Meet My Daily Driver: 1972 Volvo 145E

1972-volvo-145

Some of you already know, but for those who don’t, I just bought another Volvo! After dragging our Amazon project home the other day, I decided that I needed the wagon that we found while out hunting. The Miata had been fun, but I needed something with a little more hauling capacity. Newer cars were considered, but in the end I decided that a classic would be a better choice. I write about old cars everyday so why shouldn’t I also drive one to the office everyday too? My choice may not appeal to everyone, but I know that more than a few of you will approve. So, here it is – my new 1972 Volvo 145E!

ladder-hauler

Car purchases are not usually very logical. If they were, we wouldn’t spend tens of thousands of dollars on new cars and we most definitely wouldn’t buy old worn out wagons. I will probably regret this one later, but for time being I am justifying it by seeing how much junk I can cram into the back and on the top. Oh, and I can confirm that the roof rack can easily hold an eight foot ladder! I probably paid too much ($3,750), but it seems that every good car purchase I make (The Duster) is usually followed up by a bad one…

cargo-hold

Perhaps I didn’t do too bad though. The person I bought it from is the son of a well-known Volvo hoarder here in town and he has already given us a good deal on a few of the trim pieces we needed for the Amazon. He also has a bunch of 140s parked out back so replacement parts for this wagon shouldn’t be a problem. Many Volvo experts claim that the 140 is the best choice when considering a classic Volvo for daily duty because they benefit from many refinements and safety improvements. My only hangup in the past had been the limited parts supply, but that shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

back-seat

Yellow could be my least favorite color, but I think it works on this old Volvo. I have heard that the color was developed to make the car more visible in the snow. I’m not sure if that is true, but it does give an otherwise boring family hauler a fun streak. Luckily the fun isn’t just on the outside either. A previous owner has spent loads of time and money adding little upgrades in an attempt to make this wallowy wagon into a firm handling machine. It seems to have worked too because this wagon corners flat and almost feels agile… almost.

volvo-b20

The previous owner was from Portland and if you have ever been there, then you know that they love their Volvos over there. Portland is also the home of IPD – a world renown Volvo tuner. So, naturally this wagon is full of bits from their catalog. The prerequisite IPD sway bars are under there as are a nice pair of exhaust headers. A lot of work has been done to freshen up the engine including new seals and gaskets. I haven’t seen a drip on the driveway yet! The engine bay is clean and the guy I bought it from already provided me with the panel (in yellow even!) that goes right in front of that rebuilt radiator.

finned-valve-cover

The 145 emblem on the fender of this car has an E below it and that means that the engine used to have a fuel injection system attached to it. The previous owner must have decided that they didn’t want to deal with it, so they installed a pair of SU carbs instead. Fuel injection can be reliable and efficient when clean and properly working, but I’m not going to complain about the change here. These engines are tough and easy to work on so keeping this one going for everyday shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

1972-volvo-145-interior

Inside there are a few upgrades too. A rare center console, auxiliary gauges from a 240, and a tach where the ash tray used to be are all commendable efforts. The aftermarket stereo probably needs to go. Well, actually I am thinking about reversing most of the modifications in here and instead opting for a cleaner look and a GT gauge cluster (if I can find one). That stripe speedometer is just too much for me! Are you supposed to read it from the top or the bottom? The seats have been reupholstered and the carpet is in good shape. It just needs a good cleaning (there’s plenty of dog hair that always seems to accompany Volvo wagons) and little sorting to make this a really pleasant place to be.

1972-volvo-145-rear

What I really wanted for Christmas was a shiny new Mustang, but until I get off the naughty list, this will have to do. Wagons are great! They truly are the automotive equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife with their ability to haul truckloads of cargo while still maintaining car-like dynamics. This one is as tough as a truck too and almost drives like a car. Many of the upgrades were done quite a while ago, so I have a feeling that with a little more work, this will one could really be entertaining. Maybe I’m crazy to use a 42 year old car for my daily commute, but of all the classics I could have picked, I think I chose well for many reasons. What do you guys think?

