I received this car as a gift in 1998. Recently looking at the value of this year (1984) in Kelly Blue Book and elsewhere, I feel it is a really good price for the value (if I were in the market as a buyer rather than a seller). It had around 166,000 miles when I got it and now is closing in on 200,000 which is nothing for these cars if they are maintained well. The two previous owners did all regular maintenance and fixed any problems right when they occurred, so I started off with a good foundation. Since I took possession, I have done almost nothing, including not doing regular oil changes, (two in 7+ years and ~35K miles) and it has never complained. Of course, when I finally did change the oil, it was sludge. I am one of the worse car owners I know (just terrible) when it comes to routine maintenance and getting things fixed, and I’m happy that I own this car since it has been very forgiving.
At around 198,000 miles I had to replace the radiator (which was inexpensive if I recall) which had developed a leak, I did this easily myself with common tools, but had to hire a shop to replace the cooling system hoses, between the engine and firewall, since they are completely inaccessible to get at. Otherwise, the engine sits free and open in the engine compartment and it’s easy to access most things in there.
Because it took me so long to get the radiator hoses replaced (they started to go like clockwork as soon as I replaced the radiator), I ended up driving it too hot for a while (even though I carried around gallons of water in the rather spacious trunk), which resulted in a warped head, which resulted in loss of compression, which resulted in poor hill climbing power at city speeds. Until then, it always had plenty of get-up-and-go to it.
Labor tends to be very expensive with Volvos, in general (my partner just bought a newer one, as well), and I would find a trusted Volvo specialist and stick with them. Parts are usually easy to find, but can also be expensive, but most of the cost is in labor with these cars.
I should replace the chintzy plastic map holder on the passenger side door, it cracks if you give is a light bumping on the way in or out of the car. But you can leave this if you don’t care about little things. It’s this type of thing that bothers me however (not the big stuff…).
The driver’s seat lumbar support has been broken since I got it, which results in a painful ergonomic posture for even medium length trips (a day out shopping).
The front panel broke off the ashtray for no reason, making it inconvenient to pull out if you’re a smoker, like me.
The dashboard analog clock gave up last year in the winter, for a while it would still work on warm days, but now is completely gone. I stuck a portable digital in the little mid-dash cubby, above the radio, until a jockey-boxer (petty thief) took it one night.
The paint job has massive fading on some (not all) of the panels, I never wax or coat the exterior, I do wash it however; once a year – if it needs it or not, but this was a problem with many cars in the mid-80’s and came that way when I got it.
I’ve replace the windshield wiper blades, living in rainy Oregon and all.
This is a four speed standard transmission, with a fifth speed overdrive button on top of the shift lever. The button, or the relay, or the solenoid goes out about once every year or two. If it’s the button, it’s an easy and cheap fix; otherwise it can get more expensive. Right now I’m driving with only four speeds because of this issue.
I own a no-frills package. Standard transmission, automatic door locks, radio-cassette, cruise control (which I have never used), and nothing else fancy about it.
There is plenty of trunk space and enough elbow room for all passengers. The car has always been a little sluggish (big feeling) and has an average to poor turning radius. The seats are comfy, yet the front passenger and driver’s seats lack a middle arm rest. The car sits reasonably high off the ground and back-road driving with potholes and small gulches has never been a problem. Gas mileage has been very good, I haven’t done the math, but it is far better than the VW Jetta which I also drive around sometimes. The driver’s experience is one of sitting low, with an oversized non-adjusting steering wheel in front of you. It has better than average visibility in spite of this fact. It feels quite large to drive, and feels spacious on the inside, even though it looks quite a bit smaller on the outside and has a narrower width-profile than many cars (including the above mentioned Jetta). The steering is easy for man, woman or child and the brakes are quite responsive, as good as or better than much newer cars that I have driven. The clutch can be hard (stiff) to depress all the way to the floor, but will build up a strong left leg muscle. One of the previous owners had trouble with this which resulted in an early clutch replacement.
In summary; don’t be like me, if it breaks – get it fixed – and you will be a happy owner of a very reliable, utilitarian, no-frills mobile fortress. I have been very happy with this car, even if it isn’t nearly as fun to drive as the VW Jetta or Mazda 323, or even my old VW Bus… but for a basic do-it-get-there type car, it definitely fits the bill.