Throwaway Money, Keeper Car: 1972 Volvo 164E

What’s the price point at which you just can’t say no anymore? Is there a certain amount that’s just funny money to you, and if it can be traded for a complete, rust-free, interesting car you simply can’t refuse? I’m coming awfully close with this ’72 Volvo 164E, which is complete and comes with lots of extra parts but needs some engine reassembly, and is offered at just $300. Yes, $300. I just know the servers are about to crash for Seattle craigslist as you all madly rush to check out this bargain (archived ad).

The ad describes this Volvo as being “for parts or project,” and I guess it would make a heck of a parts car at the price, but it could also be the rare project car that you don’t take a complete bath on. I mean, even the nicest 164 is still only a four-figure car, but this one just needs a couple hundred bucks’ worth of PDR, a paint job, some upholstery, and the engine rebuild, and…okay, you’d still be in the hole, but less so than with a lot of other restorations. Plus a 164 is just so weird and cool!

Image: Volvo

Essentially a 144 with a three-inch stretch and a nose job, the 164 was introduced in 1969, but its styling actually dates back much further. That’s the Volvo P358 design study above, photographed in March, 1958. Originally planned around a V8, then revised to an inline six, then dropped from further development by 1960, the P358 concept came unexpectedly back to life years later when Volvo decided it was ready to try its hand at an executive car after all. True to the original concept, the 164 is powered by an inline six, basically created by adding two additional cylinders to the stout B20 four.

Volvo had a succession of souglythey’recool steering wheels in the 1960s and ’70s, and this is one of my favorites. This is the only interior shot, so I can’t really tell you what’s going on with the upholstery there, but it doesn’t look good. Also slightly disappointing is the automatic transmission, but a 164 isn’t really a sports sedan, so it’s not too big a deal. Barely visible in a couple of the photos is a sunroof, a somewhat uncommon option that ups the luxury quotient.

What would you really do with a $300 Volvo 164? If you really want to go whole hog, after picking this one up, you could swing a couple of hours up the road to Bellingham, Washington and also pick up this straight but engineless ’73 145 and set about building your own one-of-none 165 wagon—not as straightforward a process as you might think, as the 164 front end doesn’t just bolt on to a 140-series body—but then you’d be out of funny-money territory. You’d have fun, though…and a really cool Volvo…someone stop me!


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  1. Blyndgesser

    I know the 164 has its detractors, but I love the look.

  2. Had Two

    I had one of these in that same green color with tan leather. It was a very reliable car. Kept it for seven years. Other than a respray after about five years, it needed
    nothing except routine maintenance. Comfortable and solid. I took it on several cross-country trips. I was surprised to see this same car sitting in a parking lot in a nearby town just a year ago. Still on the road.

  3. TCOPPS Tyler Member

    Lots of fuses!? Oh boy, this would be a fun $300.

  4. Gbauer

    A used LS is only a couple hundred bucks….

    (Sit back and watch heads explode…)

    • Nathan Avots-Smith Member

      The Ford 302 is a common swap for later (700 and 900 series) Volvos…wonder if anyone’s tried it in a 164…

      • RayT Member

        I used to know several people who worked for Volvo — in their U.S. operation — who put 289/302s in everything from PV544s to Bertone coupes. They all said it was the best swap: easy to do, and gave exactly the desired result!

      • Greg Member

        I’ve also seen them with Chevy 350’s, especially in the 262c. Would love to try one of those out!

    • Alvin

      That’s too much (engine) Bob light weight Rover/Buick 215+ special parts. lil V8

      • Greg Member

        Great idea!

  5. JimmyJ

    Just bought a rust free 240 wagon with a 5 speed running and driving for $300😀

  6. Gay Car Nut

    Sweet looking car. I used to see 144s and 164s when I was a boy. I had a neighbour who had one. I don’t remember if it had an “E” at the end of the 164 or not. But I remember how handsome it looked. Today, I find them more attractive than what’s being offered.

  7. Rod444

    Well, given the semi likelihood of a nuclear holocaust sometime in the next year or so, for $300 I’d buy it for my bomb shelter.

