Volvo For Life | My Black Brick

My Black Brick

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

R.I.P. My Black Brick

This looks like the end of an era for me. I got into an accident on a roadway in New York and smashed the front of my car in. It was a short stop at a traffic light and luckily everyone was fine. My daughter had a little scratch on her neck from her seat belt but other than that our only trauma was psychological. The compact SUV in front of me suffered a busted bumper and some damage to the rear hatch door.

The radiator is shoved into the engine and coolant was spilled all over the road. In light of that fact I’m not going to bother trying to save it. If it were just body damage it would be different but considering the situation it’s not worth it to me getting it fixed. I have no place to store and work on it so tomorrow I’m heading back to the garage, pulling out some valuables and saying good bye.

This has been a fun ride and I’ve enjoyed keeping this blog. This car was been a mixed blessing; I’ve learned a lot from working on it but always felt there was something else I needed to fix. It rode pretty well and maintenance was cheap. There’s been a great community of fellow enthusiasts and I’ve always loved checking out the Brick Board to figure out how to do things myself, with the help of a passionate group of shade-tree mechanics.

I bought the car when my second daughter was born and we’ve enjoyed some great trips as they were growing up over the past 9 years. We had fun seeing how much stuff we could fit into the trunk on trips camping and to the beach. They treated it like another member of the family and I think the worst pain for them is knowing that the car will be gone.

As we were talking about what’s next my daughter asked me if, when I was a kid, I ever thought that objects were alive like people. I told her that I had, that I remember thinking that my stuffed animals had feelings. “That’s how I feel about the car,” she said. “It’s like it even has a face, and it’s sad to say goodbye.” Yes, yes it is.


Volvo 240 vs New York Auto Show

vs-championMy latest post for FCP Euro has me pitting my black brick against all the cars at the latest New York International Auto Show. You won’t believe who won!


Redblock Tortoise Mugs, Trucker Hats

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!


My Right Bearing

Back in the summer of 2011 I changed the bearing on my left, front wheel and made a note to myself that the process was easy, but messy. I figured I’d get around to the right bearing soon afterward. Well, I finally got around to doing the right wheel two years later.

The process is pretty straight forward. You can see a good step-by-step on the Brickboard so I’m not going to bother documenting it here. I will say this, however: be careful not to get any of that bearing grease on your brake pads and/or rotor. I thought I had done the job well but apparently I got a little glob onto the rotor. Once I got the wheel back on and started driving I noticed inconsistent braking and long stopping distances. I swapped in new pads and cleaned the rotor and that fixed the problem.

Everything is nice and tight now and I’m rolling smoothly. Maybe now I’ll finally get around to putting on my front shocks since it’s been over a year since I installed the rears!


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?


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?


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.


What’s that smell?

One thing about owning an older car is that when I notice a weird smell while driving I always say to myself “Is that my car?” then look around to see if there are any busted, rusty pickup trucks around. If it’s just me on the road the next question is “Where’s that coming from?”

I’m starting to get a burned plastic smell emanating from somewhere on my brick. I’ve noticed that interior fresh air circulation is coming out hot. I’m dreading the inevitable, which is that my blower motor is probably going. It squeals after keeping the heater on more than 15 minutes. Looking at this video from Brick Squad and reading articles titles “chainsaw method” is filling me with dread.


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.


How Many Thin Mints Fit Into a Volvo 245?

I shot these pictures when taking delivery of Girl Scout Cookies last year. Ours was one of 5-6 cars picking up for our troop; my daughters did not sell all of these cookies.