Dear Ms. Laura,
I wanted to inform you that I am the most recent owner of your 1991 Volvo 740 Estate. As you are the original purchaser of my newest vehicle, I feel obligated to tell the history of your Volvo ever since the title left your hands and was placed into mine.
I have to say Laura, your Volvo is one of the lucky ones. After 23 years on the road, the mechanicals and body of this vehicle are in excellent shape. I am very impressed with the upkeep of this humble wagon through its three owner history. As the fourth owner, and born in a generation where we only have experienced disposable cars built to a competitive price point, this Volvo is a reminder of what uncompromised quality used to mean. A product built for long term ownership. Today, defined as Corporate Suicide, from what I am told.
Laura, this Volvo of yours is special. You must have thought the same. I noticed theSpecial Delivery decal in the rear passenger window.You opted to take delivery of your Volvo from the factory and take a tour of the Gothenburg assembly plant. I am wondering if this was not your first Volvo? Could you have been a previous owner of a 144? Maybe you wanted an upgrade from your trusty 240? I will never know. But to have the interest to visit the assembly line and see how your Volvo was assembled shows me you were looking for more in a vehicle than the average buyer.
I am wondering this due to the impeccable maintenance documentation you kept during your ownership.
This Volvo served you well. Observing your service records, I am led to believe you and your husband were employed by the US Military and worked at a base located in Schweinfurt, Germany. The Autohaus Fischer Volvo of Schweinfurtservice receipts lead me to believe you accumulated about 10,000 miles every year. Looking through the service descriptions on each receipt makes me believe the 740 served you trouble free, needing only fluids, filters, brakes, tires, and the occasional exhaust seal. I should mention I do not know how to read German but my sister, semi-fluent in the language, was of great assistance translating these service records. Nevertheless, I want to thank you, Laura, for keeping such stringent maintenance on this Volvo. Without your care, I wouldn’t be driving it today.
Sometime in 1998, you moved from Germany to somewhere near Lake Bluff, Illinois and the Volvo accompanied you. I wonder if retirement from the military is what brought you and your husband back to the United States.
You kept your Volvo only for a couple years after you moved back. After I passed the receipt from Sam’s Club for 4 new winter tires, I see your classified posting from the Chicago Tribune: “Volvo 1991 740 wag, extra seat, new tires, exccond, $5000.”
From the Indiana BMV certificate of title, it looks as if you sold the 740 very close to your asking price, $4,800. At this point in the history, the service records get a changed name. From Laura to now David, the Volvo changed hands. Here is what I know from what David’s father, Rodger, had told me and from what the service records show.
I have good news for you Laura, you sold your Volvo to someone who cared. The Volvo traveled to Oscola Indiana and soon after David graduated, onward to South Bend where David studied Theology at Notre Dame. I have to say I am impressed with David; even as a cash strapped college student, he took great care of your Volvo. The service history shows he paid attention to maintenance, replacing the timing belt at mile 148,748 and keeping regular service intervals for the fluids, brakes and tires.
Unfortunately I see where some electrical gremlins started to creep into the wiring, sometime around mile 170,427. They seemed to never be completely remedied. It looks like the instrument cluster had a ground issue causing the car to not hold a charge and the instrument cluster to stop working while the car was driving. Many parts were replaced during the process, alternator, instrument cluster wiring, ignition coil and more,but the problem seemed to persist. Also a non-diagnosable SES light linked to the oxygen sensor appeared at the same time.
And this is where I have my only issue with David, Laura. According to service notes in some of these records, David stated the only way to get the instrument cluster to work again was to bang his hand on the dash. Well Laura, David must have had quite a series of stressful evenings studying, as some large dent and cracks in the dashboard show. This seems to be the only flaw in the interior. I have done what I can to remedy these scars of abuse. I recently installed a dash cover and cleverly taped up the other visible cracks. The interior looks almost new again. I still cringe when I think of David impersonating The Hulk on the dash. What was the actual cause of this mystery charging issue? After David spent hundreds getting it looked at by Volvo dealers across the Michiana region, the root of the problem was found to be a simple ground had come loose. The non-diagnosable SES light persisted.
Not discouraged by the few hundred spent on the electrical issue, David continued to enjoy your Volvo. It followed David throughout his years at Notre Dame and continued on with him to St. Louis University where he continued his masters in Theology.
