Long time reader, occasional poster, non-project threader.
If there's any interest in an old Volvo estate, then I'll do a extensive copy paste from a project thread I have on a Volvo forum.
Summary - bought an old car, put it in storage for a bit, got it out, worked through a list of faults, drove it for a bit and then worked through another list of faults... all sounds quite familiar doesn't it.
Well, I suppose I should start at the beginning. Way back in the mists of time, in a period known as ‘the eighties’ my parents decided that having children was a good idea and a relatively short period time after having made that decision I turned up. I think there are more details in there somewhere, but none I want to think about <shudder>. Either buoyed by success at how I turned out, or perhaps confident they could improve upon things, they decided to repeat the experiment to have three more children all of which turned out to be boys.
Scrolling forwards a little in time to the late eighties, they needed a car that could seat six people and didn’t cost a fortune (if my parents ever had a fortune, raising four boys quickly eroded it) and this being the late eighties the concept of a people carrier was relatively new and not within my parents’ price range. So they did what countless other people did and bought a Volvo estate with two extra seats in the boot area that face backwards. I can still remember the licence plate number of that car, a 1984 Volvo 240 DL (DL is the base model, with no electric windows etc.). Some time later in 1991 they bought a 1988 Volvo 240 GL (electric front windows! Heated front seats! mechanical injection 2.0 engine!) and sold the 1984 car. I helped dad install a new Volvo extra seats kit into the 1988 car and that became the family car. Scrolling forwards a bit more, the 1988 Volvo is still with my parents. It racked up 320K on the original engine and gearbox although the odometer stopped working a few years back and the real mileage was probably another 10k on that. It survived daily use for years and years, camping trips towing a combi-camp trailer tent to Norway and Cornwall and all four of us boys learnt to drive in it.
Taken out of daily use when my parents bought newer cars, out of a sense of nostalgia it was kept on the road for boys to drive when we visited home, along with the occasional run to pick up something long or heavy that wouldn’t fit in my parents’ much more modern cars. Having driven (As I write I’ve now been driving that car for 21 years), tinkered with and maintained it for years I have got quite fond of it and in 2015 I did what I always wanted to do and swapped in a turbo engine from a Volvo 940… but we’re off track, that’s the blue 1988 car and this thread is about the white 1978 one (well it’s ivory really, not white). All of this meandering background is merely to illustrate my affection for old Volvo estates built up over a number of years and why I ended up on ebay in 2015 looking at a somewhat forlorn looking 1978. Honestly, I shouldn’t be allowed a smartphone.
So from here on I’ll copy and paste from my project thread on another forum, hopefully it’ll make sense…
So, the 1978 Volvo 245. Bought from eBay in October 2015 with a list of problems highlighted by the seller, I bought it after it'd already been advertised a couple of times already - once no-one bought it and once the winning bidder didn't make contact. Having seen it on eBay I'd contacted the seller without intending to buy the car, suggesting he put an advert here (the volvo forum) and in other places, but he didn't have much interest. The third time it was listed I put in the minimum bid in the last few minutes of the auction figuring someone would outbid me... nope So now I have an extra car, riiight.
I've wanted an early car for a while but didn't really want one right now... but part of my motivation for buying this one was so it didn't end up scrapped or raced which would have been a shame. The list of problems was fairly long and included a suspected headgasket, so I think a fair number of potential buyers might have been put off by that.
So first the homecoming adventure. Seller said it didn't run very well and he thought the timing was out, so basic tools including a timing light packed I set out for Burton on Trent by train. Arrived and first thing was to free the stuck distributor which the seller had already warned me about- so engine to tdc, removed the distributor cap and the distributor mounting bolt and gently tapped the distributor up and out with my hammer. Cleaned up and refitted and yep, it can be turned easily by hand- great. Refit everything and... It won't start. I assume that my fiddling with the distributor is at fault and check my reference photograph that I took before starting to check that the distributor is in the same place as before I began... Try that and then every other position in the range available, won't start with the distributor in any position.
Take the plugs out and clean and regap them by eye ( ) and what's this?- number 4 plug has only got half it's porcelain insulator remaining so it's useless. From the looks of the plug it'd been like that for some time. Seller has a donor 245 at the back of the drive so I take a plug from that as a replacement.
