First of all, the three-digit designation on a 240-series car can be used to identify characteristics of the car. The first digit is the series (2=200 series). The second digit is the number of cylinders in the engine (4=4 cyl., 6=6 cyl.). The third digit is the number of doors (2=2 door, 4=4 door, 5=wagon). Although only 1975-79 cars got the three-digit designation badged on the trunk lid, these numbers are widely used to quickly distinguish between the different models. After stating the three-digit designation, a trim level is used.
Common / Widely Found Models
DL (De Luxe) – 1975 to 1993: The DL is the base model and probably the most common. They generally have cloth or vinyl interiors, steel wheels with chrome hubcaps (or plastic hubcaps from ~1987 to 1993, and no power options. Available on a 242, 244, or 245.
GL/GLE (Grand Luxe / Extra) – 1975 to 1989, 1992: The GL is the luxury model, and somewhat less common than the utilitarian DL. They often have leather or velour seats, full power accessories, and more chrome on the body, such as around the grill and bordering the wheel wells. Pre-1986 GL cars usually have different wheels than DL cars. In the USA, these are multi-spoked 14″ mag wheels. Available on a 244 and 245. The GL trim was also available on a 262 (’76-’77), 264 (’75-’82), and 265 (’76-’85). In 1980, GL was changed to GLE to distinguish the 260-series GL’s from the 240 series GL’s. The 260-series was essentially the same, with a few more luxury options and the V6 motor.
GLT (Grand Luxe Touring) – 1981 to 1983: The GLT is a fairly rare car, as most GLT’s were GLT Turbo’s. However, normally aspirated GLT’s do exist (in the USA, they have the regular B21F engine). They have essentially a combination of options from the GL and GT. For example, a GLT has the thicker sway bars, 15″ alloy wheels, and blacked-out trim of the GT, but has the accessories of a GL, such as power options, a smaller diameter steering wheel, and a front-under bumper spoiler. They lacked the flat hood and custom interior/paint of the GT models. Leather and high-quality cloth interiors were available. Available on a 242, 244, or 245.
GLT Turbo (Grand Luxe Touring Turbocharged) – 1981 to 1985: Badged on the trunk as simply “Turbo” or “Turbo Intercooler” if they had an intercooler (an option in 1984, standard in 1985), these cars were essentially GLT models with a Turbocharged engine (B21FT). They are somewhat uncommon. The Turbo adds approximately 20 to 25 horsepower, depending on the model year. The intercooler adds another 30 to 35 horsepower on top of this. Available on a 242, 244, or 245, with the 242 available only 1981-84.
GT (Grand Touring) – 1978 to 1980: The GT is the sports model, and is rare. They are very unique, as all models came with a flat hood, alloy wheels, a custom grill with fog lights mounted in it, blacked-out trim, an under-bumper front air dam, chassis braces, sport springs, thicker sway bars, and a custom black cloth interior with red accents. To my knowledge, nearly all GTs were silver with a black and red racing stripe down the sides and on the trunk. The other color option was black, with an orange and purple racing stripe layout, but I believe that this color was not available in the United States.
It is interesting to note that the 1978 GT had the early-style 240 trunk and tail lights. The 1979 GT had the later trunk and 5-panel tail lights, with the same 14″ alloy wheels and air dam as the 1978 model. The 1980 model had a different front air dam (shown above) and larger 15″ 5-spoke alloy wheels. Available on a 242 only.
Uncommon / Rare Models
Bertone Coupe – 1978 to 1981: These rare cars were designed by Bertone in Italy, and marketed as a “luxury class touring car”. They have a “chopped” look provided by a lowered roof which was topped with black vinyl in 1978 and 1979, and normally painted in 1980 and 1981. They have a lot of luxury options similar to the GL series, along with a detailed, custom leather interior, power sunroof (unheard of at this time) and a rear seat cigarette lighter. Bertone Coupes had the same engine as the 260-series cars, a six-cylinder 2.7L or 2.8L V6 motor (B27F and B28F, respectively).
The Bertone is easily recognizable by its thick C-pillars. Only 6,622 were made from 1978 to 1981. Available as the 262C (C for Coupe) only. Please see the 1981 Product Literature in the Docs section for more info on this car.
Special Edition Wagon – 1981 245 only: This car was basically a 245 GLT non-turbo that was badged with a special decal to commemorate Volvo’s 25 years in the United States. The cars got the 5-spoke 15″x6″ “Virgo” alloy wheels, ribbed plush interiors, and typically a lot of power options, similar to the GLT trim level. Here is an excerpt from a Volvo manual describing the car, and here are three pictures from a craiglist advertisement: one, two, three. So far, I’ve only ever seen one of these.
California Edition – 1978 only: I have found very little information about these cars so far, but they do exist. Some of the features include: White plastic/vinyl interior panels with orange and white diamond upholstery; came only as a white 242 DL; white single-round 7″ headlamp surrounds and white grill; usually had AW55 automatic transmission. Why all the white, you ask? It’s very hot in California, and it probably helped keep the car cool.
