Last week we considered the AMC Pacer: a car that is not known for inviting admiration. This week I take a quick look at another not-much-loved vehicle.
I could very well have served the two up together as a provocation. When I saw the 340 I wondered what it was doing at the gathering of classics and not parked outside. Yet not far away the 1976 AMC Pacer parked at the same event. That car gathered curious glances and much detailed inspection while the 340 didn’t at all. Yet both cars were there because they had loving owners for whom their vehicles were a source of pride and joy.
I have argued that the Pacer, for all its demerits, was deserving of affection. Someone has to preserve these interesting old cars and you can learn a lot from them, even if they might not live up to preconceived notions of desirability.
So why is the 340 not as worthy of affection as the Pacer? In many ways it’s a better car than the Pacer. It goes as fast, is more comfortable inside and better looking. The interior is a paragon of Swedish sensibility. The exterior might not be athletic but it is correct and neatly, soberly finished. The advantage the Pacer has over the 340 is that it is so outlandish, so spectacularly other. The 340 is merely ordinary: an ordinary, quite rectilinear shape and ordinary of engineering, ordinary of specification (DL). Grey tweed cloth, grey plastic trim. Cart springs. Something yet has driven the owner to lavish upon it considerable care and attention. This one gleamed. It’s also a three door and not the more common five door.
What’s fascinating about this car is that it’s absolutely mediocre. I would have talked to the owner about it if they had been around. I rather wish I did. I can see why one might enjoy the Pacer’s fun factor. What was it about the 340 that floated the owner’s boat? And if not a 340 then what else would they rather have had? Is there a car less special? A 1988 Mazda 323 or a Ford Escort GL?
As with the Pacer, I am glad someone is looking after these cars. The Pacer’s future is assured as it is so flamboyantly strange. The Volvo’s owner is swimming even harder against the tide since he must seldom be rewarded by admiring or even puzzled onlookers. It’s a car you’d walk past despite now being so rare they are even an unusual sight in Sweden.
The nomenclature: the 340 cost less than a 240 but had a bigger number to designate it. Then came the 700-series cars. In the 80s Volvo’s badges made no sense.