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Comments

  1. billc

    Envy… nice purchase

  2. Morten

    A Volvo 145 is a bit more of a head turner than a new Mustang :)
    The advantage of it is also that most parts are easily obtained, at least in this part of the world (Denmark).
    Another thing is, that it rides quite a lot better than most newer US cars and it has a lot more style than any Japanese vehicle will ever get :)
    It’s a keeper :)

  3. CArmudegeon

    Congratulations on becoming a Volvo wagon owner! $3,750 doesn’t sound like too bad a deal, considering the mechanical condition of your new/old 145 and the upgrades that have already been done.

    You’ll be amazed at the versatility of those old, square Volvo wagons (maybe a “Swedish Army Knife” instead of Swiss…) Best of luck with your new purchase!

    -CArmudgeon

  4. Tirefriar

    I had a 1969 AR Berlina as my daily driver here in Southern Cal as recently as this year. No a/c, but also no other electronic non-sense that could impede the car’s daily performance. Easy to maintain and dead real unable, I sold it only after acquiring a 1969 Veloce. Your wagon looks nicely set up. Definitely go for the dash upgrade if it’s what you want but personally I like the bar speedometer. I’d move the tach over closer though and a bit on the fence about auxiliary gauges. I’m with you – the radio unit must go. Perhaps it will allow you the room to relocate the aux gauge set. Overall seems like quite a lot of upgrades for the money but don’t look to resell it for a profit any time soon. I’d also check into Volvo older OE alloys. Enjoy!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Very cool Tirefriar! You should send in the occasional update on your car too. As for older Volvo alloys, this car actually had some, but the previous owner wanted to keep them so they threw on some rims from an 1800. I prefer the the look, but it does limit tire selection.

      • Tirefriar

        Thank you Jesse. The Berlina in the picture actually has a pretty “rich” history with the Alfa crowd. It was rescued in Long Beach, CA then made its way up north where it was worked on by some of the top Alfa experts in the area. It has a 2L Nord motor with a Euro intake cam. Surprised many a people in the canyons, interestingly enough several Volvo cars. It is now in the hands of a local Alfisti who rallies the car, as I had to make space for a 1969 Spider Veloce 1750

        My point is that these older cars are just as good for daily driving duties as their modern counterparts, but also much more fun. The big trade off is the lack of modern safety features but that is something that’s more than compensated by the structural strength of your wagon.

      • John ashton

        Jesse, my first car was a 1970 145s. Got it I 1972, and drove it until 1985. I put in the leather interior and carpets from a 164, along with overdrive, that same GT gauge cluster and center console panel. I drove that car over 300k! I would love to find a 1972 like yours! I like the shorter shifter and more refined interior. Really hard to find a clean one that’s not rusty.

  5. jerry

    These are great cars for everyday use. I had the twin to this with OD and a/c. I could haul all kinds of stuff in the back, got decent mileage and when it came to time to sell, there was a line. The valve cover is worth a lot, a gauge cluster will be around $500 if someone wants to let one go and the Volvo 240 Turbo wheels look great on these. I never had a problem in the snow either. The only downer with a roof rack is the noise they make when not loaded and cruising down the road. Yes, they do sound like riding in a panel van. Of course, my first love are any model of the 122 and I love the wagon and my coupe.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I just scored a GT cluster for less than $400! It is the earlier four gauge model and I have to wait for it to arrive from Australia, but I’m excited! As I mentioned earlier, it did have Turbo rims, but they have been swapped out for the wider 1800 ones. They have a more vintage look and I can still run fairly wide tires. With manual steering though, I’m thinking narrower tires might actually be a better choice.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Here’s a photo of the prize! I think the only reason I wanted one of these cars was to stick one of these in the dash.

  6. Nova

    I too share your penchant for wagons…

    Although mine drastically leans towards 1968 big block Caprice, full load, fibre optic, 12 bolt posi, dual rear sway bar, can’t forget woodgrain wearing examples!

    That said, for three years I daily drove a beautiful silver 1980 240D, really pretty car, also pretty slow slow slow.
    But it was always clean and portrayed the Vintage Elitist look for under $1000.