After a few years in Missouri, David got a job as a theology professor at the University of St. Louis. In 2011, and with 218,000 miles, the Volvo was given to his father Rodger where it spent the next couple years semi-retired in Noblesville, Indiana. His father said after David gave up your 740, he bought a new Volvo and has owned Volvos ever since; astonishing silent advertising of a quality product. I wonder if, much like you in 1991, David opted for the factory delivery experience with his new Volvo?
It was in January 2013 when I spotted the Craigslist ad for your Volvo. I have a strange hobby, Laura; I enjoy browsing through automotive classifieds for inexpensive cars I find interesting and which would make a reliable daily driver. Maybe in Schweinfurt, this Volvo was a typical, somewhat bland everyday car. But here in Indiana, a five-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive, Swedish built station wagon is spotted less on the road than the chrome bumper classics passing from show to show, auction to auction.
I bought your Volvo for $1,400 and have begun a mild restoration. I found the cause behind the mystery SES light. A simple trace of the grounds revealed a loose ground wire for the oxygen sensor causing a short and blowing the connecting fuse. After cleaning and securing the ground, the light SES light turned off. I believe this is the first time in over 10 years the SES light has not come on.
Other than a $500 repair to get the speedometer fixed, I have had no expensive repairs. Sure there are still some fixes that need to be done: new struts are desperately needed, the passenger seat heater is dead, as well as some other small things, but even at 23 years old this Volvo is proving to be quite economic to maintain.
Your Volvo is an experiment for me. I have heard from so many these cars can last 400,000 even 500,000 miles or more. I want to see if these rumors are true, and if this is really possible. With the odometer currently showing near 230,000 miles, do I really have a chance to see it roll past 460,000?
A couple days ago, I was completing a thorough clean of the interior. Tucked away, hidden in the space behind the rear fold down armrest, I found an old ski pass from a resort in Germany. It was dated February 6, 1996, right around the time you took in your Volvo for its 75,000 mile service.
I look at this ski pass and start to think of how old this Volvo really is and of the service this one vehicle has provided to its four owners. It began its service in Germany, crossed the Atlantic to Illinois, then to Indiana, next Missouri and now back to Indiana. 229,171 miles of service, as the odometer currently reads.
I plan to take good care of this Volvo, I have my to-do list, as well as a wish list. and am slowly scratching off one goal at a time. After looking through these 23 years of service records and seeing how much each of the previous owners invested into this car, I almost feel a responsibility to keep this Volvo roadworthy. But overall Laura,I just wanted to let you know your car is still in good hands.
Nice , Mark .
Keep on truckin’ .
Very cool to know the history of a car you own and love. Nicely done.
Great story. It’s good to know that your Volvo has been well taken care of all its life, and that you’ll keep it up. That car probably holds a lot of memories for its first owner, and I think she’d be glad to know that it continues on its journey with a succession of caring owners.
Glad to see someone else gets into a car’s history as much as I do. Buying from a private party who can give you the story on the car and its records is very satisfying.
I also like 740 wagons and feel the same way you do about them. I’ve been searching off and on for a couple of years but haven’t found one. 5-speeds are super hard to find, congrats on that!
This is another car that would be fun to read updates about.
After questioning why some people get excited about Pontiac Extreme Broughams, I gotta say that the 740/760 wagons are really well-styled cars. Seriously. Volvo made some curious choices of trim and detailing in the ’80’s and ’90’s but the overall proportions are just about perfect to my eyes.
Not really sure what snarky point you are trying to make here but you really ought to keep an open mind. Not everybody is into “your” favorite cars either.
I like Bonneville Broughams and Volvos. So there 🙂
Hmm … not sure how my comment could be interpreted as snarky. I was intending to highlight the diversity of taste here (a good thing), but if it came across otherwise, I apologize. I think a lot of people, perhaps even the original poster, appreciate Volvo wagons but not necessarily for styling. I was just saying that I like their design. In fact when I was out today I saw a 940 wagon and a few minutes later an early-80’s Caprice wagon, both white, and I think they share similar proportions and a lot of design elements. And both are fine looking cars.
