Nearly Everyone Has A Volvo 240 Story: What’s Yours?
I drove a 1991 240 wagon in college and for some time afterwards. It had a five speed, four working doors if you included the hatch, an uncountable amount of dents, no hubcaps, unknown mileage on its broken odometer, two snow tires for winters in New England, and enough scratches to look like it was not only street-parked in Brooklyn for its life since new—which was the case—but mated on by every clawed animal in heat in the borough. To most people it was the quintessential piece of shit car. Or at least the guy or gal in my parking garage with a McLaren MP4-12C that I slotted it in next to whenever possible probably thought so.
It’s since been sold to the next long-haired college kid who likely won’t be its last, and I’ve missed it more than I expected even despite how much it made me smile. It was the slowest vehicle I’ve owned, by far the most fuel-efficient, and definitely the most practical, and though it’s down a few hundred horsepower from some of the more traditionally exciting cars I’ve had the privilege of driving, I’ve never had more fun in any of them than I did in my black Volvo 240 wagon.
It seems oxymoronic that a car known as an automotive brick, one of the safest and most staid machines in the history of driving, would be the source of so much indulgent fun; when it snowed I’d wake up earlier than I ever would for class or work just to get some time in the unplowed mess with the tail-happy wagon. Rear-wheel drive and a clutch pedal are really all you need to have a good time on white roads, but doing it in a car worth less than a grand makes it a hell of a lot more fun when you aren’t so worried about clipping a chunk of ice. Even when the conditions were such that its trickle of horsepower couldn’t get the rears loose, the 240 epitomized the charms of driving slow cars fast; its tired and soft-to-begin-with suspension made it a seat-sliding riot to chuck into turns with some extra flourish and angle, and rather than push and plow when you really stepped into it (though there was no noticeable difference in acceleration for the last three inches or so of the gas pedal’s travel), it just made everything feel more exaggerated without letting things get out of hand. Perhaps this is why it’s considered to be so safe.
For me, the 240 regularly hauled kegs, skis, and car parts (typically not for itself), and it could fit eight people if three of them didn’t mind not wearing a seatbelt. When they were new you might see a family of yuppies towing a JY15 behind them with two golden retrievers smudging up the long planes of glass in the back, and today you might see that very same car painted with spray cans and parked in the dust at Burning Man with a bunch of neo-hippies filling it up with bong smoke. They last. As people say, a 200-series Volvo might drive like shit longer than anything else will drive in general, though most who’ve owned them or spent serious time in them don’t have such negative sentiments.
So whether you grew up in the trunk’s jump seats making faces at the drivers behind you, bought one in high school and promptly took it off a jump, swapped a V8 in to create an ultimate sleeper, bought a nice one to keep for the long haul, or simply had a buddy with one a while ago, we want to know: what’s your 240 story?