COAL: 1988 Volvo 740 GLE – Moby Dick

After the Alfa Romeo, I longed for something that felt reliable and stable, something familiar. So I started looking for a Volvo 740 like my dad once owned. I ended up buying a white 1988 744 GLE – he once had a dark blue 1984 744 GLE. But unlike his, mine had an automatic transmission (the four-speed), power windows and power sunroof. It also had the Draco wheels from the Turbo version.

Needless to say this was somewhat of a change from the Alfa Romeo, but I enjoyed the smooth ride. Later as an Alabama Crimson Tide fan since 2009 (Roll Tide!), I would definitely have appreciated the fact that the color combo was what “Bear” Bryant would have chosen: white exterior, crimson interior. At the time though, I thought the extent of red velvet was a bit excessive. Here’s a shot of the interior. You can appreciate the ambiance, I’m sure:

The car ran well and I like an automatic transmission. To me it’s all about context. An auto box makes perfect sense in a naturally aspirated 740 and zero sense in any Alfa Romeo. To me this styling looks great, and I still think a 744 in bright red with the 16” Hydra wheels and the black Turbo grille looks absolutely amazing.

(Draco wheels – not Hydra wheels)

Being a kid of the eighties, I love boxy styling. I realize this styling is more than a little influenced by the main market for Volvo at the time, the US, but I think Volvo pulls this look off better than any of the Big Three did (hell yeah, I’m biased).

As was my style at the time, I was all about modifications and not at all about maintenance. So, I got bitten by the car audio bug at the time. I bought two Audiobahn amplifiers and a set of two-way speakers for the rear. I never got further than that before a lacking maintenance issue bit me in the ass: A light in the instrument cluster had gone out so one night while cruising at 90 mph the car suddenly started losing power and making weird noises.

A 744 GL

I pulled over and noticed that the temperature gauge had gone all the way into the red. The engine was steaming and I found out that a radiator hose had sprung leak. I had the car towed and learned that the engine was shut. Add to that the fact that other issues, mainly with rust, had set in and I got rid of it for 3.000 DKK. Yet another car to die at my hands. Yet again very much due to buying a high mileage car and not maintaining it. Apart from my low mileage Fiat all my other cars at this point had at least 250,000 km (155,000 miles on them).

The Volvo died around 2006. It would be another six years before I got another car. While the lessons had cost dearly, I had at least (finally) learned something: Maintenance pays off and reliability is something you can directly impact.

(None of the cars here are mine)