    You’re never safer than you are when you’re in your Volvo, moving or not ;)

  8. MRE2ME

    Always loved the look of these ,but the tail light treatment always looked too busy for the front end. A nice set of lights off a Mercury Comet of the same vintage would be much more tasteful.

  9. Dan D

    When my Dad and I were looking at first cars for me, I really wanted a 164. I got a ’71 Toyota Corona sedan with automatic and bench front seat instead. But that turned out to be a cool car too….

  10. Greg Member

    The “E” designation means it should have Bosch’s electronic fuel injection instead of carbs. I love Volvo’s. My 78 242GT was a tank, and fun to drive!

  11. Allen Member

    I bought a used ’73 BRG 264 in 1981. Four-speed with Laycock overdrive and tan leather interior – with HUGE front seats. OMG, I LOVED that car (although I did not call it ‘Brad’). It was beautiful to my eye, and sporting to drive. Later I had a ’75 model automatic – not memorable. The ’75 had blue cloth interior – and little teeny front seats just like any other car. Volvos suffered a fate similar to MGBs back in the mid-70s: the ’75 rode a couple inches higher and had big HUGE bumpers. I mourned still for that ’73! I still mourn for it.

    • Jeffro

      Cool story. However, what did you call your 73? To have that much love, we know you had a name for her!

  12. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    Had one of these, but this is an early one judging by the steering wheel. Mine was a 74 or 76.

    Fuel injection was quirky but dealt with though I’m wondering what 72 was like and how much it evolved to my car.

    Mine was bought used in the 80’s.

    Same color, saddle leather seats with vinyl sides, heated seats, sunroof, AC, car was well thought out. Easy transistion for me looks wise as I had been driving a series of Mercedes Fintails, 220, 220SE and a couple of 300SE’s.

    If these had one Achilles heel……..This era Volvo could not make a 12VDC motor to save their life. These are 200K cars but the D.C. motors good for about 100K, if you were lucky.

    Windshield wiper motor, a unique, two year only unit failed. Had rebuilt by a motor winder shop, pain to get to access.

    Luckily that definition was about to change when the AC/heater blower motor packed up. Buried in the center of the dash, most of which needed to be removed. The plastic Volvo used, pretty much shattered with being careful because the heat had made it unbelievably brittle. Luckily all the pieces, were superglued and then a layer of epoxy resin and fiberglass allowed it to stay in one piece. Another motor to the winder.

    Worked on the sunroof a plastic guide broke and allowed it to become unsynchronized from left to right, it was cable hand crank unit. Made a new piece, the dealer sucked on so many levels. What little dealer work was done 50 miles away rather than the one 3 miles from my home.

    So glad they didn’t offer power windows.

    Loved the car most times, went everywhere, made it to 251K. Sold it.

    Very little rust ever on car BUT the rear floors did get replaced when I first bought it. Weren’t bad but perforated and they were simple so we fabbed up
    replacements easily. Not sure why there and no where else?

  13. Anthony

    The earlier years had a much nicer steering wheel. This one still has the old style taillights which I like before they changed it. It must have the manual transmission.
    Had a beautiful blue one with beautiful saddle color leather seats and back netting – then I had the bluish/grey (I believe color code 103)
    with black leather – loved the colors but an automatic – finally had a maroon with saddle color – very fast car – but unfortunately another automatic and ugly color in my eyes.
    I would get into this and try to get a manual and keep it as original as possible. Absolutely NO CONVERSIONS !!! Hate that crap !

    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      Anthony, I’m just the opposite, like the later wheel and larger later twilight but the manual….I might have to agree if it had the Laycock OD, but only if it had that.

      • Anthony

        I also like the older grill without the diagnal strip going across.
        My dark blue one had a white vinyl top. The car was beautiful.
        A real classy looking car.
        I forgot what blue that was – maybe Royal Blue?

  14. David Miraglia

    first car I ever drove was my parents 1969 164. Always liked the design.

  15. Russ

    There seems to be, or at least has been, a few 164 wagons/estates created. If you google ‘Volvo 164 Estate’ you will even find a TV ad that was made for the car that was never put into production. Wonder if the one in the ad survived…

  16. Kurt

    Now that’s a cool daily.

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