Weekends with the Intern: The 1984 Volvo 240 Turbo [Op/Ed]

Welcome back to another edition of Weekends with the Intern!

Last week I wrapped up my series on college cars, in which I reviewed and discussed three different methods to a practical, fun car that is perfect for the college aged car enthusiast. This week I was home from college, which meant I got to spend some time with my first car, a 1984 Volvo 240 Turbo.

240 Turbo

When looking for my first car I knew that I wanted something with a manual transmission. I also knew that it had to be cheap and somewhat reliable, but also fun to drive. Many would have gone the route of a Honda Civic or an older WRX, but I had my mind on a different country, Sweden. My love of Swedish cars has always been strong. Perhaps it is my Swedish heritage, or maybe I just love their quirky, utilitarian design, but either way I knew that I wanted my first car to hail from the land of vikings and moose. Early on in my search I was looking mostly for a Saab 900 Turbo. My dad was very helpful in my search and would send me links to different cars, but we could never find one that was worth going out to drive.

One day, he sent me an email to a craigslist ad for a slightly different Swedish auto. It was a silver 240 with a manual transmission and a big badge on the back that said ‘Turbo.” I didn’t even know that Volvo made a 240 Turbo, so immediately I was intrigued. My budget was $2,000 of money that I had earned from my first job at a grocery store as a bag boy and this Volvo was listed for exactly that price. My dad contacted the seller and we went to go give it a test drive.

240 Turbo - turbo badge

We get to the house and see the car parked out front. We go up to the door and are greeted by a very large Swedish man named Anders who then gives us a tour of the car. We take it for a drive, with Anders having to open the sunroof in order to get his head in the car comfortably, and notice that it is running a little rough. But it did have 250,000 miles so some roughness was expected. After some thought and quite a bit of hmm-ing and ha-ing my dad and I decide to give it a shot. “Would you take $1,900 for it?” my dad asks. Just like that, I owned my first car.

240 Turbo - Vintage Ad

Before I get into what makes me love this car so much, here is a brief rundown of the car’s performance figures:

The 1984 Volvo 240 Turbo has a 2.1L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 162 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. This power is sent to the rear wheels through a limited slip differential. The car weighs about 3,000 lbs and according to Volvo, will do 0-60 in a brisk 6.8 seconds. The car has a four-speed manual transmission with an electric overdrive, which is a little button on top of the shift knob.

240 Turbo - Shift knob

Back to the story…

From there my relationship with this car blossomed. Quickly my dad, very kindly, had the car in the shop for a tune up and diagnosis of any other potential maintenance, and even more quickly did we end up extremely upside-down in a car that was worth, at best, $4,000. Fortunately, neither of us cared.

Many adventures were had in this car. We took it to the coast, the mountains and everywhere in between. This is a car that I drive just for the sake of going for a drive. The boost gauge still makes me giggle as it bounces around in the dash. Looking back now, I understand that this car is incredibly slow by modern standards, but on the right road, it is still a blast to drive.

240 Turbo - IPD trip

This Volvo has so much character. Something that I think is lost in many cars today. There are loads of dings (I believe we are the sixth owners), the clear coat is shot in a few places, the shift knob comes off if you pull too hard and there is a huge list of problems still to be fixed. None of that matters to me. I love this car because it taught me to love cars.

240 Turbo - dash

I had always been interested in cars, but it wasn’t until I had my own first car that I was actually able to develop a relationship with a car. Especially with an older vehicle, cars have unique quirks to them. My Volvo, for example, will grind into second if you shift too hard. As I mentioned earlier, the shift knob is liable to slip off the shifter if you pull on it too hard.

240 Turbo - Coast

All of these little nuances would probably seem extremely frustrating to a non-car-person but to me they just make the car more interesting. As I pack my bags to fly back to college, I look forward to driving my GTI, but I also long for the day I get to drive my Volvo again. It is not the fastest car I have driven, nor is it the best handling, best looking, or most reliable. Despite all that, it may still be my favorite driving experience ever, and it will always be my first car.

Since 1984, Volvo have come a very long way. To see what we make of  one of their latest offerings, and to see how it stacks up with its German competition, be sure to watch the full video below: