Vintage Views: Volvo 240


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story by alan cesar

There are a lot of high-performance Volvo shops in Sweden,” says Ben Weaver of R-Sport International. “It’s like a Mustang or Camaro is here; it’s their muscle car.”

That probably sounds weird to the uninitiated. Volvo’s long-lived 240 platform has a strong following in the land of names that end in “sson,” but its reputation in the United States has peaked at cult status among car enthusiasts. Volvo lovers are as die-hard as their redblock engines, boosting their unloved bricks until their insides come out. The engine’s insides, not the driver’s. Hopefully.

Due to the high number of 240s sold to mainstream buyers–especially in non-turbo form with automatic transmissions–the famously boxy carmaker had a reputation for making commuters for accountants. It’s hedged with investment-grade safety equipment, and its styling remained throughout its decades of production as rectangular as a well-preened spreadsheet. The 240 was a machine clearly made for the practical mind, not the enthusiastic one.

Therein lies the bipolar world of Volvo ownership. It can be a conservative owner’s appliance: extremely robust, completely safe, and reasonable in every other way. In wagon form, it provides a huge and completely flat cargo floor to haul as much as you dare. When you add boost to this slow-revving grandson-of-a-tractor engine, it becomes a torquey and capable machine–if you do it right.

The Dana live axle driving the rear wheels can take plenty of abuse. The chassis has incredible rigidity for rollover protection, which makes it a great platform for stiff suspension. We’ve seen in-car video of a Volvo 240 wagon rolling over in a 24 Hours of LeMons race, and the roof structure held strong–it didn’t touch the roll cage. Even the windshield remained intact.

Its engine bay is also ripe for engine swaps. Small-block Ford and Chevy pushrod engines have been inserted into these ample engine bays with little difficulty, with big American iron often replacing the lackluster but long-lasting naturally aspirated Volvo four. A shortened hybrid driveshaft–any driveshaft shop can make one–mates the transmission of your choosing to the Dana rear end.

It’s unfortunate, then, that the aftermarket isn’t huge in North America. You can get plenty of great trackworthy components–transmission adapters, coil-overs, camber plates, twin-scroll turbo headers and more–but they’re not always easy to find.

The market is ripe for low-buck Swedish entertainment. You can pick one up for as little as a few hundred bucks in most of the U.S., though prices tend to be higher in certain hipster-laden areas. Craigslist is full of examples between $1300 and $2000, and the nicest cars can fetch as much as five grand. Get a decent one and start building. Before long, you’ll be smoking pony cars in a station wagon.

Shopping and Ownership

We got a lot of input for this one. These tips come from Ben Weaver of R-Sport International; Ron Wyman of IPD Parts; Steve Owens, member of the Keystone Kops crapcan racing team and service manager at Keystone Volvo; and Trevor Kindlon of the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers crapcan racing team.

The Volvo 200-series had a long production run: 1974 to 1993. Early on, the last number indicated the number of doors: 242 for the coupe, 244 for the sedan, 245 for the wagon. It was later simplified to just 240 for the whole series, but some people still use the old system when listing them for sale.

After 1985, the 240 didn’t get a turbo from the factory anymore–but the 700-series did. It’s a straightforward swap, or you can just bolt a turbo manifold and whatever turbocharger you want to the 240’s engine. The stock injection system can keep up with the turbo if you install bigger injectors, but you’ll get better performance by swapping key components from a 740 or 960 turbo car.

Oil capacity is limited. For race duty, run a large Ford truck oil filter and add an oil cooler (if not already equipped).

Factory-turbocharged engines from mid-1992 and newer have oil squirters and leave more headroom for boost. The naturally aspirated blocks can still take a turbo pretty well, and you can retrofit oil squirters if you want. The galley is there.

All four-cylinders are robust and can handle tons of horsepower without sleeving. RSI offers billet crankshafts to stroke the B230 all the way to 2.8 liters, or de-stroke it to 2.0. A de-stroked motor with a 16-valve head swap will love to rev, but it won’t be as torquey as the eight-valve engines. The most powerful B-series Volvo engines use 16-valve heads.

Its manual transmission is great for street use, but it can’t handle more than 250 horsepower or stand up to race duty. Adapter plates for the Tremec T5, Getrag 262 and Getrag 265 are available if you want big power.

If your car will see track use, weld the differential or you’ll spin the inside-rear tire constantly. Check the welds for cracks every handful of races. Brakes are strong–four-piston front and two-piston rear–but you need more for high-horsepower track use. Volvo S60R brakes can adapt with a kit from RSI.

