1 – Background, purchase and pick-up
I purchased a 1996 850T5 in 2005 when they were still worth a bit and learned pretty quickly that I was living beyond my means. I sold the 850 for a loss and eventually bought this 1989 Volvo 240 DL from my Aunt who had bought the car as an ex-demo with air-conditioning, M47 5 speed manual and just two speakers in the front. Photos of the Group A cars filled my dreams.
After depositing the money I flew to Canberra to pick it up from my cousin who had driven the car from interstate for the drop-off. It was in fairly good condition with the usual rubbish and dirt, rusted P plate holders, faded stickers, broken trim, driver seat and speakers, poor suspension that most used 240s have, plus a large dent in the rear door. Positive points were a good and fully recorded service history, new radiator and good tyres. The interior wasn’t too bad and should clean-up fairly well, the dash being black upper with beige lower, beige kick-plates and the rest of the interior featuring a mix of beige seats and carpet with black plastic trim.
The drive back to Melbourne was pretty uneventful but the broken seat and speakers tested the patience and made regular stops mandatory. With the speedo showing a good 10k/ph under at 110k/ph, the drive certainly could’ve been quicker. It was funny though, driving back in the 240 brought back memories about riding in a family friend’s 242 when I was a sprog and overall it’s a pretty comfortable place to be.
2 – Clean-up
First thing to do was to give the car a good clean. Removal of cream plastic floor mats, old manky seat covers and stickers were done easily enough but the pin-stripes took a while to peel off – even when using a hair dryer and old credit card. It took a few hours but it eventually came off fairly cleanly with just a quick polish required. The plate holders were removed, the broken chrome grill replaced with an OEM black plastic item and the chrome waistline trim around the car covered in black tape.
A tentative plan was starting to emerge about how I wanted the car to look in regards to trim and interior but there were more important (and expensive) things to worry about.
With the pin striping removed I focused on de-badging the car and polishing up the affected areas. A set of 16” Volvo Galaxy wheels came up on eBay ($4-500) and was my first eBay purchase. I purchased a set of Firestone rubber – which were surprisingly good in all weather – and handed both the car and wheels to Neil at DVS.
3 – Suspension, brakes, wheels and interior
Having sold my 850 to Ash and getting both his and Neil’s advice on buying a 240, I was really lucky in getting their help with my long-term goals of making the car a decent performer. With parents that didn’t care about cars at all (getting my auto sparky uncle to change a light bulb), this car has been my introduction to the car world and I’m still happy to say I’m learning with it.
We started working through the small items such as the broken petrol cap and door, taking the cap off for the painters to match the new rear door. The rear parcel shelf was taken apart and re-trimmed with black carpet, the rear mudflaps were cut down to improve the lines once lowered, and we installed Ash’s old Stratos sports seat into the car – one of the best mods anyone can do to a car.
Under the car then received some attention with a quick clean, new brake rotors and pads, lowered springs and new shocks. The car was already equipped with the Volvo tower to firewall braces so we added a DVS strut tower brace, lower chassis braces and sumpguard. On the drive home I was a happy man as the car had been transformed from sloppy to sharp. Tellingly, the original springs were so tired the car sat higher after the suspension was replaced.
4 – Stereo and center dash
With two very old, crackly and speakers, the car was in dire need of some better tunes. 4” Jensen speakers were purchased and professionally installed in the front doors with Blaupunkt 6×9″s installed in the rear parcel shelf. Although this was a huge improvement over the original front door speakers, the Jensen’s will be replaced as they sound tinny, current goal is for some more blaupunkts.
The centre lower dashboard was replaced with an all-black item, making sure that the switches were tidied up and moved into an order that made more sense. This move taught me an important lesson when working on cars; make sure that you mark (and photograph) any and all wires/bolts/screws that appear when pulling anything apart. My failure to do so resulted in a frustrating half hour spent methodically plugging cables back in and testing each one.
Around this time I also experimented with some worn-out semi-slicks to see what fun could be had with better tyres. The handling was determined by which tyre was under load resulting in a hilarious back-and-forth between fantastic and no grip. As the tyres weren’t really roadworthy and were unpredictable the tyres came off and a set of Goodyear F1s added.
5 – Engine changes, bodywork and interior
So with the car now handling well and a theme of black and beige beginning to emerge, the time had come to continue changing over the interior and starting to get more power from the engine.