Still no joy. Seller doesn't have any jump leads and I'm beginning to think the battery won't take much more of this. Call the AA - enthusiastic bloke with van full of tools arrives in 20mins
Connect up the car to his van so there's loads of battery power to play with- still won't start. The AA man and I check the spark, which is strong from the king lead and weak at the plugs. Clean all the plugs again with better tools and regap them with feeler gauges. Check and clean out the distributor cap. Add a jerrycan full of new fuel as the car had been sitting for a while and the petrol level was very low- might have been pulling in sediment from the bottom of the tank. Pull off the air filer and spray easy start into the inlet.
Recheck spark plug leads... The lead to number one is on the distributor cap on the passenger side towards the back of the car? Pull all the spark plug leads off the distributor and put them in the correct places- car starts first try of the key and settles down to smooth but a touch slow idle which the AA man adjusts.
So what was wrong? Took me a while to think this through- the seller had replaced the distributor cap and arm recently to try and sort the rough running. He'd put the cap on 180 degrees around from where it should have been and jammed it down with the retaining clips, not realising there's a locating cutout. He'd then put on the leads so in that position the leads were in the correct places. First thing that I did when I got to the car was remove the distributor which involved removing the cap- when I put it back I put it back in the correct position with regards to the locating cutout but then the leads were all mixed up. Didn't think to check the lead positions since the cap can only go on in one position, right?
So, car now running and idling fine, the AA man set the timing by ear whilst I'm getting the timing light out... And it's spot on when I check it with the light.
Homewards! Ran fine all the way home, happily kept up with motorway traffic albeit whilst pounding through fuel at high rpm due to the 4-speed gearbox.
The following is what I wrote back in October 2015 when I had just got the car, intending to start the thread on the Volvo forum thread but didn't post:
So car runs fine and doesn't appear to have a leaking headgasket, which is a definite bonus the seller said his garage had tested the coolant and found evidence of exhaust gasses, so it's possible there's a small leak, but the coolant isn't being pressurised and there's no leak visible externally. The terrible running was most likely down to the broken spark plug, with that replaced it idles and runs fine.
The second major fault listed in the advert was the universal joints were suspected to be on their way out, but I don't think the clunking when changing gear is that - I think it's the exhaust hitting something and I think that's because the engine mounts are worn out allowing the engine and exhaust to flop about when the engine goes off and then back on load. If this is the case, the leak in the exhaust at the gasket where the exhaust manifold meets the down pipe is another symptom of the worn engine mounts.
The next fault is the suspected leaking heater matrix and the non functioning heater fan. Well, no mis-diagnosis there, the fan doesn't work and there's a trace of fluid on the heater hoses I can reach inside the car so both will be replaced. I've replaced a heater fan before so I know how much fun that is, haven't replaced a heater matrix before but it's an extension of the same job... what fun.
Slight pulsing from the brakes so some of the discs are a bit warped, I'll rebuild the brakes with new sliding pins and check for stuck pistons then replace discs and pads as necessary.
The car pulls left a bit, but brakes in a straight line. The front suspension legs were replaced by a garage in February 2015 with good condition used ones, so at a guess the suspension geometry/tracking wasn't set properly at the time - which would also explain the uneven wear on the front tyres (the right front tyre has no tread on the inside edge).
Otherwise, all good there are some advisories on the MOT about rust on the sills and rear shocks, the uneven tyre wear and exhaust blowing as mentioned above but nothing too worrying.
The paint isn't perfect, the car has been resprayed in sections several times and rust is bubbling through in a few places. Nothing that dramatic, but enough to detract from the overall appearance. The rear arches were replaced as part of the last respray.
The front spotlights don't work, but that's not really a great concern at the moment. The rear foglights - what were Volvo thinking with that location? I'll be moving one down to a more subtle under the rear bumper position and clearing them off the tailgate when it gets resprayed.
So then what happened. Well, I drove it in Cambridge for a month or so and then put it into a garage for storage 'for winter'. 2016 didn't work out as expected for a variety of reasons so it stayed in storage for a bit longer than expected in the end.