    Enjoy your “new to you” ride!

    N.H.

  7. VIKING

    Excellent wagon, lots of room, best quality, price is OK, consider that you do not have to spend any money on upgrades and repairs or parts. If you had bought a different make, you most likely would have to spend lots of money for this year of car to fix it up. The SU carbs was an excellent choice, much better than the fuel injection, no need for smog test, in calif. 1975 and older are exempt from that big problem, dont know about oregon dmv rules. As I have mentioned before, the only maintenance to check for is u-joints and water pump leaks, both of witch is easy and cheap to replace. This car should last you at least ten years without any repairs. Bullet proof five main bearing engine.

  8. RickyM

    Well done Jesse. Great car ! When I grew up my parents a sky blue 73 example which had the US safety bumpers and my parents loved it. I would have one as good as yours if I could. Looking forward to seeing the updates on the Volvos in due course.

  9. Mick

    Very cool wagon! Hell it’s even got a receiver on it!

    I have the same obsession with wagons, but I like mine German. I enjoy throwing money at it too…

  10. Scot Carr

    ~ I have said it before and here I am saying it again, I hope to be standing at the front of the line if/when this clone of my first Volvo comes to market again.
    . For now I will be content to enjoy the three jewels I’m working with today – two wagons and a coupe. Volvos for life.
    . Hats off, Jesse, well bought!

  11. rapple

    Good choice Jesse! Good color, stick shift, solid body (but get to work on the rusty doglegs soon) all along with the nice mods from the previous owner(s). The SU conversion transforms this from a daily crap shoot to a daily driver. Be careful what you load on the roof rack. They were a dealer-installed item held on by screws into the roof sheet metal. Things like large pieces of plywood and mattresses that can get a lot air under them will rip them right out of the roof.

  12. Leon

    What’s stock tire size ? Isn’t it like 175R14 or 185R14. In 80s. I worked at SAMs. We sold Michelin XZX and Pirelli P3. Had a few of the later 240 DLs fitted with those tires Love the look of older Volvo wagons and Peugeot 504 wagons too

  13. TuckerTorpedo

    How many miles showing (or suspected to be real) on this?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      236k. Not bad, eh? Looks like I had better see if they will let me into the high mileage club!

  14. vince Habel

    I could live with it. The interior is great. just needs a good cleaning.

  15. Mike Ramey

    Please don’t take this wrong— but I don’t understand what this yellow car has to do with barnfinds. Maybe my English not to good. When will this one be for sale? Best regards, Mike

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Hi Mike, this is my personal car. We like to feature stories occasionally about cars we are actually working on. I hope that makes sense. Thanks for following the site.

  16. jim s

    someone if having way to much fun. love the car and the color. what does the family think of the car? i had a 240 wagon with the VW 6 cyl diesel and 4 speed manual with overdrive that sure do miss and i would like to drive a 160 with a manual for a day or two. so how many volvos do you thing you will end up owning at the same time?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      This has been fun Jim! My wife hates all wagons, but she approves of this one for the time being. I have actually been wanting to pick up an old Volvo for a while, I just didn’t know that I would buy multiples of them all at once. A 544 is still on the bucket list so maybe I should just drag one of those home too!

  17. David

    I like it. Kind of an inspiration to me, since yours is 20 years older than my 940 turbo wagon, which might be too old to be throwing money at, but it’s so comfortable and useful, and might even become an unconventional classic some day.

  18. Don Andreina

    Woohoo!

  19. Seneca Cummings

    My favorite daily drivers have been a 69 Renault 10, a 73 Fiat 850, and a 83 Volkswagon Vanagon. I think your Volvo is a fine choice and deserves to be cherished and loved. This can only be done by being driven. Enjoy.

  20. John M

    Nice purchase, and there’s no reason why this can’t be an excellent (and inexpensive) daily driver. It looks clean and well sorted.
    My everyday car is a 1970 Mercedes. It’s taken about a year to work through the bugs, but it’s been bullet-proof and inexpensive to run once the prior owner’s deferred maintenance was taken care of. Old cars CAN be reliable.
    Have fun with it!

