1980 Volvo 244 GL B21E
And honest, super tough and reliable vehicle
Blew a head gasket after 173,000km due to age (20 years old)
Fuel pressure accumulator replaced (caused hard starting)
Fuel pump noisy and replaced (3rd pump since new – common fault)
Original brake booster leaking, required replacement.
Clutch slave cylinder failed.
Windscreen wiper bearings seized causing failure in the entire wiper system.
Electronic regulator for fuel gauge and temperature faulty.
Alternator brushes required replacement.
Windscreen washer motor failed, and nozzles beyond repair.
Interior light dropped.
Headlight switch failed.
Electronic antenna seized, and original radio faulty.
Odometer faulty due to crack in plastic gear.
Lots of rubber hoses and fuses deteriorated.
Despite the large list, most of these faults are expected due to age, or are niggly, annoying little things. I honestly cannot think of a more rugged and bullet-proof vehicle from the same era, and would recommend one of these for anyone looking for a bargain priced run-about.
Best thing for the budget conscious are these Volvos are basic to work on. As a straight four, rear wheel drive, you have massive working space and everything is easily accessible. Don’t be scared of parts, as they are plentiful and cheap from wreckers, and brand new parts are actually cheaper than new Japanese car parts! I was originally scared of the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, but there’s not much to go wrong, and are nearly as simple as a carburettor setup. If you are planning to send it to a mechanic, I’m not so sure as there are sharks out there ripping off unsuspecting motorists. I know someone who charged $1000 for an $80 part.
Maintain these vehicles well and they go forever. Mine doesn’t blow the slightest bit of smoke, consume oil or leak oil. A compression test when I bought it proved it was nearly as new! I’ve overly maintained my vehicle with a new radiator, water pump, heaps of hoses and other parts and it hasn’t hiccupped once in 2-3 years.
To drive, these Volvos have pros and cons. With the B21 engines, they are not quick in any way, and their motors don’t particularly like to rev as they deliver most torque low in the rev range. Manuals are the way to go, with the Volvo M45 and M46 gearboxes having a great shift action (if a little slow) and syncros which never seem to wear out. The hydraulic clutch too is nicely setup and weighted. The four-speeds (M45) aren’t ideal for highway work, and the M46 with electric overdrive are definitely the best choice. Automatics feel a bit sluggish, especially matched to the heavy accelerator pedal.
Handling is average, and the factory specified skinny tyres do not help confidence. Steering feel is good; however without power steering it can be awfully heavy at parking speeds. Turning circles are remarkably tiny at only 9.8m! Better than most new small front wheel drive cars. Brakes are remarkably powerful, with four wheel discs, ventilated on the front. Suspension is rather soft for comfort, and the live rear axle can upset the vehicle on high speed mid-corner bumps.
The drivers seats are amongst the most comfortable pews available, but they don’t go back far enough. Pedal placement is average, and left legs have no where to rest which can get uncomfortable.
These vehicles are perfect for new drivers. Visibility is great with skinny windscreen pillars, and the squared off edges allow the driver to see all four corners of the vehicle when parking. No one gives these vehicles a second look, so feel safe parking it anywhere. No one seems to like badging these vehicles either.
Rust can be a problem, especially after dodgy crash repairs. Common rust spots are on the gutters on the A-pillars. I found a bit under the battery, behind the rear bumper, and under the boot rubber seals. Get to it quick to keep it under control.
In Australia, the best 240 combination would be the last of the leaded 240GL. The B230E engines were quick, and matched with a M46 overdrive gearbox and power steering would be a sweet vehicle to drive.
I never thought I’d get hooked on these cars. I’ve been through many Japanese and Australian old cars and nothing comes close to a Volvo in reliability. I’m so hooked I’ve just bought a 740 Turbo HP with the B230FT and M46 gearbox.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 22nd August, 2005
16th Nov 2005, 02:11
Your review of the Volvo 244 is spot on. I have driven three different volvos, 2 of them 244's, and my experience has been very similar. Very reliable, well built cars that do need maintenance occasionally to keep them in good order.
I now drive a 1989 240 wagon, and have previously driven 1979 and 1975 models. I did not see myself becoming a fan of these cars initially, but they just seem to grow on you!
I'm from Australia and here the 240 has a reputation of being an old farts car and I don't care- I think they're beaut.
19th Apr 2008, 23:35
My Wife and I recently purchased 1981 244 GL from local bloke who had it from new. The car is in mint condition and is wonderful to drive. 4 speed manual, doesn't leak oil, the gentleman who owned it even polished the hose clamps in the engine. It's bright red and boxy but good. I love it. We needed to put a new injector in it as it idled rough but now it's purrs like a kitten. I love the sound of the engine when you plant the foot it sounds great. It's a solid car and is very comfortable. They do grow on you...
26th Sep 2008, 07:36
We bought a 244 when our daughter was born in 1980. Now a widower, but our daughter is now a lawyer. Look back on my bright red 244 1980 Volvo and think what a wonderful car it is. Daughter had it for six years - now mine again. Just maintain it and it seems to go for ever. Lots of my past involved in this of course. John McC.
29th Mar 2009, 07:33
I currently drive a 1980 Volvo 244 GL wagon, and it's been the best thing ever. Big plans for it. Restoring it to a newer form, leather and wood grain interior, and gloss and gold exterior...