COAL: #28 1971 Volvo 145 – The Green Family Machine

If you have been following my COAL series, you might recall that I had traded my 1974 Volvo 142 for something. Well this week, you finally get to know what I traded. When the gentleman who had bought my 142 told me he had a 145, my ears immediately perked up. I love the 145, but they are increasingly hard to find as most of them were worn out from service. I asked for some more info on the 145, and asked if he might want to sell it. He told me that anything is for sale, but that he would need a considerable amount of money on top of the 142 as trade.

At that time, I just did not find that it was the smart thing to do to throw up all this money on this car. When I buy a car, for the most part (except for new cars) I try to think what I could sell it for. If I get tired of it, or it’s not what I thought it was going to be like, or if I get into an accident and insurance totals it, I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the car. At the time, I thought that the 145 had not come up in value enough for me to justify buying it, and get out of it without losing any money. So I agreed to just sell him my 142, and think on the 145.

Well, with the cash exchanged and the 142 off to its new home in Virginia, I was left a little empty. All I could think about was that 145. I scavenged the internet for a 145, and was coming up with nothing. Suddenly a light bulb went off, if I can’t find at least one more 145 for sale, then the demand must be more than the supply. I already knew that there was an increase in demand for the 145’s, as 122 wagons were growing harder to find, and people were moving onto the next best wagon. So I called up the gentleman in Virginia, and asked him if he would still sell me the 145. He agreed, and the following week the car was shipped to me in Arkansas.

I will never understand our fascination with vintage station wagons. I myself have this love for them, and I can’t even explain it. I find it hard to believe that in 30 years we will be lusting over Honda Odysseys or Toyota Siennas, but who knows. Anyway, when I got the car I was pretty excited to have it. I knew the car was all original for the most part. The paint was from 1971, and had a nice look to it. It was shiny, and cleaned up nice, but you could still need that it was not new, but original to the car. The interior had never been touched, and still had a strong smell of fake leather. The dash was also not cracked, which for a Volvo of this age is a miracle. The car had 68,000 original miles on it, and it was all mine.

This, like most vintage Volvos I have had, was a B20 4 cylinder, paired with an automatic transmission. What was interesting about this car, was that it had factory twin SU carbs on it. Why is that interesting? Well, Volvo in 1971 unveiled their fuel injection system to the world, and 1971’s cars started coming with it standard. I have heard rumors that if you bought or ordered a 1971 Volvo you had the choice of carbs or fuel injection. The car had some options on it, so it wasn’t a base model, but maybe the fuel injection price just pushed it over the original buyer’s comfort zone.

As I said above, the interior was all from 1971. The fake leather seats were flawless for the most part, minus a few blemishes, and the carpet and headliner was still new looking. The one thing that this car did not have was the third row seat option. I don’t exactly know how rare or common this option was in the 145. I know that you see them more in the 700 series or 200 series. My guess is that the first buyer did not have kids judging by the lack of the third row, and how clean it was in the back seat. I like to think it was an older lady that bought it new, but who knows. It did come with a few options like the automatic transmission, which was a touch more expensive, a rear wiper and washer, leather, and chrome roof rack. It did not have power steering or AC, which is kind of interesting. The seats at the time in the 140 series and 160 series were some of the plushest Volvo has built. They were big oversized cushions that you sunk into. Now, Volvo has trimmed up their seats, making them stiff in all the areas that you need them to be. I said it once, and I will say it again, no one makes seats as comfortable as a Volvo.

I owned this car for a year or two, which is pretty long for me. It sat in my parents’ driveway under 2 covers for the majority of the time. I drove it periodically, and it was one of the most reliable older Volvos I have owned to date. It would start up every time, even in the coldest of days. It would sometimes sit for weeks at a time, and at a pull of the choke, it fired right up. It was simple, mechanically speaking. Come to find out I drove it all the way to Tulsa for the 2017 Volvo national meet without the battery charging. The “amp” light was not working, and I did not know that the alternator/voltage regulator had gone out until I got to Tulsa. I was doing some work under the hood for the show that morning, and just happened to check the voltage on the battery, and saw it gradually declining. Luckily a fellow Volvo enthusiast had a spare alternator and regulator that he let me buy off him. After a 20 minute change I was on my way.

During my ownership, I kept the car the exact same way I had gotten it, and how it was for the last 45 years. I even kept the 1976 Mt. Rushmore park pass sticker in the windshield, as it gave it character. After a while and a move into my own house, I got sad looking at it in the driveway. I had started my first real job after college, and did not have much time to drive it. I decided to throw it up on Ebay, just to see what it would fetch, and if I could get my money back. After a few days of bidding, it closed at a little over $7,000. For that car it was not too bad, and I was pleased. The new owner had it shipped to Colorado, where he drove it daily for a while. I saw it for sale recently again, and it made me sad. It had not looked like it had been cared for nearly as nice as I kept it. I can’t remember what he was asking for it, but I recall it sold quickly. I am glad that I got to be a part of the car’s life, I just wished it had ended better for it.