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28 Years and 460k Miles – Joe’s 1986 Volvo 240DL

A funny thing happens when you screw up an email newsletter. People write back, angry. Angry people write angry things back to you. But some correspondence turns interesting. This is one from ex-MVS member Joe, who put almost a half-million miles on his 1986 Volvo 240DL. Here’s the story of the 460,000-mile 240, Ole Bessie:

I got 460 thousand miles out of my 1986 240DL and was still running strong when I traded her in…lol. I drove it for over 28 years and was hesitant about letting her go. Never used a drop of oil and still had original transmission. I drive 175 miles to work once a week and figured it was time to bite the bullet and get a new car. I went with a 2016 Honda Accord EX.

You guys have been great over the years and I couldn’t have kept her going that long without you. Thank you and should I ever get another European car I will surely be back!

That was his first email. My curiosity piqued, I asked for more. Luckily, Joe was in the writing mood… [my bolds for emphasis — Matt]

The Story Behind the 1986 Volvo 240DL

My father owned a body shop for over 30 years, when he retired my oldest brother took it over. I grew up doing body work and paint work. At age 25 (March,1988) I was hired by Piedmont Airlines as a Flight Attendant. At the same time my brother bought Ole Bessie ( My Volvo) at a salvage auction. She was T-boned on the passenger side. No damage to the engine compartment. He pulled the rocker panel, put a right front fender, both right side doors and straightened the dog leg on the quarter panel (very little bondo). He put a complete paint job on her with original Volvo single stage paint.

I must say that is the best paint I have ever seen on any car. Up to the day I got rid of her, that white paint would buff up like new. During my flight attendant training, I bought the car from my brother. Again that was March 1988. She had 6 thousand miles on her and to me was like a brand new car. White sedan with tan interior. I live in southwest Virginia and I am based in Charlotte North Carolina. When I first started my airline career I flew to Charlotte from Roanoke to start my trips, however about 15 years ago I started driving the trip. 175 miles each way.

I drove Ole Bessie back and forth once a week for those 15 years. Never had any issue on any of those many trips. As far as maintaining her, I changed the oil and filter every 5k miles. Always with the best deal on 10W30 and cheapest filter. I had the timing belt, tensioner and front oil seals changed about every 80k miles. Always kept the flame trap clean.

I think I put 2 alternators on her and replaced the radiator twice. Water pump with timing belt change, but not every time. I replaced the entire exhaust system about 2 years ago. Brake master cylinder once. She still had the original starter. Fuel pump a couple times and of course the fuel pump relay numerous times. Always kept a new one in the glove box. I also replaced the wiring harness in the engine compartment. The one that connects all the injectors and also the alternator, O2 sensor, etc. (from Dave Barton).

She never let me down, never stranded on the side of the road. Lol, my wife was once due to a fuel pump failure. The main reason I got rid of her was the A/C issue. I had it converted years ago, but still never really cooled the car enough for summer travel…. just enough to keep from breaking into a sweat, unless I got stuck in traffic and then it was all over… The original transmission had a small drip from the rear housing seal and was starting to make a mess on my driveway. I could have have done the work, but figured it was time for a new ride.

I must say, I think that she was the best car ever made and hated to let her go. Like I said, I went with a brand new Honda Accord EX. After much research, I found that was the best buy with my budget. I am now at the mercy of Auto mechanics, because when I look under the hood it is all Greek to me. That is one reason I didn’t want a new car. I can no longer do the work.

Thanks again for being available for most all items I needed to keep her going all those years. If you need any more info just let me know, I could go on and on about how great that car was. I got 500 bucks from the dealer as a trade in…lol. I probably could have got a little more if I had sold it outright, but with all those miles I didn’t want to mess with it. I just hope that the dealer sold it to a used car dealer instead of the junk yard… I really think that engine will never die…

Sorry I don’t have any photos and now that you are asking for some, I wish I had taken some before letting her go…. Oh, I paid $9,800.00 for her in March 1988, had her paid off in 5 years. So I had no car payment for 23 years. I must say that I got more than my moneys worth out of her. She was my daily driver….Damn I wish I had her…. I must say the Accord is very nice though.

Once again, thanks Joe. What an outstanding Volvo story and I thank you for taking the time to write and send it in. For the record, I briefly owned a 1997 Accord LX 2-dr with a stick before I got my 850, and that was a nice car. Got it up to 119 mph before the governor kicked in on a deserted New Mexico highway once. Before that I owned a 1988 Civic 2-dr hatchback, and that was also great. Light as a feather and handled like it was on rails.

By the way, $9,800.00 for Ole Bessie in March 1988 = $29.16 per month (1988 dollars) to own, excluding fuel and parts.

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