A Letter To The Original Owner Of This 1991 Volvo 740


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.  


Mark Borcherding