COAL: #14 1998 Volvo S90 – The Last of the RWD Volvos

I had my hands full still with my 72 ES that I was restoring, and parting out/saving parts from a 73 ES. Somewhere, I got the bright idea that I needed another daily driver again to keep my V8 XC90 from getting beat up in the parking lot while I was in class. I knew that I wanted a Volvo, but I was not sure what model this time. I wanted something a bit more comfortable than the 88 240 I had, but something that wouldn’t break the bank. I relied on my friend David again to see what he suggested. Without much of a hesitation he said “get a 960 or S90”.

Now, I knew that David was a bit partial to the 960/S90 because he has a V90 (which is just a wagon version) that had well over 500,000 miles. David and his wife travel a lot for work, and they absolutely love their V90. They said the comfort and reliability that they have received is next to nothing. It is also worth mentioning David also has a 940 turbo with 500,000 miles as well and it still has its original turbo!

I gave it some thought, and figured that it might be worth looking at, however I knew I wouldn’t be so lucky to find something close. I hopped onto Craigslist to see what I could find, and wouldn’t you know it, a 1998 S90 was for sale in Little Rock for $2300. I was intrigued, it had good paint, cold AC which is a must for me, and was maintained at David’s trusty mechanic in Little Rock.  I contacted the seller, and made arrangements to see it the next weekend. On my way I stopped and picked up David in Clinton to get his expertise, plus if I bought it I needed someone to help drive!

I met the seller at a Target in Little Rock, and the car was as described. It had a few owners, and the car was filthy. It hadn’t seen a wax in years, and it was in desperate need of a vacuum.  The driver seat would not move forward, but David said that his V90 had this issue before and he knew exactly what was wrong. It also needed a set of new tires, as all the tires were mismatched, but other than that it seemed ok.

I asked the seller if he would take $1200 for it, as he told me he really needed to get rid of the car because they had just bought a new one. He shot back at $1500, and I took it. I drove the S90 to Clinton, and David, grinning from ear to ear, took my XC90. It made the 2 hour trip back without an issue. Once we got back to David’s I started cleaning it inside and out while David tackled the seat issue. By Sunday the car almost looked like a different car! I had to borrow David’s trailer to tow it back to my house, and once I got it home I put on the nicest set of Walmart tires you have ever seen.

The car ran smooth with its straight six 16 valve engine. The car shifted like it had 15,000 miles on it when it really had 200,000 miles. This model is the last of the rwd Volvos made. A lot of people like them because they also have a fancy rear axle that is supposed to take the bumps more smoothly. Also, the S90 took over the 960 name in 1998, but it is basically the same model. Volvo was trying to make a more uniform model line, but the S90 was soon replaced in 1999 by the S80.  I added a Volvo remote fob as it did not come with one. They can be bought cheap, and you can actually program them yourself with some key magic and holding down the unlock button. I think it cost me $30 for the fob, and 2 minutes of my time.

I did have a check engine light appear not too long after I bought it, and after scanning it, David knew exactly what was wrong again. There was an emissions hose that ran on top of the gas tank, and it was common to get brittle and fail. A quick 20 minute job and some spare hose it was solved, and the light never to return. Another thing came up that was interesting, was the AC would blow hot when the car was at idle, but cool down when it was moving. David again told me he had this issue, and it was a valve somewhere under the dash that was a common failure. I found a new one for $60 on Ebay, and David was kind enough to show me how to replace it. Other than those small issues, the car was trouble free for my ownership.

In the end, I had plans to make a little money on this car to fund the ES, but a Volvo friend reached out to me and asked if I would sell it as his V70 was just totaled in a rear-end collision. I agreed as I had my sight on another car, and sold it to him for what I had in it. I didn’t feel right selling it for a profit to a friend. He had the car for a short time, and sold it once he got back onto his feet. I see the old S90 from time to time, but have lost sight of it over the last few years. I hope that it is still living on, serving its owner as good as it served me.