1972 Volvo 164 – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

Think of an old Volvo, and you can be forgiven for thinking of something with all the styling cues of a brick. However, that’s an unfair stereotype. Volvo did indeed enjoy a boxy phase during the ’80s and ’90s, but it was befitting of the era. Every other manufacturer was into boxy looks, too. It wasn’t just the Swedes. Volvo is not, as people would have you believe, unfamiliar with the concept of a curve. Look at the P1800, a celebration of curves. Then there was the bubblicious PV544 before it, and of course we can’t forget the Amazon. Yup, Volvo not only knows what a curve is, it knows how to use them. 

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Volvo’s leap into the world of right angles and straight lines wasn’t a sudden one, either. There was a gentle transition. Want proof? Well, that’s exactly what we have here with this 1972 Volvo 164. it was a traditional three-box saloon, but one with some curves and circles thrown in. Penned by Jan Wilsgaard, the 164 was and still is a deeply handsome machine. Wilsgaard took inspiration from the Wolseley 6/99 amongst others, and produced a great looking car as a result. Purposeful, handsome and beautifully engineered, the 164 was a hit. Sadly though, time has not been kind, and now they are a very rare thing indeed. Rust and rarity do not make for good bedfellows, sadly. As such, this 1972 car is a very rare find. 

What is it? 

As we mentioned above, this is a 1972 Volvo 164. Powered by a 3.0 straight-six overhead-valve B30 engine, it’s mated to the three-speed Borg Warner automatic transmission. A luxury car in its day, it is trimmed with leather, it features a metal sunroof and niceties such as opening quarterlights. Very swish. This particular car is a runner, though it’s not currently on the road. The current owner has owned it for the best part of twenty years, but has made the never easy decision to part with the car as it’s not going to get the attention it deserves any time soon. As such, it’s been offered as a project, and one that sounds well worth taking on. Especially as the car is only £1,200. And that, dear reader, is a bargain for such a rarity. 

Why is it a project? 

The current owner has had the 164 for seventeen years, but it has been off the road for the last ten. As mentioned, the car does run, and the seller assures us that it will move under its own power. However, the brakes need attention, and so driving it on the road isn’t really an option. There is some corrosion to tackle, including a nasty hole in the offside rear arch into the door shut, but the car comes with repair panels. It just needs someone who is a dab hand with the sparkly spanner. There is some corrosion in the boot floor, and in other areas like the front valance and by the looks of it, around the screen. The interior needs work, as the seats and headlining are past their best. The paint is tired, too. It’s going to be a complete restoration, there is no getting around that. But it’s one worth doing, and one you can do at home. The 164 is easy to work on, and while body and trim parts are hard to find, mechanical stuff is not. Plus, this car is very cheap indeed, which gives more leeway for spending money on it. 

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Five things to look for: 

1) Rust

The seller has stated that there is some rust to contend with, and has even included pictures to show as much. But this is an old car, and one that wasn’t exactly famous for being resilient on the corrosion front. It’s cheap, so some degree of a gamble can be taken, but you still need to check the core structure of the car. The floors, the sills, that rust around the screen, the firewall. Check it all. 

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2) Brakes

The brakes have actually been replaced, and the car has new callipers up front. However, the seller thinks the discs need replacing or skimming. But what about the rest of the braking system? The lines, the rear drums, the cylinders etc? pays to check them now, if only so you know what you’re up against.

3) Engine

The car is a runner, which is of course great news. But how well does it run? Having not done any proper driving over the last ten years, it’s going to need a tune up, but even so, you can still check the basics. Look for leaks, listen for any nasty clunks or low end grumbles, does it smoke, does it rev as it should?

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4) Trim

The oily bits are surprisingly easy to find, but trim is not. You’re going to need to save as much as possible, otherwise you’ll be left facing a long and no doubt expensive hunt for new stuff. Checl the trim thoroughly, in particular mountings, clips and fasteners and such. 

5) Transmission

The seller states the car moves under its own power, which is good. But how does the transmission feel? A full road test isn’t going to be possible, but you can get a sense of how it bites and how it selects gears. Can you check the fluid to check the condition, as that will offer some peace of mind if it’s clean. 

What should you do with it? 

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It’s a very rare car, so we would suggest going down the route of full restoration. Of course, that all depends on the overall condition of the car, as it might be just a bit too far gone to justify such work. In which case, there is no harm in simply getting it back on the road and building it back up with parts from other Volvos. Or, you could go the whole hog and modify it. These 164s look ace with a cool set of wheels and some well thought out stance. You could even put a V8 in it if you wanted, and that’s not a silly idea, as the original concept was indeed meant to have eight cylinders. Whatever route you take, the main thing to do is save this cool old car. It deserve to live again, and at £1,200, can you afford to pass up on the opportunity? 

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