CC Outtake: Turbo Brick

The rectilinear and seemingly immortal Volvo 140 and 240 series inspired the popular “Brick” nickname that has adhered to Volvos decades after the last one rolled off the assembly line and yielded the crown (kronor?) to curvier successors.  More than a quarter century of production and numerous variations create considerable room for debate on what is the ultimate Brick, though.

The original 1967-74 140, the ultra-practical 145 and 245 wagons, the final 1993 240 Classic sedan and wagon, a million-miler of any year or body style — each of them and others have valid arguments in their favor.  To me, though, the ultimate Brick is this specific one that I spotted recently on a Friday morning commute: a 1983 240 Turbo wagon.  They don’t come any more Brick-y than this one, and on top of that, it’s a Turbo, and nothing is more reminiscent of cars of my teenage years in the Eighties than a turbo.

To give some context for those who do not remember the short-lived 240 Turbo, this hottest of 240s lasted for only four years in the early 1980s.  In 1981, Volvo introduced a boosted version of its “red block” B21 2.1 liter four, using a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger and a compression ratio dropped from 9.3:1 to 7.5:1, producing 127 horsepower in U.S. trim (155 in Europe).  Initially it was available as an option only in sedans in the sporty GLT series, with GLT wagons having the same suspension and brake upgrades but not the turbo option.  The U.S. version was capable of 0-60 in 8.9 seconds, slow by today’s standards, but a quantum leap ahead of the 107 horsepower and over 14 seconds of the naturally aspirated sedan.

In 1982, the turbocharged engine became standard in both the GLT sedans and wagons.  It made the GLT wagon the ultimate in fast freight in the early 1980s, capable of running with any sports sedan of its time.

In 1983 Volvo’s Turbos became even more potent with the addition of an intercooler.  U.S. versions now produced 162 horsepower, and the sedan’s claimed 0-60 time now dipped below 7 seconds.  Approaching the performance level of a 2000’s V6 powered family sedan made them quite fast by the standards of the early 1980s.  Unfortunately, 1984 became the last year for the 240 Turbo, with the introduction of the 740 in 1984 causing the 240 to move down market a notch and concede the turbocharged engine to become exclusive to the 740 series.

The short life of the turbocharged 240 and the even shorter lives of the wagon and intercooled versions make this 1983 wagon with its “1983 BRICK” vanity plate a rare Brick.  The Turbo badge on the tailgate is likely to be genuine, as this wagon has the five spoke alloy wheels of the Turbo.  On top of its rarity, this 240 wagon shows many signs of being both in excellent condition (aside from a missing rear wiper) and in regular driver usage, as a good solid Brick should be.  Shiny paint?  Check.   Period Volvo-logoed mudflaps?  Check.  Roof rack ready for heavy duty?  Check.  Rear three point seatbelts being used to secure a blond-haired boy during the morning school run, blurring whether we are in the United States or Sweden?  Check.  Even the color is that of a brick.  These many factors make this particular 240 Turbo wagon my idea of an ultimate Brick.

It certainly outshines the newer and more modern vehicles that surround it, all of which are successors in different ways: a Volvo S60, a direct descendant; a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which occupies exactly the same market segment today as the 240 wagon occupied then; and a Ford F150 with four doors and a bed cap, a common family and cargo hauler of today in the same color as the 240 Turbo to underscore the resemblance.

Your idea of the ultimate Brick and of the merits of this 240 wagon against the vehicles surrounding it may vary, though.  Feel free to debate both!