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1970's & '80s Volvos

jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
edited March 2014 in Volvo
Per Mr. Shiftright's suggestion, I have decided to create a topic for this board devoted to the discussion of all '70s and '80s Volvos. Now the host and the rest of us can dig up some more dirt on these infamous (or famed, whatever you like) Swedish imports. Talking about them on the German car discussion wasn't all that relevant there.


  • amazonamazon Posts: 293
    those Volvos were as bad as Shifty is making them out to be. They will not become collectible, but were excellent for the daily transportation chores.
  • mminerbimminerbi Posts: 88
    From messages in the "USED German Luxury Cars" topic, I assume the Volvo 140 was the predecessor to the 240, correct? If so, what year was the 140 introduced, and what was the last year for the 140?

    Also, wasn't there a 144 and/or a 244? How reliable were they?

    What changes made the B21 engine better/more reliable than the B18 and B20? What were the displacements and horsepower of these engines? What years were they made? Were the B18 and B20 overhead cam or overhead valve designs?
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    ...were simply internal designations to denote the four door models. This continued up through the 850 series (854=sedan, 855=wagon.)

    I, too, will agree that our esteemed host might be shorting the Volvos of yore. As a 740 owner, I'll be first to point out its faults, such as the crack-prone dash (seemed to be a common thing in '80s European cars) and the falling headliner (again, certainly not unique to Volvos.) However, it's built very solidly, has a great paint job after 13 years, and it's the most dead-simple car to work on I've owned (granted, to this point they've almost all been front-drivers.) I'm not crazy about the sealed-beam headlights, though we can pin the blame for those on the DOT.
    Is the car sexy? Hardly. If I wanted that I'd have bought something else. Is it fun to drive? Well, in the winter it's certainly interesting. Is it reliable? Hell, yes. I've only put in normal maintenance money (no actual repairs) thus far, which has been pretty much the case since the car was new (I have all the maintenance records.) Simply put, it's good, safe, versatile transport that I wouldn't hesitate to jump in tomorrow and drive cross country. It's not a Mercedes, nor did it ever pretend to be. It's a testament to the car's durability that I'm constantly getting surprised remarks from people (non-car enthusiasts, granted) thinking it's a much newer car than it really is. I can't think of a single American or Japanese car from that era that would have held up as well (my 1994 Honda Accord is starting to rust. My 1989 Volvo is not.) A GM car from the same era? Please.
  • mminerbimminerbi Posts: 88
    Interesting, lancefixer. Your statements about your 740 are certainly believable, but represent what one would hope for from a premium priced family sedan; that is, one that cost considerably more than, say, a Camry, Taurus, or Accord from the same model year.

    As one who grew up in the rust belt, and has had experience with rusting cars, your statements about your '94 Accord rusting while your '89 Volvo hasn't intrigues me. Like your Volvo, your Honda has galvanized steel body panels (most of the cars prior to the late '70s didn't, by contrast, which is the principal reason why they were more rust prone). That said, it makes sense that the amount of rust protection differs between cars. If the Volvo indeed has rust protection that's superior to the Honda, that would be a factor for justifying the price differential.

    How do you account for your Honda's rust? Do you live in the snow belt or near the ocean? Did both cars reside in the same location since they were new?

    Regarding your statement about GM cars, I've owned and own foreign and domestic brands, and am familiar with the reputation of GM cars. However, my experience with GM cars from the '70s and '80s was generally positive. For example, my '78 Pontiac LeMans (first year downsized intermediate) had 114,000 miles on it, and was going strong, when it was hit by a pickup truck and totaled. My daughter, the driver and only occupant in the car at the time, suffered only minimal and very temporary injuries, fortunately. My '86 Grand Am four cylinder went 188,000 miles before it died from head gasket failure. That's not bad. And we keep a '85 Olds '98 (first year for the FWD GM large body) around as an extra car. It has 148,000 on the odometer, and aside from needing the transmission rebuilt twice (the first time by the original owner, under warranty, the second time when I owned it, at 89,000), it's been low maintenance. Of course, we've replaced things that you'd normally expect to fail with age and mileage, such as brakes, exhaust, water pump, starter, headliner (once), plus one item that you probably wouldn't (the rack and pinion steering was replaced at 50,000, under the extended GM warranty, but needs to be replaced again), but overall it's been reliable. The Olds also is also roomy and rides well. The Olds is especially relevant to this topic because it was in the same price range as the Volvo 740.
  • amazonamazon Posts: 293
    Are generally designated with a letter and number code. THe first letter can be either "B" for a gasoline engine, or a "D" for a diesel.

    Then, there's a number, which indicates the displacement. I.E. a B21 is a 2.1 liter gasoline engine.

