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