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My 240 Story


May 21, 2014
hello everyone

I really enjoy making these kinda threads. There's a wonderful sense of progress that stories like this reflect and inspire. So here's my volvo story.

I've been a BMW guy since I first started driving. That's the brand that won me over, and the brand that held on to me for the better part of a decade. The design, sensation, history, and power was at first intoxicating. I've owned a 1989 325iS since 2005. I've done a 635CSi, two other e30s, an e36 m3, e46 m3, and an e34 in the meantime. They're excellent cars, but only when they're working. No matter how many keyboard warriors on Bimmerforums repeat the propaganda - older BMWs are not "bulletproof". They're specialized, complicated, and precise cars. And I've had enough. I'll never part with my e30 for as long as it runs, but only because I'm too far down the rabbit hole. Whether I like it or not, that car is a staple of my life. It's a character in many of my life's stories, and I'm sure it's got plenty more left in the tank.



Blah blah blah, back to why I'm here.... I can't believe I'm saying this..... But I've reevaluated my philosophy of motoring, and I've fallen for older Volvos. Volvo 240s specifically haha It's not that I'm embarrassed, I'm just that I'm surprised. It makes no sense. They're slow, kinda sloppy, uninspiring, and repel women. As my friend Luke says - they're rolling castrations. But here's the top 10 reasons why I like em...

1) They're the most reliable of the euro cars I've ever seen or heard of, which is definitely a welcome change.
2) They calm me down. I have no interest in driving aggressively when I'm behind the wheel of a 240. I could barely do it even if I wanted to.
3) The 240 is a cultural staple of the 80's and 90's - instantly recognizable with a sense of the good times nostalgia.
3) I actually do like the shape. Straight-line-box-design. Legos on wheels.
4) They're incredibly smooth. I think volvos float just as well as a MBZs or Caddys of the time, but with better handling potential.
5) No one else likes em. In fact, most car guys hate the idea of driving an old volvo. I wanna prove them wrong.
6) RWD. My favorite drive.
7) You can get them in weird colors and combinations. Car color is a very important part of any car to me, the more unusual the better.
8) Pick your transmission, easy to find any version of the 240 in manual or auto.
9) Mid/high 20's MPG.
10) Completely unassuming. No negative image or profile to judge, other than I'm a female liberal arts professor. No one likes a BMW drivers other than a small sample of other BMW drivers.

So the actual story starts with my childhood friend Nelson Mangalli. His family always owned volvos growing up, and when the two of us were little and talking about what cars we'd own one day, he always talked about Volvos. We'd be in the corner of the playground with our Road&Track magazines debating the merits of Ferrari vs Lamborghini, Mustang or Camaro, but Volvo regularly joined the conversation. It made no sense to me at the time, but his enthusiasm for Volvo is what I remember.

Nelson moved away by the end of middle school, and for the next decade and a half, Volvo never came on my radar. I have nothing to report. It wasn't until a year and a half ago that they came back to mind. My girlfriend Lauren needed an inexpensive ride for her new nursing job. Right outta school. She had spent the entire relationship watching me pull my hair out with the e30, so convincing her to look at another old euro car sounded crazy. She was thinking more along the lines of a Honda Civic, the obviously smart choice for reliability under $3k. I couldn't stand the idea of something so bland for her, so I put all my stock in the forum-legendary Volvo 240. They called it unbreakable, reliable as gravity, and cheaper than dirt. So I consulted Craigslist.



It was for sale from the car's mechanic, not the owner, which is what caught my attention. It was a very well respected shop that focused on older euro cars. 1993, with an astounding 280k miles, tons of records and recent work, and owned by one person for 17 years who brought it to the very same mechanic all its life. He did a whole pre-purchase-inspection with us present, and we did the test drive. I couldn't believe how nice it was. How well it drove down the road. How the door closed and how comfortable the seats were. She liked it too, but was still very skeptical. Understandably so. And maybe it was inappropriate to gamble my girlfriend's money on a 280k mile european car, but i'm happy I did :) For a year and a half, that car did its job every day in comfort, style, and efficiency. Most importantly it kept her safe. It only took three $28 oil changes and one rear brake caliper to chug away.


I was hooked. I needed one of my own. I spent the better part of the past year on this forum, craigslist, and ebay, stalking the market. There have been some beautiful examples, but I never had the right timing. The price, timing, location, quality, etc never lined up until the first week of 2015. I had no intention of buying a car that week. I knew I wanted a 240 at some point, but I was not in a hurry. I had a bad habit of trolling CL though when I was bored, and this was the random result...



