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La Jolla Time Capsule: 1978 Volvo 244

Volvos are workhorses, typically used for the bump and grind of daily life. They’re purchased for this reputation of durability, and as such, many of them are fairly tired (but rarely worn out) by the time they reach 30 years of age. Not this car: it was owned by a 92-year old woman who used it to commute from her tony residence in La Jolla, California, to the grocery store and back. It has only 26,105 original miles and remains in pristine condition. Find it here on eBay with bidding over $8K and the reserve unmet. 

This car is nothing short of spectacular. Even the options are truly unique, as I can’t recall seeing a red cloth interior in a Volvo of this era – that had to be a special order. It puts this Volvo 244 DL in rare company as one of the best remaining 240-series cars on the road, not only for the condition but because it was spec’d to fairly high degree for the era, with functioning air conditioning, an automatic transmission and Panasonic AM/FM radio. Matching floormats are also included and the dashboard is crack-free. Even the carpets are red, which seems to take a page from the GM playbook of the same era.

With such low mileage, you can be sure the B21 powerplant has many, many years of service left in it. However, you likely won’t rack up the legendary miles these Volvos are known for as this is a time capsule. It won’t get used, other than driven to the occasional show. Apparently, the previous owner was not making any grocery store runs recently as the seller says it sat for the last several years; accordingly, the following maintenance items have been addressed: “…both fuel pumps are new, fuel filter and accumulator are new, fuel injectors were replaced. The oil was changed, and the spark plug wires are new as well.”

The old-school San Diego Volvo license plate frame is a treat, along with the period-correct California blue plates. La Jolla is a special place,  and I can only imagine how many gearheads spotted this perfectly preserved Volvo making its weekly rounds to the grocery store, wondering if they could have a shot at buying it from the proverbial little old lady. Given the seller is clearly a Volvo specialist in the San Diego area, it seems likely they had their eye on this car for many years. The sale price will likely be a strong indicator of the demand for a preserved icon like the Volvo 240.


  1. Howard A Member

    This as creepy as it gets here. I had this exact car, only a 4 speed with O/D. I love vintage Volvo’s, and this car was no exception. It was ’83 or ’84, I bought it for $350 bucks, and it needed an alternator(which turned out to be a pair of brushes) I liked the car, but it needed brakes, and the cost of the parts, ( over $800 bucks) exceeded what I paid for the car, and I dumped it. 8g’s,,,wow, hope it doesn’t need brakes, or anything, for that matter. I’m sure parts, if available, are still pricey.

    Like 1
    • Mark

      I had an 85 with a 4 speed OD transmission and it was a wonderful car. Not quite sure where you went for brake parts but not least the pads were very reasonably priced and very easy to change. I ended up touching them more often than probably necessary because they were so easy at prevented further problems with the rotors. You can change all four-wheel brake pads and well less than an hour without any effort whatsoever.

      They certainly were a car that you could wear out no matter how hard you push it.

      Like 3
      • Howard A Member

        At the time, it needed everything, calipers,( over $100 alone each) rotors, pads, and this was in the 80’s, so aftermarket replacements hadn’t really caught on yet, and a dealer was the only place to get the parts, if they even had them, that is, and it was going to be $200 bucks a wheel. Since I only paid $350 bucks for the car, I couldn’t justify spending that, and down the road she went.

        Like 0
  2. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Dirty engine bay equals…

    Like 0
  3. On and On On and On Member

    I’ve owned several Volvos, always did the work myself and always found quality parts for reasonable prices. I used the local Volvo dealer, “IPD” a great aftermarket specialty parts outfit and even NAPA. Volvos from that era are awesome and long lasting cars. Someone is going to get a great car. I’ll bet they love it for years.

    Like 1
  4. Mark Evans

    Love the story-If this was a sunroof model or a 164 I couldn’t say no. My loaner car while my Metropolitan was being serviced.

    Like 1
  5. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    How Swede it is!

    Like 10
  6. Bill Shields

    I normally agree with the if its a time capsule keep it a time capsule but not here.
    I’d keep it up but I’d put that legendary Volvo toughness to the test and drive it until either the car or I finally snap in two!

    Like 2
  7. Wayne

    Low mileage, accumulated by short trips to the shops is far worse than high mileage by long trips.

    Like 2
  8. Rob Little

    Have these Volvos really become collectors’ items? I always liked them, but the only reason I would buy this one is to drive it. It’s true that the engine compartment has more dirt in it than I would expect, given that the rest of the car looks almost pristine. A Datsun 280? I’d want one. An old Volvo? Not so much. Pass.

    Like 1
    • Mark

      Datsun 280?
      Nice old German design

      Like 1
  9. Mark

    Volvo – best manufactured cars in the World. Nobody can duplicate reliability including Mercedes
    I owned several – gas and diesel – over 300.000 miles w/out single problems.
    Last one 1994 Volvo 850 turbo – enjoy every second. The new volvos – to many problems

    Like 5
  10. Steve H.

    In the early 90s I bought a silver 1978 240 DL with ~160,000 miles on it for $1800 in relatively good condition. I proceeded to put another 120k plus miles on it in four more years of driving… Always performed like a champ, never stranded me anywhere. These cars are legendary for their safety of course, but also reliability and durability. I even sold it for more than I paid for it… $2000! What I remember most about it was the crank sunroof. Cool car, certainly got my money’s worth.

