Home » Square Deals On Boxy Cars: 1968 Volvo 144S vs 1990 Mitsubishi Montero

Square Deals On Boxy Cars: 1968 Volvo 144S vs 1990 Mitsubishi Montero

Sbsd 3 20 2024a
ADVERTISEMENT

Welcome back! Today we’re going to check out two cars that you could build convincing models of using cinder blocks. One is the first in a long line of boxy sedans, and the other is one of many similar-looking rectilinear SUVs. Is it really hip to be square? We’re going to find out.

Yesterday we took a trip to the Chicago suburbs, where we looked at a scruffy Hyundai and a Mercury with bald tires. I expected this one to be closer, but the Mystique simply ran away with the vote. I don’t know if it was the Elantra’s hideous exterior or just the fact that it’s a Hyundai, but you all wanted nothing to do with it.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

For me, the deciding factor might be new tires. The Hyundai has ’em, and the Mercury needs ’em. The $200 price difference might have bought new shoes once upon a time, but those days are long gone. On the other hand, Pick-N-Pull sells complete doors for $70, and even if it didn’t match, a straight junkyard door would make a world of difference on that car. Yeah, put me on Team Elantra, I think.

Screenshot From 2024 03 19 15 13 26

Back when my dad had a Fiat 128, he used to joke that if you asked a four-year-old to draw a picture of a yellow car, you’d get a drawing of his Fiat. The 128 was a classic “three-box” sedan, defined by straight lines and barely rounded corners. But it wasn’t alone; lots of cars in the 1970s and 80s were ruthlessly squared off. And really, that’s not a bad thing. Boxes are efficient shapes, and make the best use of the available volume. After all, unless you’re carrying a load of loose tennis balls, what shape are most of the items you’re going to put in a car going to be? That’s right – rectangular.

ADVERTISEMENT

These two boxy machines come from up in Seattle. Both have manual transmissions, both run and drive great, and both strike me as particularly good deals for what they are. But you be the judge.

1968 Volvo 144S – $2,500

00y0y 5mvtqar3lla 0ci0t2 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Seattle, WA

Odometer reading: 350,000 miles

ADVERTISEMENT

Operational status: Runs and drives great

With the introduction of the 140 series in 1968, Volvo entered its boxy period, which lasted all the way up until the early 2000s. This car’s basic shape carried over to the famous 240 series, which went out of production in 1993, giving this basic car an astonishing 25 year run. It also ushered in Volvo’s most logical model numbering system of all time, which sadly did not last as long. This is a 144: 1 = model range, 4 = number of cylinders, 4 = number of doors. The S on the end of this one denotes the sporty model, with a more powerful twin-carb engine.

00n0n 40si9twtupq 0t20ci 1200x900

This car has spent its entire life in Seattle, according to the seller, and has covered 350,000 miles in the past fifty-six years. When you take that into consideration, it looks pretty good – the seat upholstery is a little chewed up, and the paint is toasty, but it’s all there, and the seller has taken great pains to make sure that everything works as it should, including restoring the original gauges and radio. It’s the most stock Volvo 140 I’ve seen in ages.

00404 1bnlfxlxcbj 0ci0t2 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

It runs and drives great, and has a newer clutch and some other recent work. The engine was rebuilt somewhere along the way. It was serviced by the same shop for many years, and the seller has all the receipts. It’s always fun to dig back through that stuff if it’s available, just to see what a car has been through.

00p0p Camcapzuhj8 0ci0t2 1200x900

You could clean it up, I suppose, straighten the dents and fix what little rust there is, and make it shine again, but I kinda like it how it is. It’s got character. And history.

1990 Mitsubishi Montero – $4,000

01212 7wekcvrjcvs 0ft0bc 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter overhead cam V6, five-speed manual, part-time 4WD

ADVERTISEMENT

Location: Seattle, WA

Odometer reading: 250,000 miles

Operational status: “Runs amazing and will last forever”

Naming cars is always a tricky business. When you get it right, it’s lightning in a bottle, and that name alone becomes part of the automotive pantheon. When you get it wrong, you end up as the laughing-stock of an entire culture. This SUV is known in the rest of the world as the Pajero, after a small South American wild cat, but unfortunately for Mitsubishi, “pajero” is also a slang term in Latin America roughly equivalent to the British slang term “wanker.” So in North and South America, this truck is known as the Montero, after a seventeenth-century hunter’s cap with ear flaps. (No, really.)

