13 November 2014

Our Cars: Stefan Lombard’s 1984 Volvo 242 DL

Stefan Lombard isn’t the typical car guy. While like many classic car enthusiasts he fell in love with automobiles at an early age, he admits “my dad wasn’t a car guy and none of my neighbors were either, so I never really knew that people worked on their own cars, which is weird to vocalize. I’m not mechanically inclined as a result.” Nevertheless, Stefan’s fascination with automobiles has never waned. He still owns all the Hot Wheels cars, Tyco electric racing sets and years of Sports Car Illustrated magazine that he collected as a kid, and his vast car knowledge and writing talent led him to a career in auto journalism — and thankfully, to Hagerty Classic Cars. He purchased his 1984 Volvo 242 DL about a month ago.

Name: Stefan Lombard

Position at Hagerty: Managing Editor, Hagerty Classic Cars magazine

Years at Hagerty: 3

Vehicle: 1984 Volvo 242 DL

Background: I was raised in the south suburbs of Chicago. My dad was a professor and my mom stayed at home, and in the summers, we’d go to Utah and Colorado and Arizona for a month or two to camp and explore. It’s the greatest thing my parents ever did for my sister and me.

I’ve always loved cars. My earliest toys were cars… (but) as much as I love them, I didn’t get my first car until I was 23.

In graduate school in Portland, I discovered a car magazine published locally (Sports Car Market), so I volunteered there, which led to my first job, which really was a dream come true — to get paid to write about cars.

I’ve lived in Portland with my wife for 12 years, and we have two wonderful, crazy little girls, ages 5 and 3. I spend most of my Saturday and Sunday mornings watching as much soccer as I can.

Why did you choose a 1984 Volvo 242 DL? Because I’m not very mechanically inclined, I wanted a car that was reliable, dependable and simple enough that I could learn with it. My very first car was a 1980 Volvo 242 DL, which my uncle gave to me with 257,000 miles on it. I have so many great memories of that car. I’ve also had two 245 wagons since. When I started looking for a car to play with, I cast a wide net (RX-7s, SVO Mustangs, Rabbit GTIs, Miatas, BMW 2002s), but really it was an easy choice once I thought about it. The 240 series Volvos aren’t sexy and they aren’t fast — they aren’t even particularly “classic” — but they go forever, can be made into competent handlers, and parts and community support for them in Portland are amazing. I can also cart my kids around in it, which they love, because “it doesn’t sound like Mommy’s car.” Plus 1984 was the last year of the two-door 240 series. It’s Scotia Blue, which is lovely in person.

Repairs and Modifications: I’m the third owner and the car shows 222,000 miles, though it certainly doesn’t look it. It’s incredibly clean top to bottom. The previous owner had it for four years and rebuilt the wiring harness, installed a mild street performance cam and free-flow exhaust, replaced the entire suspension with a much more aggressive fully adjustable set-up, plus a bunch more little stuff that add up to a “boy racer” that’s ready to be enjoyed. It’s currently a bit too low for my liking, and the 14-inch wheels/tires need to go, but I found a cheap set of 15-inch Virgo alloys (a classic Volvo Turbo wheel) that I’m reconditioning and hope to have done by the fall.

Eventually I’d like to address some small paint issues and replace the grille and hood with those from a pre-1980 model (known as the “flat hood”).

Hobby activities: None yet, but there are a few Volvo-specific events here in the spring, and I’ll be there.

Interesting Car Stories: When that first Volvo of mine died, it did so in spectacular fashion. It had 290,000 miles at the time and ran well but had started to experience an intermittent electrical issue. I’d been keeping it at my wife’s house in Ohio and decided to take it out one day. At about 45 mph, the hood flew open and slammed against the windshield. Frantically, I moved off the road, and when I came to a stop, the car died and stayed dead. The hood was bent, the windshield was cracked and the only thing to do was to retrieve all my personal belongings and call the wrecker.

Favorite Drive: Highway 37, from Libby, Mont., to Eureka, Mont. It follows the eastern shore of Lake Koocanusa and is 70 miles of long straights, fast sweeping turns and enough tight corners to keep things interesting — with hardly any traffic. Sadly, I’ve only ever done it in a minivan. But if I can do it at 80 mph in an Odyssey…

Best and Worst Moments: Buying this car was an achievement, because I’ve been talking about getting a “fun” car for decades. Literally. And look how boring it is! But it has three pedals and it’s mine.

Beyond that, it’s hard to pick a best and worst. I love shooting photos of cars, so any time I get to be at events with a camera (or even my iPhone) is the best. I love finding the shot — a particular car’s angles and curves or the way an owner proudly stands with a car — and capturing that.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a “worst” moment in the hobby. That’s why I love it so much.

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