We started with the headlights. I sat down and sanded chrome trim while Ash pulled apart the reflectors. After the prep was done they were painted a satin black paint (VHT Hood, bumper and trim paint) and Ash expertly built a black steel mesh grill. An off-white (not quite beige) chin spoiler was also sourced and installed.
Engine mods started with a set of hurricane extractors feeding a 2.25” exhaust that took a straight path down the right hand side of the car. After a few weeks it was also clear we needed a bigger cat which was duly installed with a bit of tricky fabrication by Midas Essendon. New leads, plugs and other basic work continued with the replacement of the stock M camshaft with a more sporty K grind. Unfortunately the K had a minute nick which continually shredded the rubber seals so an H grind was sourced and installed alongside a Craig-Davies electric fan. The e-fan made a big difference; making the car quicker and reducing the white van noise.
6 – Cosmetic
With a view towards reducing weight the towbar assembly was removed and a new rear valance was cut-up and installed around the RHS tailpipe. Tint (thankfully with a brown, rather than blue tinge) was added to the car and although it was the darkest legal, it was obvious that either the tint or the interior had to get darker.
7 – Aircon and trim
The aircon had finally died with nothing but a faintly cool breeze coming through the vents when operating. As the 240 didn’t have any power to spare and a long-term goal of track work, the decision to remove it was made. Neil removed the aircon, pumps, condenser and piping and used the resulting gaps to install a 3” pipe from the airbox to chin spoiler. It was a surprisingly effective mod that really allowed the car to breathe in the mid to high rev ranges once over 80km/ph.
The car was also spruced up with the final painting of the plastic trim above the headlights. Simple and effective.
8 – Trim
The remaining chrome trim (apart from around the wndows) was blacked out using trim tape, stickers were removed and the spare front spoiler was painted the beige body colour. It turns out that this spoiler has dodgy attachment points so another spoiler will have to be sourced at some stage. I’m wondering whether to go back to the original black plastic.
9 – Preparation for boost, seat changes
The decision has been made to supercharge the car. But before it could happen the H cam was taken out and swapped with a VX3 cam. A real change of pace for the car and in N/A form and not one for the best. In hindsight I should’ve gone to a K or even just tried the H to see what happened.
The gear selector failed around this time and happened to go while teaching my (now) wife how to drive a manual. It was a tense time as the car kept going in reverse while appearing to be in first and I kept on blaming her. We swapped seats when we almost hit a tree and I found the problem and apologized many times. I’m pretty sure the clutch was replaced while it was in the shop.
I took advantage of Berry’s old Volvo parts clearance sale by purchasing a set of black with orange stripe GT seats and black door trims. As this was my first real taste of unsupervised car tinkering (my family is about as unmechanical as you can get) I slowly replaced the seats, lost a lot of skin from my hands and completed the job using a jack to push the seat into position. I didn’t have the rest of the black interior so I left the rest of the interior as-is.
10 – Boost! Well almost…
Fred was a guy in Melbourne that had added a supercharger to his 242GT and wanted to sell it to fund his turbo setup and delivery to family interstate. Somehow Cam came to know about this car and did a bit of matchmaking and I went and had a look. After a bit of research and a drive of the donor car the 240 went into Fred’s workshop to start work. Using an Toyota SC-14 supercharger, 740T intercooler and fabricated brackets, new hoses and fabricated pipework, Fred pretty much swapped his install over a few weeks of weekend tinkering. At this stage I wasn’t confident in doing the work myself and Fred knew the system inside and out.
Once installed the car was moved to a local garage for installation and tuning of the donor Microtech ECU. I knew the owner through Cam and a few of the dyno days run through the club but things started going pear-shaped when I kept being put at the end of the queue. After months of seeing work done then parts taken off for other projects I cracked and I retrieved the car and put it in storage.
The car sat in the workshop for around 7 months while I started a new job and moved house. With both time and money now available I decided the work needed to completed and as I couldn’t trust what had been done to the car, I contacted Beninca Motors about finishing the mechanicals, installing an Autronic EMS and tuning the car.
11 – Boost!
Beninca Motors is a well known workshop with decades of experience in building up Alfas for racing. With a workshop full of goodies (most of which were designed/made by themselves) and a working knowledge of Volvos, they were a great choice for fixing the problems with the 240.
By this stage it was mid 2008 and In under three weeks the Autronic SMC was installed, tuned and previous work fixed or replaced as necessary. Tuned for 95 octane petrol, the car produced 112.5rw/kw which was an amazing improvement over the N/A mid fifties. Although not amazing power numbers, the car has over 240rw/nm across most of the rev range and a very linear delivery – perfect for in-gear acceleration, especially at highway speeds. Best speed has so far been 180kph and was still pulling hard in fourth.
