Buy­ing Guide

Few things in life are as mag­nif­i­cently ro­bust as these de­fin­i­tive old Swedes

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - WOrdS Richard Gunn PhO­tOg­ra­Phy Magic Car Pics ‘It con­tin­ued un­til 1993, ac­tu­ally out­liv­ing its 740 re­place­ment’

Volvo 240

Clas­sic cars are gen­er­ally seen as rather frag­ile and in need of con­stant at­ten­tion. But that’s cer­tainly not true of ev­ery model, and one type in par­tic­u­lar has forged it­self a solid rep­u­ta­tion for tough­ness – the Volvo 240. This was the ve­hi­cle that helped the Swedish mar­que to be­come such a fix­ture of mid­dle class Bri­tain and estab­lished the leg­end that Volvos were about as indestructible as Keith Richards, set­ting the com­pany tem­plate for years to come. They were in­cred­i­bly prac­ti­cal in es­tate form, too, with enor­mous load-lug­ging ca­pa­bil­ity. There’s a rea­son an­tique deal­ers loved them so much – it’s amaz­ing just how much you can fit into the five-door ver­sion. They’ll take care of a Chip­pen­dale more ef­fec­tively than a Black­pool hen party. There’s also some­thing time­less about them. The ba­sic shape dates back to 1966, when the 140 se­ries was launched. This meta­mor­phosed into the 240 in 1974 with a new front end, en­gines and MacPher­son strut sus­pen­sion. The range con­tin­ued un­til 1993, ac­tu­ally out­liv­ing its 740 re­place­ment.

How­ever, many as­pects of the 240’s rear-wheel drive en­gi­neer­ing, plus its general breeze­block-like per­sona (es­pe­cially in es­tate form) lived on in the 940 un­til 1998, after which Volvo em­braced curves and front-wheel drive. That’s 32 years of bul­let­proof Fly­ing Bricks, 19 of which were dom­i­nated by the 240.

De­spite their in­her­ent en­gi­neer­ing qual­ity, these Volvos aren’t com­pletely im­mune from cor­ro­sion, time and high mileage, so you still need to check them care­fully. In­deed, their sta­tus as mo­tor­ing sur­vivors, plus their lack of glam­our, of­ten means that due care and at­ten­tion gets skipped. So find one that has been prop­erly looked after and you’ll have an ap­pre­ci­at­ing clas­sic that will prob­a­bly last for cen­turies, not just years or decades.

tOugh POWEr The en­gines are prac­ti­cally indestructible – as­sum­ing they’ve had proper oil changes, mileages well in ex­cess of 200,000 are eas­ily at­tain­able, of­ten with­out the need for sig­nif­i­cant at­ten­tion. If there’s ev­i­dence of gen­uine Volvo oil fil­ters being used, so much the bet­ter, as they have a non-re­turn valve. When en­gines do wear, it’s usu­ally the rocker shafts; a rat­tle on start-up should clear quickly. Rough idles could sig­nal a worn camshaft – lis­ten for click­ing. Do the usual checks for oil and water mix­ing, which will prob­a­bly mean the head gas­ket has failed. intO gEar The gear­boxes are just as rugged as the en­gines, but prob­lems can oc­cur at higher mileages. There should be lit­tle or no noise, and changes should be smooth – this ap­plies to both man­ual and au­to­matic ver­sions. Check that over­drive – if fit­ted – func­tions prop­erly, al­though if it doesn’t, it’s prob­a­bly just an elec­tri­cal is­sue. The Borg-Warner three-speed au­to­mat­ics are re­li­able as long as they haven’t over­heated. The fluid should be a cherry red. Brown or black, and smelling burnt, sug­gests all is not well. The back axles should out­last this mil­len­nium. rOt WatCh The big­gest cause for con­cern is the wind­screen aper­ture. Floor­pans and in­ner sills can also go, like­wise the front lower cor­ner of the doors and es­tate tail­gates. Other ar­eas to in­ves­ti­gate are the whee­larches, bat­tery tray, around the bon­net hinges and the base of the B-posts. triM tiME Lower-spec cars had cloth up­hol­stery, with leather on more luxurious vari­ants. The but­tons on the ear­lier hide seats can work loose and dis­ap­pear. The mul­ti­tude of cloth colours and pat­terns can make like-for-like re­place­ment tricky, so avoid cars with dam­aged seats. Door pock­ets of­ten suf­fer from shoe dam­age. ELECtriCKEry The fuse­box on the near­side A-post suf­fers water ingress and the fuse holder ter­mi­nals be­come bent, cre­at­ing poor con­nec­tions. A fail­ing fuel gauge sig­nals its in­tent by be­hav­ing er­rat­i­cally. On es­tates, check that the heated rear win­dow, wiper and num­ber­plate light work – the loom can break where it passes through the hinge.

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