After seven years the classic boxy Volvo 140 series was mechanically redesigned in 1974, though the body remained recognizably the same. The second generation substituted the numeral 2 for the model prefix, but the designations of 2 (242 two-door sedan), 4 (244 four-door sedan) and 5 (245 5-door station wagon) remained the same.
MSRPs soared across the board, reflecting hefty push bumpers and catalytic converters for mandated unleaded gasoline. A Volvo 242GL tested by Car & Driver in 1976 retailed at $6845, and a six-cylinder Volvo 264GL sedan would set you back over 10 grand.
Improvements to the new Volvo 240/260 series included McPherson strut front suspension, new OHC engines in B21 four-cylinder and B27 V-6 configurations, as well as turbocharging and diesel options. All three body styles were updated at the same time, since the upper body was basically unchanged.
The 242/244/245 boxes were only supposed to last until 1983 but they were so well-received (and the subsequent 7-Series was less so) that production continued until 1993. The latest versions remain highly prized, even as the vastly more sophisticated front- or all-wheel drive 850 series has won new fans. 200 series production was huge with 2.8 million units sold, though the 260 Series Peugeot/Renault/Volvo (PRV) V-6 engine was neither as strong a seller nor as robust as the venerable four-cylinder.
Volvo celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1977 with the Bertone-designed 262C coupe. The 262C was an anomaly for Volvo, a rare occasion when style subverted utility. Mechanically identical to the rest of the 260 range, it was notable for its lack of head room and wide c-pillar sail panel which restricted visibility. It was expensive with an MSRP of $15995 and offered modest performance with a top speed of around 110 miles per hour. Surprisingly, it lingered until 1981.
A livelier offering was 1978-81’s 242GT, which took the standard 242 package and added handling improvements as well as more aggressive styling, including decal stripes, Mystic Silver paint and alloy wheels. Meanwhile, GLT Turbo 240s were offered from 1981-85.
From 1983, the 242/244/245 names were abandoned and all models were simply known as the Volvo 240. By the time the 240 Series bowed out in 1993, the 240 station wagon was almost reverse chic, prized by older owners suspicious of new models and willing to pay the hefty MSRP of $22,820. Testament to the 240’s enduring appeal (literally) can be found in classified ads which claim “low mileage” for any odometer reading under 200,000. Close to million-mile 240s are a regular sight at Volvo club gatherings.
Because they are so plentiful and so bulletproof, there are still many 200 series Volvos still on the road and with no major needs. Mileage and condition vary widely, and the range of trims, engines and options warrant thorough research. For the most part, however, these cars remain an affordable, practical entry into vintage car ownership, and the network of Volvo enthusiasts is both large and passionate.