9:00 PM | June 21 2021
Model Retrospective: Volvo 240 Series
Boxy but brilliant. I Roll recounts the achievements of its biggest-selling model of all time, the legendary and long-lived 240 series.
It was a Volvo that was initially criticised for a boring and boxy appearance when it was released in 1974.
Yet the 240 series would become the Swedish car maker’s single best-selling model, with almost 2.9 million examples built over an incredible, 19-year timespan.
And during its lifetime, the 240 managed to set the international standard for both safety and the environment, win the European Touring Car Championship, and achieve the status of yuppie cult car before it was discontinued in May 1993.
The Volvo 240 was introduced in August 1974 as a logical continuation and development of the popular 140 series of cars, featuring new and innovative technical solutions in many areas. This was especially emphasised by the very high level of safety and the car bore a strong visual resemblance to the VESC safety concept car that Volvo had shown two years earlier.
Above: In 1976, the Volvo 244 was chosen by the USA’s NHTSA as the standard for future safety work – on the grounds that it offered better protection for its occupants than any car of comparable size.
This, among many other details, meant very large bumpers that gave the 240 its characteristic protruding jaw up front.
Like the 140 series some years before, the 240 was also marketed in a more luxurious version with a six-cylinder engine, the 260, and as an estate – Volvo's pièce de resistance.
The Volvo 245 – featured in the main image in Turbo form – almost became synonymous with the very concept of estate cars or station wagons in general. It was a truly versatile car that swallowed everything imaginable, yet was fun to drive, comfortable, and featured the highest safety level on the automotive market at the time.
Setting the standard for safety and the environment
After a long series of crash tests carried out by the US traffic safety authority NHTSA, using the Volvo 240 and its competitors, it became clear that the Volvo 244 by far provided the best occupant protection. The results prompted the NHTSA to purchase several 240s and use them as the safety benchmark against which all new cars on the US market would be tested.
In 1976, the 240 joined other Volvo models as a beneficiary of the company’s breakthrough on exhaust emissions. The Lambda sensor was a genius little piece of engineering that enabled the catalyst to cut more than 90 per cent of the harmful hydrocarbon, carbon monoxide and nitric oxide levels that are created as a result of the combustion of the fuel/air mixture.
The world's fastest wagon
Volvo 240 was a step, or more, ahead of the industry in terms of safety and environmental care and was a model that was continuously developed and updated during its existence. The cars were refined and revitalized over the years. New technical solutions were added; turbocharged and diesel engines were introduced at an early stage.
The reputation for being a boring car was efficiently erased when the Volvo 245 showed itself to be the world's quickest estate car and when the "Flying brick" swept the competition off the racing circuits of Europe on its way to become the Group A champion (pictured above).
During the final stages of its life, the 240 was offered as a five-door wagon only and experienced a renaissance when it suddenly became the car of choice for many European so-called “yuppies”.
On 5th May 1993, after nearly 20 years of huge success and 2,862,573 cars produced (of which 177,402 were 260s), the 240 took its final bow.
Of course, there are still many Volvo 240s on the road all around the world, some even heading towards 50 years of age yet still used as faithful everyday cars – a testament to both the model’s durability and enduring appeal.