I believe the first Bonneville Brougham appeared in 1965. A beauty in just about anybody’s book. The first of many praise worthy Bonnevilles, including the ’77 featured yesterday.
Well done sir. I had a similar experience with the OE of my ’91 240 5-speed. Via the second owner I got in touch with him and he sent me all of his impeccable service records. Unfortunately he didn’t seem to do much about winterizing the car and washing the Boston road salt from the undercarriage, but aside from rust it runs fine. Now she’s enjoying the Atlanta climate for her sunset years. She has 164,000 miles and I expect to clear 200K before thinking about sending her to the boneyard. Nobody would buy it in this condition, not with plenty of rust-free examples running around here, so I guess I’ll be the final owner.
Great letter. As everyone else is probably tired of hearing about, I bought my 86 Jetta in 91 from the original owner. I wish I kept his name. It has a dealership badge from Lee Volkswagen in Springfield, VA. It had Ohio plates on it when I found it on the VW dealership lot in Reseda, CA. A mechanic who worked with me there said the owner wanted to sell and already bought a new car. It needed tires, brakes, front strut insets and wheel bearings. It was in perfect condition, and had about 100k mostly freeway miles. the owner only wanted 2k for this then 5 year old car. The mechanic really wanted my 80 Jetta for $800.00. If I sold it to him he would do all the repairs, I only needed to supply parts. As the 80 was automatic and no AC, and the 86 had AC, 5 speed, and sunroof I jumped on it. He introduced me to the owner and it was a done deal. It still looks almost as good as the day I bought it, and still has original engine and trans, still runs well. As I think back over the last 23 years, My Mom, Dad, Sister and a good Friend have all passed but rode in the car. I went from a 35 year old to a 58 year old greybeard, and the memories of events since then could fill a book. Now at 296k, I plan to keep it as long as it is reliable at least most of the time. I recently retired so I drive a whole lot less these days, and have a newer truck for road trips. Now if I could only figure out why the damn thing only starts when it’s cold. I shut it off and 1/2 the time it won’t restart unless it sits for a couple of hours and then it starts right up. I guess it’s earned the opportunity to piss me off. Me and the Haynes book and my multimeter are getting a good workout. I guess Harbor Freight for a pressure tester are next. I enjoy still having the car but I missed the people who can no longer ride in it with me and I also miss some of the friends who have moved on in their life. Today my car resides in Washington State. Thanks for the great car history story. I hope it serves you well and you hit 400+k in that Volvo, take good care of it and it will. I also wish good times and 23 years later all your passengers are still around to ride with you and your Volvo.
I enjoyed your thoughtful post 67Conti and can relate. A lot of fond memories are tied to some of my vehicles which makes them that much harder to get rid of.
Just read your comment. You and I are within a decade of being peers, and I also have had the misfortune of seeing the inexorable onslaught of time and statistics on my family and friends. I have refused to sell the cars with history in my family, despite many entreaties and cash inducements to do so. If the only thing I get when sitting in these is the sense of my whole family being in one place, going to Grandma’s for Christmas, then that feeling is worth much more than money. I hope my children are able to have the same legacy.
Appreciate the understanding, Junqueboi and Olddavid. Nice to see others have similar feelings about family and old long term cars. I’m really enjoying no more bumper to bumper traffic and 9 to 6 timeclock punching. I think the car may have a dirty intake air plate, if they stick the injectors get no fuel. I get fuel to the fuel distributor, and when cold the starting valve gives enough fuel that it will start and pull up the plate. When hot the valve shuts off and the plate wont lift, it’s either stuck or I have a air leak so not enough vacuum with just the starter spinning to lift it. Another CC adventure!
I discovered a few days later that it needed a new fuel pump (was leaking), and has been starting problem free after it’s replacement.
That was a brilliant description of your Volvo’s history. It is a good feeling to be able to know a car’s history in this way; it is often done for celebrity-owned cars that end up in museums, but rarely for cars owned by ordinary people.
You will have to return to write follow-ups as your ownership experience progresses, and if the original owner’s family members ever contact you.
I really have to commend the many new contributors. The tone and drift of your writing shows that you’ve come to the right place.
+2. An interesting perspective and very enjoyable read. This will hopefully spawn future contributions of this nature. On a personal note, this is something I’ve wanted to do several times but never got around to actually doing it.
