Featured: This Is How Volvo Dressed Its World-Beating 242 Turbo For Battle

This Is How Volvo Dressed Its World-Beating 242 Turbo For Battle

By Joel Clark
February 17, 2016

Back in 2013, I launched my new career as an artist, and doing so, found the need for a suitable car with lots of load space. Although practicality was uncomfortably high on my list of boxes that needed ticking, things like; style, comfort, class, and “more than four cylinders” still took equal precedence! My eventual choice was the much-loved Volvo V70. Since, I’ve had the strangest feelings for Volvos start to run through me…and I know I’m not alone.

Growing up in the UK during the ’70s and ’80s, there was only ever one estate car (or wagon, if you’re American), and that was the Volvo 240—quite possibly one of the least sporty cars ever to put rubber to tarmac. It was seen more as the ‘ultimate family machine’ as opposed to ‘ultimate driving machine’.

And it’s this idea that fuels my new-found passion for all things Volvo 240. More often than not, I get photos of tastefully retro-modified 240s popping up in my Instagram feed, and as a result I have really learned to appreciate the car’s clean and honest design aesthetics.

So why is this new trend with modifiers rebuilding the brick spreading like Ikea stores? Well, I know that in the homeland, Swedish builders have—of course—long used the 240 as a base car, and there’s even an entire rally championship devoted to flinging bricks through the countryside, but where does this fascination for everyone else originate from?

It must surely go back to the European Touring Car Championship-winning 242 Turbo. If you were thinking I was going to say the TWR-built Volvo 850 T5s of British Touring Car fame, then you were almost right.

Those incredible cars were going to be the focus of this story—if it wasn’t for the Nordica-liveried 240 Turbo from the mid-eighties.

Light to dark blue stripes on a white car, with black window frames, is as safe a design solution as the cars themselves. This isn’t a dig at the design, in fact, far from it. You, like me, may have an unnatural obsession with blue stripes on a white background, mostly thanks to Suzuki’s GSXR and Scania Trucks—the fellow Swedish manufacturer had very similar stripes as an option during the same era.

Seeing these two passions come together was a guarantee that my creative eye would pop with excitement. The livery may be very straightforward and safe, but it was totally on trend for the ’80s—this being the ultimate decade for stripes on vehicles, graphics graced everything from hatchbacks to HGVs, no one could escape a stripe…or four.

To match the ’80’s graphics, the car sports some of my favourite, classic, ‘factory’ modifications: a chin spoiler, subtle rear decklid spoiler, lattice split-rim alloys, and a not-too-lowered suspension.

What a perfect inspiration for the growing legion of Volvo fans to draw from: a car that totally changes its image with such simple nips and tucks. The Swedes—along with the rest of Scandinavia—have always stuck to their own ‘design’ guns, and have consistently delivered superb design ethics throughout their manufacturing history.

Having a ski boot brand as a main sponsor—well that’s just the icing-on-the-lake! Actually, the various properties of the livery would sit well on an actual ’80s ski boot.

The 240 Turbo wasn’t all show either, it had equal success in terms of results, winning both the ETCC and DTM championships in 1985. The ‘flying brick’ would, rightly so, scare the competition as much as the 850 T5s did a decade later, and therefore deserves its place in speed icons history, it also answers my question on how awesome modified Volvos can become.

There is a dark side to this car—which only adds more kudos to the legend—and that is its rule-breaking streak. The FISA rules allowed for special homologation models, and this is where it gets interesting: Volvo were reputed to have built 500 examples of the two door 240 Turbo Evo but the cars that actually got sold to customers did not exactly have any of the previously mentioned unique features, such as a bigger turbo, water injection, and so on. The story is that Volvo delivered the 500 cars to the USA—many fitted with desirable flathoods and a rear spoiler in the trunk—and 23 of the cars were in actual Evo specification and were inspected by FISA.

However, the other cars did not have the special equipment and were sold as regular 240 Turbo models. The 23 inspected cars were then supposedly sent back to Europe and turned into racing cars. These Evo models, I’m led to believe, are still somewhat of a mystery and highly sought after—if at all they even exist?

I, for one, like this naughty side of Volvo that only seems to come out on the track, and with the recent Polestar-based cars making waves, I’m glad they’re throwing ‘flying bricks’ our way again. Now, how long does one wait until you can retro-mod an old V70?

Images courtesy of Volvo

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David Lake
David Lake(@davidmga1600)
5 years ago

My first car was a 1971 Volvo 144s, twin carb, my second car was a 1979 242GT. I love both of them, but the 242GT had the best brakes and could pull up so very well. I lived in the mountains so used those brakes hard, every day.

Robert Schneider
Robert Schneider(@1982twofortyfive)
5 years ago

Retro-mod a v70 ? Volvos have plenty of performance built right in. Proper tune & a tank full of premium fuel is all you need. Go figure that out yourself. & I know this how ? 13 years working in Volvo service.

5 years ago

I really enjoy the squareness that my 242 has. I’ve changed a few body lines that I didn’t like, but in general, I love it. Thanks for the good article!

André Borges
André Borges(@fb_1792513473)
5 years ago

Shh! Let’s keep the Volvo love between ourselves (no one wants prices to rise and speculation)! 😀 Me, two of my uncles, cousins and mother have been keeping the passion for Volvos here in Curitiba, Brazil. We’ve had the whole lot: from 242s to 850s, from 90’s S40s and C70s to chinese (a bit wobbly, if you ask me) S60s, the last one so far.