    The last letter(s) designate the type of induction system:
    "A"- Single carb
    "B"- High output Dual carb
    "D"- Low output Dual Carb
    "E"- Fuel Injection
    "F"- Low compression Fuel Injection for use with unleaded gasoline
    "T"- Turbo

    So, a B23ET is a 2.3 liter gasoline engine with turbo and fuel injection.

    The B16, B18, B20, and B30 engines were Pushrod OHV, while the B17, B19, B21, B23, B27, B28 were OHC.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,469
    ...back in the late '80's when they had the 740, 760, and 780? Without knowing anything, I'd guess they were all 7-series, but one had a 4-cyl, one had a 6-cyl, and one had an 8-cyl.

    From what I've been able to look up though, it looks like the 740's were all 4-cyl, while the 760 sedans were 6-cyl, but the wagon had a turbocharged 4-cyl. The 780 was available only as a coupe, with a 6-cyl engine.

    Back in 1991, our neighbors bought a slightly used 1989 7-series wagon (can't remember if it was a 740 or 760 though). It was a dark gray with (IIRC) a black leather interior. It seemed like a solid, well-built car, and even looked good in 1998 when they finally got rid of it and replaced it with a Legacy Outback. It had gotten to the point though, that every time it went back to the dealer they were looking at $1000+. Worse, the Volvo dealer was the only place that would service it...none of the local shops would even touch it!

    One thing I'll say for it though...that Volvo always looked good. Their Outback is already starting to look a bit ratty!

    Lancer, what are you doing to that Accord to make it rust already? :-P

    Just to throw in my experience with domestic cars of that era, I have an '89 Gran Fury. It's basically a 1976 Volare with more formal sheetmetal, a GM carburetor, and an airbag, so it doesn't exactly represent the forefront of Detroit technology of the time. Before I bought it, the camshaft went bad, around 73000 miles. Supposedly that was a common flaw with the 318's in 1989. The place I bought it from had thrown in a 318 out of a wrecked Diplomat, with about 75000 miles on it, and it hasn't given me a lick of engine/driveline trouble since I've had up to around 117,000 miles. The suspension has also been solid. Don't ask me about starters though. Or the radiator that went bad. Power windows are a touchy subject too! It's also not the prettiest thing in the world, now that its metallic silver repaint is fading.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    The carbureted 318's from the late '80s actually used GM carbs (both cars & trucks)?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,469 was only the318-4bbl used in police cars, from '85-89. Older engines used a Carter Thermoquad, but in '85 they went to a Quadrajet. By that time I don't think you could get a 318-4bbl in trucks...probably just a 2-bbl, and then if you wanted something bigger you got a 360 or a Diesel.

    I'd guess by that time, the 4-bbl carb, or carbs in general, were becoming pretty rare, so Chrysler probably had to go with what was available.
  • amazonamazon Posts: 293
    Yes, the model codes were messed up in the 80's. The 780 was the 2 door coupe with either the PRV V6 engine, or the Volvo B23FT inline 4. Not a V8 in other words.

    There were 740's with a 6 cylinder diesel. Most 740's had the B23 engine, however.

    There were 760's with the B23ET or B23FT. They also came with the V6, and the diesel 6.

    In 1979, Volvo came out with the first 6 cylinder passenger car diesel.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    All but the first 700 series cars used the B230F and B230FT, which is basically a B23 with additional emissions equipment. But I'm sure you knew that. :-)

    My Accord and rust (since so many people are interested:)

    Both cars have lived life in the snow belt. The Honda was originally bought by its first owner in Maine; I bought it in New Hampshire and it moved with me to Iowa. The Volvo was bought new in Delaware and was brought to Iowa within six months of ownership (going by the maintenance records.) I bought it here in Iowa. The rust on the Honda is the typical rust on all Honda's pre-current models; on the driver's side rear fender where it meets the plastic bumper cover. It's a fairly well documented design flaw that allows water and crud to collect and sit behind there.
  • mminerbimminerbi Posts: 88
    Amazon, wasn't the Volvo diesel manufactured for Volvo by Volkswagen?
  • amazonamazon Posts: 293
    lancerfixer... The B230 was a low friction version of the B23. The "F" was the designation for use with emissions equipment. There was a B230E also, with higher output, but needed premium leaded gas. These engines had the Bosch K-jetronic FI system, versus the B230F Bosch LH or Motromic FI systems.

    mminerbi... Yes, it was made by VW, but only in a Volvo was the 6 cyl diesel installed in a passenger car.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    If you know so much about Volvo's engine designations, then what is the motor in my '93 850 referred to as?
  • amazonamazon Posts: 293
    I'm a little unsure about these newer engines. However, if it's a base 850, it should be B5254F. The first number is for number of cylinders, and the last is for 4 valves per cylinder.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    You'd be correct. The base engine was the only one available in '93.
  • amazonamazon Posts: 293
    The 264 had an engine which was designed by Renault and Peguot (sp?). It was the B27 from 1975 to 1980. After that, it was enlarged to B28. The engines got better in the 80's, but they were never as durable as a Volvo engine should be.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,473
    That's putting it kindly, yes. I have always had very low regard for the 164 and 264. I personally find them clumsy, ugly cars not worthy of the Volvo name.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,473
    Okay, this topic has been made active again, as per the request!


