice the art of compassion. Earlier today I saw a beautiful Volvo 544 for sale for the amazing price of only $500. Hey better barn finds await I promise. Only now you will be there to greet them with free shop space and extra cash on your hands!

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Maybe we should go for the 544 Robert!

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      • Robert J.

        If you weren’t thousands of miles away, I would be hauling it over to your place today! My next project is going to be a 544 with some hotrod engine in it. Great cars!

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  8. bowtiecarguy

    1.Always bring cash
    2. It wasn’t meant to be
    3. There was a reason for 2 (Sometimes you find out later, sometimes not)

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  9. jimbosidecar

    Not to be a contrarian- but having sold a few cars and bikes here and there, I can’t count the number of people who said, I don’t have the cash with me, I’ll bring it tomorrow and never show up. And I’ve also lost several truly barn finds under the exact same circumstance.

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  10. Dolphin Member

    Sometimes it turns out with people who can’t make up their mind that, lo and behold, they realize they didn’t want to do all that dirty restoration work, and they want to sell it after all!

    If that happens, offer them half.

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Good idea Dolphin! I doubt they will be calling me back when they are ready to sell though and that’s okay by me.

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  11. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Thanks for all the sympathy guys! Truth is, I’m not heartbroken about the car. It turned out to be rougher than first thought and I was breaking the cardinal rule of “buy the best you can afford” anyway. I am more bothered by the lack of integrity on the seller’s part. Still, it all made for a fun experience and an interesting article. We all learned a few things from my misfortune too.

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  12. robert Bogar

    I have a 1987 240GL, running. for a *very* good price. we lovingly call her the grey ghost. Contact me. would be a great option for a fun restore or project… would be fun…

    I am on the verge of donate…

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I hear that the BF Classic Car Conservation Fund is a worthwhile charity Robert… Just kidding. Send in a photo so we can take a look.

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  13. Graham Line

    “Hey look, it runs. No, we don’t want to sell.”
    Utterly classless.
    So where’s the Saab 96 with the bullet holes?

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    • mtshootist1

      Graham, if you are talking about the Saab I wrote about, it is located on a ranch in southern Kansas. The only thing that was really wrong with it was no brakes. My buddy and I drove semis and he had this Saab, it was one of those with the swept back body style and three cylinder engine.. We took off for the ranch only to discover that the brakes didnt work, so when we needed to stop, I would stick my cowboy boot out and slow it down as we drove around the truck stop parking lot. we drove several hundred miles that way, in 1973. Been parked out there ever since. Next to the four door hardtop 55 Buick that I drove to college.

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  14. Terry Parkhurst

    It’s too bad this family didn’t allow you to take their car; as it deserves a good home. Whether or not they are church goers is irrelevant. They obviously don’t understand that old maxim about “making a deal on a handshake.”

    The 140 series Volvos are becoming more valuable to people – not in terms of money, but the emotional value. I have one that is fuel-injected – a 1972 142E – and it’s been amazingly reliable. Amazingly so, since it now has 235,000 miles on the odometer. They handle pretty well, as a Peter Cunningham once told me, they were good rally cars, in their time. They are also the first production Volvo with four-wheel disc brakes.

    Gunnar Falck, a friend of mine at the Art Center College of Design, owned an early model, in the late Sixties. Volvo had lent it to him, since they’d sent him to ACCD to study design. He used to give me rides in it and we’d cruise up and down Sunset Strip. Most Americans have memories of cruising in Tri-Five Chevrolets or mid-Sixties Ford Mustangs, but mine are of Gunnar and his 140-S sedan..

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      You are right Terry. Nothing wrong with going to church, I do. They just seemed like good honest people and maybe they are for the most part. I guess car lust can bring out the worst in all of us.

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  15. FRED


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  16. scottski

    automobilis interruptus.
    That pretty much describes my first-ever auto buying experience.
    FIAT 124 Spyder. Used. Orange.
    At a dealers lot. A dealer that sold Volkswagens, primarily.
    Test drove it, got my hormones all fired up, then went to my bank, thirty miles away.
    When I got back to the dealer, it was gone.
    O, This Bitter Earth.

    It’s no consolation to you, but I guarantee that THAT one won’t be resurrected.

    There are other fish in the sea.
    And Karma is a… well, we all know what Karma is.

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  17. jim

    sad that that happened. time to start looking again.

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    • Horse Radish

      pass , just because of the bloated seller.
      Buyer beware

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I actually bought one of these not too long ago. Too many wires and vacuum hoses for me though.

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  18. al

    People talking about a bill and such? Let it go! Really not worth the hassle.

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  19. Don Andreina

    Personally, I’m devastated, I had developed such a soft spot for this car. There is something about the thrill of the chase, though. Maybe consider a w116 merc. They are at the bottom of the market at the moment, and you get a lot of car for the money. Parts, though expensive, are available and you can stick you children inside without the worry.

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  20. Jerry

    Sorry about the one that got away; now that you have it running they have (1) realize they can get more for it, or (2) son won’t get his hands dirty now that he has renewed interest. Stick with the 1972 and earlier Volvos, easy to work on, parts available, and they are a lot more reliable than the later models.

