Thursday, August 20, 2015

Shrink Wrapped: 1983 Volvo 242 DL

OK guys, I'm done fooling around. Time for a real throwback Thorsday post. Vince's smallblocked '75 242 from Tuesday was a good find, if you're into diving boards, poor taste, and carburetors. Today however I present the pinnacle of Volvo's two door 240 lineup - no, not a finnicky Turbo model - but an '83 DL - and a stock survivor at that. I'll explain if you keep reading. Find this 1983 Volvo 242 DL with 65k miles for sale in Los Angeles, CA for $4,600 via craigslist.

I know what you're thinking: "CFlo, what the eff man. This is just some early '80s beige appliance. The PINNACLE?!? Go back down in your troll hole and think about what you've written." Normally I might be inclined to agree. Having owned several 242s however, I can not only insist but prove that the 1983 DL model is the one to have...or at least that it represents the most optimal compromise.

Fact 1) this was the first year with nice svelte "skinny" bumpers which remove about 16 lbs of mass from each end of the car (not joking) for a 28 lb total weight savings vs. an '82 or earlier. This is significant because being bumpers, these are mounted at the extreme ends of the car where polar moment of inertia is maximized. A car swapped from 40-lb Commando bumpers to skinnies with no other changes will feel very light on its feet indeed in a back-to-back driving comparo. Fact 2) it has no stupid sunroof to deal with. No leaks, less weight up top, lowering CG, making the car faster. Blam. Fact 3) 1983 was the last year of the smaller 5-panel taillights, which fit the styling better (IMO) than the later wider 6ers. Fact 4) this is the only year with the high-compression B23 engine. It has a modern Bosch LH-Jetronic EFI system that can be easily upgraded or replaced with standalone management. No fussy K-Jets to wet your shoes with like the Turbo or earlier NA cars. Forged internals; perfect for bolting on a turbo system and lighting up the skinny 14" tires.

This beige beauty here in West LA is about as creampuffy as they come - a great candidate for preserving like the covetous kooks some of us are, or lightly modifying with wheels, lowering, and some boost. The price is more than reasonable if the mileage can be verified, the car runs as good as it looks, and AC works as claimed. There are a few small cracks in the dash but a nice fuzzy mat would help hide them, or a dash swap if you can find a cherry brown one (not likely) and have a free Saturday for the labor.

If you're going to swap the dash or embark on any other interior upgrades, do yourself a favor and install a nice sporty steering wheel. My own '81 242 DL is shown for reference above with a Momo Prototipo. And a swapped dash. That job is not fun!

The only real issue I see with this featured car (besides the fact that I can't buy it for myself at the moment) is the slushy elephant between the front seats. The automatic trans will sap any semblance of power that the ~100hp Redblock ever thought about making, but at least it will provide smoothness for cruisin' the boulevards. Manual swaps are straightforward in 240s, as is just about any mechanical job, if that's your thing. Tough call, this one: keep it hermetically sealed, or use as the basis for an epic enthusiast build?

See a better 2-door sedan survivor? email us here:


  1. zeroing in on the right year and options for a particular car model is one of the best puzzles in gearhead-dom

    unlike with a 242 ;) it's still open to some degree of personal preference on most cars - for example, my choice of a 98 540 as the last year pre-VANOS, trading the extra power for simpler mechanicals, a decision with which i am aware some might quibble

    and i am totally with you on the sunroof thing

    1. I had one of these "just right" 242s and sold it to a friend.

      Now I've converted my '81 to '83+ spec with the skinny bumpers. Still trying to determine how to delete the sunroof without disturbing original paint.

      Is there any Neptunian technology that could help?


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