Owned Since ’89: 1979 Volvo 242GT

This 1979 Volvo 242GT is a rare special edition of an otherwise completely ordinary Volvo two-door, showcasing a radical departure from the typically stodgy Volvo image. These cars sported a number of cosmetic upgrades, most notably in the form of a unique grill with integrated fog lamps. They have a limited but loyal following today, as those in the know realize how rare it is to find one in the wild. This example has been owned by the current owner since 1989, and presents well despite some cosmetic flaws. Find it here on craigslist for $15,000 in Denver.

Now, the asking price is absolutely steep. I’m usually an apologist for funky foreign cars, and I do love the 242GT. But it’s not yet become a car that is commanding top-shelf pricing, especially considering the turbocharged models are the smarter buy if you’re after a vintage Volvo that can boogie. I can understand why the seller put a high price tag on this particular car, as it’s likely one of the best ones left of a special model that didn’t sell at particularly high volumes. Still, the obscurity factor hurts it to a degree because it’s largely just Volvo enthusiasts who even know the car exists.

All that aside, what’s important to realize in the case of this car is how many impossible-to-find pieces are still present and accounted for, negating the need to go parts hunting or junkyard diving for spares that simply don’t exist. The unique bucket seats, factory decal kit, striping on the dash and door panels, and the aforementioned grill are the sorts of parts you’ll be tracking down for years if you buy a GT without them. Funny story: I actually happened upon a non-GT in a Pennsylvania junkyard that had this very grill, a find I’ll put in my top 10 of rarest parts ever discovered in a junkyard.

The engine bay looks quite clean, and is a definite bright spot in a car that is mostly good news. The seller reports it was repainted in 2004, hence why the body still looks so good today. Among issues the next owner will have to sort out is some basic mechanical R&R, as the Volvo has been in storage since the paint job was done in ’04. The dashboard is cracked in a few places under the cover, and the unique corduroy seats will need some work. In my opinion, $15K should buy you a near flawless car, but I would think a reasonable offer in the ballpark of $7K-$9K should get a deal done here.

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  1. SebastianX1/9

    Considering the cool paint job, the seller could have included a picture of, you know, the car itself. All close-ups. Looks excellent to my BMW-skewed eyes. I remember the “Nordica” Volvo DTM touring cars. Hard to believe it’s the same country.

  2. Bob S

    Nice Volvo, but I think the seller’s been watching a little too much Barrett Jackson!

  3. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Gawd, what an unattractive interior. A cockpit that does nothing to enhance the performance nature of the car. Never a fan of the “bricks,” even more so the later 70s models. Except maybe the Bertone coupe.

  4. 370zpp

    My wife had an 89-DL 4 speed. Built like a tank, incredibly good factory paint. Still had the original clutch & drivetrain, and did not burn oil when she sold it in 2017. The downside was practically all the interior plastic disintegrated over the years. Along with sourcing replacement parts. Just try to find those front hood spring assemblies which fail religiously. Or a decent set of replacement tail lights.

  5. Djjerme

    There’s 2 of these in my neighborhood. One had been repainted a bright red, the other should’ve been a parts car long ago.. There’s actually quite a few floating around. Maybe that’s because before the standard issue Portland became a Subie, it was Volvo…

    I can’t tell you how many Volvo centric shops there used to be here.

  6. The one Member

    These cars are noisy inside

  7. Stilbo

    Roached interior…
    $7-7.5K max.
    At a reasonable price it’d be a great choice for a SB Ford swap though.
    And yes, televised Barrett Jackson and Mecum auctions make more than a few sellers think that they are keepers of gold.

    • Superdessucke

      To an unwitting buyer. I can’t see a Volvo affectionado paying any more than 3,500 for this honestly. 15k is insane for one of these. Even if it was mint with 50,000 miles or less, it wouldn’t fetch that.

  8. chrlsful

    only 4 more yrs till the model end? Got 300K on a top model ’82 wagon. Moved 15,000 mi in a big U-haul so left behind. New driveway so steep (in sno country) I thought I’d buy another, a 3 y/o 850 (same model, nxt gen). Boy, nuttin like a 240. Didn’t last but 1/2 that mileage…

    Same happen to the Mercedes in ’90s too?

  9. Hasse B.

    Chrlsful, there is absolutely nothing but the brand name connecting the 240 series to the 850. And now I feel I got to make a rant about that :D…

    However, the 240´s engine, transmissions and rear axle (a Dana 30 derivative, made slightly wider in the 740) was carried over to the 740 series which in its initial version as the 760 (sort of a luxury car in the minds of Volvo people) made use of the PRV V6 engine co-developed with Renault and Peugeot (the engines used in Volvos got a bad reputation as the Volvo company for whatever strange reason decided to use a different blend of anti-freeze than the french, making for some serious engine damage).

    The 850 was something totally different for Volvo (although they had already tried FWD with the small 440/460 and 480 line of cars built by Nedcar in the Nederlands). It was another co-development with the french as it was about half a 1st generation Renault Megane (they in turn made use of the new all-Volvo all-aluminum engine line of straight 4, 5 and 6 cylinders (by swedish hobbyists often refered to as the “white” engine while the earlier line of straight engines are called “red” because of the paint) that Ford later made use of in some heftier Focus ST´s and what not (then badged as Duratec engines).

    While on the subject, anyone set on hotrodding the “red” OHC engines should make sure any scrapyard engine to make use of is not of the Low Friction kind found in some late-model RWD Volvos, as these have narrowed bearings to reduce friction and thus (not much) bringing down fuel consumption.Otherwise, they are virtually indistructable (but not the often accompanying Volvo M40-series 4- or 5-speed gearbox, mind you).

    The 850 was an absolute success at first but after a while severe design flaws started to occur as quality problems and therefor it was reinvented as the S/V70 line to clearly state that there had been major upgrades beneath the 2nd facelifted body and much of the french connection of the previous builds had been phased out (eversince proven all for the better). Not so the in-house engine family though, that was carried over to its descendants and has stood the test of time and wear very well.

    Fun fact: back in the seventies, Volvo was planning to build an all-aluminum SOHC V8 with a long chain driving the camshafts, bases on the PRV V6 architecture. A few test engines was built but issues with the cam drive and and some other aspects halted the project. This wasn´t their first attempt as they back in the fifties actually pulled of a V8 named B36 based on the OHV four (the B18/B20) found in the 544 and 121/122/123 “Amazon”, 140 series and early 240. The intention was to use in a large luxury car targeting the Mercedes-Benz and the likes, but it was never realized and the engine found use in Volvos line of small trucks called “Snabbe” (“snabb” = fast). At least a couple of “Amazon” has been retrofitted with this V8. The “red” line of engines has all been widely used as marine engines and as far as I know the “white” line too, but I believe the latter sells as Mercury Marine or perhaps both brands. As for that, the smallblock Chevy has appeared under the Volvo Penta Marine brand back in the day, but I digress…

    For closing, I believe it´s safe to say that You have far more left of the 242GT left in the USA than here in Sweden, seems like the very most was built to export and the numbers doesn´t add up to more than around 20 left in the national traffic registry of cars.

  10. Hasse B,

    Oops… I should make clear that what Renault used in the Megane, some of them, was only the 5-cylnder version of the Volvo “white” engine, I believe this came about with the 3rd year of the Megane.

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