Vintage Views: Volvo 740 and 760 Turbo


Written by David S. Wallens

From the Oct. 2016 issue

Posted in Buyer's Guides


Those two words don’t exactly invigorate the senses of most people.

Gearheads, though, will pause. They know there’s the chance that a third word will follow the first two: turbo. Suddenly there’s the opportunity for the ultimate Q-ship. Meet the Volvo 740 and 760 Turbo wagons.

“The rear-wheel drive Volvo 7-series, particularly in wagon form, is like mixing all the soda flavors from the gas station fountain together in the same 64-ounce mega mug,” explains Scott R. Lear, GRM contributor and former owner of a 740 Turbo wagon. “Somehow, you end up with something that’s simultaneously bizarre and surprisingly tasty.”

Volvo’s extremely square, upmarket 760 arrived for the 1983 model year as a four-door sedan. By 1985 the lineup included a wagon as well as the slightly decontented 740 sedans and wagons. The big news was hidden under the hood: Volvo’s optional turbocharged and intercooled B230FT engine. This force-fed inline-four produced 162 horsepower–not much by today’s standards, but for the mid-’80s that was pretty stellar. And that turbo engine could be ordered with a five-speed stick.

So by checking the right boxes on the order form, it was possible to order a turbocharged, five-speed Volvo wagon sporting minimal options. Zero to 60 took about 7.8 seconds–again, zippy for the time–meaning that Volvo had given the world a fairly quick, pretty innocuous station wagon.

How quick? One Volvo magazine ad compared their 740 Turbo Wagon to the Porsche 944, with giant type making a bold declaration: “To a radar gun they look exactly alike.” The fine print went on to say that in the quarter-mile, both cars posted practically identical trap speeds. And the zero-to-60 sprint, it added, actually favored the wagon.

More sacrilege: Other ads compared the 7-series Turbo wagons to the Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari Testarossa, Camaro IROC-Z and other ’80s darlings. Volvo knew that they had a performer, and they weren’t bashful about it.

They also left it alone, as the model line continued fairly untouched through the beginning of the next decade. The big changes started with the 1991 model year, when Volvo replaced the 740 and 760 with the 940 and 960, respectively. Under the skin the new cars were similar to their processors, although they sported bodywork that was, by Volvo’s standards, a bit rounded. The 740 wasn’t gone, though, as Volvo kept it around through 1992 as a downmarket option.

The last year you could get any of these cars with a turbo and manual transmission was 1991, so for most enthusiasts that’s where the model run ends, even though Volvo offered rear-drive turbo wagons through 1995. Fortunately these Volvos are as tough as anvils, meaning that solid cars are still out there for a few grand.

Practical Guidance

Not only does Pierre Andre Jr. serve as the parts and service director at O’Steen Volvo of Jacksonville, Florida, he also owns a Volvo 740 Turbo wagon himself. He knows these cars from both sides of the parts counter.

“Parts availability at the dealer level is pretty good. Volvo has an outlet called Classic Parts that I think is based in Sweden. If it is a classic part, it takes a week or so to get it. I just ordered a door pull trim piece that I thought would be discontinued or a Classic Part. They had it in the Atlanta warehouse! Even aftermarket availability is pretty good. I have purchased tail lamps on eBay made in Estonia. The fit was excellent.

“My ’89 spent 11 years in Midwest winters and 16 years in Florida and looks fairly new. I haven’t seen too many rusty ones. I believe they had a factory undercoating on them.

“The most common thing with the interiors aging is that the dashes crack, and the drivers’ seats get a little worn. Of course, in Florida the headliner material starts to fall. The lumbar mechanism breaks, too. Other than that I have no issues.

“My first turbo failed at about 140,000 miles. Engines? We have them still coming into the shop with 250,000 to 300,000 miles. On a trip from Orlando to Jacksonville a few years back, my car’s heater hose broke and it overheated on I-4. All I needed to do was replace the head gasket and mill the head. They are bulletproof motors.

“To my recollection, the 760 Turbos from 1985-’87 came with the Volvo Turbo+ kit as a factory option. It added 20 horsepower to the engine via a control unit. It was also sold as a factory option for the 740 Turbos. “The 760 also had a V6 option, which I would stay away from.

“Check out the V8 conversions. The Ford ones are really neat; I was hoping my motor was blown when the hose broke so I could do one.

“Also, if you get a chance to buy a clean 16-valve 740, do it. That is my favorite motor. They were leaking pigs but ran as well or better than the turbo cars.”

This story ran in an old issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Want to make sure you're reading all the latest stories? Subscribe now.


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Reader comments:

slowride Dork
Jan. 10, 2017 1:01 p.m.

My favorite part of these was the burned out light indicator on the dash that looks exactly like a skull & crossbones.

Jan. 10, 2017 1:29 p.m.

One of my first and favorite cars...

mad_machine MegaDork
Jan. 10, 2017 7:19 p.m.

My Father's Girlfriend has a 740 turbo wagon that I once tried to buy from her, now it is just a beaten to E36 M3 non-turbo wagon. It's a shame that she let it go like that. It still runs well, just without a turbo, so it is a very slow wagon

m4ff3w UberDork
Jan. 10, 2017 7:54 p.m.

Could you get a 5spd stick with the turbos? I didn't think we could, I thought we only got the M46 4spd+push button OD.

Streetwiseguy PowerDork
Jan. 10, 2017 8:24 p.m.

In reply to m4ff3w:

You didn't want the M47 5 speed. The M46 is much sturdier, and the overdrive is so nice on the highway.

m4ff3w UberDork
Jan. 10, 2017 8:51 p.m.
Streetwiseguy wrote: In reply to m4ff3w: You didn't want the M47 5 speed. The M46 is much sturdier, and the overdrive is so nice on the highway.

Yeah, I just just correcting some misinformation.

I had a '88 M46 along with a pair of 92 autos. I loved my 740/940s

M2Pilot HalfDork
Jan. 10, 2017 9:40 p.m.

IIRC you could replace the waste gate with one from a 240 turbo & get more boost.

Tom1200 HalfDork
Jan. 10, 2017 10:11 p.m.

I'm trying to remember but I think John Lane's fire breathing rally car was a 740 (not a wagon though). The first rally I attended was early 90s Rim of The World and I was mighty impressed with Volvos. Boring style but they ride nice and came with stonking motors.

Strike_Zero UltraDork
Jan. 11, 2017 3:09 p.m.

In reply to Tom1200:

I believe that was a 262 with boosted 3L PRV 6 cylinder.

It was up for sale for a while, but I believe he is now keeping it.

m4ff3w UberDork
Jan. 11, 2017 9:24 p.m.
Strike_Zero wrote: In reply to Tom1200: I believe that was a 262 with boosted 3L PRV 6 cylinder.

Yes, that PRV is a beast.

Tom1200 HalfDork
Jan. 13, 2017 11:37 p.m.

It's been I while since I was involved in rally on a regular basis; I may be merging Volvo memories, was likely thinking of Jay Street's car or Carl Jardevall.

Bill Malik's 240 was a rocket as well, the staged we worked was Tarmac for the first 1/4 mile or so and I think it was his car that laid black marks off the start. Could have been Tomas Liljquist (sp) in the Coffee Fresh 240.


Coldsnap Dork
Jan. 14, 2017 10:53 a.m.

My prius been parked for a month now. Everytime I go out and drive I take the 240 wagon instead. Don't really know why...

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