These days I’ve been driving my dear, dear C70 1998, which I think is the single most beautiful coupé from the 90’s. I’ve bought it battered and debilitated and managed to take the most from it. To this day, I still fry some older Porsches and lesser Mustangs (in the highway).

These 1st generation C70s are fantastic Gran Turismos and, with some tiny tweaks, can become true tarmac shredders! Here’s some eye candy:

Kyle Long
Kyle Long(@kylelong19)
5 years ago

Love the article. There’s just something about the 240 that emphasizes the spirit of the 80s and I love them for that. Having said that though you need to change out about half of the car before you can get anywhere near fast or good handling. But out of my cars, my 242 is still my favorite.

Bryan Dickerson
Bryan Dickerson(@pdxbryan)
5 years ago

Hey WOW!
I replied and it worked! Far out! I haven’t been able to do that since “The Change”.
My own 245 dream is to get my VW TDI motor into my Silver ’93 245 within the next year. I was down in San Diego and got to take a drive in Josh’s ( of Yoshifab ) 245TDI. Awesome car! Fast, stays with WRXs in the canyons, and gets 40mpg. If you’re not familiar with Yoshifab, they fab some great Volvo parts. Between them and IPD, 240s should fair well far into the apocolips (sp?).

Bryan Dickerson
Bryan Dickerson(@pdxbryan)
5 years ago

Shuddup you guys, we don’t want everyone knowing how awesome bricks are. And Todd, thanks for the link! That is one badass wagon and the same to you and your crew

Todd Lappin
Todd Lappin(@telstar)
5 years ago

Love this article, because we’ve been racing a 240 wagon for a long time, and ours is now, officially, America’s most badass Volvo 240 station wagon:

Oh, and it raced last weekend at Sonoma Raceway. For about 15 hours. Easily.

Tim Scott
Tim Scott(@noddy)
5 years ago

Love the main pic with the Holden Commodore of Allan Grice giving them some stick! Your next story should be on the HDT Group A Commodores! Group A/Group B produced the best racing/road cars of all time.

John Poletti
John Poletti(@john_poletti)
4 years ago
Reply to  Tim Scott

I wonder if they know what a Holden Commodore is Tim? I couldn’t see where they mentioned the Australian touring car championship and how the Volvo won that either.

Ben France
Ben France(@bfrance)
5 years ago

LOVE this article! I’m definitely a 240 fanatic. My parents had several when I was growing up. In fact, my current daily/project is a 1989 240 estate. Great fun!

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
5 years ago

What made and still makes the 240 series so appealing is the clean unadorned and yet somehow elegant eternally classic design along wth a very spacious interior in comparison to the footprint , a complete lack of blind spots and infinite usability .

Toss in the Turbos .. especially in the 240 wagon/estate for a little extra go [ or previously the 240 GT which though lacking any extra go had a serious increase in handling ] … and is it any wonder to this day the much maligned 240 still appeals across the board from exotic car fanboys , to hipster soccer moms and right on up to those madcap and somewhat insane Scandinavian 240 hop up kings ?

The only negative ? Other than the abysmal reliability the fact that anyone over 6′ doesn’t fit worth a damn ( this I know first hand ) despite Sweden having one of the tallest average heights in the EU/UK …. Hmmmm .. go figure !

Back to the appeal off the 240 though . All the positive attributes I just mentioned with the 240 are the very same attributes that led me to my GLK AMG Sport daily driver .

Sad that Volvo went the Form over Function route … never to return .. ever since the demise of the 240

PS; No need to apologize about your choice of daily driver Mr Clark . Common sense and discernment are a positive personality trait … not a negative .

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
5 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

in addition … Google/Bing Volvo 240 Touring Cars .. last year was the 30th anniversary of Volvo’s ETC / DTM championship and the web is full of in depth articles about the cars , teams , drivers and history .. both official and unofficial . Along with a few substantiated and unsubstantiated rumors that surround them . But ahh … what the heck … back then everyone cheated … especially in the touring car series . Errr … and .. they still do ……. 😉

Dean Stanley
Dean Stanley(@stoneleigh)
5 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

Obviously you never owned one? Reliability was wonderful, other than the Delco heater fan motor. I had three in the 600,000km range, and I beat the living crap out of them. Next to the B18/B20 Volvo, one of the best engines ever made…I would say it’s equal actually. Only issue is rust eventually consuming them in salty environments. They were well balanced and good handling (much more so with GLT sway bars). Someday I will get my hands on a nice Turbo…

Matt Leicester
Matt Leicester(@matt_leicester)
4 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

I have way too many cars, my 1982 240 Turbo is my favorite for driving. If driven often, it has been quite reliable so far in its 277,000 miles, and even though I am 6’3″ tall, I fit quite well, with plenty of room for a helmet even. The times where I have had suspect reliability were the times when the car was not driven much as I was driving something else. I did rewire the fuel pump circuit to include a relay for the main pump and remove that particular 7 amps from the fuse box, and I have had to replace the tail light printed circuit boards twice. I have not even had to adjust the valves, ever! I check the clearances every timing belt replacement, but have never had to change a shim.
The dreaded rust is becoming a problem, the car is in dire need of some bodywork and paint or else I am going to lose it. Happily, everything underneath is still quite solid.

Maxime Veilleux
Maxime Veilleux(@quebecois)
5 years ago

Ive had the pleasure of driving one, My father gave it to me when I was 20

It had something like 585 000 Kilometers on it but still drove like a charm without suspect noise, It was an automatic though but still, lots of fun was had in that car.

Thanks Dad.

Maxime Veilleux
Maxime Veilleux(@quebecois)
5 years ago

Missing picture.