COAL: 1980 Volvo 244 GL – Nora (the First)

80 240GL (with a New Look bus in the background)

[It looked just like this.]

This week, another hand-me-down story. This one begins with the second fuel crisis of 1979. Mother was getting tired of her 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood and its 500 cubic inches of thirst. My childhood best friend’s mother drove a 1975 Volvo 245DL, and I had become enamored of it. The car felt solid, well-built, and right sized. By this time I was 15 and already quite passionate about cars. Still, when mother actually took my suggestion to test-drive a Volvo, I was a bit taken aback that she respected my opinion enough to drive one.

I was even more surprised when she actually bought one. As it turned out, she had an aggressive driving style that worked well in the Volvo, but I’d never seen it before in the big American boats she’d driven prior to this car. Most interesting, indeed.

Mother put about 70,000 on the car, and enjoyed it. By then, my folks were experiencing some hard times, and when mother got a new car, Pop got to drive this one. He hated it. As discussed in my Cadillac tale, Pop loved big American cars, and being forced to drive the Volvo was not only distasteful to him, but it was a blow to his ego, to his inability to afford a car he truly wanted to drive. He put another 60,000 miles on the Volvo but he despised every minute of it, and he beat it like a rented mule.

Their fortunes turned, Mother would get a new car, Pop would get her old car, and I got the call to “just take the Volvo”. It’s sometime around 1994, and the Ranger isn’t doing very well at meeting my transportation needs. One torturous Greyhound ride from Michigan to New York later, the Volvo would be mine.

I named her Nora, after the character in Henrik Ibsen’s play, “A Doll’s House”. If you haven’t read it (since high school?), Nora is an independent woman at a time when that wasn’t a thing, who abandons her husband and children to go “find herself”. I was giving this Volvo a new beginning, and Nora (the character) was Norwegian, which was close enough to Swedish for me!

I learned my way around that car, fixing a number of niggling flaws that would have cost my parents a bundle to have fixed at a shop, but were neither difficult nor costly for a (very) amateur mechanic, which was me at the time.

Then the HVAC blower went out. If the casual reader knows one thing about the Volvo 240, he/she knows that the entire car is assembled around the HVAC blower. At the time, I had no idea how to change one, Internet information was scarce, and no indy shop in town wanted to touch the job.

Ouch. $600 and 7 hours at the dealer, and I had a new blower. Well, okay, the car was free, so I can swallow the big repair bill. I drove that car through the winter and the spring.

Then the transmission started taking longer and longer to engage Drive. Just like the Cadillac (which actually comes later in the chronology) Pop was always remiss in transmission maintenance. It wouldn’t take a crystal ball to see where this was going. A local Ford dealer offered me $800 in trade on Son of Ranger and I didn’t think twice. You’ll hear that story in next week’s episode…