IPD’s spring and anti-roll bar kits are great for the street, though they’re still a bit soft. Look for short struts and adjustable coil-overs if you’re building a high-horsepower machine. You can get Bilstein and Koni dampers, the latter in both single- and double-adjustable guises.

If you lower the car a lot, you’ll need adjustable links for the torque rod and Panhard rod to keep the axle centered. Poorly lowered cars push the axle toward the passenger side.

Volvo used a flame trap instead of a standard PCV system. It can clog and make an oily mess in the engine bay, so keep it clean. For race use, you can bypass it by drilling the valve cover for a breather and running it to a catch can.

Parts, Service and Community

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(800) 444-6473

iRoll Motors
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(408) 686-1544

Kaplhenke Racing
kaplhenke.com
(352) 234-4797

Keystone Volvo
keystonemotors.com
(610) 647-1800

VLVworld
vlvworld.com

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Comments
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1988RedT2
1988RedT2 UltimaDork
1/25/18 10:17 a.m.

I once owned a Volvo wagon and I approve of this message.

EvanB
EvanB MegaDork
1/25/18 10:30 a.m.

I currently have 4 240s on my property (2, 4 and 5 door) and I also approve of this message. 

Gaunt596
Gaunt596 Reader
1/25/18 1:46 p.m.

It seems like the 240's are set to become the next low budget RWD rally car, replacing the now more expensive and harder to find E30. 

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy UltimaDork
1/25/18 2:16 p.m.

That 79 242 GT is one of my favorite cars, let alone one of my favorite Volvos.  The Silver paint and subtle stripe, and the super cool corderoy upholstery with the orange stripe just makes me happy.

Courderoy.

Corduroy.

Ah.  There we go.

 

MichaelYount
MichaelYount HalfDork
1/25/18 2:38 p.m.

My '82 242 has been V8 powered since 1996 -- through 2015 with Ford 5.0L power, and more recently with an LS3.  Nothing but fun.  The import crowd welcomes you because it's a Volvo, and the hot rodders say 'come on in' because it's V8 powered.  Eventually, disposition of it will be my estate's problem.  I reckon I am this message.  Just like the car IS the box it came in.  https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/reader-rides/2237/

Matthew Kennedy
Matthew Kennedy Reader
1/25/18 3:38 p.m.

I'm on my second 240, a wagon, and I approve this message.

paranoid_android
paranoid_android UltraDork
1/25/18 3:55 p.m.

I so want one!!!

Dirtydog
Dirtydog Reader
1/25/18 4:08 p.m.

I also approve of this message. I drive a '08 S60 2.5T AWD.  A friend once had a similar to the above Volvo, sold it with over 400,000 miles, and it was well maintained, and ran really well.

car39
car39 HalfDork
1/25/18 4:31 p.m.

My family sold Volvos for 53 years.  The 79 GT was one of my favorites.  Not a lot of power. but the most comfortable car I ever fell asleep behind the wheel of, and ran into a guard rail.  Sigh.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse UltraDork
1/25/18 4:52 p.m.

I live in Oregon, a.k.a. the hipster capital of the world. So these fetch a pretty good price on craigslist, how do they fare for rusting and is it true the bolts are strange sizes?

Matthew Kennedy
Matthew Kennedy Reader
1/25/18 5:04 p.m.

In reply to Trackmouse :

They're generally pretty rust resistant, since after '85 or so they started hot-dip galvanizing most of the body of the car.  Neither of the cars I've had have any rust on them beyond surface rust from body damage.

No strange size bolts on mine.  It's all normal m6/8/10/12 fasteners.  Some of the nuts/bolts are different sizes on each end (13mm nut, 12mm bolt for an m10), but that's a godsend because you don't need multiple of any one wrench to work on the car.

MichaelYount
MichaelYount HalfDork
1/25/18 6:31 p.m.

I think galv in US/Canada cars started in 88.....

jdoc90
jdoc90 New Reader
1/25/18 6:59 p.m.

!989 240 dl ebay bought 530.00$ came from virginia , little rust , 369000 on the clock , ran a bit rough, tranny was sketchy, no rear muffler, driver seat sagging . flushed and filled tranny , problem fixed, fluid was like coffee ick . replaced radiator after inlet cracked, 60$ fixed 2 vacuum hoses , ran fine, plugs wires cap etc. under 90$ added lowering springs and new shocks 285$ , alignment , new cat back exhaust 123$ custom made wheel spacers 250$ used jaguar wheels 16in 48$ each . new v speed tires 50$ each . 

