In 2015 one of our Volvo club members had reached out to me asking if I might be interested in one of his cars that his grandfather had left him. His grandfather was an avid Volvo collector, and a club member as well. Unfortunately he had passed leaving behind a mound of Volvos and parts. The yellow 145 wagon was passed down, and was not getting the attention that the family thought it deserved.
The wagon did not come without its quirks though. It was actually named “the yellow peril” because of its constant need for attention. I had heard of its problems, but did not think much of it, as the car had made it to a few of our events just fine. Boy, was I wrong in that statement. The wagon really did live up to its name, it turns out.
I had recruited my Volvo club friend, David Gipson to make the trek with me to Bartlesville, OK, and load up the wagon. It was February, and a major winter storm was heading our way the next day, so it was a race against the clock. David came up from Clinton AR, and we hooked his car hauler to my XC90, and headed east. We arrived in Bartlesville around 12 to pick up the wagon, and loaded it up. We also stopped with the family for lunch at their favorite Mexican restaurant. There were a few tears that were shed while we were leaving, but it was still a happy moment. We got the car back to Fayetteville, and parked it for a few weeks, as I was going to work on it a bit.
I was eager to get started on the car, as I thought it might be simple things. I had learned a lot from my 164 engine rebuild, and my current 164. I felt confident in my ability to mess with the troublesome D-Jetronic fuel injection system. Once I got to working on replacing old fuel injection lines, seals, new injectors, and fiber washer (this is so it won’t vapor lock), I thought it would improve how it ran tremendously. Wrong. One of the problems was the car would idle very high, it almost sounded like a lawn mower. You can play with the idle on these by adjusting a screw on one of the fuel injection components. Well, that did absolutely nothing. So I thought maybe this control value was bad, so I swapped it out, and nothing. Luckily I had grabbed a few vital parts in the part stash before I brought it home, but after a few weeks I realized I was in over my head.
I called up David, and asked if I could bring the car down to Clinton and work on it during the weekends. He agreed, and offered his shop next to his house. Little did he know this would be the beginning of a long friendship, and many projects. I think to this day he regrets opening up his shop, because he did not know what that would entail for years to come!
Anyway, I got the yellow peril down to Clinton, about two hours south of Fayetteville. David and I immediately started looking into things that would cause this high idle. Before we could even look at it, the car wouldn’t start. Puzzled, we jumped it, and soon discovered that the alternator was not charging the battery. Quick fix, as one of us had a spare laying around. One we got it up and running and charging, another problem developed, one of the freeze plugs started to weep, and needed replacing. After replacing one freeze plug, another one started to weep, so we just decided to replace them all. With all of the gremlins being sorted out, we were able to focus on the idle.
After replacing almost all of the fuel injection including the computer with new or working parts, it still idled high. We could just not figure it out. The car was not running rich, or lean, just high idle. We also went through and replaced almost all vacuum hoses thinking there might be a leak, and nothing helped. David suggested swapping it over to a Weber carburetor, and being done with it, but I really wanted to keep the car original.
Not long after we had almost thrown in the towel, I got a text from the seller. He asked if there was any way possible that he could buy the car back. They had missed the car in the driveway, and would like to have it back. I agreed to sell them the car back, for the few dollars I had spent on it, and the next weekend loaded the car up, and drove it back to Bartlesville where it still sits today. To my knowledge the car is driven some, but still idles high.
Looking into the history of the car, it definitely has had a hard life. The family had bought the car when they lived in the United States. I don’t recall if it was bought new by them, or used, but it eventually made the trip to Panama with the family when George, the grandfather, got a job down there. George was an engineer who had worked for Phillips in Bartlesville, but when Phillips pulled out of Bartlesville the town almost collapsed. His widow told me that they had to give their house away because no one would buy it (I don’t mean she sold it cheap, they actually had to give it to someone as no one was looking to buy in the city).
The yellow peril, and their 1969 164 was shipped down to Panama where George had found a job working with the Panama Canal. The roads down there were not nice to the 145 or the 164. Both cars had tremendous underbody damage from the rough roads they drove on for a number of years. After Phillips brought back their HQ to Bartlesville, the family moved back with the 145, and 164 where they both sat until a few years ago.
The yellow peril had a trusty B20 engine with no AC, or power steering. The B20 was a reliable power plant for Volvo for a number of years. Deriving from the B4B to a B18, and then B20 they all were basically the same motor with more horses added along the way. It had roots from Volvo’s tractors in Sweden, and often used in their Penta division as well. Being a straight 4 cylinder push rod motor it kind of sounded like a sewing machine when tuned properly. The 145 was also equipped with a 4 speed manual transmission with no overdrive. I think this was the one thing that the car had going for it. It shifted through the gears perfectly, and the B20 really seemed to thrive well with this combination.
The wagon was yellow obviously with a black vinyl interior. The driver seat was maroon though because it was switched for one that had better upholstery. The rear hatch did not work from the outside, so there was a string tied from the inside that you had to pull to open it. All 4 tires were different ties, and it had a unconfirmed mileage on it, as the cluster was changed years ago. The car still had its original paint that with a good wax would shine, and the luggage rack up top stood proudly over the car.
With all the being said, the car is something that could never be replaced. It had so much history with this family. It was a staple for the family around town as people would always know it was them. The car definitely had its gremlins, but a personality for sure. Even back then it was not really your everyday run of the mill car. Volvos were not strongly represented in the mid part of the country even to this day. Back then a yellow Volvo wagon in the middle of Oklahoma was not too common, and that is what attracts a lot of owners to Volvo. This family actually never drove anything else but a Volvo since the late 1960’s, and I think that says a lot about them. As much as I wanted to pull my hair out with this car, I had to stop and take a look at it, and appreciate it for what it’s worth. It’s lived a hard life, and been down many roads.
In the end I would probably not take another whack at the yellow peril. I think that all its gremlins are just part of its personality. You can’t really fix them, you just drive it the way it is and appreciate it for what it is. The wagon needed to stay in its small town, and just enjoy the down time. I think someday the car will be saved, and get a total restoration, that is my hope for it at least. With wagon values increasing, and 122 wagons in particular increasing, I can only hope that the 145 will do the same. I enjoyed my short stint with the yellow peril, but glad it is back at its home until it gets picked up by someone for restoration.