I had very little info and some rough photos, but it was just enough to be there the next day. The owner was a nice family man and seemed very fond of the car after almost four years together. He lived just outside DC, using the Metro to get around. The car was only backup, and with a growing family, it had to go. After 20 mins or so of some half-baked nighttime inspection, we struck a deal. I had no chance. It was just too cool to pass up on, despite the neglected condition. I needed it. Bad. So it came home with me.

M47 5Spd
Mid-Blue Exterior
Blue Pleather Interior
High Quality Wool Covers
3 Owners
180k miles
Some mechanical problems
Some small and isolated rust problems
Kinda neglected as of late

Im in.

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Sadly, the week I bought this car, my girlfriend and her volvo would leave. She moved back to Cali, and I sold off the volvo for almost exactly what she bought it for. She actually tried to give me the 240, but I couldn't accept it. I had great memories with her in that car, so maybe this project is a weird twisted way of holding on to that haha

It didn't take long for me to start fiddling, though I had two other projects to wrap up. The stickers were what really bothered me in the driveway. They had to go. But they were very very old. The two on the paint are twenty years old. I don't suggest it to everyone, but I used a blade, blowtorch, heatgun, and some mild cleaner. Oh, and I had to do the cabin vent. This picture was burned into my brain and I couldn't sleep.





So I'm a detailing freak. I love it. I feel like I don't really know a car until i've detailed it, so this is an important step. I need to remove the 27 years of use and start making the car my own. This process is very therapeutic and it's always cool to look back at the 'before' shots and see how far you've come.













That engine bay wasn't too bad though. I did this nasty cleaning first because the chemicals and grease that get washed around are seriously gross. Always start with the dirtiest parts.





So first is just a basic wash the paint with dish soap. It strips all oils, grime, and wax very well. Bad for up keeping a car's finish, but great for starting a full detail.




Had to hit the trim with the heavy degreasing brush. This area traps a ton of dirt.




Now for the claybar action to remove the stuck-on tiny impurities and dirt that traditional washing will never remove.






Use junky clay to clean those nasty gutters....



Door Jams!!! Yuk!!



By this point your pushed and washed the tiny dirt all around the paint. Now ya gotta wash things up again with a new mitt and dish soap water.


Basically at this step, the paint is as clean as you'll get it. It's a blank canvas. The cleaning part of the detailing prescription is done. Now comes the paint restoration & protection part. So far I'm extremely happy with the car. I was expecting to find far more issues. This is partly to thank for it being single-stage paint. With these types of paint jobs, you can simply exfoliate the paint back to life without worrying about correcting a tough clearcoat layer. This thing's gunna look brand new by the time i'm done detailing. I'm very anxious and excited to start the real work.

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Go for it. Just do the silver center stickers. Looks way better.

You should also buy my 19T stuff. Your wagon begs for it. I know because it told me. True story.
I'd be investing in a Porter Cable d/a polisher to cut that paint and bring out the shine. Will do a much better job than you can do by hand.
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Great write up and pictures. That's an excellent car to start with also.

I was into e30's for a while. Had several 325i's and a couple M3's. I do still really like them, but Volvo's are cheaper, more unique and the community is way better. Much safer in a accident than an e30 also. After seeing Randomtask37's car torn to nothing I sold my last e30 and haven't looked back.

I can tell by your e30, the phrases you use and the pictures of you cleaning the 240 that you are at least a fairly well educated detailer. Nice to have another person here that understands and enjoys cleaning stuff.
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Thanks for the feedback and support everyone.

Patrick, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I haven't been this excited about a new car since my first car ever. I don't know why, but this thing has me hypnotized. Thanks for the detailing compliment & inspiration too.

I started cutting the paint down with SSR2 and SSR1 on my orbital with medium cutting pads to see what the exfoliated "volvo mid-blue" would look like. Nothing too abrasive, and I'm extremely happy. There's still a little cloudiness, but i'm going to hold off on going too deep into the paint on my first pass. I don't have any experience detailing single-stage, so I want to take this easy. Plus winter's nowhere near done, I don't need perfection at this time of year. I followed up with some Klasse AIO which has always been my favorite all around detailing product for years. Brings through a lot of great color and protection. I used glaze on the hood and some more horizontal areas for the hell of it, sealed it, and waxed. I wanted to focus more on protecting the paint than correcting it.

I work on this thing at nights, so please excuse the weird lighting in my photography.



Huge improvement all around. Color, reflection, depth, shine, everything.


After just the compound and polish. With and without flash on the camera.