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
1/25/18 7:20 p.m.
EvanB said:

I currently have 4 240s on my property (2, 4 and 5 door) and I also approve of this message. 

I have changed my assessment.  They aren't watching ME, they are watching your driveway.

 

The tell will be if the next "Vintage Views" will be about Volvo S60Rs or Opel Kadetts.

 

 

EvanB
EvanB MegaDork
1/25/18 8:29 p.m.

In reply to Knurled. :

I think the xr4ti is more likely but I'd love an Opel article.

EvanB
EvanB MegaDork
1/25/18 8:50 p.m.
irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
1/25/18 9:53 p.m.

I grew up in 240 wagons, riding in the way-back (before they had the rear-facing seat, even!) Always thoguht they were boring until I drove a turbo'd 240 at a rallycross :)

I figure they're really the next e30 anyhow, with lots of them still around and e30s starting to get harder to find for peanuts on craigslist. 

If I ever wreck the rally e30, my top plan is to build a 240 rally wagon, just for E36 M3s and giggles.

te72
te72 New Reader
1/25/18 9:54 p.m.

I've said in the past, that if anything catastrophic happens to the shell of my Supra, the recipient of the reasonably powerful 1jz drivetrain will likely be a 240 wagon. Function, form, and a heck of a lot of utility. Plus, great sleeper, it just looks and sounds like an old car...

MichaelYount
MichaelYount HalfDork
1/26/18 6:41 a.m.

They were the next E30 before the E30 was the next E30.....  ;)

EvanB
EvanB MegaDork
1/26/18 6:59 a.m.
irish44j said:

If I ever wreck the rally e30, my top plan is to build a 240 rally wagon, just for E36 M3s and giggles.

I have been trying to decide which volvo at my house to build for a stage rally car (940, 244, 242, 245), I never thought of using the wagon before but it is just sitting around...

paranoid_android
paranoid_android UltraDork
1/26/18 1:23 p.m.
EvanB said:

Is this where I insert a shameless plug for my current build thread? https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/project-black-brick-another-volvo/135790/page1/

To paraphrase Dr. John, "If [you] don't do it, somebody else will"...

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
1/26/18 6:35 p.m.

In reply to EvanB :

In truth, the wagon would be a bad idea for stage in terms of performance (IMO). There's a reason that in 1000 "Swedish Rally" vids I've watched on youtube, none of them has any Swedes rallying wagons. And I mean, if it was as good or almost as good, you'd think at least one crazy Swede would have done it, right? I assume it has to do with the additional "swing weight" of the rear end on a wagon or something. 

It would make getting to your gear, jack, spares, etc way easier though :) Would also make building the cage much easier.

Also would be much cooler, just because wagon.

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
1/26/18 7:16 p.m.

Probably because you can't put the fuel cell in the trunk of a wagon without isolating it.

 

Or maybe they just hoard the wagons for service vehicles.

 

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
1/26/18 8:21 p.m.
Knurled. said:

Probably because you can't put the fuel cell in the trunk of a wagon without isolating it.

 

Or maybe they just hoard the wagons for service vehicles.

 

stage rally doesn't require fuel cell in this country, or in most other countries that I'm aware of. Some people do them for various reasons, but I don't think that would be the reason for the lack of Volvo wagons...

Must be the service vehicle thing :)

bigdaddylee82
bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
1/26/18 10:30 p.m.

Elvis (originally from Memphis) the '76 DL has been doing a good job of keeping the grass from growing for over 2 years now. frown  I have the head, manifolds, turbo, a few other sundries from a turbo 940, and a couple Megasquirts to choose from, but too little time, and too little space to work on it...

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
1/27/18 2:12 a.m.
irish44j said:
Knurled. said:

Probably because you can't put the fuel cell in the trunk of a wagon without isolating it.

 

Or maybe they just hoard the wagons for service vehicles.

 

stage rally doesn't require fuel cell in this country, or in most other countries that I'm aware of. Some people do them for various reasons, but I don't think that would be the reason for the lack of Volvo wagons...

Must be the service vehicle thing :)

 

Maybe, but it also appears that a cheap slap it together build over there would be a top tier car in the US.

MazdaFace
MazdaFace HalfDork
1/27/18 8:07 a.m.

there's a few of these on craigslist for about 1500 bucks...

