Volvo | My Black Brick - Part 2

My Black Brick

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

MythBusters Adam Savage and his 1978 Volvo 245

Wired online has a quick article by Adam Savage, co-host of Discovery Channels “MythBusters“, where he explains how owning a used Volvo 245 helped him develop an understanding of how to break down complex systems into workable steps. He states:

Every repair followed the same progression:
(1) I don’t know how
(2) I can’t afford to pay someone else to do it
(3) I have to do it
(4) hey, that wasn’t so hard!

This was pretty much how I fell into Volvo 240 repair. The most I’d worked on before was bicycles. I had a friend in high school who rebuilt a 1969 Dodge Charger and I remember being mystified by all the parts he had in his garage. How could they possibly be put back together correctly? I don’t know if I’d be able to do a complete rebuild, but I do know that projects that I had previously been mystified by I now am proud to say I’ve done. Some worked out better than others but at least when I stubbornly drive my smoking brick to the mechanic I know what it was that I screwed up.


Seldon Cooper and His Million Mile Brick

In September of this year Volvo driver Seldon Cooper flipped his 240s odometer to 000000, driving over a million miles in 26 years. That translates to almost 40k miles a year between PA, MD, NJ and DC. Lehman Volvo of Mechanicsburg, MD held a celebration for the turnover and produced the charming video above.


Which wheel is not like the other?

It’s been over 2 years since I painted my Virgo 15″ front rims but I never did the rear. The difference between the new paint and the old rim isn’t really noticeable to the untrained eye.

In the image above I rotated the side wheels, so the clean one is on the rear. I thought of trying a 2-tone paint job but now I’m not so sure. I think it might be cool to go with a neutral gray color, non-metallic, and then use a super glossy clear coat. Similar to the beautiful Aviator Gray for the Audi TT. Considering my budget, I may just go with a primer and clear coat.


The Lives of Others

Recently the 2006 German film “Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)” has been popping up in articles I’ve read and I finally got around to seeing it. This is an excellent film about life in East Germany in the late 1980s and explores the inhumanity of stifling personal freedom and the inevitable corruption that comes from a system of spying and secret police.

I wouldn’t be writing about the movie if there weren’t an old brick in it and I have to say I was surprised to see one. If a member of the Stasi, Germany’s state security service, was going to be riding around in a limo I would have thought it would be a Benz. But bloated Minister Bruno Hempf is driven around in a gorgeous, dark blue 200 series Volvo limo throughout the film. Unfortunately the interior shots are from a Mercedes or BMW.

According to comments on the Internet Movie Cars Database entry for the film, Volvo/Bertone created these limos specifically for the German government.


Waiting for the Street Sweeper at PVS

I parked on the sidewalk to wait for a street sweeper that never came.


The Diesel Decision: A Short Story

Beardy McBrick was traveling to the annual hacky sack festival with his buds when he came upon the most dreaded of obstacles: a hill. He warned his friends it would be a long, hard slog in his diesel 245 and that they should just relax. “Bummer,” his buddy Phil said. “At least we have a good way to pass the time,” Phil chuckled as he handed around his packed chillum.

An hour later they’d past the half-way mark when something blue flashed in McBrick’s smog-coated side-view mirror. It was a car; a diesel in fact. But this was no ancient Benz or Volvo. It was a BMW, and it was coming up fast. “Maybe you should slow down and let him pass,” his girlfriend, Sunflower, suggested. And he did. They looked in awe as the strange rocket car passed by with nary a puff of smoke. Phil stared with mouth agape as the blue streak sped over the apex and out of sight. “Damn, McBrick!” he exclaimed, “you shoulda’ bought that car instead of taking this donation from your English professor.”

“Yeah…” McBrick thought, as he looked with dread at the climb ahead, “then these damn hills wouldn’t be such a drag.” The wagons’s exhaust belched a dark cloud and woke McBrick from his day-dream. “Hey Phil!” he shouted good-naturedly, “quit bogarting and share the love!” They all laughed. McBrick flipped his cassette of Shakedown Street and settled in for the rest of the hill.

– Inspired by “Changes”, an ad for diesel engined BMWs.


Ghost Brick

This Ghost Volvo 240 was posted on “Scratch Made Cars” back in 2004 as a work in progress. Johannes Saar has more complete auto renders on his own site, including a sweet Dodge Challenger.


“Automotive Darwinism” Killed the Wagon?

Volvo announced in January that they will discontinue the V50 in the US. In writing about the death of the last Volvo station wagon, CNN Money’s Alex Taylor III posted an odd article reminiscing about his youth in the suburbs of the 1950s while positing that the death of wagons in the US was pretty much inevitable.

His description of the wagons of the 1960s seems to place all of the problems with American cars on the shoulders of station wagons:

American buyers first turned away from station wagons during the 1973 oil crisis. Their extreme length, emphasized by long rear overhangs to accommodate a third seat, made them natural targets.

Sorry, but almost all American cars were lengthy and heavy boats back then, not just wagons. There is nothing intrinsic to the wagon platform that says it needs to be the length of an aircraft carrier. That’s just what Detroit was making at the time.

He then speaks of the rise of the SUV as if it was a rational change for American buyers, while completely overlooking the fact that they have the same problems of poor fuel economy and extreme length that the cars of the 60’s did. He claims that they are “far more utilitarian” than wagons and offered “a lot more cargo space.”

There are many, often irrational, reasons Americans moved to SUVs, but the idea that wagons have less utility is ridiculous. I’ve got more space in the back of my brick than my buddy has in his Nissan Pathfinder. Yes, SUVs have 4-wheel drive, but that only contributes to their poor gas mileage and most drivers don’t need it anyway. AWD anyone?

As for Volvo, he sees their reputation for reliability as a problem, rather than a benefit:

Volvo probably did itself a disservice by running testimonials from owners who drove their Volvos for years and years. When you put a million miles or more on a car, it limits the opportunity for repeat business.

Yes, automakers shouldn’t tout longevity as an asset. They should just make cars that fall apart in 6 years so they can sell a new one. That’s what Detroit did, right? We can see how well that did for them.


Cliff Brick

Via poepoephoto


The Future Road for Volvo Cars


Pictured above is Swedish deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson at yesterdays announcement of the sale of Volvo cars to the Chinese company Geely.

“Regardless of who owns Volvo Cars, its brand will still be Swedish.”

Unlike some Volvophiles, I couldn’t care less who owns the company. People are going to start hooting and hollering about this sale now that the rumors have been confirmed, but does it really matter? The important question is “Does the car suck or not?”

Critics, including Consumer Reports, have complained that the quality of Volvo cars has suffered since Ford purchased it in 1999. Is quality really going to get a whole lot worse now that it’s owned by Geely? Or is that just a xenophobic reaction about the supposed inferiority of Chinese workmanship?

Who defines a corporation’s product anyway? The nation that owns the company? The nation that originated the company? The nation where the cars are built? The nation where the cars are driven? Why is a Toyota that’s built in the US still a Japanese car, while a Volvo or Saab that’s owned by an American or Chinese company is still a Swedish car?

The idea of a nationally branded car is quaint. When Ford bought Volvo the brand ceased to “be Swedish,” whatever that means. It became just another commodity in a global marketplace that gets parts contracted out to companies all over the world but has the imprimatur of a corporate board and an aura constructed by the branding wizards of the marketing department.