Let us have it - are we glutons for punishment?

Have been looking for a used car for running around town, going back & forth to work. Our criteria is that the car be a manual trans., under $2500 and (to quote my wife) somewhat “quirky” in the looks dept. (No beige Camry’s for her!)

After a long search, we’ve come acrossed a 1978 Volvo 242 GT with 180,000 miles on it. Seems to be in pretty good shape. I have your basic auto skills, especially with the older vehicles so I think I can handle some of the basic problems that may come up myself. BUT - are we signing up for an expensive heartbreak?

Reading the forums & researching on the web general thoughts on this car run wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some are die hard lovers of the car & swear by it while others suggest we run like hell in the other direction (though they seem to be talking about the 1980 - 1995 240’s.)

So lets have it, what do you all think?

A 33 year old Volvo with 180K on the clock is not a good candidate for a dependable vehicle. I also like their looks and they are built solid but they have a consistent problem with going from point “A” to point “B”. This includes the models from 1980 to 1995. I would look for something like a Nissan Altima, Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. They are not quite “quirky” but they are dependable.

I think you should consider the total ownwership costs of a car rather than the purchase price alone.

If you were GIVEN such a Volvo, even in good running condition, it would still be a very expensive car to keep running. Parts would be hard to come by and the breakdowns would cause a lot of frustration. A guy down the street has one sitting in his driveway; it was left him by an aunt. It has not run in 10 years, and yes, it looks quirky. I would save “quirky” for things that don’t need maintenance, like armchairs and lawn ornaments.

With a budget of $2500 you can’t be choosy about appearance, cosmetics or specific brand.

If I was in you shoes I would look for an older but well maintained domestic or Japanese vehicle. A Mazda 323, or Nissan Sentra could be bought for that amount. Others, like a Ford Cronw Victoria, Taurus, Chevrolet Malibu or Cavalier, Pontiac Sunbird, come to mind as well. How well the car has been maintained is very important.

In all cases, don’t buy an orphan, since parts and service will be difficult and expensive. I would stay away from any Volkswagen, Chrysler product, older Hyundais, or old luxury cars like Cadillacs.

Good luck in your search!

From the sounds of things, if we DID buy this car we would have a $1500 lawn ornament. (Wouldn’t the neighbors would be thrilled.)

Thanks for the honest feedback. It’s not what the wife will want to hear, but common sense often does sting.

I was having trouble finding parts a decade ago for our 1979 Mazda GLC. I can’t imagine where you will find parts for a 78 Volvo.

Finding parts for any 30 year old car is going to be a nightmare, but it will be a lot easier for cars that were created in great numbers – Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda, or Volkswagen beetle (the old one). Since domestic cars prior to the introduction of the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable in 1984 were pretty much unmitigated junk, I’d suggest you rethink that beige Camry. Get someone to paint some neon green flamingos and sea monsters on it if quirky is really a necessity.

Yes, in the case of the guy on the street, a driveway ornament. He can’t have it towed away (in spite of his neighbors calling city hall) since he put 2010 plates on it and it still has air in the tires.

P.S. My sister, age 81, has a beige Camry, 12 years old and as reliable as the day she bought it. She says it helps uncomplicate her life, since she is responsible for all those things, her husband having Altzheimers.

In 1974, I had the misfortune to buy a '74 242 GL, and despite meticulous maintenance, it was the absolute worst, least reliable car that I ever owned. And, in case you think that mine was the odd lemon, I became friendly with several other Volvo owners who also used the indy foreign car mechanic who I patronized. We all swore that we would never buy another one of these Swedish atrocities. How Volvo got its sterling reputation is a mystery to me.

The only thing that I could depend upon with that piece of junk was for there to be yet another electrical issue every few weeks (in addition to heavy oil consumption that started ~60k miles, in addition to a chronic trans leak, in addition to constant problems with the mechanical fuel injection system, in addition to the paint that was chalked after 1 year, in addition to…).

Given the abysmal quality of Volvos of the '70s when they were new, I can’t even begin to imagine how unreliable one of these “gems” would be after 33 yrs/180k miles. I kept mine until 76k miles, simply because I could not afford to replace it earlier. The replacement, one of the “notorious” GM X-cars, was far better in initial quality than that Volvo, and it ran reliably for well over 20 years, between me and the two subsequent owners. You could not give me a Volvo of that era unless you paid me a substantial amount of cash to take it off your hands.