00y0y Hedbdbpdi4x 0fu08i 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

Whatever you want to call it, it’s a beefy body-on-frame off-roader with some serious pedigree. The Pajero won its class in the legendary Dakar Rally multiple times. This one is powered by Mitsubishi’s 6G72 six-cylinder engine, driving either the rear or all four wheels through a five-speed stick. Despite having a quarter-million miles to its name, it runs and drives great.

00202 Fnlenvrss7y 0ft0bc 1200x900

I miss when SUV interiors used to look like this: Straightforward, with only the controls you need, and a great big “oh-shit” handle in front of the passenger for when things get gnarly. One thing I don’t see is the optional gauge pod on top of the dash with a compass, altimeter, and inclinometer. But I guess most SUVs don’t actually see any off-road use, and such things aren’t strictly necessary for your average TJ Maxx parking lot.

00p0p B45vnjgvobw 0ft0bc 1200x900

Outside, it has a little rust here and there, but not bad. Four grand may seem a little steep, but have you seen what early 4Runners and Isuzu Troopers are going for these days? This is every inch the off-roader that those two are, for about half the price.

ADVERTISEMENT

Personally, I like both of these, and I think they’d make a hell of a two-car garage. But I already gave you a “both” option once this week, and I didn’t take pity on you with a “neither” option yesterday. So today, you must choose. Will it be the faded Swede sedan, or the burly Japanese truck?

(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
58 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
StLOrca
StLOrca
21 days ago

I like me a Volvo–knock about $750 off the price and I’m your man.

Zed_Patrol
Zed_Patrol
21 days ago

My folks thought it would be a great idea to get my sister a 72 version of this Volvo as her first car. Boy that was a mistake. That thing had D-Jetronic fuel injection, which sounds cool and maybe was at one time, but by the early 90’s, keeping a system like that running was not easy. It ran like garbage. The computer was enormous and if I remember right, took up most of the underside of the driver’s seat area. I’ve always thought a D-jetronic car would be fun to update with megasquirt or something, because they used sort of a modern-ish style intake manifold with port injectors.

Timothy Swanson
Timothy Swanson
22 days ago

Needs a “both,” but the condition of the Wanker is better.

SirRaoulDuke
SirRaoulDuke
22 days ago

I dig the Volvo, but I’ve always got a use for a cheap 4×4. I’m going with The Wanker.

Is Travis
Is Travis
22 days ago

You can replace the inclinometer on the Monty, that is a V6 with a stick, that thing is a keeper for sure. If you are wondering, the weird claw looking stuff on the top center dash is supposed to be a three dial instrument panel with the famous inclinometer showing your tilt and axis. Even with that surface rust, it just needs some love in the engine bay. At 250k miles I would make sure it can pass emissions before buying, I just threw my ’89 to a trusted….. sorry, the ONLY mechanic in the Denver area that would touch it. The valve stem seals are not the average DIY shadetree mechanic job, and I had to tap out because of lack of garage and the time to learn how to rebuild a valvetrain.
That Montero could be cleaned up to Radwood glory with some effort and not much money. Parts are still easy to come by as they have an enthusiast following.

Edit – If my job weren’t currently up in the air and my Montero wasn’t in the shop looking at a $1k bill, I would consider flying up to buy that Seattle example. It is in fantastic shape for the age and mileage, and will appreciate in value with MINIMAL effort. I mean minimal. These things are tanks, driveable future classics. A Washington Autopian needs to snag this, it is priced at what these were going for 12 years ago.

Last edited 22 days ago by Is Travis
Baja_Engineer
Baja_Engineer
22 days ago

This is tough, I like them both but the Montero looks cleaner and it’s got more utility so it gets the nod.

