Volvo has been linked with car safety as long as it has existed. The brand even invented the first three-point safety belt in the 1950s, and gave away the patent to everyone so that all car occupants could benefit, not just those in Volvos.
When Volvo presented the VESC - Volvo Experimental Safety Car – in 1972, it should have come as no surprise that some of the design and technology behind the machine should make it into production, and the 200 Series Volvo was almost a direct successor.
The four-cylinder 240 was Volvo's small executive car of the day, occupying broadly the same position as the S60/V60 does today, and proved incredibly popular. Across both the 240 and V6 260, Volvo built 2.8 million cars over a 19-year production run, most of which were 240s, and sold worldwide. It even had a relatively successful motorsports career.
It's a little unusual to find a Volvo as a Japanese import, but that's precisely what this 240GL is. The Swedish car hit the streets of Japan first in December 1989 and it's been there ever since, up until it arrived in the UK in August 2020. The current owner spotted it was available and brought it over essentially on a whim.
That means there's not a great deal of recorded history, though various stickers around the car highlight the fact it has been serviced and maintained during its life in Japan.
Here in the UK it's proven to be just one vehicle too many, which means it's time for a new owner to get the benefit of something out of the ordinary.
As noted above, there's not much by way of physical paperwork from the car's life in Japan. That's not especially unusual, but you will find various stickers around the engine bay and door shuts that show the car has been serviced – a recent one in the driver's door notes an engine oil change under 2,500 miles ago, and one under the bonnet dates a cambelt change in July 2016.
The UK paperwork is more recent and comprehensive, covering not only the V5C but the car's first UK MOT – in August 2020 – and registration, along with notification from HMRC that appropriate duties have been paid.
The Volvo's cabin is a pretty remarkable place, with classic 1980s fabrics and vinyl just about everywhere. It's an impressive size given that the car is actually a little smaller than a modern Ford Focus saloon, with four pretty ample seats and a fifth in the centre of the rear bench.
All of the seating is almost spotless, with the only real blemish being what looks like a cigarette burn on the driver's seat. Otherwise it could be brand new. The same goes for the carpeted door cards, trimmed in another pure 1980s fabric.
There's also vinyl trim throughout, on those classic Volvo headrests, the dashboard and the door cards. This is easily damaged but again looks brand new. All of the floor carpets are in excellent condition, with some small signs of wear in a boot that's easily big enough to swallow four sets of golf clubs. The spare wheel and original tool kit are stowed in the passenger side.
As far as we can tell, all of the buttons and switches in the cabin work just as they ought, and the car includes an aftermarket Pioneer Carrozzeria removable head unit.
One advantage that Japanese cars often bring compared to UK-market vehicles is a relative lack of corrosion – largely due to the fact there's no road salting in Japan - and this Volvo just about exemplifies this.
Considering it's over 30 years old now, the silver paint is mostly impressive, but there are some areas on the passenger side – particularly at the rear – where there's an unusual finish; the paint looks thin in places, but you do have to get pretty close to spot it. There are one or two small stone chips too.
The wheels – five-spoke Borbet CB items – all seem to be in great condition, with one of the centre caps a little more worn than the others.
Underneath, the car has clearly covered some miles, but again as a testament to Japan's lack of road salting, seems to be in good condition generally – far better than you would expect from a British car of similar vintage.
The 240 presented here comes with the 2.3-litre, B230 version of Volvo 's Redblock engine, a large four cylinder producing around 118hp. It fires up without any issues, and settles to idle quickly and without any rev hunting. Out on the road it makes some pretty good noises too, and the engine bay seems clean, well maintained, and free from obvious leaks.
We couldn't detect any signs of less welcome noises from any of the other mechanical components, with the auto gearbox having no trouble selecting forward or reverse gears, no undue wobbles or complaints from the suspension, and no creaks or groans from the brakes. At a little under 65,000 miles, it is after all barely run in for a Volvo.
Volvo has been cultivating a more upmarket and cool image in recent years, but even back in the 1980s they were something of a left-field, thinking man's car – and the 240 particularly was an unexpected motorsports icon. The 1980s has been coming back into fashion too, and thanks to this car's life in Japan it's a pretty well-preserved time capsule of the era.
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