Travel: Milan To Antwerp: The 'Wasabi Volvo' Takes On A European Road Trip Like A Simple Sunday Cruise

Milan To Antwerp: The ‘Wasabi Volvo’ Takes On A European Road Trip Like A Simple Sunday Cruise

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
May 9, 2018

Story and photography by Yannick Moonen

The Volvo 240-series is one of those great cars that everyone seems to have a story about. The six degrees of separation are often reduced to just one or two when there’s a 240 in the mix.

Known for being safe and sturdy, dependable and utilitarian, they were also touring car champions, so you can add versatile to the list of attributes that have made these cars such cult items over the years. To me, and to most, it is the quintessential long roof variant of the 240 that really captures the essence of the model though. The brick, the soccer mom special, whatever nicknames you want to use, when you hear the words “station wagon” it’s likely a Volvo that comes to mind first. It is a blueprint of sorts, and whether you want to keep it OEM or swap in a V8, the car will dutifully do what you ask of it.

With this in mind, I added the 240 to my list while I was looking for a new-old car to purchase last year, and then I came across one that would be hard to forget and easy to regret if I let it slip away—I call it the “Wasabi Volvo.” It was all the way down in Milan (where else would you find such a unique color, right?), and I was all the way up in Antwerp. No big deal, distance be damned, I had to have it.

If I was going to buy a car sight unseen from another country, why not really throw caution to the wind and make a road trip out of it? Joined by my girlfriend, my best friend, and his girlfriend, our little expeditionary crew purchased a set of one-way plane tickets to Milan with the intent to drive my new 1976 Volvo 245L—the first generation of the wagon that would stay in production until the early 1990s—back to our home in Belgium. It was a 1,400km trip that would take us three days to complete, so not the world’s longest or most arduous trek, but certainly one preceded by the anxiety of relying on a car that none of us had laid eyes on before. But, it was a Volvo 240 after all, and it takes a lot to keep those things off the road…

Landing at the airport, we were met in the arrivals terminal by the car’s owner and the car itself. It looked to be in exquisite condition for a car of its age and function, and after the requisite paperwork the keys were handed over to me, the somewhat wistful seller took a train back home, and we loaded up our luggage into the capacious cargo area, and set off to chart a northerly course through the continent.

Certainly it was a bit scary, but we just went for it. Sometimes that’s the best decision you can make, but usually you can’t know that until you’re evaluating it from a position of hindsight. Things started off smoothly, and on the first day we took the Wasabi Volvo to Lake Como to spend the night and take in the impressive scenery and the villas and grottos to match the natural splendor of the place.

Day 2 saw us drive through Mont Blanc into France, then continuing further up into the country to finish the day in the city of Dyon. The next morning we headed out for the city of Metz, where we paid a visit to the Centre Pompidou-Metz (not to be confused with the similarly named complex in Paris), of course snapping a quick photo next to the modern art museum’s intriguing architecture. Later on in the day we arrived back home in Antwerp, and seeing as it was my birthday I don’t think I could have asked for a better gift as a car lover than my new-to-me Volvo 245.

Throughout the trip the car performed wonderfully, as is the nature of these fantastic pieces of Scandinavian metal magic. We loaded it with plenty of luggage (the reverse rake look suits these cars, and indeed it is a common sight to find a wagon full of some kind of cargo, whether its lumber, painter’s gear, sports equipment, or a bunch of backpacks for some friends on an adventure together.

Sure, you can conceive of more exotic means of locomotion to carry you across Europe, but there’s something so serene and easygoing about putting serious miles on a Volvo as opposed to some finicky sports car. Going on a road trip with my best friends to share it all with, just taking in the scenery and not having to worry about mechanical hiccups, what’s better than that?

Join the Conversation

Leave a Reply

12 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
8 Comment authors
dieselsixJackson WillitsSebastiaan hensAlex SobranPDXBryan Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted

Of course, it was not a restoration, but the little frog was now decidedly more beautiful. I kept it for a couple of years, then gave it to a friend who kept it for a few years, unfortunately he had it repainted (I preferred it “nature”, but it’s my point of view), after which he sold it in his turn in the area of Mantua seems to me. Years later a dear friend of mine bought it, he took care of the interiors, sold it in his turn, and then someone had the very American chrome luggage rack mounted on… Read more »

Immagine 076.jpg
Immagine 088.jpg
Immagine 089.jpg

nice…n’est pas?

Immagine 073.jpg
Immagine 074.jpg

not too bad…

Immagine 070.jpg
Immagine 071.jpg

Then, calmly, at home, I started to clean it up a little, just to take away some opacity. interspersing the polishing with time to change my daughter’s diapers …

Immagine 068.jpg
Immagine 069.jpg
Immagine 072.jpg

here she is traveling from Paris to Torino…800 km without any problem


oh oh … my old grenuille …
how much time has passed, I am happy that after so many vicissitudes it is still lively.
I bought it on ebay around April 2007, as the only bidder for 130 euros or so …
Then a friend who was coming to my area did me the favor of bringing her from France where she was.
Here are the first photos he sent me.

Jackson Willits
Jackson Willits

Looking good! What an awesome trip. I have your wagon’s older funky-colored sibling. Look me up if you’re ever in the Pacific Northwest!

Sebastiaan hens
Sebastiaan hens

Super tof verhaal!

Bryan Dickerson
Bryan Dickerson

What a beautiful Brick and a dream road trip! One of the things I love so much about the 240 is how much performance capability is lurking under the unintimidating skin. Too bad you were not able to add some IPD anti sway bars. springs, and Bilstein shocks berfore driving home! I have two 245s and have big plans to make one into an all-star road trip car.

Bob Borsh
Bob Borsh

Please don’t either of you how few shekels of whatever currency crossed palms to obtain these beauties, least all of us will be crying in our bowl of Swedish meatballs (which, truth be know, have their origin in Turkish cuisine ! : look it up and weep)

Brad Letney
Brad Letney

On the 30th of April I flew south to Laredo to buy a 92 240 Wagon. The seller picked me up at the airport, drove me to his home for paperwork, then to a branch of my bank to exchange money. I then set out on my 350 mile drive home. The 240 never skipped a beat. While the scenery in south Texas is definitely not on the same level as central Europe, it was an enjoyable drive.

Tobias Ander
Tobias Ander

Really enjoyed the story! I’m from Sweden and grew up with these cars, they were literally everywhere and I developed some kind of love-hate relationship to them. One day, it seemed, they were all gone though, and now I kind of miss them. The pictures really remind me of my childhood!