Diesel – 1980 to 1985: The diesel Volvos were brought about by a consumer desire for diesel cars because of the relatively low price of diesel fuel versus gasoline. The engine is a six-cylinder D24 Volkswagen motor (2.4 liters). These cars are fairly rare, and the D24 is not considered to have anywhere near the longevity of the Volvo motors. The diesel 240s were available with a DL trim package or GL trim package. Available on a 244 or 245. Also available as a 264 (’80-’82, ’79 in Canada and Europe) or 265 (’80-’81). The 260-series was essentially the same, with a few more luxury options. Although cars were sold in the USA in 1985, they were actually 1984 models according to their VIN numbers. See this page for more Diesel info.
Police Cars – 244 and 245, early 1980s: Yes, that’s right, Volvo police cars made it to the states in the early 1980s. They typically included the following features (although police departments could order custom cars): Exterior: White enamel, Interior: Driver’s seat has reinforced padding. Front bucket seats have blue vinyl upholstery with cloth inserts. Rear seat all vinyl (no rear armrest). Rubber floor covering including trunk. Standard equipment includes: storage compartments and flashlight holders in front doors, two nightstick holders and vinyl cover which rolls down to cover the rear seat. Please see this brochure for more information.
USA Group-A Special Edition – 1983 only: These were basically a 242 Turbo-Intercooler with a flat hood front end and a special edition grill. They typically had features similar to the regular 242 Turbos, with power windows, doors, mirrors, a/c, manual sunroof, etc. There were only 500 of these built in order for Volvo Cars to meet the “homologated” status to race in the production ETCC (European touring car championships) with a new model turbo. There is a lot of information available about these cars on this page.
SE (Special Equipment) – 1991 only: For some reason, in 1991, you could get your Volvo in an SE trim level. It has a 240SE badge on the tailgate, Euro roof rails (245 only), leather seats, 14″ multi-x rims, and a black grill (later featured on 1992 240s) and came in nonmetallic blue, red, or white. It is a somewhat similar car to the UK Torslanda version, except that it has a B230F and came with an Aw70 transmission only. Available as a 244 or 245.
Classic – 1993 only: This insignia was put on the last 1600 cars off of the production line in 1993 to denote the last of the 240 series. Inside, the cars are badged with a special serial number on the dashboard. They have a wood trim and special alloy wheels. They generally have many options, similar to a GL model, and are very rare. In Europe, these cars also had the B230FX motor, which had a higher output of ~140bhp. Available on a 244 or 245.
264 Top Executive – 1975 – 1981: A limousine version of the 264. It had a longer wheelbase, seven seats, a wood and plush velour-lined interior, and many expensive options like power windows and air conditioning (which we take for granted now.) The Body is basically a 242, with a second set of 242 door placed in between the front doors and the window. The longer 242 doors were likely used to ease the entance and exit of passengers. With that in mind, it would be possible to duplicate one of these cars in the USA with a lot of welding, body work, and two 242’s as donor cars. There is a brochure for this car in the Docs section.
245 T (Transfer) – 1977 – ?: Both sedan and wagon versions of this extended 240 series were built. They were used by governments, for taxis, and as school buses in rural areas. The car was extended 90cm in order to fit four rows of seats in the car, seating a total of 10 people (8 facing forward, two facing backward).
Polar – 1991-92: These cars can only be found in Europe, and typically had special “cold weather” features, such as heated mirrors, heated seats, and a limited slip differential. Available as a 244 or 245.
Torslanda – 1993 only: Named for the city in Sweden that contains a very large Volvo manufacturing facility, these special editions were some of the last 240s ever built. Some of them actually rolled off the production line in early 1994. From WikiPedia: “They were made primarily for use in Sweden, as they were specially equipped for surviving snow and ice in freezing winters. These cars can be identified by Torslanda badging, tinted windows, plastic exterior trim (as opposed to chrome, which will rust in snowy conditions), multi-spoke 15″ alloy wheels, and full-length body striping above the rocker panels. The interior featured only the bare minimum of extras with no electric mirrors, windows, cruise control, air conditioning nor leather upholstery. Because the freezing temperatures could cause luxurious accessories to break down more often than usual, the only features were heated front seats, power steering and the standard heating systems.” Here are a few pictures from a Turbobricks Thread: Picture 1 | Picture 2 | Picture 3 | Picture 4 | Picture 5 | Picture 6 | Picture 7 | Picture 8 | Picture 9
Desirable 240 models
1993 240 and 240 Classics: 1993 was the last year Volvo made the 240 series, and these models were the most refined, with many luxurious options available. For example, 1993 models all came with a driver’s side airbag, ABS brakes, power windows, locks, etc. standard. 1993 was also the only year that 240s came with modern air conditioning systems (r134a refrigerant) and piston-cooling oil squirters in the engine, which generally help prolong engine life. The easiest way to identify a 1993 is that the door-pulls for opening the doors are black with a black surround instead of chrome with a black surround.
1988 240: This was a good year for the 240 in that it was the first year where they DIDN’T have wiring harness issues, and the last year where they still had LH2.2 fuel injection before the switch was made to LH2.4 in the 1989 models. Many people consider LH2.2 more reliable and cheaper to work on. If you like the newer body style look, but can’t afford a 1993 model, look for a 1988.
