Welcome back! Today we’re looking at two examples of a car that is just turning the corner from old beater to up-and-coming classic – Volvo’s boxy-but-good 240 series. but first, let’s see who won yesterday’s cheaper-than-a-toy-car battle:
Well, that Saturn just ran rings around every other choice, didn’t it? (Sorry, had to.) And twice as many people want a re-issue of a 1980s model car as want a real 1980s Chrysler. Ouch.
The Volvo 240 is one of those cars I’ve almost bought a few times, but never actually got around to owning. I’ve worked on a bunch of them, and driven a few, and had friends who owned them, but every time I looked at one for myself, I ended buying something else. And I might have missed my chance. They’ve been cheap forever, but now the prices are starting to creep up on nicer examples. But a rising tide lifts all boats, as they say, and like the BMW E30s before them, as prices on the nice cars go up, so do prices on the shitboxes. These cars are both a lot more expensive than they would have been even five years ago. Are they worth it? Let’s check them out and see.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.1 liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed manual with overdrive, RWD
Location: Coppell, TX
Odometer reading: 454,000 miles
Runs/drives? Yep, but not sure how well
First – this is not a coupe, despite appearances. This is an extinct bodystyle known as a two-door sedan. There was a Volvo 240 coupe – the 262C, styled by Bertone, with a love-it-or-hate-it chopped and vinyl-covered roof (personally, I hate it), but this one has the exact same interior dimensions and roofline as the four-door sedan. There was a sportier version of this car as well, known as the 242 GT, but this isn’t one of those either. It’s just a lowly DL model. The nomenclature is important when talking about these cars, because while they all look alike, there are differences under the skin.
What most of them do have in common is Volvo’s “Redblock” engine, a sturdy unit that isn’t known for massive power (though the turbo versions are all right), but it has a reputation for piling on the miles. This car has almost half a million of them, mostly from its first owner. The current owner claims to not drive it much, “because of the Bosch fuel injection.” I don’t know if that means it runs poorly, or the seller just has something against fuel injection, but they do say it runs and drives.
It has held up pretty well, it looks like – the seller notes some rust repair, and one door doesn’t match, but it’s straight and intact. I like the wheels on it, too; I don’t know enough about the minutiae of Volvo variants to know if they’re original, or aftermarket, or from some other Volvo model, but they look sharp on there.
Inside, it looks clean, but these 240s tend to be such ships of Theseus after a while that it’s hard to know how much in there is original. As a side note, I’ve never known quite what to make of the dashboard in these cars. It’s such a big industrial-looking slab of plastic, at odds with the pseudo-luxury image that these cars got in the US in the 1980s. And I hear it’s a nightmare to work on anything behind there.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.3 liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed manual with overdrive, RWD
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Odometer reading: 268,000 miles
Runs/drives? Yes, but has some issues
If you’re looking for a little more practicality and cargo capacity with your redblock engine, here we have a 240 DL wagon. By this time, the 240 had received a facelift, with a raised center section in the hood, and four rectangular headlights on US models. It also got a bump in engine displacement to 2.3 liters, but retained the four-speed stick with a push-button electric overdrive; I think by this point only the Volvo 240 and the Chevy Corvette still had this anachronism.
This car is by no means stock; it has been lowered, but it sounds like it was done the proper way by replacing parts, not by torching the springs like so many shadetree hacks have done. Less impressive is the probably-way-too-loud aftermarket exhaust. Seriously – why install a cutout on a four-cylinder Volvo? It has had a bunch of electrical work done as well, but apparently not enough; the seller says it occasionally stalls, especially under load. More troubleshooting is warranted, I think.
Inside, this one is a little scruffier than the 242, but still not bad. The seller does note some troubles with the front window regulators, and some other electrical issues inside. It sounds like the overdrive button might be non-functional, and the reverse lockout is “broken.” I don’t know if that means you can’t shift to reverse, or if the safety lockout just isn’t there anymore. Normally you lift the ring under the shift knob to access reverse on these.
Outside, how it looks depends on what angle you see it from. The left front fender and door don’t match the rest of the car, and the left rear door handle is absent (the seller says he has it). In this rear three-quarter view, however, it looks pretty good. I guess I have to give the seller kudos for not trying to hide the flaws.
Both of these cars are going to need some tinkering, but that’s true of almost every inexpensive 240 I’ve seen for sale. The trouble is that, personally, I think these should be less expensive than they even are. But I guess that’s what happens when a car gets “discovered” and makes that turn from old to classic. These are the two desirable body styles, and they’re both manuals, which command higher prices than automatics. But three grand and mismatched body panels? I don’t know; is either of them worth it to you?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)