Home » Farewell To Portland: 2005 Subaru Outback vs 1976 Volvo 242

Farewell To Portland: 2005 Subaru Outback vs 1976 Volvo 242

Sbsd 053124
ADVERTISEMENT

Good morning, Autopians! Well, this is it: the last Shitbox Showdown I will write from our official headquarters in Portland, Oregon. My minions and henchmen are hard at work on the new facilities on the East Coast, and I am assured that plans are progressing nicely. It’s amazing how motivating the threat of diesel Chevettes as company cars can be.

I’m a little sad to see the old lair go, if I’m honest. I’ve written more than five hundred of these Showdowns now, most of them from right here. So I thought it only fitting that I say goodbye to the old town by featuring the two cars that will always remind me of this place, for better or worse.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

But before we do that, let’s check in with yesterday’s premium hatchbacks. From the sounds of it, this was a difficult choice. These are both fun-to-drive cars, but neither of them has a sterling reputation for durability or reliability, and several of you expressed concerns over the Mini’s mileage. Because of this, I expected the Fiat to win, but I was wrong. Me? I’d flip a coin.

Screenshot 2024 05 30 1.56.16 Pm

When we moved to Portland from Los Angeles back in 2008, I wasn’t expecting much of a car culture up here. I’m not sure why, but somehow Portlanders didn’t strike me as car folk when we visited prior to moving. I was proven gloriously wrong, however; Portland has a thriving car culture. It’s just, like so many other aspects of this city, a little weird. I’ve seen everything from brand-new Ferraris to 2CV Fourgonnettes prowling these streets, I parked next to a beautiful dark green ’60s Alfa Giulia Berlina at a burger joint just a few weeks ago, and I’ve had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with all kinds of rare classic British steel through my MG connections.

ADVERTISEMENT

But those are the outliers. Most of the cars in Portland are far less interesting. Some time ago my wife and I were circling a parking lot looking for a spot, and I said, “There’s one, between those two Subarus.”

My wife replied, “This is Portland. Every space is between two Subarus.” She’s not wrong.

But old European iron is still a staple of Portland traffic. One make in particular, Volvo, is very common here, likely due in part to the presence of famed Volvo specialty shop IPD. Old 240s and 740s are still common cars here, though the citywide fleet has started showing its age in recent years.

So today, we’re going to look at one of each: a very nice used Subaru Outback, and a very Portland Volvo 240. Which one better represents the best the Rose City has to offer? Let’s see.

2005 Subaru Outback Limited – $4,950

00303 Pr0nclkhc4 0ci0t2 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

Engine/drivetrain: 2.5-liter overhead cam flat 4, five-speed manual, AWD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: 168,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

Just how common are Subaru Outbacks in Portland? For a while I worked at a job where there was only street parking, and all my co-workers and I parked along the same block so we could keep an eye on our cars. Along that block were my big green truck, my boss’s ’68 VW Beetle, a little teal Prius C, and five Outbacks: two gold, two gray, and one white. More than half of my co-workers drove the same damn car. It was a little like Stepford. Or Camazotz, if you’d rather.

ADVERTISEMENT

00v0v Ar0d2syfecg 0ci0t2 1200x900

I get the appeal in a place like this, I suppose: Subaru has carefully crafted a market for the Outback as the car of choice for outdoorsy, big-dog-loving folks who enjoy hikes, and there are a lot of them here. Its all-wheel-drive system has likewise been touted as a “necessity” for getting around during that week or so of snow we get every year. And so Subaru wagons in general, and the Outback in particular has become the de facto official car of this fair city.

00q0q I2h0rg53psd 0ci0t2 1200x900

At least this one is a stickshift. I don’t think any of my old coworkers’ cars were. It’s powered by a basic 2.5 liter version of Subaru’s EJ boxer engine, that notorious devourer of head gaskets. There’s no word on whether the gaskets have been replaced on this car, but at 168,000 miles, I would guess so. The seller does say the clutch was just replaced, and that the car runs and drives great.

00p0p 650qhl2d8mk 0ci0t2 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

It looks well cared-for, both inside and out, which is more than I can say for a lot of Outbacks around here. Typical owners lean heavily on the “utility” part of Subaru’s “sport utility wagon” description, and there are some rough-looking Outbacks here. Not rusty, or obviously banged-up, but clearly ridden hard and put away wet. I’m happy to see that this one has received more careful ministrations.

1976 Volvo 242 DL – $4,200

00r0r Dfpfccd33db 0ci0t2 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 2.1-liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: unknown

ADVERTISEMENT

Operational status: Runs and drives great

Before there was Subaru, there was Volvo. These old square beasts have gotten less common on Portland streets in recent years, but when we first moved here, they were everywhere. 240s seem to be the most common, with a few 740s and later front-drive 850s mixed in. Spend time on Hawthorne Boulevard and you’re almost certain to see at least a couple old 240s roll by, often festooned with all manner of bumper stickers, some of which appear to be structural. They’re only now starting to be seen as classics here, it seems, and to be cared for as such. A lot of them still look like this one.

