Monday, September 7, 2009

Beater Road Test- 1987 Volvo 740 Wagon: Have you driven a Fjord lately?

Built for the enthusiast who wants a Fox Body Mustang but needs to haul ten sheets of plywood and some drywall, this Volvo 740 wagon has been fortified with Dearborn's finest example of V8 power.

The v8-into-a-Volvo idea isn't exactly new, and the relative surplus of good completed cars makes the V8 Volvo a relative performance bargain. A few different manufacturers sold engine-swap kits over the years, but this particular car features the most common kit from Converse Engineering. Due to the fact that a few hundred kits have been sold over the years, finding a good car shouldn't be impossible.

Obviously, this is the best part of the car. Want an 11-second car? Cash out your latest unemployment check and call up your friendly Summit representative. Want to drop another second from your ¼ mile time? Log onto Craigslist and barter that old moonshine still behind the pole barn for a supercharger. It's that easy!

This particular car is relatively unmodified; it features a set of BBK shorty headers and a full 2.5” dual exhaust system muted by some flowmaster mufflers. The engine is backed by an aluminum flywheel and a performance clutch from Anderson Ford Motorsport, and the World Class T-5 delivers torque to the stock Volvo Dana 30 axle. Finally (and most importantly), the World's most open differential allows for one wheel burnouts of epic proportions.

While the suspension on the Volvo 740 seemed more than adequate for [evading businessmen] and [goin' muddin'], the suspension on this 130,000 mile car has seen better days. Though it has been upgraded with a set of IPD swaybars, the rest of the system has some interesting characteristics. When originally purchased, some serious play in the panhard rod bushings allowed the rear of the car to arbitrarily change direction mid-corner, usually in utter disregard for the driver requested steer angle. The springs are now so worn out that the car bottoms out over most bumps, and it wouldn't be surprising if the dampers aren't actually on the vehicle anymore and are actually somewhere on the side of the road along M-14. Despite all of these “interesting” handling characteristics it's still perfectly drivable, and parts will be replaced as the beater budget allows in the future.


The interiors of cars made in the 1980's have pretty much universally disintegrated by now, and this car is no different. Pretty much all of the plastic surfaces are now broken, and the headliner was removed by a previous owner in a fit of exasperation. Of course, the lack of a decent interior makes the vehicle significantly more utilitarian, which is the best of all beater virtues.


The Volvo 740 was originally marketed as obtaining a level of relative safety just one notch below wrapping yourself in bubble wrap and living inside a bomb shelter. This emphasis on safety is perfect for the beater enthusiast, as this means the substantial body structure should probably be somewhat whole even after a lifetime of salted roads. Of course, since this particular car has spent almost its entire life in North Carolina, its rust-free structure should make it very desirable if Michigan ever descends into a post-carpocalypse, Road Warrier-esque future.

Overall Package
So should you consider a V8-powered Volvo 740 as a performance beater? The sane person might say no, but I'm still firmly holding to the belief that a performance car should— nay-- must be able to haul both building supplies and ass. Besides, what's the point of going fast if you can't haul 6 of your friends around with you while you do it?


  1. Haha, awesome review. I hope a tree falls on it so you can justify caminoization

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