A Photo For Sunday: 1983 Volvo 240 GLE

A mid-career midliner from Sweden under the DTW microscope today.

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1983 Volvo 240 GLE

We should know this off pat: launched in 1974 and retired in 1993; was based on and replaced the 140 series and outlived the supposed successor, the 700-series of 1982-1992; both are the work of Jan Wilsgaard and you would not know unless someone told you. He evidently subsumed his personality into the project and only Swedish values come through.  Let’s meditate on the numbers: when this car (1983) was sold the 200-series was only halfway through its production run. Two more mild-facelifts still had to be applied. This is 240 GLE which means it has the 4-cylinder engine but all the trimmings of the 260-series cars. Note the head restraints in the rear. Unusually, the 240 did not deteriorate as facelifts were applied. Take a look at this 1993 model from the very good Curbside Classics site. Here is the main image which deserves a good look.

1993 Volvo 240: curbside classics
1993 Volvo 240: curbside classics

The car I have photographed is located in its natural setting: Danish suburbia of the 1960s. It looks an awful lot like NE American suburbia too which is perhaps why these cars went down so well in that region. Curbside Classic’s argument is that the 200-series established the template for Volvos that Volvo have spent thirty years trying to get away from. Even the 1982 700 was an attempt to get past the 200’s image. So was the 850 and and the S70.

I’d say the extent to which Volvo’s are loved and respected reflects the extent to which Volvo has failed to make us forget the charms of the robust, durable and eternal 200. We recently looked at the new S90 which is not dissimilar in style to the XC90. Both cars clearly draw on the 200 and, frankly, I’d like them even more if they looked ever squarer and heavier. I wonder if Volvo might even do well to do a “retro” 200 in the same way VW has its Beetle and BMW has its Mini. The formula is not said to work for larger cars. That’s received wisdom. I contend there is a steady supply of customer for a car which was essentially the 200 brought respectfully up to date.

I’d keep the looks and make careful note of the radii on the body work but do something to make it a bit lighter…hang on…the 240 only weighs 1465 kg… The V40 weighs 1498 kg in top trim. The 200 is car that could have stayed in production forever and has as much a claim to disinterment as the Mini, 500 and Beetle.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

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