The Volvo Parts, Accessories &
Performance Specialists Since 1963

Meet the Boxy Volvos

2019-01-11 - ipd Staff

Disclaimer: Direct from ipd’s Tech Tip archive!  This tech tip contains information from previous publications.  Products mentioned may not be available or the information may not be accurate due to changes in supply, manufacturing, or part number association.  Please contact ipd Customer Support if you have further questions.

The 140,160,240 and 260 series spanned 26 years of production from 1967 to 1993 and to many these are the "REAL VOLVOS". Just to recap, the intention of this article is to provide the average or would-be owner with basic knowledge of Volvo models and body styles.

Badging Information A new nomenclature and badging scheme was introduced to the U.S. in 1967 with the 140 series. The new badging was more descriptive than previous badging and could help to identify a particular model and how it was equipped. For instance, let's take a look at the 1445 as it was introduced in 1967. The first digit in the model designation 144S indicates the series of Volvo, the second digit, 4, indicates the number of cylinders of the engine and the last digit, 4, indicates the number of doors. The It designates carburetion; later models were available with Bosch fuel injection indicated by "E" as in 142E. Once you were privy to this little known piece of information, it became easy to identify the different models by their badging. For clarity, we'll explain one more model breakdown. For this example, we'll break down the 200 series with the popular 245 wagon. Once again, the first digit identifies the series, the second digit indicates that this model is equipped with a 4-cylinder engine and the last digit, 5, indicates that this is a 5-door or wagon model. Volvo stuck to this system pretty rigidly throughout the 140,160, 240 and 260 series. A few very rare 264s were equipped with 4-cylinder engines because of supply problems and some crazy marketing ideas in the late 80s gave us 240s badged "240" or simply DL or GL with no reference to the body style.

Volvo has used DL and GL to indicate the trim level of these models from 1974 to 1990 and then inconsis-tently from 1991 until the end of introduction in 1993 DL (De Luxe) indicates the base model with modest interiors and accessories where GL (Gran Luxe) indicates the higher level of trim. In general, the differences between DL and GL are as follows. DLs usually have vinyl interior, roll-up windows, manual adjust mirrors, steel wheels and black trim. Options on the DL such as air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, leather or velour interior, AM-FM cas-sette and alloy wheels came standard on GL models. A few special models were spread over the life of these two series of Volvos. The 1971 142E was a favorite with its high out-put engine; the 242GT was available from 1978 to 1980 and offered a sporting version of the 240. The GT had special trim and interior treatment and suspension upgrades which gave noticeable improvements. The GT was replaced by the 240 GLT Turbo in 1981. It's interesting to note that when the 240 Turbos were introduced in 1981, the wagon got the sporty turbo exterior trim package, turbo wheels and, GLT badging, but no turbo! To learn more about odd or interesting models such as the 262C by Bertone, the 242 GLT SE California edition and the rare 1993 "Classic 240", check out your local library or Volvo club.

Inside the "Box"

It's also helpful to know a bit about available engines and transmissions, so we'll cover the basics here. Due to limited space, we'll briefly mention the pros and cons and what to look out for as we cover the drive-train options. The 140 series was powered by a 1.8 or 2.0 liter over-head valve pushrod engine, known as the B-18 and B-20 respectively. The B-18 was replaced by the B-20 in 1969. The B-18 was offered here in the 140 in a dual carb version only, denoted by the B-18B suffix. The B-20 was available in several versions, starting with the B-20B, again the B suffix denoting dual carbs. In 1971, the high output B-20E was intro-duced. The "E" configuration denoted high compression and fuel injection. In 1972 the lower compression B-20F replaced the B20E and was used until the end of production in 1975. The B30 engine used in the 6-cylinder 164 followed a similar course.

In 1975, Volvo introduced the 'Evolutionary" 240, however the 1975 US model for some reason was bur-dened with the old B-20 engine. The '76 model brought the long awaited B-21F engine with a quieter and more efficient overhead cam design. The B2IF went unchanged through 1982 and with minor improvements and revisions, the B21FT, B23F and B230F was used until 1994! The 260 series used an engine known as the PRV or Peugeot, Renault, Volvo. Developed under joint venture by these three manufacturers, it was not well received by the automotive press or Volvo owners. It proved to be a failure in many respects, suffering from poor performance and economy and worse yet, major mechanical failures in the valvetrain. This engine is known as the B-27F and B-28F. There were also a few D24 diesel engine-equipped 200 series available from 1980 to 1984, badged 264GLE or 265GLE. This drive-train with the engine manufactured by Volkswagen Audi also proved to be unpopular due to poor performance and maintenance costs. 260s in general have poor resale value compared to their 4-cylinder counterparts.

