Revived Brick: 1986 Volvo 240

The Volvo 240 was built in large numbers over a remarkable 19-year production run, and it was built to last—so much so that, 25 years after production ended, 240s are still in service as reliable, workaday transportation in many places. So the transition from basic transportation to starter classic has been a slow one for the 240, but as they finally start to dwindle in numbers, and with the rise of the RADwood phenomenon, I think it’s finally happening. More proof: we now have 240 barn finds! Check out this ’86 240DL, which has just been revived from a 15-year slumber and is now available here on eBay out of Richmond, Virginia.

What a difference a wash and a little love can make! New headlights, correct wheel covers, and “almost new tires” (why not new? Fourteen-inchers aren’t expensive) have brought a real shine back to this Volvo. 1986 saw the 240’s final facelift, which would take it all the way to the end of the line in 1993, highlighted by those big, sad, puppy-dog-eye headlights.

This 240 was parked in 2003 when its original owner bought another car, but with only 139,561 miles on the clock, it’s still got a lot of life left in it. To ensure continued serviceability, the seller has given it a complete fuel system overhaul, a new water pump, hoses, and belts, a new brake booster and master cylinder, and a complete fluid change. For comfort, the A/C was renewed.

No, there’s no turbo boost gauge in that instrument cluster; by 1986, the 240 Turbo was a thing of the past in the U.S. market, as the Volvo performance mantle had been passed to the newer, more expensive 740 series. The $14,370 240 made do with Volvo’s legendarily durable—and slow—iron block B230F inline four, good for 114 horsepower.

So it’ll be a pokey place to be—especially with an automatic transmission—but at least it will be a comfortable one, as even in the ’80s Volvo was known to have some of the best seats in the business. The fabric upholstery tends to be more durable than leather in contemporary Volvos, too, as well as more comfortable when the weather gets extra cold or hot. The remaining flaws noted on this revived Volvo are all centered in the interior, but none of them are serious; there are cracks in the dashboard, a weak driver-side seatbelt retractor, a tiny tear in the rear seat upholstery, and an inop tuner on the otherwise functional radio. As long as the cassette deck works, I’d be happy! I notice that the famously crack-prone pocket on the driver’s door is indeed broken, too, but that’s just part of the 240 experience.

Yes, Virginia, those are “Antique Vehicle” plates on a Volvo 240. It seems hard to believe, but the day has come when these indestructible old Swedes are no longer ubiquitous and semi-collectability is upon us. For a vintage car experience with a low cost of ownership, a low risk of getting yourself in serious trouble or danger, and a modicum of modern comforts, you could do worse than a 240—and certainly far worse than this nicely revived example!

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  1. bobk

    My brother-in-law in Kuala Lumpur still drives one. He affectionately refers to it as his tank. And he pays about as much attention to traffic laws as I would expect a real tank driver to do, in other words, not too much attention.

    Like 2
  2. 71Boss351

    Our 1985 740 GLE with the same motor had close to 300,000 miles when we donated to someone who needed an automobile. It ran as smooth as new with that many miles and still could get 30 mpg on the highway. It just needed the heater core replaced and seals for the sun roof. It was probably the most dependable car we ever had and it wasn’t that hard to work on except the electrical system and the tail lights. I will never understand the Swedish method of tying certain components together electrically.

  3. Marc Sinclair

    Mine is now 26 years old with 400,000kms and I use it every day commuting to work and then drive it on gravel roads in the forest on fishing trips at the weekend. They are clumsy, ugly and boring to drive…but one of the most well engineered car ever to be made. I love mine.

  4. Bocatrip

    The engine and trans will last forever. Everything else including the interior falls apart and is expensive to repair.

    Like 1
  5. Car39

    Not particularly fast, but they really eat up highway miles in comfort. Love 240 seats.

  6. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Not a pokey place at all. Set of Volvo spark plugs, tank full of premium gas & bury your foot in the gas pedal. They fly down the road just fine. Quiet as a new Volvo at highway speeds only not nearly the creature comforts.

    Like 1
  7. Doug

    One real issue with 240s is the electrical system – not sure if this one would be from the years that had issues with the insulation on the wires cracking or not.

    From Hemmings:
    “The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted that the 240 sedan had the lowest death rate of any vehicle in America over a five-year period. Indeed, there were no 240 driver fatalities at all in any single-vehicle or rollover crashes in the US between 1990 and 1994.”

    Like 2

    I used to have a 1985 240GL same color as this one . Put 11,000 miles on it in the first 45 days I owned it touring the US after I left the Philippines and before reporting to my next duty assignment.

    I put 189,000 miles on it in 4 years and it drove perfectly. I got more speeding tickets in my Volvo 240 GL than my hot rod 1966 Chevelle. I only sold it to buy the wife a Jeep Cherokee with automatic transmission as the wife refused to drive a stick shift.

    Like 1

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