Unbelievable excitement ensues as two Seattleites prepare for a baby!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Driving with Chris: 1986 Volvo 240DL

Our family Volvo 240DL.

After driving the Mercedes-Benz E350, switching over to our secondary car, a 300,000-mile Volvo 240DL, was a bit of a letdown.

The Volvo is Leigh's car, and basically a member of the family, so I won't savage it too badly here. Here, dear reader, are the facts:

- The Volvo is "painted" burgandy, which after six years exposed to the pollution, heat, and humidity in Charlotte, mellowed into an ashy, shadowed, scabrous color.

- The transmission is leaking fluid in about four different places; Swedish Automotive has sealed a few, but the Volvo still serves as a rather expensive transmission-fluid-to-nature distribution system.

- The heat shield on the engine is slightly loose, so it resonates at a variety of frequencies in sympathy with the long-suffering engine, giving the drivetrain the civilized sound of a two-stroke lawn mower running on rubbing alcohol.

- Leigh's brother Bryan and/or his friends took the opportunity to break just about every plastic interior piece during college, giving the interior a warmth and atmosphere matched only by that of a supermarket in a paticularly rough part of Moscow.

- For a time, the Volvo was our sole vehicle in Charlotte. This, combined with the fact that its air conditioner is a device that provides no cold air but overheats the engine rather efficiently, means that the front seats have absorbed untold gallons of sweat apiece over the last seven years. This is exacerbated by the fact that the seat heaters are placed directly under the cupholder, meaning they are switched unobtrusively on much of the time.

- Brand-new, the four-cylinder engine pumped out a fire-breathing 114 horsepower. Now, after 300,000 miles of abuse and without an overhaul, I'd wager it is fortunate to put out something like 95. This, when powering a two-ton steel safety cage with four seats in it, provides the disconcerting effect of attacking modest hills full-throttle and still steadily losing speed. It is almost, but not quite, able to pull the hat off one's head.

- Some low-life decided to break a window (worth a significant percentage of the worth of the entire car) to steal the low-buck economy CD player in the dash. Stealing a high-bucks Blaupunkt out of an Infiniti or Lexus, that I can see. But stealing the generic CD player out of our ancient Volvo ... that's a cry for help. I'm not angry so much as I'm consumed by pity for that thief.

Now just think - when I owned my 1983 Chevy Malibu Wagon (the 'Bu!), the 1986 Toyota Celtica, or the 1993 Saturn, the Volvo was the sophisticated, reliable transportation in the family. And in truth, if you can forget about the recent 5-degree list evident in the once-rock-solid steering response, it drives really nicely after it has been warmed up.

In fact, it has done very well for us. For a car we couldn't unload for $1,000 in Charlotte before the move, it has transported us safely and unreliably. In fact, it even got me off of a ticket. Once, when cruising along I-205 outside Portland, in a spot right when the speed limit changes from 70 to 60, I was pulled over for going 70 mph. However, the policeman took pity on me when he got an eyeful of my ride. He gave me a warning; in fact, he may not have even believed that I could have been traveling 70 mph in the Volvo.

It's been a great car - but stepping back into the Volvo after the E350 was a bit like getting off a Learjet and onto a tractor.

A warning - this post may disappear and/or undergo significant modification once Leigh sets eyes on it.

The hole where a cheap CD player used to reside, before some low-life stole it.


Blogger Ron Coscorrosa said...

...giving the drivetrain the civilized sound of a two-stroke lawn mower running on rubbing alcohol.


I can sense the envy emanating from Neil Young and Willie Nelson as we speak.

I had a 1989 Ford Escort which was to oil what your Volvo is to transmission fluid (or what Peja Drobnjak is to imported produce). The good news is I never needed to change the oil...

7:03 PM

Blogger Ron Coscorrosa said...

I forgot to mention, that wild flower patch alongside the Volvo is truly stunning.

I'm aiming to have several of those throughout my yard. I would be further along if the neighbor kid didn't need cash (via mowing my wild flowers) to suport his firework habit.

I *know* he waits for me to leave for work and then he waters and fertilizes just so he can cut it all down again. He thinks I don't notice. "What's that green stuff in amongst my flowers?" "Grass, dumbass!" "I know kid, I'm just testing you."

It's a vicious spiral.

7:14 PM

Blogger Chris Hafner said...

I was going to say that the wild flower patch is actually on a side road, where the Volvo is habitually parked, but what's the point? Our lawn is even worse.

Breaking news on that front, though - after more than a year of struggling with a push rotary motor that pushes down the grass and weeds rather than cutting them, there is now a power mower in the works. Stay tuned for a comparison test.

11:24 AM


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