Holly Birge
Holly Birge
22 days ago

That Volvo is the most Seattle car ever and I love it. I’m guessing it spent its life in the Ballard neighborhood where a bunch of longtime residents have Swedish flags hanging from their houses.

Danger Ranger
Danger Ranger
22 days ago

Billboard-like aerodynamics aside, the 4×4 with a stick is more useful in SW Michigan, so I went with the Mitsu

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
22 days ago

I want both, but something about that Mitsubishi appeals to me deeper than the Volvo. So… Montero it is.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
22 days ago

Gimmee the tough Mitsu”bitch”i

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
22 days ago

Some folks like big butts. They can have the Montero. I like long stick shifts. Don’t kink shame.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
22 days ago

Tough choice for me – I thought the Volvo would be the obvious choice, but the Montero is nice enough that I want it, too. Go halfsies?

NB it’s a bit off saying things like “X is slang for Y in Latin America.” Slang is very regional in LatAm, along with other things like, say, food names. I can think of five names for bananas off the top of my head, for instance. There are slang words that exist widely, but mean one thing in one country and an entirely different thing in another. And so on.

Dirk from metro Atlanta
Dirk from metro Atlanta
22 days ago

Having put about 200K nearly trouble-free miles on a 2006 Outlander with the 2.4 four banger, I’ve got warm/fuzzies for Mitsus. Although rewinding back 16 years for this guy might be pushing the love affair past its limit.

Still, there’s little it wouldn’t do when called upon to do so, on hopefully rare occasions. Assume it’s only a little better on gas than that Fury from the other day.

Masterbuilder
Masterbuilder
22 days ago

4X4 + stick = win.

Nice Volvo, but the Mitsu has this one.

Is Travis
Is Travis
22 days ago
Reply to  Masterbuilder

Stick and the 3000 V6. That thing is a runner.

Myk El
Myk El
22 days ago

Tough one, but the Montero I think has more potential use to me at the moment, so picked it.

JDE
JDE
22 days ago

Pajero is cleaner, but the Volvo is something I cannot say I have ever seen of that vintage, I would want it simply because of that.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
22 days ago

Volvo, but both would be a nice high-mileage 2-car garage for the DIYer.

Matt Woods
Matt Woods
22 days ago

These are cheap cars, but I wouldn’t say either is a shitbox. Since there was no ‘both’ option, I went with the cheaper one.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
22 days ago

I’m not a fan of “incredible patina”. So my vote goes to the Mitsubishi.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
22 days ago

Agree. If we’re talking valuable antique furniture, well, patina away y’all. When it comes to cars, admiring patina is like praising an older person’s wrinkles. Now, battle scars are still cool.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
21 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

 is like praising an older person’s wrinkles”

‘You’re looking great! Your face reminds me of some raisins I recently ate!’

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
22 days ago

This is a tough one. I really like the Volvo; it’s got a workmanlike quality not seen too often. But the Mitsu would be such a great winter/ski beater, I can’t pass up that utility.

Tim Beamer
Tim Beamer
22 days ago

Volvo, they’re boxy, but they’re good.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
22 days ago

I think yesterday was an easy choice, today, not so much. I want both, but utility with AWD wins me over.

David Durling
David Durling
22 days ago

Have to go with the Montero! Fond memories of tooling around Belize in 96-97 in a Montero I “borrowed” from the US embassy.

Mike B
Mike B
22 days ago

That Montero is cool. I love those 80s/90s boxy Japanese SUV’s. This one’s kinda rough, but at least the body/frame should be fairly good. These do not exist in the northeast anymore, and even the following generation (my fav) is super rare. Whenever I see one listed it’s either a basket case and/or they want all the money for it.

Cerberus
Cerberus
22 days ago

Volvo! I was too slow arriving at the seller with the cash to get a mint ’67 144S about 30 years ago for half the price and that still annoys me today. Plus, I have less than no interest in the other thing to the point that I didn’t even bother to read about it.

58
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x