The best thing for the future is that now the system is in, I can easily tweak the supercharger, replace it with a turbo or any other upgrades and I can simply get it retuned to get the most out of the setup. Worth every cent.
12 – Clean up and interior swap
The car has been running well but as the weather is quite hot at the moment with a second week of 30º days minimum, 44º maximum, it was decided to keep the car in the club warehouse and do some small work on the car to bring it back to daily driver status. At the moment there’s an oil leak on the exhaust which creates some good smoke while idling or at the lights. There’s also too much pressure building up in the engine due to the charger. I have an oil cooler and valve cover with socket for adding a catch-can ready to go, just need to get the money and motivation to implement.
Due to the stock air box being replaced with a pod filter, I don’t have the piping running through the engine bay so was able to change the chin spoiler back to the colour coded item we had stored away. Unfortunately it’s the spoiler with the dodgy mounting points so I will need to source a better spoiler and either leave it black or get it painted. I don’t like the pod filter at the moment, it’s an old piece of junk that needs replacing but I’m not sure if I’ll keep the charger so there’s no point in changing it over. Best case scenario would be an inline pipe filter such as a Pipercross which would keep inlet temps down and reduce the noise of the charger. Having the filter opening to the front of the car would be a positive, the old pipe worked well.
A little bit of TLC was done with an initial clean of the engine bay, a cut and polish on the outside and a general clean-up on the interior. The under dash (floor) trim was replaced and tidied up, the light for the e-fan removed and another blanking plate put in place – making the hazard lights and rear window de-mister switches the only ones present.
I got my hands on a 240 of the same year with a black interior on eBay for a steal. A friend helped me pick the car up from Geelong and we got it to Mulgrave with no issues. Unfortunately at Mulgrave my brother in-law started helping…
So after all that drama I was able to spend a few days by myself to swap the interiors over. With past experience consisting of simply swapping seats, there was a generous learning curve but I enjoyed every minute of it. With the help of freezer bags, a sharpie and the phone camera, I was able to potter along and get everything done.
The interior looks much better in black and suits the style of the car. I added some small touches like painting the rearview mirror plastic panel black which suits the black and white sun shades/roof lining. I also took the opportunity to add a VDO Cockpit 15psi boost gauge in the second upper dash mount, underneath the clock. The Cockpit range matches the OEM gauges so that’s a win – at least until I have more than 15psi boost…
13 – Mothball: late 2010 to early 2014 (no accident it’s number 13!)
Well. During this period a lot of stuff was (and still is) going on in life with marriage, moving house again and my wife being injured at work with tendonitis through both wrists. We had to sell our Suzuki Swift Sport to get something automatic and we made the dreadful mistake of buying a late 02 (MY03) XC70. We did look for a Passat V6 wagon but couldn’t find one in good condition within our price range.
As my wife’s condition worsened and she needed to start going to daily appointments, I pushed the 240 back into service as my daily driver. Even though it really needed work to fix the pressurization problem and various oil leaks, it worked well for a few weeks until we hit some 38º+ weeks and the engine ditched its coolant and oil around the engine bay. At that stage I was sick of driving a manual for an hour in stop-start traffic so we bit the bullet and purchased a 95 850 T5 cheaply from family to replace the 240.
Unfortunately this setup only lasted a year as a quick review of the 850’s servicing bills showed that the money spent on the 850 over the year could’ve bought and maintained a 3 year-old modern family car. Sure, I could’ve done a lot of the work myself in theory, but I’ve never been mechanically gifted, don’t have a lot of tools, and both cars were needed to be available daily.
So, the 850 was up for sale and the XC started showing a few warning signs which were dutifully ignored. The AWD stopped working along with the AMM, causing a painful week of replacing parts and trying to get the car to the mechanic. The XC was fixed, a 2010 Aurion purchased and the 850 sold off within a few weeks. Then, when things were looking fairly calm and we were due to move to Canberra in two weeks, the XC succumbed to the gods with the AMM, dashboard, AWD, transmission and a few others all failing at the same time. By this stage we were pretty tired of the drama (my father passed away around this time) and with just a few days before the move we sold the XC to the mechanic for a hefty loss. It didn’t even cover the cost of the move, but at least the drama was finished.
