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