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Project Theseus: 1993 940 turbo wagon


now with more caffeine!
Apr 25, 2020
In an attempt to train myself to stop and take pictures of what I'm doing every now and then (and to motivate myself to keep building this car up), I'm finally starting one of these.

This wagon was a facebook marketplace find in every sense of the term. The previous owner had bought it as a drift project, but after snapping the parking brake cable while attempting to donut decided that the scene wasn't for him. It has three different types of wheel on it, and all four tires were worn down to the cords. The rear seats had been removed, the rear window was covered in so many instagram car stickers that I couldn't see out of it, and the exhaust had been sawed off and welded back on as a side exit hung up with wire that squeaked horribly at idle. The headlights had electrical tape angry eyes. The hood was covered in baseball sized dents and the paint on the roof was a mix of flaking clear coat and beige house paint that didn't match and wasn't sealed. But the drivetrain was solid, and like any good volvo it came with a trunk full of spare parts. And I'd be a fool to complain about a $650 car that you can drive home.

Sadly, this is the only photo I have of the car the day I bought it and I immediately removed all the stickers as soon as I parked it. The tape wouldn't come off and I didn't have any acetone, so I had to drive around looking grumpy for a day.

After fixing the exhaust and finding a matching set of wheels, my only plans for this car were to enjoy it as a daily and figure out what color I wanted to paint it. But then, during an ordinary day of bored marketplace scrolling, a bad idea appeared.

A freshly rebuilt turbo redblock with an rsi cam? It'd be a shame not to pick up and toss in. You can swap the engine in your daily on a Friday night and drive the car to work on Monday, right?

After wrestling with the motor for far too long trying to get it to seat flush with the bellhousing, we fired up the new motor only to discover a headgasket leak. No biggie, grabbed a new one from the local autozone and tried again. The leak was gone.........but so was all of the turbo redblock power I loved. The car moved but in order to keep up with traffic you had to floor it. I put up with this, still driving the car to work while trying to fix the issue, until I noticed the rain was steaming off the hood after driving home from work one day. I opened my hood and decided it was time to stop driving the car and properly diagnose what was going on.

The engine came out again, and during the removal we discovered that the bellhousing wasn't quite as flush with the block as we'd thought. It was flush on the driver's side, but the passenger side had a small gap that the bolts has pulled closed. We put the engine back in correctly this time, and the problem almost went away! I drove the car for a few days and didn't have any glowing manifolds, and the power was almost back to normal. I declared partial victory and went back to driving the car to work while troubleshooting, until suddenly everything exploded.

Not pictured here is the incredibly broken torque converter as well. Chunks fell out of it when we turned it upside down. Hilariously, this car even broke the winch on the trailer when we towed it to my friend's shop. This explosion happened turning left into a parking lot after a leisurely drive to get lunch. I'm assuming I did quite a bit of damage while driving it while it was attempting to diagnose things, but I wasn't pretending to be a rally driver while doing that. I'm still very surprised by the amount of damage that was done.

While looking for answers to the issues I was having on these forums, I had seen a lot of rave reviews of t5 and cd009 swaps. Considering how poorly the engine swap had just gone, I wisely decided to double down and began gathering parts for a t5 swap.
Sounds like you didn't seat the torque converter into the trans pump correctly and broke your flex plate and probably broke the pump too.
Sounds like you didn't seat the torque converter into the trans pump correctly and broke your flex plate and probably broke the pump too.
That sounds likely. I'm still surprised what looked like a small misalignment could cause that much damage. I suppose that's what I get for going at it the first time without a transmission jack or a leveller for the engine hoist. Used both for the second go around and it made life much easier.

I've definitely learned the importance of measuring twice and taking my time working on this poor thing
You gotta get the two slots on the TC to line up with the keys/tabs on the trans pump. If you don't get the TC seated onto the trans correctly, it won't be deep enough in the bell housing. Then if you go and force the trans to the engine (like you probably did) you break the TC, pump, and or flexplate.

It's a common mistake. I've done it twice. Once before I knew what I was doing. The second time I didn't notice the TC had slipped off during install.
Putting this here because I guess it's progress?

I've been chasing an issue for months now and I think it's finally time for me to bite the bullet and open this motor back up.

I've replaced my maf, tps, iac, cps, intake and throttle body gaskets, injectors, fuel pressure regulator, both ect sensors. The distributor is gone and replaced with a buchka wasted spark board, miata ignitor, bosch 2x2 coil and kingsbourne wires. The intercooler and all intake piping has been pressure and smoke tested.

My idle afr is 10 on a cold start, slowly comes up to just under where it should be over the course of a minute or so. Idle is right at 800 but wavers. It sounds like a small miss when it wavers, and it's frequent but erratic. Afr and vacuum waver with it, and you can hear a small hesitation on initial acceleration. The hesitation is bigger the faster you whip the throttle open from idle. When revving (even in neutral) afr drops to 10 before coming back up to normal - this drop is a fraction of a second. At boost onset, 2ish psi, I'm seeing afrs of 10-11. After higher rpms (again, even in neutral) it lugs for a few seconds at 500rpm or so before coming back up its usual idle behavior. Afrs go lean during this, about 16-17. After three hours of driving my oil smells like 2 stroke.

Did a cold dry compression test this morning and I'm at 105psi on all four cylinders. Disappointing. I'm now thinking two things have happened - so much gas has contaminated the oil that I've washed out the cylinder walls and my low compression is causing all these symptoms, or that while adjusting the timing I somehow bent my valves in a way that lowered my compression by the same amount on all four cylinders. I'm buying enough cheap beer to get me through pulling the head in the cold this weekend, if anyone has any better ideas on what is causing this please let me know.
Figured I'd post an update: no bent valves! So that's good news. I've been driving this thing more and more to try and cure my grumpy attitude towards it (and my growing desire to sell it and find a 122 to dump money into). Seems lh just needs some time to learn, my hesitation and weird rpm dip after revving is gone. Oil still gets gassy quick, so I'll keep changing it while trying to find the source of the problem.
Happy late valentine's day, turbobricks.

Drove the car around a bunch this past weekend so that I wouldn't feel like I completely wasted the oil that was in it. Slowly teaching myself to like this thing again. For now she sits full of marvel mystery oil in an attempt to bring up my compression numbers. I'm not holding my breath, but if I don't have to rebuild/replace the bottom end I'd love to save myself the trouble.

Reporting in with good news and bad news. The good news is, I found the source of my compression issues! The crank gear was a round tooth gear, while the cam, oil pump gear and timing belt were all square. This actually let the crank rotate for a couple degrees before the rest of the assembly would start moving. An oil change, new gears and fresh belt later and we're up to 130psi per cylinder. Not great, but I'll take the improvement. Plus I've driven it for a bit and gas is no longer contaminating the oil, so I can enjoy driving the car without worries........ except I don't plan to.

After posting this update I'm going to put the finishing touches on a sale ad and post it. The weather is great today and the car just took the best drive it's done in a year, and I'm sitting here looking at it feeling nothing. I enjoyed this car immensely when it was a bone stock autobox, and now that it's the high revving boosted manual wagon I wanted it to become it just feels empty. I'm far from done with volvos - these cars and the community I've found here are incredible, and I'll always have one in my life. Even while preparing the ad for this car I've already been looking for the next. But this car needs to be with someone who will enjoy it, and I don't think I'm that person.