Brick-A-Brack | My Black Brick

My Black Brick

Keeping a '92 Volvo 240 Wagon on the Road & Other Automotive & DIY Musings

Volvo Redblock Tortoise T-Shirt Now Available

redblock-volvo-tortoiseAs part of my inaugural post on FCP Euro I created an illustration of the legendary Volvo B230 engine as an aged tortoise.

That image is now available on a range of T-shirts on my Zazzle store and will soon be joined by other gift items, like mugs and pillows. Buy one now!

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Redblock Tortoise Mugs, Trucker Hats

redblock-tortoise-sticker
I’ve updated my Zazzle store with new items and a new design for my Redblock Tortoise t-shirt. Now you can get the illustration on mugs, stickers and even a trucker hat. Wear them with pride!

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Uncool to Whom?


In a listicle entitled “So Uncool They’re Now Cool: Top 5 cars for Hipsters”, the online publication Digital Trends makes the amazing discovery that people who have no money enjoy the Volvo 240 because it lasts a long time:

Delightfully for hipsters, the Volvo 240 has also proven not only to be safe and fuel-efficient but also one of the most reliable cars ever built. Meaning, as it degrades on the inside and out, it can remain in tip-top running condition without any major financial investment. After all, a true hipster hasn’t any money anyhow.

Ugh. Should I now stroke my beard and feel smug?

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Hooking up in a Volvo 245


I’ll never forget the sharp rapping on the window of my girlfriend’s car as we sat parked near a lake one summer night in 1988. The windows were so steamed up we couldn’t figure out what was going on. The blinding light of a police officer’s flashlight soon let us know we were busted. We scrambled back into our clothes and struggled to maneuver around the cramped interior of her two-door Mustang II. Yes, coupes are fun to drive but they can be a challenge when two people try doing something other than cruising.

Jalopnik has elected the Volvo 240 wagon as the “Best Car to Have Sex In” and, based on my limited experience with a 1982 Toyota Corolla and that 1976 Mustang II, I have to agree. That is, so long as the rear seats are folded down. Tinted windows help too.

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The Brick vs. The Cube


Today Autoweek posts a comparison of the Volvo 240 and the Nissan Cube. The author begins by saying “Much has been made of the demise of the market for the truly awful car.” I assume he is conflating the awful with the unusual, but I don’t really think they’re the same thing. While the 240 may have been unusual, saying that it’s awful is just plain wrong, and puts our beloved bricks in league with the Pontiac Aztec. Does he really want to go there?

The article outlines an imagined competition between the 240 and the Cube, brought together by their boxy shape. “Experience has shown that if you ask the average 3-year-old to draw a car, he or she will come up with something remarkably similar to either the Brick or the Cube.” Ultimately the Volvo wins out by virtue of its longevity and unassuming style.

The lifespan of a 240 is essentially unlimited. With cylinder bores lined in a mixture of titanium, Kevlar and diamond dust, a Volvo B23 engine with 200,000 grand on it probably equates to Nissan 1.8-liter with 19,000 miles on it. Show me a Cube with a million miles on the clock and we’ll talk, but I suspect that if that ever happens, you’ll be holding a séance to let me know.

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Car Maintenance App Documents My Inefficiency


I’ve been using the app “Car Minder Plus” for the past year and a half to document my gas mileage and repairs. It allows me to enter a garage of different cars and keep track of maintenance and service. Since I don’t have a fuel gauge it helps me keep track of how many miles I’ve gone since the last fill up, then shows my overall fuel mileage over 3 months, one year and lifetime.

This charts MPG over the course of 18 months. Note the dip after AMM broke.



Whenever I have a problem with the car I document it in the app so I have dates and mileage of when the problem occurred. I can also enter the expected time and mileage between services so they will come to my attention later and show me how dreadfully behind I am on my maintenance schedule.

My mileage is low enough that it's the date intervals that trigger the red light, not always mileage. Each of these items and their intervals can be set by the user.


These screen shots document the problem I had with my air mass meter. In the first you can see my mileage dive from over 20 mpg to below 15 mpg after I stalled in flood waters last August. I was pumping out unburned fuel for months before the problem was diagnosed and fixed. I was sure to document it all for future reference.

The "Repairs" area allows you to document anything and everything that happens to your ride.

Each repair item records date, mileage and your notes.


A bonus for “Car Minder Plus” is that you can email all your records from you iPod or iPhone. They come in a PDF file that you can print and hand to a mechanic if need be. Overall a useful app, I just have to be careful not to get my iPod Touch covered in motor oil and PB Blaster.

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The M3 down the block is resting on a rock


Riding my bike into the studio this Sunday morning I noticed a BMW M3 slouching at the curb. What I thought was a flat tire turned out to be no tires at all. Looks like someone pulled the rims from all 4 paws, leaving the beemer teetering on a block of wood, a cubic rock and one poor rotor. The lug nuts sat conveniently next to each empty wheel well.

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Sketchy Sedans

Flaf has a sweet set of sketches of sedans, sport coupes and subcompacts in his Flickr stream. Can you find the Volvo?

Here’s a previous post of a 245, and a new image of a p1800.

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Quick to be slow


Earlier this month Jalopnik took reader suggestions for the “Top Slow Cars to Drive Fast“. Our beloved bricks came in 5th. Quote from a Jalopnik reader:

You haven’t lived until you’ve gotten one of these sideways, steering by looking out the side windows as you listen to the rev limiter have an epileptic seizure and the only thing you can smell is tire smoke as your mind reels at the insanity of it all… At 14mph.

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Back to School Bricks

Jalopnik this week asked for suggestions for the “Top Car for College” and the Volvo 240 wagon won top honors, beating out the Buick Roadmaster Estate and Ford Crown Vic. From the editors:

You can move entire apartments in this thing, when it breaks down it’s usually capable of being fixed by someone with limited repair skills, and they’re fun at low speeds. And if you have to sleep in a car, it’s one of the most comfortable.

Wired’s Autopia came to the same conclusion last year, but they included 700 and 900 series as well.

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