Junkyard Gem: 1984 Volvo 242 DL

Volvo had tremendous success with the iconic 200 Series cars, selling them in North America from the 1975 model year all the way through 1993 (and if you count the Volvo 140, which was the same car from the A pillars rearward, the 240’s history goes back to the middle 1960s). Nearly everybody who bought 240s on our continent did so in order to be safe and/or practical, which meant that the two-door version never sold anywhere near as well as its four-door and wagon brethren. Here’s one of those rare 240 coupes (technically speaking, a two-door sedan), found in a San Jose car graveyard last winter.

If you’re going to be a stickler about the designation of this car as a two-door sedan and not as a coupe, you’ll also want to call it by the name Volvo used when it was in the showroom: the 1984 Volvo DL. However, everybody in the Volvo world now prefers the original naming system that Volvo used for the 200s back home in Sweden, where you had 2 followed by a numeral indicating the number of engine cylinders and a numeral indicating the number of doors, with the trim-level code after that. So, what we have for today’s Junkyard Gem is a Volvo 242 DL, i.e., the cheapest new 240 Americans could buy in 1984.

You could get a turbocharged engine from the factory in the 1984 242, but this car has the ordinary naturally-aspirated 2.3-liter straight-four, rated at 111 horsepower.

It also has the four-speed manual transmission with overdrive controlled by the button in the middle of the shift knob.

Nearly 230,000 miles on the clock, which is decent for any 1980s car but not spectacular by Volvo 240 standards.

Many Volvo enthusiasts prefer the smooth lines of the coupe to the stodgier sedans and wagons, and this one shows signs of ownership by someone who wasn’t just about listening to NPR while driving safely to the natural-foods store.

Sure enough, it has aftermarket springs and a non-factory rear sway bar. I wish I’d found these parts back in 2007, when I was helping to build a V8-swapped Volvo 244 road racer.

The presence of the keys in a junkyard car, however, usually indicates that it was voluntarily let go by its final owner. Perhaps it was a dealership trade-in that proved to be impossible to sell due to a combination of three pedals, high miles, and lack of truck-shaped body.

The interior looks like it might have been tolerable before it reached this place. I don’t see many 242s in boneyards these days (though I have found a surprising quantity of 262 Bertone Coupes), presumably because members of the ever-shrinking group of 240 aficionados (of which there are many in Northern California) snap up whatever semi-intact two-doors appear for sale.

You’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.

When some incomprehensible codger dumps a load of beer barrels from his horse-drawn wagon in front of your 240 … you’ll know what to do.

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