All glass was razor bladed, clayed, compounded, and rainx'ed. Somehow I bumped into the rear taillight and the white reverse lens popped out in a million pieces? Huh?


Too many badges for my taste...


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The interior was very rewarding to clean up. It was easy. After only a couple hours there's no way you'd guess the age and mileage. There's a few replaceable problems and nothing catastrophic. I'm very surprised how good looking the seats were under the covers.











Interior scrubbing is a must-do job on any car i get. On every mile of that odometer, there's been a person sitting behind the wheel. Kids in the back. Maybe a dog. It was used like this for 27yrs, and I bet no ones ever scrubbed the steering wheel, ebrake, and other contact points. I scrubbed it all with a brush and mild cleaner. Then conditioned it.






All that dirt is JUST from the steering wheel...


That's not a shadow on the rag, that's dirt and grime from the door alone


Even the ash tray got disinfected and scrubbed


This is one of the nastiest corners of any 240. They're never cleaned. I went through 8 q-tips alone wiping the grease and dirt out of the corners.


These are the worst jobs usually. But the windshield on these bricks is so vertical that they're easily reached this time. Another reason to buy a 240!

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That side trim pops off fairly easy. Much better and easier for cleaning. I get my fingers under the bottom then slowly rock it upwards. After the bazillion of these cars I've owned, I'm a professional at it now. Will break a clip or 2 if it's cold, but replacement clips are available from the dealer.

What is just to the left of the radio?

That center console is a fancy home job! They even moved the seat heater switches to the center console.
Some SEM Shadow Blue (exact color match luckily) vinyl paint on that would make it blend in much better.
Yeah it became very clear that there's no way i'm cleaning around these side trim pieces. I thought I could, but no. Next detail I will for sure. And those bottom plastic door skirts? Do they pop off? There's gotta be tons of dirt down there...

At some point in the 90's, the car was fitted with some weird audio equipment. I have no idea what. But they hacked up the dash trim to do it.

And at first I thought that center console was original but no you're right, it's just a really cool project someone did. The armrest even folds up on door hinges haha
Great job. It is always fantastic to see another nice wagon in the Maryland area.
That color blue is probably my favorite color on a 240.
You made a great choice picking a 240 wagon. Wagons are my love. I'd take a sedan if there were no other options, but there is something magical about a relationship with a 240 wagon.
You lucked out finding a manual too.
Keep us posted.

Today I put on some wheels I got off CL a few months ago. I knew I was going to get a 240 at some point, so I started hoarding parts early. I think the best score has been these virgo wheels. I got all four, freshly powder coated, with great Michelin tires for $200! I think the virgos are the best way to keep the car looking original yet unique.



I also grabbed some newer taillights, door lock pins, and dash pieces from a local guy who was scrapping his 245 because it simply needed a fuel pump repair. The price of the repair outweighed the value of the car. It's sad sometimes to see how undervalued these cars are.

I had no idea Kaplhenke was in MD! Good ta know! I'm very new to this volvo scene but I'm sure I'll get to know the local culture quickly. I'm obsessed with your strut braces and I think i'll have to buy your 5.25 speaker adapter one'a these days.

Between the freezing weather, other projects, and work, I haven't had a ton of progress. I've actually taken a few steps backwards since I never completely finished the detailing. I'll have to do parts of that over again when the pipes are unfrozen.

I wanna do a thank-you appreciation post for IPD. I've been dealing with performance and enthusiast retailers for a decade now with all my cars. Worked with a lot of different groups, all with different styles... And I gotta say... the team at IPD is undoubtedly the nicest and most helpful I've ever come across. I've called them on 4 different occasions over the past month and each time they've been very personable and go above & beyond to answer my questions. This is most of the stuff I've been accumulating...


A vibrant color like this blue is dependent on contrast to look good. Nothing ruins a clean 240 for me quite like faded gray plastics. It's just the nature of the beast though. I've tried tire shines, plastic rejuvenators, cleaners, you name it. They all go away in a day or three. The only product I'll use (if I'm not repainting them with SEM), is Forever Black. It's a dye. And it's awesome.




New K&N filter


So every nut or bolt I take off, I let it soak in a little container of SafeRustRemover. This stuff is amazing. These license plate bolts were completely covered in 27yrs of rusting just 24hrs prior.



Polished the headlights. I first used toothpaste, which has the perfect texture and makeup to work as a cutting compound. Then I used actual 3M compound on a medium density orbital pad at 2-5rpm. They're much better, but I don't see myself using these assemblies too much longer.


New corner lenses since the last ones were disintegrating.


Lookin better by the day!


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