It’s an un­likely can­di­date for fun, but a few tweaks can give lots of laughs with this small Volvo

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classics - Richard Dredge

Few clas­sics have a rep­u­ta­tion as un­de­served as the Volvo 300- Se­ries. It’s un­der­stand­able re­ally; firstly it’s a Volvo and we all know how they’re built for com­fort­able cruis­ing rather than pin-sharp han­dling. But while the 340 and 360 aren’t the last word in sport­ing dy­nam­ics, they’re much bet­ter than you’d think, thanks to them be­ing rear-wheel drive with their ma­jor weights at each end (engine in the nose, gear­box in the tail). As a re­sult, they han­dle in ex­tremis far bet­ter than you might ex­pect.

Launched in 1976 as a three­door hatch­back with a con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion (the car was de­vel­oped by DAF), by 1978 a man­ual gear­box was avail­able (the trans­mis­sion be­ing based on that of the 200- Se­ries) and a five-door hatch was un­veiled in 1980. Those first cars fea­tured a 1.4-litre Re­nault engine and were badged 343/345, but by 1983 these 340s had been sup­ple­mented by the 360 which fea­tured a Volvo 2.0-litre B200 unit in car­bu­ret­ted or in­jected forms.

Dur­ing its 15-year life­span the 300- Se­ries fea­tured three dif­fer­ent petrol en­gines. The 340 came with Re­nault-sourced units, ei­ther a 1.4-litre B14 over­head-valve unit or a 1.7-litre B172 F-se­ries over­head-cam engine. The B200 Volvo pow­er­plant was of­fered only in the 360, while there was a diesel-pow­ered 340 over­seas, again, Re­nault-sourced.

Engine swaps are com­mon, with the Re­nault F7P 16-valve units be­ing the most pop­u­lar, as found in Clio and Me­gane mod­els in 1.8- or 2.0-litre guises. A 480ES Turbo pow­er­plant will slot straight in, but few own­ers take this route; more pop­u­lar is the torquey and tune­able 2.3-litre lump from the 940 Turbo. Re­nault 5 GT Turbo en­gines are an­other pop­u­lar swap as they’re fairly avail­able and if you do ev­ery­thing your­self you could get ev­ery­thing done for as lit­tle as £500. How­ever, by the time you’ve sorted an ex­haust, in­ter­cooler and all the pipework you’ll prob­a­bly have

spent closer to £1000.

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