Everything I find in my purchases goes into a box or folder — even old receipts and stuff.
Hey, good story! I hope to see more from you.
So that is what that Special Delivery Tourist and Diplomat sales sticker means. A look on the interwebs shows that this is now called Overseas Delivery and you get to tour the factory and drive your car for a little bit before it gets shipped back to the USA.
My 1990 Volvo 240 DL has the same sticker so its first owner got a tour of the factory.
I love those 740/940 wagons and looked for one also but did not find one at the time I looked at it.
My own personal 740 story is a short and spendy one. I bought a 90 with around 120k km on it for $1000 and a week into ownership it developed a shake that I thought was the tires. On went four new tires and the shake was still there. Next was a new u joint that did nothing for the shake. Next I thought a new front suspension would cure the stupid thing, nope but it did make it more noticeable so I changed the rack and the u-joint in the steering shaft which did a whole bunch of nothing. In the six months I owned it I fixed every part of the suspension and put engine mounts into it but never got rid of the shake. So I sold it and bought a 95 850 t5 that was a much better car but not without its faults.
Well done, Mark. An excellent summary of a great car and your relationship with it. Nice to meet another central Indiana guy – If we keep this up, we are going to outnumber the Pacific Northwest contingent! 🙂
I too have had a habit of buying older cars from longtime owners. You remind me that I need to do a writeup on my 93 Crown Vic that is heading for twenty one years of ownership by one family that has served three generations.
Nice car, and great to see it going to a good home. One of the reasons I got my Lincoln (other than really, really wanting it) was to save it from people who would use it up and toss it aside in a couple of years. That is the fate of too many Curbside Classics, with nothing against them other than being perceived as old and out-of-date.
These 740s were great. Mom had a wine-red ’89 GL and a navy ’90 GL. Here’s the ’90 when it turned up back at Lundahl Volvo in ’99. I had to get a few pictures for posterity! That ’90 was a great car, and sharp, with the Volvo accessory lacy-spoke alloys and saddle-tan leather. Us kids had finally outgrown wagons so it was traded in on a new ’92 Grand Caravan ES with all-wheel drive.
I still see the ’90 running around town occasionally. The last time was probably 2009 or 2010–it was parked in downtown Rock Island. Hopefully it’s still out there!
If I recall from your posts the 1989 was cursed. After it got traded in what happened to it?
No idea; I never saw it again. I have seen the car that was traded in on the ’89, a 1986 240DL wagon in cream yellow with the GL Corona alloys–Mom didn’t like the DL wheel covers, and the GL wagon didn’t come in the color she wanted. It’s pretty banged up, but still on the road.
I grew up in a new 1974 145 that Dad used for family and work (and eventually a simultaneous 1986 240 fire-engine red sedan that Mum absolutely loved) and was gobsmacked when Dad brought an issue of Gente Motori or Quattroroute back from Italy showing sneak drawings of this new Volvo. It seemed to have jumped into another class of car, away from the ‘utilitarian’ ones and twos. I studied those pics for a long time, trying to fit them into my nascent grand unifying theory of cars. These days I’m a fan of the Ovlovigami.
A friend found a 740 wagon for his growing family which I encouraged him to buy, but before too long a warped head (IIRC) pushed him into a much newer Subaru.
Happy travels, Mark.
Good read. That car has seen more lands than most people will.
Good read !
What about general rust, after all those years ?
Very nice letter and article – written like a true Volvo-phile. I have faith that that under your benevolent care, your 740 will make it past 460K if not more.
Volvo’s Military and Diplomatic sales program is a really superb offering – prices are very close to invoice and as was mentioned, they offer European delivery with free tickets from NY to Gothenberg on Scandinavian Air, one free hotel night, a guided tour of the factory followed by special delivery of your Volvo, temporarily registered and ready to drive. You can drop it off for free shipping back to the states at various locations in Europe.
Volvo for life…..
A wonderful story about your 740. I would like to share my own 740 story with you and the rest of the gang here on CC. As most people know, I am a diehard Volvo enthusiast and love talking about the cars at every opportunity.
