COAL: 1971 Volvo 164 • Dreams Deferred Indefinitely

High in front because engine out. Virgo Turbo wheels, Jaguar/Jeep side mirrors, minus side markers, plus repeaters. Schmancy!

There was evidently a difference between putting together his own Volvos, which he did, and putting together mine, which he didn’t. He farmed out the bodywork and paint to a buddy of his—they later had one of Darryl’s fallings-out, but before that happened, the guy did a pretty nice job fixing the rust (there was more of it than had been apparent) and painting the car. I specified the same metallic medium green as my dad’s ’62 Dodge, but something got lost in the translation, or maybe the paint code was difficult to read through all the pot smoke; the car wound up somewhat more of a dusty-sage silver-green by comparison. Also, there was some badness when the sunroof didn’t get aligned properly on installation and the roof put a nasty gouge in the paint on top of the sunroof the first time it was cranked open.

Really a sharp-lookin’ car…

After the bodywork, the car came back to Darryl’s, and he put it up on stands outside his shop. One day, Darryl’s son came along, drunk-driving a Ford van, with which he knocked the Volvo off the stands. Perfect trim mangled, sheetmetal dented, paint scratched up. Darryl tried to get me to pursue my insurance company about it, and it’s probably just as well I don’t recall the particulars of that fight, just one of many over a lot of years. All along, Darryl was wringing me for money, which I kept sending (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me—fool me countless times over ten years, I don’t even know what goes here). Sometimes it was for work said to be ongoing, sometimes it was for work farmed out, sometimes it was for parts. I stopped keeping track, and, probably also for the best, I have still never tried to figure out just how much money I flushed that direction.

…from any angle…

My pleas to get the car done never got any traction. He had big plans for the engine, constrained only by my insistence that I would not be buying a costly header and camshaft from Sweden. I had big plans for the engine, too, centred round deleting the dual Zenith carburetors and putting on the fuel injection hardware, powered not with ancient D-Jetronic sensors and brain but with a nifty fuel-and-spark engine management system from SDS.

…including this one.


Bit of a story about that, actually. SDS are a Canadian outfit, and the system I bought was delivered to me in Ontario. I kept hold of it until I had occasion to drive to the States. Had the system right next to me on the seat of my truck, with the receipt on top of the box. Got to the border and the American guard in the booth mumbled his questions into his computer screen; I couldn’t hear him despite having switched off my engine, so I had to ask him to repeat himself. He took this as an attempt to evade his questions, and accused me of trying to sneak commercial merchandise across the border. I told him I wasn’t trying to sneak anything anywhere, and pointed out (again) the receipt for the equipment. He sneered “Oh, sure, I’ll just bet you have a receipt. I’m sure it’s not fake, too”, and sent me inside for inspection with a yellow slip that said “COMM MERCH UNDEC”.

The officer inside said “What is it?”. I said “It’s a fuel injection system for an old Volvo”. Officer said “What’s it going on?”. I said “My 1971 164”. Officer says “So…why were you sent in here?”. I said “I was hoping you could tell me”. Officer rolled his eyes and said “Have a nice night”. I rolled on into Michigan and sent Darryl the system from there.

Not that it mattered; it didn’t get taken out the box, let alone installed. I finally—very tardily—came to my senses and undertook to take back what had always been mine, but only in theory since sometime last century. Enough was (finally, at long last) vastly more than enough, and as I write this now, I’m reminded of having used that phrase earlier in this COAL series, in re dad’s Stinkoln Clown Car. H’mm. Like father/like son, I guess! Hadn’t occurred to me until just now.

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