MichaelYount
MichaelYount HalfDork
1/27/18 7:29 p.m.

Not that much difference in weight between the 242, 244 and 245 when similarly optioned.

Matthew Kennedy
Matthew Kennedy Reader
1/27/18 10:39 p.m.

In reply to MichaelYount :

Even my highly-optioned 245 isn't that heavy.  With airbag, heated seats, heated power mirrors, power windows, AC, and a turbo setup installed, mine came in just under 3000 lb, and only 52% front.

Greg Voth
Greg Voth Dork
1/28/18 7:28 a.m.

If anyone is interested I have both rear 242 windows (free). 

Also I'll be parting out my V8 wagon.  It's was a Converse conversion.  Bilstiens, ipd sways, Corbeau seat brackets.  Also have a 4 eye square heaslight and 2 round headlight front ends and a flat hood, turbo five spoke and 740 turbo twist wheels. Some wheel adapters etc.

Stampie gave me a great deal on a 88 (I think) wagon that I'd be happy to pass along to a challenger. Complete but non running non turbo auto. Body is pretty clean as the original plan was to swap my 5.0 over or go LS.  Plans changed since I just picked up an RX8 to LS.

 

MichaelYount
MichaelYount HalfDork
1/28/18 9:26 a.m.

Not much difference in weight (swing or otherwise) between 242, 244 and 245 if they're optioned similarly.

bigdaddylee82
bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
1/28/18 10:48 a.m.

In reply to Greg Voth :

I know a guy that'd be interested in adding some suspension bits to his parts pile.

I picked Elvis up for $750 with a burnt valve, from a guy that really needed it gone.  Goal is to make it a Challenge car eventually, with turbo parts, head, and Meagsquirt, I'm just a little over $1K, so I've still got some budget room. wink

Matthew Kennedy
Matthew Kennedy Reader
1/28/18 4:28 p.m.

In reply to Greg Voth :

What size sway bars are they? What year is it, specifically does it have the old or new style tailgate glass?

MichaelYount
MichaelYount HalfDork
1/28/18 4:56 p.m.
Matthew Kennedy said:

In reply to MichaelYount :

Even my highly-optioned 245 isn't that heavy.  With airbag, heated seats, heated power mirrors, power windows, AC, and a turbo setup installed, mine came in just under 3000 lb, and only 52% front.

Well, I've never seen one that light.  Mine (lightly optioned 242) with V8, 8.8" rear, T5z, A/C, power steering was 3036 with about 3/4 tank of fuel and the spare/jack removed from the trunk.  That put it about 53.5/46.5 front/rear.  Oh - fiberglass "Commando" bumpers on mine that knocked probably 50 lbs. off, and battery in the back.

 

Seems most of the sedans/wagons that have actually been on corner scales come in around 3100-3350 lbs. depending on how they're optioned.

Greg Voth
Greg Voth Dork
1/28/18 8:41 p.m.

In reply to Matthew Kennedy :

The rusty one I am parting out is an 84. It has the flush mount later rear hatch that I picked up to replace the rusty original hatch.   Also have four rust free manual window doors to replace the rusty doors that were on the car.

The sways I would have to measure. The front is the ipd v8 drop version.

CWR67
CWR67 New Reader
1/29/18 2:02 p.m.

The 240DL was one of my favorite patrol cars.  Compared to the Dodge Diplomats and Ford Crown Vics at the time, the Volvo would accelerate just a tad slower but handled better and had better brakes.  

 

car39
car39 HalfDork
1/29/18 4:54 p.m.

In New England, you have to look for rust in the driver's side rear floor pan.  The carpets are lined with a waterproof material.  If, or when, the A/C drains back up, they flood the driver's side floor pans.  You foot pressure on the front forces the water to the rear, where it happily sits and converts steel into iron oxide.  You don't notice the leak because of the waterproofing, though you may get a musty smell.  I've seen cracks running across the floor behind the driver's seat because of it.  

Some cars in the mid-80's have alignment issues with the rear ends.  The tooling for the rear dated back to the 67 140 models, and was getting pretty tired by the 80's.  The Swedes didn't want to spend the money replacing tooling on a car that was supposed to be replaced by the newer 740 models.   The 740 was a good car, but different and had a different fan base.  Ironically, the 240 continued after it's replacement was discontinued.  

mrwillie
mrwillie Dork
1/29/18 5:19 p.m.

In reply to bigdaddylee82 :

awww..... ya'll look good together!

smiley

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