I purchased my 1991 sedan from its original owner almost two years ago, in April 2012. Actually, today marks two years to the day that I agreed to buy the 740 from the gentleman. He had purchased it new in Carlsbad, California, and it resided in the desert “oases” of Yuma, Arizona and Twentynine Palms, California for six years until going to the Midwest in late 1997. Around 2000, he began working for the Foreign Service and the Volvo was taken to Europe. It traveled to a variety of places such as Germany, Russia, and the Netherlands. In 2006, the gentleman was transferred to New Zealand for a three-year assignment. The Volvo could not be taken and was put into storage at a facility in Ghent, Belgium, where it would remain until December 2009, when it was taken back to the U.S. for the owner’s new assignment at Foggy Bottom in DC. Because it sat for three years, numerous parts had to be replaced, in particular all of the engine and transmission seals, alternator, thermostat, and radiator – it also underwent a front end rebuild at that time.
In the spring of 2012, the owner was transferred once again, to Slovakia. By that time he had two Volvos, one of which is a 2008 S80. He decided to finally part with the 740 after 21 years. I had met him at a grocery store parking lot the previous September, and started talking with him and his wife about my love for Volvos. I gave him my number and asked him to give me a call if he ever decided to sell it. I didn’t think he would ever call me. But true to his word, he did call me that March and asked me to come over to see the 740. He had already “screened” other prospective buyers and did not deem them worthy enough to be the new owner of the car. I took it to my mechanic that afternoon and he told me to buy the car immediately. He gave it a thorough inspection and said that due to it living in a desert environment for its first few years, there was no rust to speak of, and with the parts replacement and meticulous maintenance the owner had given it, it needed nothing. I signed the papers a month later, in April 2012, just before the gentleman left for Slovakia – ironically, I bought it 21 years to the day he bought it new in California. The kicker? I paid $950 for the car.
Of all my Volvos, this 740 has been my favorite of all. I love it so dearly, I am in the process of buying another one-owner 740 – this time, a 1986 GLE. I have learned its quirks. I have learned how to do basic maintenance by myself. And yes, the instrument cluster in mine has suffered from the same electrical issue David had when the wagon was in his possession. My car has 164,019 miles on it as of yesterday. People often ask me when I am going to get rid of it and buy a newer car. I tell them the same answer: I have no plans to trade or sell it, at least not in my lifetime. There is a 1988 740 GLE out in California, bought new by its only owner, that recently turned 1 million miles. I plan to do the same with my car. Volvo for life. (p.s. Sorry for the long post.)
Another great story! Your car has had an incredible history and it’s nice to know that it will stick around for a lot longer.
The kind of story that makes me come to CC every day :). Thanks Mark.
Congrats on the 740. Investigate and learn about the Brickboard.com. They have a Volvo RWD FAQ section that will give you answers on repair for just about every single item that
goes wrong with your car. Keep after those grounds. Volvo built sturdy cars with a cheap
electrical system. Headlight and taillight ground wires are particularly important to the cars
functioning and equally likely to corrode and fail to transmit electrons.
Change your tranny fluid, learn to change water pumps, and if no one has changed the radiator, do that now.
You will find that anything and everything can fit into that box, er, car. and with the seat folded down and the rear seat-bottom pulled out, you can sleep in the back – a seven foot clearance!
Pretty awesome that you were able to piece together this car’s history back to new. I’ve done the same with my own vehicles. Have kept in close contact w/ the original owners of my cars – even sending them updated pictures and arranging to visit them. I would hope that someday the eventual owners of my cars will do the same for me. Maybe Laura will somehow get in touch with you and you can take her for a spin.
Nice to see cars with interesting history. I bought my current car, a 95 pontiac trans am, from the original owners in westin, fl in 2004. They purchased the car new from a pontiac dealer in honalulu, hawaii. I’ve done some research over the years and my car is one of only 24 trans am coupes sold new in hawaii that year. I ran into a ferrari owner at a car show a few years ago who was a fan of trans ams and lived in hawaii at the time my car was sold and he said he used to go to that dealer to look at the trans ams. It’s very likely he saw my car new on the showroom floor. My car is pretty much fully loaded and has some rare RPO codes and it’s quite possible it was a dealer ordered display car as it’s a fairly early build for that model year.
I’ve always loved the Volvo 700 series, both the sedan and wagon. I used to know someone who had a sedan.