Not long into my freshman year at the University of Arkansas, I had decided I needed something to drive to class, and not care if I got bumped into or not. This would leave my XC90 safely parked in the garage, and ready for inclement weather. What did I decide to get? Well, I had my heart set on an older Mercedes as there was a very strong Mercedes presence in Fayetteville, and you can find them for sale. After looking realistically at my budget, and the prices of used Mercedes, I came to realize I needed a different car.
I was a college student with limited funds, and still rebuilding the engine on my 164. At this point in time you could still pick up Volvo 240’s pretty cheap, and still have a nice car. I did a quick search for 240’s near me, and found a 1988 240 GL in Memphis, TN. It was an Ebay ad, and the seller was a salesman at a Lexus dealer in Memphis. It was his son’s car, and they bought him a newer car. He told me that if I brought $1200, the car would be mine. I quickly said “deal”, and planned a trip 5 hours south.
That weekend I got about 45 minutes into the trip, and the seller called me to tell me he had a higher offer on the table. At first I was kind of upset thinking that is not the way you do business, once you make a deal, it’s a deal. He quickly followed up saying that he is holding the car for me as long as I was still coming. Relieved, I said yes, and I would be there in the afternoon.
I got to the Lexus dealer around 12 or 1, and was pleasantly surprised with the car. It was a white GL, with the original paint that was perfect. The seats were a tan tufted leather, but were badly ripped. It had roughly 250,000 miles, and it ran like a champ. The AC cooled better than most newer cars, and as a bonus I got the service records.
I brought my mom along with me to drive a car back. She loves doing road trips with me, regardless if she has to drive a car back. The drive home was really uneventful thankfully. I replayed in the back of my head what the seller told me when I said I was driving it home 5 hours, “I had told my son not to drive it 2 hours to Nashville, but he did.” Once we got on the other side of Alma, Arkansas we hit a torrential downpour. It was to the point where I saw many cars in the ditch due to hydroplaning. This 240 did not have great tires, in fact, one was almost slick, and another had a bulging sidewall. Looking back, the tire gods were watching over me. We made it home safely without a break down or blowout (looking back I would not do this again. I was a bit more gutsy in my younger days).
The GL trim is the top of the line luxury for a 240. You get Corona aluminum wheels, and real deal leather with buttons! The “GL” stands for Grand Lux, and made you stand out from the average 240 buyer. Of course, you could get a 240 GT or GLT, but those are a bit more rare. Weirdly enough the GL trim in the bigger sedan, the 740, was the lower end. You had to step up to the GLE or Tubro in the 740 to get some luxury.
Now, looking back this was one of the cars I should not have let go. I had some real fun with this car. It was the most reliable car you could ask for. The sound the doors made when you closed it was satisfying. I love the sound that they make when they start up, and the chime that you get, is very 1980’s Volvo.
I had a euro style front license plate made that said “88 Brick”, so I stood out in traffic. All of my fraternity brothers loved piling into the car, and taking it from my dorm to the house in the mornings. I always felt safe and secure in my 240, regardless if it was quite a bit smaller than the lifted trucks around campus. I recall one time pulling up to a stop light, and seeing another 240 across the intersection from me. We made eye contact and waved, kind of like we had something no one else on the road had.
In the end my relationship with the white knight was short lived. Not because I wanted it to be, but because I had a friend fall in love with it more than me. A Volvo club member that lived close to me had seen the car at one of our Volvo get togethers, and loved the way it looked, and drove. He texted me later that night, and asked if it was for sale. I told him everything was for sale for a price, which in retrospect I should have just said no. He told me he would offer $2,200 for the car, which for me was a big profit after I put tires on the car. For some, $700 profit on a car might not be a lot, but for me I was fired up. The next day he met me to pick up the car, and sign the title, and that was it. He drove the car for a number of years, and loved it more than I had. When his family grew he needed a wagon, so he sold it. The gentleman that bought it, really changed it. Later he sent me a picture of it, and it had some new rims, completely overhauled interior, and a manual transmission. I was so glad it was passed along to someone that loved it again. In the end, it was better off with new owners so it wouldn’t have to suffer a life in college parking lots. I still miss it, but know that it is still loved.