SALON PROVING A TRUSTY SWEDE
RUN BY Jack Phillips
OWNED SINCE August 2016
The idea of buying a Volvo 240 was conceived well before the brick became en vogue with the hipsters on Brick Lane. Originally the plan was for a Torslanda, the upmarket estate version with decals rising up its outside, leather seats and suchlike inside. That was until this very straight, very reasonably priced (albeit only a GL) saloon appeared. Within a day we were arranging to meet in Swindon – he was coming from Wales, I from east London. The token drive around introduced a shaky idle and a small misfire, plus a few specks of rust.
A Volvo fan from South Africa, the seller was only parting because his wife was pregnant and therefore he had bought an estate version. Apparently the saloon lacks space. Back home he was a classic car salesman and verified car guy who dealt mainly in Citroën DSs, though despite that dalliance in French cars he’d not encountered corrosion before. The strangest rust was on the scuttle, while the sills were spotting up, too.
Inevitably nothing proved fatal to the deal, so the car changed hands after dark and after my bank had been quelled there was no dubious activity going on. More supposed dubious activity followed a day later, when some intrigued police officers ran the car through the system (“We were wondering what it was”), pulled alongside and summoned me in to Beaconsfield services to enquire of its insurance – or purported lack thereof.
Soon clarified, along with the officer’s bizarre assumption that it was my mistress in the car and not my wife (I have neither).
It’s been relatively plain sailing for the big wafting barge since. A snapped handbrake cable wasn’t rectified (despite their insistence otherwise) by a garage in north London that was independent and now very much isn’t. A rising bill for work, none of which satisfactorily done, left me unhappily driving off still slightly shakily. “It’s just not a smooth engine,” was the sum of their investigation.
A failed MoT later – because of the ‘fixed’ handbrake – somehow resulted in the handing over of more money because their ‘free’ mending proved to be nothing of the sort. Nor, in fact, was it a mend. Thankfully, Darren Smith of DNS in Hastings learned his trade on 240s and is a friend of the family. So an extended stay at his place has rid it of rust, steadied the idle and finally repaired the handbrake.
Investigating why the rev counter only worked when the binnacle light dimmer knob was at the ‘off’ setting, and why the binnacle lights didn’t work regardless of where the knob pointed, cost him the chance to see Brighton vs Spurs.
Driving home, the car spluttered with the Blackwall Tunnel in sight. The alternator had given up, so a new battery was installed to get us home and the earth tweaked by an AA man who’d also learned his trade on 240s. It transpired the bracket wasn’t standard, and wouldn’t easily accept the new unit.
The odometer has since stopped, so that has been added to a to-do list that includes replacing the fan motor (the incumbent mercilessly failed on the way from Le Mans in sweltering 30ºC-odd heat). Quotes for the dash-out job tip £1000, even though the part has cost just £50, so two days on my girlfriend’s parents’ driveway need to be reserved.
While the dash is off, a new stereo will replace the tape deck and the amplifier must be bypassed.
Then it’s time to re-lacquer the roof, troubleshoot the rear passenger door electrics, the tapping from the engine, and the squeaking and creaking offside suspension. The car gets attention wherever it goes, albeit usually of the bemused kind, and it has character. There aren’t many around – fewer than 2000, apparently – so it’s certainly worth keeping.
Soft velour seats add to the sofa-like drive. Rust from blocked scuttle was tricky to fix.
Clockwise from main: Le Mans brought the heater motor demise – and a sticky return leg; with wagons at Beaulieu’s Volvo day; Devon trip ended spell off the road.