  21. Don Brookins

    I’ve been driving Volvos since the early ’70s when a friend who drove a 122 said that Volvos don’t run well, they run terrible forever. If that box is in as good condition as it appears, you will only be parting with it for one of two reasons, either you will get bored with its dependability and want something different or you will sell it because someone will come along and offer you more than what you paid.
    The “ribbon read-out” speedometer is one of my favorite features on that and the 122. Love it! You read it from the top of and point of the ribbon, by the way.
    Red-line it as much as you want. It just doesn’t care.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      The durability of the engine under that hood is one of the main reasons I like these cars. It sounds like a very loud sewing machine, but I know that it will just keep humming along. Thanks for the tip about the speedometer Don. I wondered why everyone was going so slow!

  22. VIKING

    My dad bought my 16 year old brother an 1962 volvo pv 544 in 1969, the first year with 12 volt system and b18 motor he drove it every day like he had stolen it. It never gave any problems, it could have been the best car made!!

  23. Dolphin Member

    Long live wagons, especially Volvos. By the looks of this one I think it will do the job for you Jesse.

    I like the carb replacement of the FI. Have had a few of these, and also 122 wagons, which came with SUs. They always did the job with few complaints or problems.

    They are not for performance, unless you are thinking hauling performance. Years ago when the new Volvo V70 wagon design came out R&T did a comparo test with it and some others. IIRC the V70 was the only one that could haul a full race go cart flat on the floor, which they showed in a photo. That’s 48 inches wide I believe, and I’m also thinking that Jesse’s 145 can likely do the same thing. Let the hauling begin.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Guess I had better buy a kart so we can test it out!

  24. Barry

    As I think I mentioned here before I had a co-worker that bought one of these new back in 1972 and he had still in 2001. I used to kid him that he’d have to put a stick of dynamite in it to kill it. He loved that car. There was a time when they were all over the place. Good choice.

  25. cliffyc

    When I was a kid,one of my friend’s, dad had a suucession of Volvo estates. The standout one I recall was a ’72 164E, a rare car as they were expensive compared to other cars available here in the UK. There would be a slight whine/hum from under the passenger seat as this was where the control box for the fuel injection system was,today it would fit in a matchbox!. Lovely car,being a 164 it got extended bonnet and squared grille.

  26. Barry Thomas

    Jesse, great find and it looks like the new wagon is in good condition for its age. Good practical car, so cross those fingers that the running expense will be low. How many cars are in the driveway now?
    Barry Thomas’ “Wheel to Wheel” blog

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      The project car count is currently at four! The Duster and Miata should be out of here this week though.

  27. DRV

    You will like the SUs over the fuel injection. I have owned 8or so vintage Volvos over the last 35 years and found Mike at IRoll motors the most helpful in getting parts and ideas. A lightly rusted vintage Volvo will get much more rusty when used as a winter driver so go to the car wash after salty roads and leave it outside as opposed to a wet garage when salty. have fun with it!

  28. Doug M. (West Coast) Member

    Jesse, I like it! I actually do like the yellow, too. I think once you get the wheels detailed its ready to go… and this will be a great collector and lots of fun. You can always get a Mustang, but why bother?

  29. Chris A.

    Great car, fair price. IPD is reliable and has high quality stuff. The suspension upgrade gives you close to the handling of a 240turbo. As for tires I had Pirelli P3s and had good luck with them but front end alignment was an issue in the bad pothole cities I lived in. Don’t worry about the lack of power steering, once the car is moving it just feels a little heavy but crisp. The big steering wheel helps. If it idles rough, you may have worn SU throttle shafts that leak air. Good anti freeze and regular oil changes you’ll have no problems. Make sure the hinges on the back lid are lubricated so the pins don’t rust and break the mounts.The comment about salt and keeping it out of the Volvo is accurate. After body repair and good rust proofing I had no further problems so long as the car was kept clean of salt. My 240 Turbo sedan went 240,000 miles before the guy I sold it to got careless about oil changes and ruined the turbo. Wish I had kept it. Clean it up, fix the rust and drive it. There will be a long list of potential buyers when you get ready to sell. Cheapest driver you’ll ever own as you’ll get your money back.