00101 Cl98jktg7vu 0ci0t2 1200x900

A lot of old Volvos have an air of the Ship of Theseus about them. This one isn’t too far removed from original; only the front seats are obviously out of place, though they appear to have come from two different cars. As is common, the odometer only works when it wants to, so the actual mileage is unknown. It doesn’t matter much; these cars just seem to chug along regardless. This one runs and drives well enough to be daily-driven, according to the seller.

00g0g Gbuuokftf7g 0ci0t2 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s powered by a 2.1-liter fuel-injected version of Volvo’s “Red block” engine, backed by a four-speed manual. This one doesn’t have the push-button electric overdrive unit fitted to some 240s. It does, however, have a taller final drive than usual, thanks to big meaty General Grabber off-road tires. I don’t know if this was done for cosmetic reasons, or for purposes of some Gambler 500-type use, but I bet they help with Portland’s pothole-riddled streets.

00m0m Gkgldyrylif 0ci0t2 1200x900

Outside, it has some rust, dents, and missing trim, but some cars wear patina like this better than others, and I think this old Volvo looks pretty good as it is. With values starting to creep up, you could take the time to clean it up and return everything to original, but that seems too much like hard work, to me.

Well, that wraps it up for my West Coast-based cheap car shenanigans, I guess. When next we meet, I’ll be back on the road one last time, and we’ll have a special guest car-chooser for the week. See you then!

ADVERTISEMENT

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
44 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
20 days ago

I voted for the Subaru only to remember my brother had one of these that was a fucking money-pit. It would probably be better in all measurable ways than the Volvo though.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
22 days ago

Subaru for me. More practical, will have way better driving dynamics, will probably have similar or slightly better fuel economy, has more modern amenities and it also doesn’t look like shit.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
22 days ago

I’ll take the Volvo- I just like it better and it’s more interesting like most old cars…the Subie is good too if head gasket was replaced but it’s just too bland

AlterId
AlterId
22 days ago

The Outback’s ad has been pulled and the Volvo’s is still out there, which, along with the air conditioning and other creature comforts and the better overall cosmetic and probable mechanical condition, leads me to believe that it’s the correct choice. And usually the presence of an air conditioner is enough to sway my choice. But a fondness for the mid-’90s kinda assimilationist rom-ish comic novels of Stephen McCauley (it’s patina) and my unfortunate buy-in to the idea of consumer choices reflecting and refracting self-image, and a little optimism about finding decent front seats with correct Volvo headrests that match (or can be upholstered to match) the glorious blue cloth of the back seat, compel me like the power of Odin to vote Vo.

Autonerdery
Autonerdery
23 days ago

I’m surprising myself and going with the Subie here, and I’ll even start by saying something nice about it: I always thought this generation Legacy/Outback was a genuinely good-looking car, perhaps the only Subaru I can say that about. Even the interior looks pretty nice, super-fake “wood” aside!

I’m choosing the Scoob based on my experience of driving a former coworker’s Outback (same gen, but auto) once; never before or since have I experienced a car that seemed so resolutely determined to get me to drive 10 MPH below the speed limit, whatever the limit happened to be. It just did not want to do anything else. And, in my experience, Oregon drivers are the most scrupulous I’ve seen about sticking at or under the speed limit, so if I’m in Portland, I’m picking up this buddy to help me adhere to the local custom.

Baja_Engineer
Baja_Engineer
23 days ago

As you stated the Volvo 2XX series cars are starting to creep up in value. But a tired Volvo with missing trim, surface rust, non-working odo and mismatched interior should be no more than $3K. It needs at least double the entry fee to get it looking decent. And whatever that pink plastic bottle does under the hood is a red flag to me.
I’m reluctantly going Outback here as I’m aware about the HGs and what my in-laws went through with theirs but I’m also aware the EJ25 was a hit or miss and there are many still chugging along with 300K.

Beer-light Guidance
Beer-light Guidance
23 days ago

My first car was a ’76 242. Easy choice.

Mike F.
Mike F.
23 days ago

Drove my mom’s 244 back in high school, and I have many fond memories of that. It was a great car until my brother got hold of it and took it offroading a few too many times. The Subie is a beautiful example of one of those, but a 244 with a stick? Gimme!!!!!

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
23 days ago

I’m a sucker for 242s and 240s, but that car is just too rough for the asking price. However, that Subie looks clean as a whistle and has a stick. So I’ll be taking the Outback for my Safari build, thank you.

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
23 days ago

When I learned that “henchmen” meant “physically well developed men” I stopped referring to myself or anyone in my social group in those terms. We are more “lunchmen”.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
22 days ago
Reply to  Vanillasludge

That’s better than being “doughmen”

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
21 days ago

You’re one to talk, Mr Sandwich.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
23 days ago

The Subaru is the sensible choice
I still want the Volvo.
Because there aren’t enough 2 doors left in the world.

44
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x