CLASSIC VOLVO TURNS 40: With 2.8-million units sold, Volvo’s iconic 240 is the automaker most-produced model yet (pictured here in 244 DL guise). Image: Volvo SA
SWEDEN - Volvo’s 240 made its media debut on August 21 1974. To date, the 200 series is automaker’s most-produced model with 2.6-million 240s and 177 402 of its 260 derivatives. In total, 2.8-million Volvo 200 series rolled off the production line from 1974 and 1993.
The 240 evolved from the 140 series with significant changes. The innovations were primarily at the front; the 240’s appearance was inspired by the Volvo experimental safety car concept that was presented in 1972. Most prominent of all were its large bumpers at 13cm longer than the 140 series. The characteristic lattice headrests were among new additions to the interior.
The 240 was powered with a then newly-developed B21 engine as either a 72kW carburettor version, or a 91kW fuel injection version. The front was an all-new design incorporating MacPherson struts as well as rack-and-pinion steering.
FIRST TURBO-CHARGED ESTATE
In October 1974 production of the more exclusive 260 series, which originally came in two versions (DL and GL) began. The 264 had a new 2.7 litre 104kW V6 engine. The engine was produced in Douvrin in northern France, a product of a partnership with Renault and Peugeot.
IMAGE GALLERY: Volvo's classic 240 turns 40
During its production period, the Volvo 240 was made available with a variety of engine options, such as the 1979 version that was introduced with a six-cylinder diesel engine developed in partnership with Volkswagen. The diesel engine was also available as a five-cylinder derivative in certain markets. In 1981 the company launched the Volvo 244 turbo that produced and impressive 116kW.
The highlight of the 200 range was the 245 turbo wagon, the first series production estate with a turbo-charged petrol.
In addition to two and four-door versions, there was also an exclusive coupe variant - the Volvo 262C. The Volvo 262C was built by Italian firm Bertone and a total of 6622 were produced from 1977 to 1981.
The 264TE and 245T were both extended by 70cm in comparison to the original 240. The 264 Top Executive was a luxurious limousine edition, and the 245 Transfer was an large estate that was, among other things, used for school transportation in rural areas. The Volvo 240 Turbo would go on to become a successful race car. The biggest title was secured in 1985 when Thomas Lindström and Gianfranco Brancatelli won the European Touring Car Championship, ETC.
A world first on the environmental front came in 1976 when Volvo delivered the first cars in its 200 series featuring three-way catalytic converters and Lambda sensors to California. The Lambda sensor (a Volvo invention) meant that 90% of harmful gases such as hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides, disappeared in the catalytic converter. As a result, the Volvo 240 won the American National Environmental Industry Award in 1977 and in 1978 was named the USA's cleanest car by the California Air Resources Board.
The Volvo 240/260 also received a number of awards for its level of safety. In the UK, Volvo was awarded the Don Safety Trophy for its traffic safety promotion initiatives and designs that went above and beyond legal requirements.
In 1976, the 240 was chosen as the benchmark for continued safety work by the USA's Traffic Safety Administration. For four years during the 1980s, the Volvo 240 estate was voted the safest car of its size in the USA by the Highway Loss Data Institute.
The 240 has since become a collector's car, with the turbo being in particular demand among enthusiasts. More commonplace models in the 200 range are also increasing in value.
According to the automaker: “The availability of spare parts is good, and it is still possible to buy many parts through Volvo, with the range of newly produced components steadily increasing.”
LAST OF THE 200 SERIES
The iconic 240 was mainly produced at Kalmar and in the Belgian city of Ghent, but the last car in this range rolled off the line at the Torslanda plant in Gothenburg on May 5 1993. The 240’s production spanned nearly 20 years.
Volvo CEO Pehr G Gyllenhammar handed over the keys to the last Volvo 240 to its owner during a special ceremony. Gyllenhammar actually had several custom-built Volvo 240s as company cars, and at the ceremony he said: "We have had the world's safest car, one of the most worthwhile cars to buy, and a car that is already living legend and will be even more of one in the years to come."