Transmission Background

In the 140 and 160 series, three transmission options were available. The standard 4-speed M40(M400 in the 164), 4-speed with electric overdrive M41(M410 in the 164) and the 3-speed automatic BW35. The 200 series utilized similar but updated versions of those used in the 140. The standard trans in the 240 is called an M45, the electric overdrive version an M46 and in 1987 a 5- speed version (M47) was introduced. I never really understood Volvo's motive in using the electric overdrive versus a true 5-speed. The electric overdrive, necessary wiring and relays can become a bit unreliable as it reaches 100,000 miles. The 3-speed automatic used up to 1981 is the BW55 while '82-'93 models used a 3-speed with overdrive known as the AW7O. The manual transmissions are pretty reliable and strong; the automatics work OK, but soak up a lot of power and fuel economy with the exception of the later overdrive AW7O. Volvo manufactured the manual trans/missions while the automatics were supplied by Borg-Warner and Aisin-Wamer.

700 & 900 Series 19831996

When the 1983 760 GLE hit these shores, the body style was already dated, rnanY too domestic, a lot like Buick and Oldsmobile models available at the time. Other than a few luxury appoint-ments, there wasn't much to attract existing Volvo owners away from their solid and reliable 240's, many pre-ferred the boxy 240 to the "domesticated" 700. Statistical reports of crash data indicated that the 240 was actu-commented that it looked ally safer than the 700/900 series, this reinforced the speculation that the thinner sheet metal in the 700 series body wasn't as safe or strong as the more robust sheet metal used in the 200 series. Could it be that Volvo had faltered on it's commitment to Safety? Not hardly, the 700 Series was one of the first cars to employ engineered crush zones designed to crumple and absorb the tremendous energies encountered in a crash. Sheet metal became lighter and the integral space cage became incredibly strong, increasing occupant safety. Newer 240 models also utilized this technology.

Another hurdle the 700 never seemed to overcome was the "first impression" left by the PVR V-6 power-plant found in the introductory 760 GLE. This engine had been used in the 260 series Volvo for many years and had become known as "prime boat anchor material". This left a bad taste in the mouth of the automotive press. Many cosmetic changes including the 900 series makeover didn't do much to improve the image of the series. Some positive press was garnered by the 745 Turbo intercooler, it's hard not to like a Volvo station wagon that could blow the doors off most sport sedans. Although outdated, the four-cylinder powertrain car-ried over from the aging 200 series proved to be reliable and economical to maintain.

Over the 10+ years the 700/900's were produced, no less than 8 different engines were available. if you are in the market for one of these models, steer clear of any model with six cylinders or 16 valves, and be aware that 1983 to 87 models will consume a set of front brake rotors and front suspension bushings about every 30,000 miles (this can be solved with a kit from Volvo for about $500.00). These models also had some engine problems in the early version of the "low friction" B230F and FT. The low friction came via smaller rod bear-ings, which also wore out a heck or a lot faster than the previous design. Volvo switched back to a bearing design similar to the original in the middle of the 1987 production year. If your used car budget will allow it, 1988 and newer models are preferred, but the earlier models are OK. The 700 & 900's are a good value in the used car market, since they were not as popular as the 240 series you can often find them at or below the price of the same year 240, even though the 700 & 900 are better equipped. Keep in mind that this is good while you own it, but will also make it more difficult to sell at a later date for the same reason it was under priced when you bought it.

The 700 & 900 series was a transitional model that reflected the turbulence present at Volvo during the 80's. It was a compromise of old design philosophy and an emerging new Volvo that hadn't quite figured out who it was yet. Sales slid dramatically during the time the 700 & 900's were available. To many Volvo owners, the 700 & 900 was the last "real" Volvo, to others it was the car that almost ruined Volvo in the U.S. The success of the 850 series and now the new 70 series, has repositioned Volvo in the market. In Volvo's past, new designs could take 10 years to become reality. Even the 850 took nearly 10 year to get to market. Imagine the changes in technology that must be integrated during a 10 year project. In the past this wasn't such a problem, nowadays it's part of the challenge that successful auto makers must embrace. Consider that the new C70 went from design sketch to production in under 30 months, bringing Volvo up to current industry standards of new model development.