As Volvo Week approached, I knew it was time again to dust off some of my many Volvo dealership promotionals. Volvos large and small were a big part of my childhood, and I received many of these mini Volvos as a child. Sadly, I was a destructive little kid, and Mom would toss many of these cool little cars once I’d sufficiently messed them up. But today I have approximately 100 of these little Volvos.
How? Simple, eBay in the late ’90s and early ’00s. At the time I was in college but still living at home, and that combined with working at Dad’s office (microfilming closed claim files–remember microfilm?) after school and during the summer, I had a pretty healthy checking account.
So, what to do with the money. Let it sit, perhaps invest a bit, or just open a savings account? Hah! No, I spent it. Spent it on ’60s Corgi and Dinky miniatures, spent it on 1960s-1980s car brochures, and perhaps most of all, spent it on Stahlberg promotionals.
Stahlberg was a Finnish company that made promotional cars and trucks, primarily Saab, Volvo and Scania trucks, although a W123 Mercedes TD and early ’80s Toyota Corolla were also produced. See, I felt bad about all those cool Volvo promos I’d destroyed. Probably better than a dozen cool little 240, 740 and 760 sedans and wagons fell to my chubby little fingers, though a few of my originals have survived to the present day–albeit in varying conditions.
If I could take it back, I would have, but it was too late. However, I could most certainly rebuild my collection and give other Stahlbergs a happy retirement sitting on display! And I could get some of the ’60s and ’70s models that were no longer available from the dealership parts counter when I got my first one in the early ’80s. Like this 142, for example. I also have an Amazon two-door sedan somewhere, but did not unearth it in time for this article. I also have a 242 and several 264GLs and 264GLEs.
Looking back, I went a little nuts, considering how many of these little Volvos I bought between 1999-2002. Way more than I can display. In fact, of all the mini CCs seen here on this post, only the blue 760GLE is displayed. All the others were bubble-wrapped in boxes in the garage! I do have about 35 on display however–probably a third of the total collection.
Since the owners of the local Volvo dealer were friends with my parents, I spent a lot of time at Lundahl Motors, eyeballing the new rolling stock, snagging brochures and begging for a promotional car when the time seemed opportune. I also got one from Mike and Cathy sometimes at Christmas, or for helping feed their cat when they were out of town (mostly I assisted Dad in feeding the cat, but I got the toy!).
By the time I was eight or nine years old, I had finally realized the destruction of these little cars was really dumb, so I have a slightly-beat black 1986-88 240 sedan, two very nice light yellow 1986-88 240 wagons the same color as my Mom’s full-size 1986 240DL wagon (one a gift from a family friend, the other purchased with my allowance circa 1992), gunmetal-gray 1988-90 760GLE wagon and dark red 1991-93 240 wagon that all survived my childhood–and predated my eBay spree. The copper 260 sedan, white 240 wagon, burgundy 240 wagon, yellow 240 wagon (my original one, but a duplicate of the two I still have today) and a slate blue 760GLE sedan all perished. There were probably others. Of all those long-gone cars, I have a steering wheel here and a wheel cover there to remind me of their loss. Why was I so stupid??
Unlike U.S. promotional cars of the 1950s-1970s, these were made of a soft plastic that, while more durable than the styrene Cadillacs and Galaxies, was more prone to scratching and scuffing. The bodies actually had some flex to them. Only the glass was the more traditional styrene.
These were very well-detailed, with separate pieces for headlights, turn signals and parking lights. Each model also had correct wheel trims and side trim. Also, all Stahlbergs were European versions, as shown by the fender repeater light on this 240GL sedan.
These models were also bigger than 1/24 and 1/25 U.S. promos, at about 1/20 scale. They were unmarked on the bottom, with only “MADE IN FINLAND” stamped mid-chassis. The later 760 models did get a more accurate baseplate with driveshaft, engine and exhaust stamped into it, along with “Volvo 760GLE”
Many also had the traditional “Volvo” mud flaps. These are on most of my 240s, well up to the mid-’80s.
While the year was never stamped on any of these Volvos, they did keep up with the design updates. When the 760GLE received a new “aero” nose for the 1988 model year, the promotional was updated right along with the real deal.
As is well known, the 240 was Volvo’s evergreen model, as is proved by the 1986+ sedan sitting alongside a late ’70s wagon. They just didn’t change much, but that made them all the more endearing to their fans.
Stahlberg appears to have stopped developing new models after the late ’80s, though the existing 240 and 760 promos continued to be offered through the early ’90s. The one and only Stahlberg promo I bought myself was the aforementioned light yellow 240 wagon, sporting Turbo five-spoke wheels. I believe I bought that in 1992 or 1993, and it was the last Stahlberg promo Lundahl Volvo had.
The early ’90s 240 I also previously mentioned used the same tooling as the Stahlbergs, but it was made of a harder plastic and had a bit more detail. That one, only available as a wagon and only available in dark red, was produced by Emek, which apparently acquired the molds for it.
I received one for Christmas in 1993 or so, and it remained available from the Volvo accessories catalog through the early 2000s. I bought a second one in about 2001 from Lundahl’s, as they were clearing out some of their old stock and it was discounted.
And that was the last gasp for the large-scale Volvo promo. Today, you can get 1/43-scale diecast versions of most of the new Volvos from the parts counter, made by Minichamps. But they just don’t have the same appeal as these big, plastic Volvos. I’ll always love them!