Vintage R&T Road Test: 1969 Volvo 142S 2 Liter – “A Small Change Makes A Big Difference”

Ideally, the new 144/142 would have come with the larger two liter engine from the get-go, given that it was a bigger and heavier car than the 122/Amazon, in which the 1.8 L gave quite adequate performance; even rather lively. For 1969, it got a bigger engine; a substantially revised version of the venerable pushrod four, with a new block and other changes. Maximum power was up only slightly, to 118 (gross) hp, from 115, but torque got a bigger bump, and that’s what Americans prized.

It was a bit of a challenge to pin down just why Volvo was steadily improving its sales at the expense of cars like the Peugeot; within a few years, the 140/240 series would break out to be a genuine hit. It really had no outstanding features, save perhaps its seats, but owners came to appreciate its faithfulness in all kinds of conditions and its tall boxy body (easy to get in and out), which increasingly put it at odds with American trends. That was probably the single biggest factor: it was an anti-Detroit mobile, without the Beetle’s more massive shortcoming.

In addition to the extra torque, there were a number of small improvements that made daily life with the 142S easier: it was quieter, the new cloth upholstery was more comfortable, and an improved automatic was on tap for those that wanted that. All in all, that and its superb 4-wheel disc brakes made the Volvo just than more compelling of an alternative to the ever-larger American cars.