  30. gunningbar

    I like the yellow too. My daily driver is a ’93 960 wagon….how can you go wrong with a Volvo wagon?great cars!

  31. DRV

    My 544 is in related finds!
    Runs great but put away for the winter it’s not rusty and all original….and keeping it that way is harder than keeping a new car nice!

  32. thefatkid

    Jesse,

    Great car! I appreciate the utilitarian nature of the Volvo and yet it has a certain acquired style to it. It is not just another wagon it is a Swedish Tank. IPD is a great company and they know their Volvos!
    Well done!

  33. RoughDiamond

    Congratulations Jesse! Old Volvos never die they just need a little tweaking from time to time to breathe new life into them. That one is a classic and I would imagine a heck of a lot of fun to drive. Mustangs are a dime a dozen. Enjoy the ride.

  34. Woodie Man

    Score!

    Great color and the manual makes it fun. O/D would be a big help . Love the luggage rack and the upgrades. even like the center console and I dig the ribbon speedo, reminds me of a similar unit on a ’61 Pontiac I had. So I’d keep that,

    I’ve always had an “old” car as a daily driver. Until recently I drove a ’70 911 daily. Nothing feeds the “soul” like an old car.

    My only plaintive wail is Jesse’s characterization, quite accurately, of it as a “42 year old car”. Since ’72 is the year I graduated high school, I have to wonder whether I’m still fit to be a “daily driver”!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I must have forgotten to mention that the car does have overdrive and supposedly even has a LSD out back! Everyone should drive an “old” car at least for a while during their lifetime. Not only will they save money, but they will learn a lot about how to fix things themselves.

  35. Woodie Man

    Jesse, Couldn’t agree with you more!

    I have never understood the attraction of modern cars beyond the supposed “reliability”; except when the dealer wants your first born child to fix something, that oh by the way, just fell out of warranty.

    Now I have to say that I once bought a new car, a 4 cylinder BMW convertible in 1995, a 318ic. I’m still driving it with 261,000 miles on it. Just completed putting lower control arms on it and have done other major minor repairs to it.

    Nothing like fixing things yourself even when there can be a fair amount of frustration and time involved.

    The community at Barn Finds that you are building is proof that there are plenty of us out here for whom the attraction of an overly restored high dollar trailer queen is nil….and the hunt for original vintage metal in various conditions of (dis) repair is what its all about.

    So thanks for your every day efforts!

  36. Chris A.

    One of the nice features with having OD is that once you got it up to speed and engaged OD, the mileage was nearly 30 MPG if you kept it under 60. The noise went away and the Volvo seats were and still are the best OEM seats I’ve ever been in. The wagons were a bit noisier and a little wind sensitive unless loaded, but with your IPD suspension that won’t be an issue. All around visibility is great too. The wagons were very common in the Rochester NY area as haulers but the salt worm ate them unless you “Ziebarted” the underside and kept the wheel wells and dorr drins cleaned out.The orange ones were even brighter. This is the only “collector” car I could bring home and have to hide the keys from my wife.

  37. Kent Carlson

    Had a clone of yours back in the 80’s. It was an automatic and very slow. Very reliable though. The factory interior was perfect. I blacked out some things and added some inexpensive a/m hubcaps to dress it up. Not much good in the snow. Probably would be with some Blizzaks. I was like you and really didn’t like the color, but the blackout treatment made the car look much better. I sold it to my banker who drove it for years! Good luck on your project!

  38. JoeR

    I bet you will really enjoy that car. SUV space inside and bulletproof outside. We got our first Volvo a year ago, an 07 XC90 with 100K on the clock and it’s a keeper. I think the Wagon would be better in the sense that it probably can haul much more than an XC can. And bonus for us in the rust belt Volvos don’t rust when they are just getting broke in ( 10 years or so ) good. Enjoy, I’d be happy with a unit like it. Dare to be different with cars !

  39. Jamal Matteson

    Dude, this is so much cooler than ANY Mustang.

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