1985 240 Turbos: If you have to have a 240 Turbo, 1985 is the best year (for 244s and 245s) for a number of reasons, as detailed on this page. For a 242 with these advantages, late production (1984.5) 242s are available. To identify the 1984.5 models, look for one that was intercooled from the factory.
242 Turbos: Because of their racing heritage, the 1981-1984 242 Turbo generally is more valuable than a similar condition non-turbo or 244/245. Only an enthusiast will appreciate this, but still, the price difference is noticeable. In particular, if you can get one of the 500 Group-A Special Edition cars (1983 model year), then they will be even more valuable.
242 GTs: Similar to the 242 Turbo, the 1978-80 242 GT also holds its value better than a similar DL or GL 242, mainly due to its rarity and uniqueness.
Diesel 245s: This is an odd one, and must be carefully considered. The diesel engine generally has a poor reputation, and ten years ago, a Diesel 240 would be worth next to nothing. With the recent popularity of BioDiesel as an alternative fuel, a good-condition Diesel 245 has become a desirable car for hippies. The premium for a good diesel wagon can be as much as for a 242 Turbo or even a 240 Classic, but only in an area where a market exists, such as Portland, OR. In a place where biofuels are not readily available and/or not popular, the car is worth considerably less than a gasoline 245.
Undesirable 240 models
Don’t kill me for saying this, but not all Volvos are great. Like any manufacturer with a reputation for quality, they occasionally made some mistakes. This list is based on my personal experience and things I have read and heard from other people. Despite this, I have owned several of these cars. They are not all bad, they just aren’t as great as the others. So anyway, here’s a list of 200-series cars to avoid buying:
Diesels: These cars have a Volkswagen engine in them. ‘nuf said. No really, they are difficult and expensive to maintain, and parts are rare. They also are pitifully slow with only 85hp, and of course, if you snap a timing belt -> kaboom! due to the design of diesel engines in general. If you’re into BioDiesel though, go for it (see above regarding the Diesel 245 as well as the Diesel FAQ)
Six-cylinder cars: For example, the 262, 264, 265, and Bertone Coupe. If it’s got a V6, stay away. The newer V6’s that went into the 760’s (B280F motors) are better engines, but the older V6’s (B27F and B28F) that were used in 240’s had issues with premature wear of internal engine components. Not to mention the fuel costs. It is common for a Volvo 4-cylinder to go for 300,000 miles or more without a rebuild, but a V6? Almost impossible.
1975 240s: The only reason that this car is included in this list is that it is a one-of-a-kind model in many ways, so parts are going to be harder to find. Otherwise, they make fine cars for people who love the older B20 pushrod motors. In 1976 Volvo introduced the B21, which was an overhead cam motor.
1982 LH-Jetronic: If you’re considering buying a Non-Turbo 1982 240, beware! Some of them came with the dreaded Bosch LH-Jet 1.0 Fuel Injection system, while others came with our beloved K-Jet system. The LH-Jet 1.0 system is a nightmare for getting parts and is prone to all sorts of mechanical problems. In 1983, Volvo switched to LH-Jet 2.0 which was a far superior setup and parts are much easier to find.
The differences between these two types of motors make identification fairly easy. If the intake manifold (big silver metal thing with tubes on the right side of the engine as you look at it) is flat on top – with enough space to set a couple of soda cans – then it is K-Jet. If the intake manifold is all curvy and has no flat spot on top and has 4 electrically-operated injectors plugged into it, one on each tube, then it is LH-Jet.
Turbos: A good saying to remember is “Turbos are Trouble.” Unless the car has been meticulously maintained (oil changed every 2,000 miles, not allowed to overheat or run low on oil, preferably run on high-octane gasoline) don’t buy it! Poorly maintained Turbos are likely to blow up in your face, literally. Turbochargers cause the engine to run at much higher temperatures and use up oil much faster, and most 1981 to 1984 Turbos were not intercooled.
240 Turbo’s are also “deaf,” meaning that they have no knock-sensors to tell the engine to change the timing or mixture if the engine begins to detonate. Detonation occurs when there is a spontaneous explosion in the cylinder that was not in time with the normal series of explosions that power the engine. Prolonged detonation will quickly destroy your engine. While 240 Turbos supply only a small amount of boost (~5psi normally, ~10psi when intercooled), this is still enough to nuke your engine if it is not in tip-top shape.
Another problem with the 240 Turbos is that they were all manufactured during years where the engine wiring harnesses broke down under the heat of the engine (see this page). They also had less-than-great intake and exhaust manifolds (although these can be swapped out with better ones) and their intercoolers are not particularly great when compared with modern designs. However, given that the 240 Turbo was one of the first Turbo-intercooled consumer automobiles ever produced, it is expected that there would have been problems. Thankfully, with a bit of work, these problems are easy to remedy.
That said, the 240 Turbo is one of the greatest cars Volvo ever built if you take care of it, change the oil every 2000 miles, and run it on premium fuel. My personal favorite is the 245 Turbo, as it combines the power of the turbocharged motor with the usefulness of the wagon.