    Like 5
    • Mark

      Yes you are 1000% correct
      Never problem or problems
      With new cars or trucks always recalls
      From 2012 to 2017 sold over 78 millions vehicles.
      But we have s new records with 325 millions recalls
      Wow very painful experience
      With over 40 years experience with automotive business this is DISaster

      Like 1
  11. Metoo

    In 1998 a guy named Irv Gordon got into the Guiness book of world records for having a single owner Volvo P1800 with 1.69 MILLION miles on it. In 2002 he hit 2 MILLION miles. In 2010 he was up to 2.6 MILLION miles. Safe to say his record will stand for awhile. Quite a car.

    Like 2
  12. Metoo

    More. Irv has now hit the 3 MILLION miles mark with that P1800.

    Like 3
    • Rob Little

      Three million miles? Irv must be a traveling salesman.

      Like 3
    • BradL

      He hit 3 million in 2013. He was up to 3.2 million in Feb. 2017.

      Like 1
  13. Dolphin Member

    We had a series of these as grocery getters. They were always cheap if bought used, and they ran and ran.

    They sure weren’t performance cars, at least compared to the other cars I owned, but they did get out of their own way, and they would cruise at almost any speed you wanted, especially of they had O.D. Automatic trans cars, not so good. This one is an auto, but it looks to be in very nice condition.

    I know some people hot rodded them a bit, but unless you lowered them bigtime they just leaned and leaned in corners. They were originally designed for Swedish roads, after all, which didn’t have too many Interstates..

    Like 1
  14. Christopher A. Junker

    Look up “Swedeshop.com”. You won’t be disappointed. 164 fuelie and a Bertone can be seen in the aerial view.

    Like 0
    • Rob Little

      That domain name is for sale, Christopher.

      Like 2
  15. Will Owen

    Lovely old boat, but I had the use of a friend’s 244 of about the same age, and while it was as much fun going downhill in the SF Peninsula hills as my ’59 544 had been, going UPhill had me wondering if I’d left the parking brake on! Yup, it was an automatic too … so if it’s driving fun you’re after, a TRANS-plant is called for. Luckily, I understand that’s a lot easier on these than with most cars, and four-speed boxes are not hard to come by.

    Of course, if you’re actually going to keep it as a show pony, forget all of that. Although the Volvo Gods will quite rightly consign you to well-deserved Eternal Torment.

    Like 1
  16. chad

    ran my 240 (’82) wagon for 18 yrs, the 850 lasted 1/2 that long. I bet the newer last even less…

    “…remains in pristine condition. …”
    I don’t remember that lrg alu plenum (nxt 2 last pic) or any similar interiors in em. This 1s been heavily touched (up).

    Like 0
    • rapple

      It looks pretty stock to these eyes aside from the aftermarket floor mats. As a Volvo service manager during these years, I saw lots of them. Not exactly sure what your mention of “lrg alu plenum (nxt 2 last pic)” is referring to but my best guess is that you’re talking about the stock intake manifold shown in the under hood photo. Perhaps using actual words would help you to communicate better.

      Like 2
      • Rob Little

        us kar peeplz is underskooled…

        Like 1
      • Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

        Thank you Rapple! I agree wholeheartedly.

        Like 1
  17. Kenneth Carney

    Almost bought one 30 years ago, but my
    late wife vetoed it. Was a 240 wagon with a 4 cylinder and 4-speed tranny.
    Looking back on it, the car was in great
    shape consideting it had well over 130K
    miles on it at the time I checked it out.
    Would’ve made a great route car except
    for availability of parts and service here
    in Polk County Fl. If it didn’t have Ford,
    GM, or Chrysler written on it, no mechanic
    around here would touch it–unless they
    yanked the body off the frame and put it
    on a Ford or Chevy 4X4 chassis and drove it that way. Still would like to find
    a wagon of this type today. Shoot! I’d
    move out of the area just to get it serviced. What a nice car!

    Like 0
  18. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Everybody moans about the 240’s auto-box like Volvo didn’t know what they were doing. Tank full of high test & a set of Volvo spark plugs. Foot to the floor & it’ll learn whatcha like & real quick thank you.

    Like 0
  19. BradL

    It’s not exactly pristine with the large number of scratches and dings in the rear driver-side door. See the last photo in the eBay ad.

    Like 0
    • Rob Little

      OK, NOT pristine, but still in amazingly good condition, considering its age. I think those scratches would come out with a little club soda… ( a joke)

      Like 2
  20. Christopher A. Junker

    Rob, look up “theswedeshop.com”. You are correct about your previous entry re domain for sale.

    Like 1
    • Rob Little

      Thanks, Christopher. It looks like a great shop for Swedish-car owners near Hadley, Pennsylvania. Which reminds me of a joke I once made up years ago about the neighbor who kept telling me about problems he was having with his Swedish imported car. I told my wife I got tired of hearing his “Saab” (sob) stories! That was bad. Go here, PA folks: https://theswedeshop.com/

      Like 1

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