14 – Current
Currently the 240 is sitting in the warehouse with all the bits and pieces ready to go, sitting in the boot. Our house in Canberra is a small 2 bedroom unit with a single car garage occupied by the Aurion. We were told that a garage would be our best friend during Winter and to make sure the daily is parked in there wherever possible. How right they were! Although never one for parking a car on the lawn, we don’t even have enough space for that so for the meantime, the 240 will remain in Melbourne.
I’m not really happy with the supercharging even though I love the power delivery. It’s damn loud which needs to be addressed, there’s no easy SC-14 rebuild options and the setup requires new brackets. With an engine that’s always been tired and is now more so, it’s going to take a lot of time and money to get the car to a stage where it can be engineered – but all that for a minimal power increase.
So the plan I’ve finally decided on will be doing an engine swap with a turbo unit. Unfortunately it’s still a plan at this stage as funds are tight after the move and a lack of jobs available in Canberra at the moment. We’re also starting up our own Pet Sitting business which will require all available funding so the 240 takes the back seat again.
But let’s dream for a while! The planned engine is a B230FT from a 740T that’s known to be a strong engine and will be a good starting point. A straight swap will be made initially with the Autronic gear added, a new exhaust made up and a re-tune. If I can find a good deal on a 90+ manifold and 16/18T, I’ll look at upgrading the turbo during the swap. I would like to get a ball bearing Garrett at some stage but perhaps that can be a present when the business is doing well!
- Boost: 0.5 Bar / 7.25 psi
- Rear wheel power: 150hp / 112.7kw @ 4899rpm
- Rear wheel torque: 245nm @ 3366rpm (over 240nm between 2800–4800rpm)
- 1989 B230F stock N/A engine
- Toyota SC-14 supercharger
- Autronic SMC engine management with custom tune
- 36lb/hr injectors
- Volvo VX3 camshaft
- DVS adjustable camshaft gear
- DVS rear camshaft seal plate
- Hurricane extractors/headers
- 2.5″ catalytic converter (straight after extractors)
- 2.25″ exhaust
- Single 2.25″ muffler
- 740 turbo intercooler
- Craig-Davies electric fan
- Blow-off valve plumbed back to intake
- Pod Filter
- Aircon removed
- 740 Turbo Remote Oil Cooler (waiting in shed)
- Stock M47 5 speed manual transmission
- 30mm Lower, 35% stiffer Kings Springs
- Gabriel shock absorbers front
- Monroe GT shock absorbers rear
- Volvo firewall to tower braces
- DVS tower to tower brace
- DVS lower chassis braces
- 21mm front/rear sway bars
- DVS aluminium sump guard
- Stratos sports seat (driver)
- 242GT seats
- Momo classic aluminium ball shift knob
- Kenwood CD player
- Jensen 4” speakers front
- Blaupunkt 6×9” speakers rear
- DVS Aluminium handbrake cover
- Fire extinguisher
- Black dash and interior swap
- Black rearview mirror mount
- VDO Cockpit 15psi boost gauge in extra clock mount
- EBC greenstuff pads front and rear
- DVS ducted brake backing plates
Wheels and Tyres
- Volvo Galaxy 16×7” alloy wheels
- Goodyear F1 205/50/16 tyres
- Removed badges
- Removed pinstriping
- Removed towbar
- New rear passenger door
- Black vinyl under windows resprayed
- Mud flaps trimmed
- Chrome trim blacked out
- Volvo black plastic grill with blacked out sash
- DVS black mesh grill
- Horns relocated behind bumper
- Bee-sting style antenna
- Body coloured front lip spoiler
- Clear front indicator lenses
- Headlight buckets painted black
- Tinted windows
- Late model clear side indicators with black edging
- Ash and Neil from DVS (www.dvs.net.au)
- B230FT swap, swapping back in the aircon, Autronic retune
- Remote oil cooler (sitting in shed)
- Oil breather setup
- Swap current grill for GT grill with fog lights (yellow) and black trim (waiting in shed)
- Swap current lights with square Euro lights with black trim (waiting in shed)
- Replace windscreen and back window trim with newer black version
- Swap boot lid with pre-1986 version (still a bit undecided)
- Swap front guards for pre-1986 version
- Swap bonnet for “flat hood”
- Paint wheels anthracite
- Volvo “Turbo” badge
- Red/clear tail lights
- Black center console (near handbrake), or paint current item black (waiting in shed)
- OMP WRC black suede steering wheel (waiting in shed)
- All GT seats, or race seats, in the front
- New black carpet
- DVS adjustable panhard bar (waiting in shed)
- 25mm rear wheel spacers (waiting in shed)
- DVS 40mm front springs