The Volvo 240 made its debut in 1975. It was a large car designed to accommodate families, and it has to be said that this family-based accommodation was achieved with aplomb. The 240 was finally superseded in 1993 by the Volvo 850.
The Volvo 240 was conceived as a result of Volvo’s development of the VESC (Volvo Experimental Safety Car). Its large tank-like body was also great for storage space and for a large number of passengers, and it included many additional forward-thinking safety features, such as anti-lock brakes. As result of these features, the 240 was considered a must-have by many growing Australian families.
The 240 was available in two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and five-door station wagon variations, with a choice of 3-speed automatic or 4-speed manual gearboxes on earlier models, which later changed to accommodate a 4-speed automatic gearbox.
The 240 was subject to various other changes and improvements throughout its lifespan, including changes to engine capacity from its initial 2.1L configuration to a 2.3L engine. Despite its ever-present boxy appearance that many thought less than ‘cool,’ the 240 remained fundamentally recognisable as the car that many of a certain age consider to be the archetypal family car.
The Original 1.2L B20A 4-cylinder carburettor engine was available on the DL or Deluxe model – the base model despite the somewhat misleading ‘Deluxe’ moniker - upon introduction in 1975. Fitted with a 4-speed manual gearbox, the DL had a top speed of 154km/h, with an acceleration time of 0-100km/h in 15 seconds flat. Torque was 155Nm at 2500rpm, and the maximum power output was 75kW.
The higher-end GL and GLE version were both equipped with multipoint fuel-injection engines in place of the lower-end carburettor, the capacity of which was changed to 2.3L in 1981.
This change from carburettor to fuel-injection, together with the bigger engine and the addition of a 5-speed manual gearbox in 1982, provided noticeable improvements in these departments which were buoyed by an increased power output of 83kW and a maximum torque of 183Nm. Yet with a top speed of 172km/h and an acceleration time of 0-100km/h in 12.6 seconds in the 1986 model, it is evident that speed and acceleration were not the primary motivators.
Indeed, in keeping with its distinct family-orientated appeal, fuel economy was always more than acceptable for a car of its size and remained reasonably steady throughout its lifespan. The 1982 240 model used an average of 10.7L/100km, the 1985 model used an average of 10.2L/100km, and the later 1993 model used an average of 10.4l/100km, despite the requisite increase in power and acceleration that came with the arrival of each new model.
The ride the 240 provides was always comfortable, courtesy of the trusty MacPherson Strut suspension at the front. The car could be reasonably easily converted for a sportier feel with some tweaking of the springs, shock absorbers, and sway bars. Steering, which utilised a rack and pinion configuration, was always precise, and the front and rear disc brakes were always reliable.
The Volvo 240’s strength perhaps lies in its resolute indestructibility. The aforementioned tank-like square body has made the car a favourite in the banger-racing fraternity due to its colossal strength and rustproof bodywork. It will last a long time, provided one does not use it for banger racing. The 4-cylinder engine will last for an average of 400,000 kilometres of use, with some owners claiming that theirs have run up to 700,000 kilometres on the clock, which is further testament to its propensity for a long life.
One thing that you must be aware of when looking for a used 240 is that some have been known to be prone to oil leakage, but this can be easily and routinely fixed when the cam belt is replaced at the factory-recommended point of 60,000 km.
Another great thing about the 240 – specifically relating to models available between 1975 and 1983 – is the fact that it will run happily on unleaded fuel without lead replacement additives, despite being produced to run with the now outlawed leaded variety in mind.
As stated, there were three trim levels available in the 240 range. The DL or Deluxe model had very little in the way of features, except for an AM radio (changed later to include a cassette player), a heater, and air-conditioning.
The GL model came with added power steering and anti-lock brakes, while the top-of-the-range GLE added electric windows, alloy wheels, a sunroof, and the option of leather trim. Power steering and ABS were added as standard to the base DL in 1990. Airbags were added to the higher-end models as standard in 1992.
Having been the large family car of choice for many Australians throughout the 1980s, stiff competition came from the Toyota Camry in 1992. The Camry was quieter and arguably more comfortable and stylish than the Volvo 240.
The 240, however, beats the Camry hands down in terms of its vast storage space and room for passengers. When one considers that Volvo 240s can be found quite inexpensively, it is not hard to see the advantages of this car for budget-minded families.