Tuesday, March 18, 2014

1987 Volvo 240-The Ski Trip

Photo courtesy Volvo Car Group Global Newsroom

These cars hold legendary places in the hearts of gearheads and non-gearheads, alike. I won’t belabor the “every professor and/or college student drove one at some point” shtick, but this is in fact the presented scenario.

One of the advantages that Volvos seem to offer is that they are made of some type of ballistic, rustproof steel. This is probably one of the reasons you still see 25-year-old 240s and 740s running around the northeastern United States, bodies fully intact, whereas other cars from the era would have long since rusted away.

One of my good friends owns one of these 240s, a blue 1987 sedan with the bulletproof ‘red block’ inline four and an automatic transmission that appears to have gears, because it shifts once in a while. We drove it to Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks last weekend, home to arguably some of the most rugged terrain east of the Mississippi.

A significant plus of older automotive design is that cars were square. This is especially true of Volvos. Consequently, 4 of us were able to squeeze ourselves into the cabin, and three sets of skis and a snowboard in the trunk. Remember, trunks used to actually have room for stuff, before the gunslit trunk opening became a trend.

This particular 240 is a bit of a time capsule, as it only has about 165,000 miles on it. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect by any means, as the interior is suffering from the typical-for-Volvos-from-this-era deterioration. Only one speaker works. The driver’s seat is a little crooked. And, I’m pretty sure it needs an alignment, or new tie rod ends, or both.

However, none of these things really matter that much. This thing is SOLID. Driving it feels like piloting a Cold War-era tank. The steering is rather loose, which means on roads such as twisting New York State Route 8, I had to pay very close attention to where the lines were. Also, effort was lighter than I expected, probably due to the play on-center, which furthers the illusion that you are, actually, driving a tank.
The red block engines are known for their longevity, not their power output. It would be more accurate to say that this car gathers momentum, rather than accelerates. Despite this characterization, it did an admirable job of powering us up into the mountains. In other words, there is enough torque. I had no clue what the RPMs were, as there is no tachometer. On the Volvo, it doesn’t really matter.

 Upshift would like to thank Jake Cline for providing the vehicle for this special feature.