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  21. paul

    Geesh, I have been very busy the last few days on my garage find 63 Corvair Spyder , got it up & running, so this is the first I have read all this & I have to agree with the above statements, send them a bill, of course they won’t pay it, but maybe they will get the message.

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      You had better send some photos in paul so we can see what you’re up to.

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      • paul

        Hi Jesse, I sent those pics out to you last week

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      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Yep, we received them Paul. Just working on an update now. Thanks!

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  22. hank shepperd

    first of all great site.i can send some pics of cars in,but most of them are mine.i was reading the story of the Volvo.i was going to buy a pinto that had been set up for a small block ford.we shook on the agreed price and when I called him he said they prayed about it and wasn;t going to sell the car.learned that have your money right there and then

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  23. Ken Corey

    Perhaps they were unable to get the body out of the trunk the night before……

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  24. MackDaddy

    Too bad……have them take a look at this blog and see if they would reconsider…..

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  25. benjy

    No great loss, it looks like a quicksand project. You will be up to your neck spending money on a nothing car.

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  26. Gene

    Put it back in non-running state and let them come after it.

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  27. Warren

    Good Christians or not, still a weasily move. I was involved in one situation where the agreement was made,and went to pick up the car and the seller after “thinking about it” opted to raise the price of the car. That is where the on hand cash in the agreed to amount spoke.

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  28. Paul

    “Stuff” happens. Ca$h is key to nearly every transaction.

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  29. mtshootist1

    my rules of thumb is
    1. beat them down on price,because the car or in my case, Motorcycle doesn’t run
    2. bring cash so you can display those crisp 100 dollar bills cash money talks big
    3. never do anything for the seller other than pay him and make sure you have the notarized title in hand before exchanging legal tender
    4. drag the score off before they can change their mind
    5. start it at your own place.

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  30. Davew833

    Having been stung like this myself, my rule of thumb now is never, never, EVER fix a non-running car that you’re planning to buy on the owner’s property. If you know you’re looking at a bargain that will take minimal time and effort to get running again, pay for it, get your title and bill of sale in hand and at least tow it down the street to the nearest parking lot before you fire it up.

    About 15 years ago, I had the opportunity to buy a decent Honda Accord SEi that had jumped timing from a nice Utah “church-going” kid for $500. He agreed to let me replace the timing belt and see if it would run before I bought it for the agreed-upon price, which I did by the light of a single bulb in the dark one evening. Fortunately, it had not bent any valves and it ran fine after my work, but– wait for it– the next day the kid wouldn’t take any less than $1800 for it. A very nasty confrontation occurred in which various names were called, legal action was threatened, etc., and finally I came away with $150 for my repair work, but it left a bad, bad taste in my mouth. Lesson learned! I still occasionally enjoy buying “non runners” at various legitimate auctions and quickly fixing them and driving them home AFTER THE SALE IS COMPLETED, but I’d never again do it at a private individual’s home.

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    • Horse Radish

      I would have snipped the timing belt and walked away !

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  31. rancho bella

    Mr. Jesse………………….. THEY DID YOU A FAVOR.
    Like in many western movies, the common line is…….”a man is only as good as his word”
    I reckon they haven’t watched many westerns.


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  32. Tom

    I do have that 1979 Volvo 264GL with only 37K miles in Iowa. I will get pictures for you. I know it is not the most desirable model but the price will be quite good for a very good body. Call me at 712-209-0161 with questions.

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  33. Billy

    A buddy of mine had a welding shop back in the 90’s. In the field next to it was a mid 60’s 122 coupe belonging to his landlord that had sat for easily 15 years. It was there before I even had a liscense in 1981. I was always intrigued because a ’68 122 wagon was my first car. Anyway after a few beers one night a couple of us walked over to check out the car and found the key was actually in the ignition. With that we couldn’t not try to get it started. A freshly charged battery got the motor spinning – it was free and the circuits were still in tact. We pulled and cleaned off the plugs and found the points and rotor looking reasonably clean. We had fire! Next some CRC spray into the twin carbs to free the floats and a little ATF for lube. Using starter fluid, same as you all did in the video, she awoke from a long slumber with a bunch of smoke and protest. Since there was no intent to aquire the car I wasn’t too concerned about what was being pulled through from the tank. The clutch pedal was found on the floor (maybe that’s why it was parked) so it wouldn’t move, but the spur of the moment mission had been accomplished. The car remained in the field as long as my friend leased the shop. I think the building was torn down for housing after he left and the car likely scrapped.

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  34. Walter

    I agree that it’s too bad that they backed out of the deal. And Yes you should get paid for your help.
    I once was going to buy a 1963 Ford Galaxie Convertible and the guy that agree to sell it backed out and sold i to someone else. I was really mad, but I actually did better once I got over being mad. I again went looking for a Convertible and came across an even better deal. I was able to buy a 1963 Ford Galaxie XL Convertible for $800.00 back in 1983. The car i was going to by was Champagne color, full seat and auto on the colume. I got instead a Black with Red interior, bucket seat and console. Much nicer car than I was first going to buy. So all I am saying is, “Don’t give up”. Something better will come along and you will get a better deal. Just keep on “Keeping On”.
    Just my two cents worth of what happened to you, and what I experienced many years ago.

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  35. Plastic man

    If they were that mean to you they would have been mean to the car over the years too, so you’re best off going elsewhere.

    Like 0

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