Caveat Emptor!

What about:

1995 Honda Prelude
1995 Acura Integra

It hasn’t run in 10 years because he hasn’t fixed it in 10 years.

Of course he can have it towed away. He simply chooses not to. He could donate it to Goodwill, or, get ready America! NPR!!! If he has license plates there’s a good chance he has insurance and a strong possibility that you don’t have the whole story.

Zombiewoolf; the car was willed to him by an aunt. Neither you nor I know what was in the will. The car has been in his posession for 24 years! It was operational when he got it. He has another car for daily use; a Corolla, which his wife drives mostly. He does not drive a great deal, and mostly takes the bus.

He has another car in his garage, unused, a mint condition 1976 VW Rabbit which his father willed him. This one still runs. We also do not know what is is that will.

Yes, he could donate these cars to Goodwil, etc, but if the aunt’s will says he has to keep it, like inheriting a parrot that’s going to live to 100, he may have a problem. But then, he might just be an anal retentionist!

As the Volvo aged, he probably found it more and more difficult to keep it running ; the aunt’s will may not have said to keep it operational.

So, please don’t speculate about things far away that even those living close by do not have all the facts on.

Where we live you can put plates on a car without insurance but you have to pay a penalty which is a lot less than getting this old one running. And you can’t drive it.

P.S. You misinterpret the “Can’t have it towed awy”. That refers to the police cannot tow it, since it is legally parked with plates, no matter how hard the neighbors complain. Here you cannot park a car legally in your driveway or in front of the house without valid plates.

A stick shift '78 242 GT is a very desirable vehicle among old Volvo enthusiasts. Parts for old Volvos are available from a variety of manufacturers, including the OEM manufacturers, and are not expensive if you buy them on line. They are cost-prohibitive if you buy them at the dealer.

If this is your first Volvo, I would suggest something with a few less years on it, like a '90 to '93 244 or 245, and I would suggest one that is currently being used as a daily driver so you can reasonably expect that someone is keeping up with all the old plastic and rubber parts as they crumble.

For Volvo aficionados they are all worthy marks. For someone looking for an everyday driver nothing that is 30 years old is a good choice, certainly not one with a limited availability of parts. A 78 Chevrolet or Ford would be a much better choice. But a late 90s Toyota or Nissan for $1,500 with $1,000 in reserve would be a much better option… IMHO.

"Yes, he could donate these cars to Goodwil, etc, but if the aunt’s will says he has to keep it, like inheriting a parrot that’s going to live to 100, he may have a problem. But then, he might just be an anal retentionist!

As the Volvo aged, he probably found it more and more difficult to keep it running ; the aunt’s will may not have said to keep it operational.

So, please don’t speculate about things far away that even those living close by do not have all the facts on."

a) I will speculate to my heart’s content. How about you don’t tell me not to speculate?

b) The hypothetical provisions of the will you propose are neither legally nor practically enforceable, so scratch those.

c) If the car hasn’t run in 10 years, how does he get it emissions tested?

d) You can’t park a car in your driveway without license plates? Where do you live, Nazi Germany? Here in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Maryland you can do whatever you want with your driveway and you can drive a car without insurance once you pay the Uninsured Motorist Fee.

e) In many jurisdictions, being parked in the same spot on the street for 48 hours is a towable offense. I guess he lucked out in that regard, but of course that would be SPECULATION.

f) As the Volvo aged, he CHOSE not to keep it running. For 10 years.

g) It would be a shame if that car got “stolen.”

A couple of quick answers to your additional speculation.

We have no emission testing requirements, except when the vehicle is SOLD or given awy to another owner.

City bylaws prohibit the parking of campers, trailers, and unlicensed motor vehicles in front of the builing line. Many RV owners pour a concrete pad beside the house so they can park their motor homes.

We also have the 48 hour parking rule; the neighbors with motor homes move them regularly. They also have to be removed after a heavy snowfall so the streets can be cleaned.

Regardles of the legality of what is in the will, the owner might feel a MORAL responsibility (perhaps a strange concept to you) to follow it.

The car looks quite disreputable; it might be a relief to those living near it, if indeed, it was stolen.