COAL: #33 1984 Volvo 240 – Mellow Yellow

In 2017, right after I had my accident with my 4Runner, I got a call from my grandmother on the other side of the family. She had a friend that she had been friends with for decades, and she drove a Volvo. My grandmother had told her about me and my love for Volvos, and one day while they were out at lunch she said she wanted to give the car to me. She wanted it to go to a good home, and appreciated my love for Volvos. She had a few cars, and the Volvo never got driven.

To give a little back story, my other grandparents live in a very small town called Douglas, Arizona. It is right on the border of Mexico, and their house is roughly 10 blocks away. They have lived in the same house for 50 years, and that is where my dad and uncle grew up. It is a very small town right in the middle of nowhere. Its neighboring town, Bisbee, was home to Phelps Dodge (PD), which was a big mining company. My great grandfather worked for PD in Bisbee, and the town was booming up until the 1980s. With Bisbee being so close, PD moved some of its offices to Douglas, and it started to sprawl out. In the mid 1980s there was a strike at the mine, and PD was starting to go under, but was bought by Freeport-McMoRan (I later worked very closely with this company moving their freight all across Arizona). Today when you visit both towns, they are very desolate. There was a lot of wealth in both towns, and these big beautiful houses stand there today lived in, but not taken care of. PD was the towns’ biggest employer. The people that stayed either were government workers, or teachers, like my grandparents.

Back to the car. My grandmother’s friend, Ms. Zamar, was a teacher with my grandmother, and bought the car brand new in Phoenix.  Her husband was an executive at PD, and told her to go and pick out a new Volvo. She drove the car for many years, until she got something new, but always kept the Volvo. My grandmother told me that she remembers the day she got the car, as not many Volvos were in Douglas. Ms. Zamar had stopped driving the Volvo as much because it had a 4 speed with overdrive. She actually told me a story, of how she went to Walmart one evening with the 240, and parked toward the back of the lot, when she realized some men were following her. She turned around to see former students coming up to say hi. One of the students said “gee Ms. Zamar you still have that old Volvo?” She looked back at him and said “yes I do, and you better be nice about it!”. The car only had 107,000 miles (yes the odometer worked), and had always been garage kept. That is to not say the car was perfect. It was actually far from a garage queen.

Later that year, my dad decided we were going to Douglas for Thanksgiving. He said we could bring my trailer, and bring the 240 back with us. I was excited, because we had been talking about this car for over a year. On the last day of our stay we got the car from Ms. Zamar. I was so excited to get it, the car ran great, but on the outside it was a little rough around the edges. I drove it around Douglas the remaining day that we were there, and then loaded it up on the trailer to bring it home.

Once I got the car home I had realized just how much the car needed. The paint was good, but chalky, the interior had a bad purple tint that was peeling, the entire car had dust all over it, the muffler was dragging, and being held up by a coat hanger, and some of the electrics where touchy. The car ran like a top though, not skipping a beat. In fact, several months later David came and got the car and drove it the 3 hours to Clinton from my parents’ house. That is where the car sat for over a year. I thought David would enjoy having the 240 to drive around town, but his business had picked up, so he was not at home much. He would start it up, and keep it running. It never once refused to start, and when I came to get the car, it drove just how I left it.

At this point I was married, moved into a new house (with a shop being built), and ready to move the 240 on. Ms. Zamar had told me that if I need to sell the car, that she would not be mad at all. I had tried to keep the 240 as long as I could, but the amount of work that it needed exceeded my time that I had to give to it. I had always felt bad about letting the car sit and be neglected, so I knew that someone might enjoy it. First, I had to do some things to it before I felt right about selling it.

This year 240 had the cool flat hood, and quad headlights, which I always thought was the best looking 240 throughout the years. The manual with overdrive was a unique option, and highly sought after. I would not go as far to say it was a rare option, but not something you see every day. The yellow exterior with brown interior was straight out of the 80’s but any color would look good on a 240 in my opinion. The one thing that plagued this car was the wiring harness to the engine. This car was right in the middle of the flaking insulation for the wiring harness, and it was common for a few years on 200/700 series. This car, however, and much to my surprise, did not have one bit of flaking on the harness. I gave it a good lookover, and decided not to touch it. When I first got the car, the driver seat had this cute little pillow in it, and I thought “that is the most old lady thing I have ever seen”, but when I sat down, I realized nope, there is a pillow there because the seat foam is gone!

I knew before I felt right about selling the car I had to get rid of the purple tint, fix the exhaust, rig the seat somehow, and clean it up. Peeling the purple tint off was not really fun; the Arizona sun had made it where it would not just peel off in one piece. It would flake off, and took me forever to get it off all 4 windows. I am still finding pieces of purple tint in the garage almost a year later. The exhaust was not fun at all. Luckily I had bought all the components when I got the car. It really only needed the muffler, and the supports. Taking off the old was not so bad as it was already broken, but getting the new on was not fun. I could not for the life of me stretch the new muffler over the old pipe. I finally got it, and washed my hands of the exhaust. Next, was to clean the inside, fix the seat, and wax it. The waxing part was the most satisfying as I got to bring back the color in the paint. I am by no means a detailer, I gave it a nice wax with my hand-held waxer, and it did the trick for me.

The car was ready to sell. The second I threw the car up on a few sites I thought it might take forever. I was only asking $2500 for it, but I thought no one would want a 240, and maybe my price was too high. Turns out, I could have sold the car 10 times over. My phone would not stop blowing up over this car. This is a good problem to have, because it not only meant that I had buyers, but it also meant I could make sure the car went to a good home. I met with several potential buyers a few offering my asking, but I made it clear that I had several people looking at the car that day, and I would decide at the end of the last showing. I wanted to make sure that I gave everyone a fair shot to look at it, that wanted to. I finally decided on a buyer that was a Volvo enthusiast, who promised to bring it back to its original state. I feared it would end up with a young hipster that would destroy it. The buyer loved the story, and promised to take good care of it. As he drove off in it, I felt a little sad, but quickly turned around to all the projects that I had going on at the time. I still miss this car, but knowing that it went to a good home where it can be enjoyed and taken care of eases the pain for me.

As an aside, here is my grandfather’s restored 59 Willys. They bought it new, and was my dad’s first car.