COAL #16: 1975 Volvo 164 – Velour Galore

Right after I had sold my 74 164, I knew right away that I wanted another 164, but one that didn’t need as much work. Let’s be honest though, I was naive. All old cars need some work, and it’s usually costly if you don’t know how to work on it. I kept searching and searching for a 164, as they are not that common even in the Volvo community. I found a few, but they all needed more work than I wanted to dive into. I was still a sophomore in college, and did not have the time to devote to a car. I just wanted something older, and fun to drive on the weekends, and maybe take to club meet ups.

After searching for a while, I ran across an ad for one in our Volvo club magazine. It was located about three hours from me in Oklahoma City. It was at a used Volvo dealer that specialized in selling used Volvos to the public. They also work on Volvos and to get them back on the road. This was one of those cars that needed some help. I called the number on the ad, and they were asking way too much for the car, $8500. When I talked to the salesman over the phone, he said he was willing to strike a deal for around $5000. I know that might sound like a lot, but this car had a very high quality paint job done to it. On top of that, it was also a one owner car with only 95,000 miles.

The next weekend, my dad and I were heading to Oklahoma to look at this car. Weirdly enough the dealer was not open on Saturdays, but the owner was willing to meet us since we had a long drive. When I walked up to the car I remember being very excited. The paint was San Andres Copper and it looked flawless. The interior was an orange velour that had no flaws, but come on, it’s velour. As an aside I would later have a friend ride with me in this car with corduroy pants on (I guess they are coming back), and he was Velcroed to the seats because the velour had bonded to his pants! Anyway, the straight 6 B30 was smooth and ticked away (yes it ticked, all Volvos with the push rods always tick a bit, and I love it). The 3 speed auto was a little lackluster, but it was meant to be luxury, not sporty.

We walked in, and did the paperwork on the car, and we were on our way. My dad followed me to a nearby breakfast spot, where the plan was to find a U-Haul trailer to bring it home with. After calling around to almost all of the U-Haul places, there were no trailers available for today. My dad looked at me and said “well, looks like you’re driving it home”. I was a little worried about it, as it was such an old car, and had not been driven much.

Once we jumped onto I-44 to head home, the car just floated down the road like it was meant to do. It took the bumps well, but did not handle like a big Cadillac. I cruised around 75-80, and it never missed a beat. My dad was following me close enough to where if I had any issue we could pull over safely. In the end we made it back home to Arkansas without any issues at all. After that I knew that I could drive it anywhere and not be too worried, it just could not be hot outside (more on this later).

The history on the car was that a customer of the dealer had found this car in a barn somewhere in Oklahoma. The original owner was a 90 year old lady named Myrtle. She had packed the car into the barn when it developed some problems and never looked at it again. The owner of the used car dealer dragged it out, and did an extensive amount of work on the car. I had all the original paperwork for the car, from when it was bought new in Riverside, California. The owner of the dealer decided to let it go after they could not figure out why it would stall on hot days. I was technically the second owner, as the dealer just kept the title in the original owner’s name, and signed it over to me.

There were a few things that I wanted to do to this car to ensure its reliability. One thing was the driver side power window did not work. Only the front two windows are power in the 75’s. After switching the switches and it still not working, I determined that it was a regulator issue. Since this car shares a lot of things with the early 240, I was able to source a window regulator from an early 240. The car also needed a lot of small things like injector insulators to prevent vapor locking, vacuum hoses, fuel injection hoses, and fuel filters.

The car always started up, and never had issues idling. The biggest issue that I had with this car was when it was hot. Once the heat outside reached past 80, and the car got warmed up, all sorts of things would happen. The car would cut in and out like someone was cutting the fuel. You could press the gas and it would go…stop…go…stop. It drove me insane. For years I chased this issue down, asked tons of Volvo people, even took it to shops, and nothing cured it. The list of parts I replaced was as long as my arm, fuel tank, all fuel lines, wiring harness for fuel injection, every single fuel injection item, distributor, you name it, it was touched. I finally just had to not drive it on hot days.

The next thing that came up with this car was when one day I went to move it out of the garage, and I heard a knock. It sounded like a little man was inside the engine bagging a hammer. My heart sank into my feet as I knew the likely culprit. I called up my buddy David, and asked if I could bring the car down to Clinton, and see what he thought. He confirmed that the engine was knocking, and it wasn’t good. I looked at him, and halfway smiled, and he said “Alright, let’s do it”. The next weekend I came back and we got to work. Saturday we pulled the engine, and then started stripping it all down. The plan was to take the block and the head in to have a machine shop hone the cylinders, and finish the head. It was a long day, but by that night we had it all apart, and in the bed of my dad’s truck for me to take it to a machine shop in Fayetteville.


Once I got the engine back from the machine shop about a week later, I took it all back down to Clinton. By this time I had ordered all the rings, and other bits from VP Auto, who has the most amazing parts supply for old Volvos. I could not source a new set of pistons from anywhere, and even the machine shop could not find a new set. I had them inspect them, and they said they were fine as long as we cleaned them up. That Saturday we worked ourselves raw trying to assemble the engine and get it ready to put back in the car that Sunday. I got it all painted, and all the other small bits powder coated so it looked nice, and we were ready to install. We got the engine in, and could not get it to start. We tried for a while, but in the end I needed to head back up north. David was nice enough to keep trying for me, and it turns out it was a simple timing issue. He sent me a video of it firing right up, after a turn of the distributor. After that we just had a few things to button up, like a new AC compressor, and cleaning the grime on the car.

After a fresh engine rebuild, I was hoping that it would fix its hesitation issue, but as you would guess, nope. The car still would hesitate, and just hated hot weather. If it was in the 70’s or below, the car ran like it was new, no issues at all. After keeping it for a year after the rebuild I had decided it was time to move on from it. I had owned the car for three years, and just was stressed every time I would drive it thinking it would hesitate again. I eventually threw it up for sale, and a Volvo member three hours north of me bought it as a father son project. He kept it for about a year, and did not appreciate the uniqueness of a 4 door, and sold it to someone from Norway. The buyer actually came over from Norway, and drove the car to the port in Florida, and flew back. I am friends with the owner, and follow the car from all the way in Norway.

This car was an expensive pain in my side, but I would not have traded our time together for anything. I loved almost everything about this car, the color, the interior, the front end, and the quirkiness of the styling. I remember getting strange looks from people, as if they were thinking “wow that’s a Volvo?” I was glad that I could take the car to the next level with the engine, and other things that needed attention. I am glad in the end that it ended up in a country where it is rarer than in the United States. It will be treasured for many more years.