History | My Black Brick

My Black Brick

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

Slow, Heavy, Practical, Timeless

A reader in Nashville wrote an epic post about the Volvo 240 and the role it’s had in his life. Here’s a choice quote:

What exactly does the Volvo 240 project, though? Does it mean I had middle class, safety conscious parents with liberal arts degrees? That I’m a vegan with a beard and tattoos and live in Brooklyn? Maybe it just means I’m a cheap bastard and like old, slow, heavy tank-like bricks that are built to last?


The Jinx of the Volvo 240? Not quite.

Once again CNN Money’s Alex Taylor III writes an odd article based on a ridiculous premise that goes nowhere. While we previously heard him pontificate¬† about station wagons, this time Taylor III writes of what he calls the “Curse of the Volvo 240“.

After writing about how the 240 has achieved a cult-like status as the lovable loser of the auto world, he then documents the decline of the Swedish company after the model was discontinued. He gives a basic history lesson that includes the attempt to shape Volvo as a luxury brand, the buyout by Ford in 1999 and the current resting place within the stable of China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

Rather than examining how the 240 cemented the brand’s reputation for safety and reliability, creating a “halo effect” that helped lift the public’s perception of subsequent models, Taylor III writes of the “bad luck” the company endured as it moved away from boxy and homely to sleek and luxurious. He sees the decline in sales as the result of a “jinx”, rather than a series of poor decisions by management and an inability to provide consumers with cars that are affordable and smart.

By allowing branding focus groups to guide decision making, Volvo lost an opportunity to exploit the niche, devoted following their company had established. The resulting decline is sales wasn’t from some weird, supernatural phenomenon; it was from the experience of consumers and their ability to see that the magic was gone. Alex Taylor III has it exactly backwards.


Ye Olde Volvo Net

I found an interesting anti-sway bar FAQ, posted on swedishbricks.com in 1992. A writer asks about upgrading the sway bars on her husband’s new 245:

So, we bought the ’92 240 5 spd wagon. My husband, to whom I regularly deliver hardcopy of Volvo-net wisdom, wants to know about the best width swaybars for improving cornering. He feels it is ironic that my ’76 240 wagon seems to do better without sway bars(?), and that the new car could use an upgrade. I have the general list from Volvo-net Who’s who, but would appreciate elaboration.

The answer she gets is the same as anyone would get on the Brick Board 18 years later:

For a recent car, such as your new 245, I would suggest the following “improvements” :

Tires : replace stock 185R14 Michelin with 205/70HR14 tires (see tire chart) less important on a new car, very important after 40k miles

Dampers : replace stock shocks with iPD “specially-valved” Bilsteins only then

Sway-Bars : replace stock sway bars with iPD sway bars

Since this was posted online in 1992, all of the email addresses are colleges, including the new 245 owner at harvard.edu.


Your Dream Car, circa 1949

The grandiosity of the narration in this video is hilarious. It’s a 10 minute film documenting the design and testing of 1949 Fords. It’s no ordinary car. It’s “Designed From the Inside Out”:

Here is the idea, a motorcar, conceived as a space for the riders, space that is to be enclosed and powered…

Yup, that’s a motorcar alright.

I love how @6:30 the cars get handed to the marketing guys and angels in heaven sing their approval.