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  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Thank you, Mr. Shiftright.

    Amazon, if you're around, I'd like to ask about something that's been bugging me for a while. On occasion, I will see an old raggged 144/145 or 164 cruising the streets. However, I very rarely see a first-year 240 around (1975). I saw my first '75 240 on the campus of UVM yesterday; this was a dirty-looking orange 245 being driven by a student from Ct. Why do you think these first-year 240s haven't survived as well as their other peers?
  • There is a MINT late-70s 244 DL sedan on my college campus. It has California plates (the old blue ones). I don't know who owns it, but I'd like to meet him or her and ask about its history, mileage, etc.

    -Andrew L
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628 do you know the 240 you saw was a '75 (as opposed to another year)? When I was in high school, a co-worker had her (deceased) grandfather's '73 164 sedan, orange, automatic. It was a cool car, though admittedly she didn't keep it for too long. My aunt and uncle had an earlier (I'm gonna guess '71) 164, it was an awful car (they owned it briefly after their marriage in 1976-77).
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    I know that the 245 I saw was definitely a '75 because of the round headlights, all black-grille, and the smallish rectangular taillights.
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    ...I can never tell Volvo years apart, though I can usually 'guesstimate' with a fair degree of accuracy. Weren't there some years in the mid-80s when Volvo didn't use the number (240/242/244) desgination at all for these cars, and merely used the trim level (DL, GL or Turbo) as their name? Seems to me this happened like 1982-87 or so (or maybe they returned to the 240 moniker with the '86 styling updates)?
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Starting with the 1975 models, Volvo used the 242/244/245 designations. They did this up until 1979. Then for 1980, when they underwent minor cosmetic revisions and interior changes, they went to DL/GL/GLE, etc. This continued through to 1985. In 1986, when the series got those big TV-like headlights, every model went to the 240 designation and stayed there until the end in 1993.
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 32,094
    IIRC, the engine on the first 240s was very weak (2.1 liter?). It was a new OHC engine that replaced the "tried and true" B20 (whatever designation that was up to).

    I still remember going to the NY auto show around 1977 -78, and seeing a 240GT, with rectangular fog lights, alloys, sport seats. Really sharp. Too bad I was only 15 at the time.

    I learned to drive on a 1969 144 4-speed, so I have a soft spot for older Volvos (among other things).

    Maybe I should have looked at the '83 turbo wagon for $350 that was in the paper after all (so it needed a clutch...)

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2013 Acura RDX AWD (wife's)

  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Yes, it was the B21 that replaced the old OHV B20. Not until the B23 of 1983 did the 240 series get some adequate power.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Maybe the reason the B21 was pretty weak in those years (1976-81) was due to the fact that just like any other car of the late '70s, it was pretty much emasculated due to emissions crap.
  • bhill2bhill2 Posts: 1,993
    I don't know about the late 70's, but I had a '72 164E and, probably because of the fuel injection, it suffered much less from emissions crap problems than most of the other cars of that era. In fact, despite Shifty's distain for these cars, it was light years ahead of the domestic jobs in drivability. It would also show its tail lights to most of them (it was a stick). Of course, you have to consider what I was competing with.

    2009 BMW 335i, 2003 Corvette cnv. (RIP 2001 Jaguar XK8 cnv and 1985 MB 380SE [the best of the lot])

  • amazonamazon Posts: 293
    The reason the first year of 240's are all but gone from our streets has to do with rust more than anything. Volvo made some changes to their paint process at the model year change '74-'75, which resulted in less than adequate paint quality. In Sweden, Volvo paid to have those cars repainted. Also, the fact that Volvo had re-sourced their steel for cost reduction purposes didn't help the matter.

    The B21 was a large performance improvement over the B20. Reliability wise, these engines (the family of B21-B23) were definitely of Volvo quality. THe cars did get heavier during the 70's though, which is why the performance was anemic in this era.
  • amazonamazon Posts: 293
    That car could have been a car from 75 to 79 from that description. The model years of wagons are very hard to tell apart.
This discussion has been closed.