Swedespeed Project 142: (Re)Introduction
Words and Photos by Greg Keysar
Apr 29, 2013 - 9:37:46 PM
It’s back… sort of. After a whirlwind couple of years, and the birth of two kids, project family cruiser is back, and looks a little different. Why does it look different? Because I bought another one.
The previous car, that green ’74, I bought before my daughter was born. After rebuilding the brakes on the car, overhauling the cooling system, and rebuilding the suspension, I basically just enjoyed the car on the weekends for the past few years, and honestly, the car mostly sat towards the end there. All that idle time did no favors as you might expect. I knew it had rust (after all, I’d have to be blind or ridiculously stupid to not see it).
I was head over heels in love with the car. However, I had to come to a decision, restore her or part with her. I figured I could find a “rust free” car in the Pacific North West (vintage Volvo mecca..) and ship it back to the east coast for the cost of what it would take to repair all the rust and repaint the green car. I’m not one to half ass stuff, so keeping that in mind, I decided it was time to part ways and began searching for a replacement.
What I loved about the 140 is the shorter nose and the curvy front end combined with the boxy body. To me the 140s are good looking 240s; especially the ’73-’74 models which just so happen to be referred to as 240 transition cars. There are things about the ’73-’74 models that I hate though, like the commando bumpers, bug-eyed turn single lenses on the front fenders, 240 style dash, and lack of sheet metal behind the rear bumper. I also didn’t like the ’72 mesh style grills, which isn’t a big deal, since they can be readily changed. Additionally, I hated the 3 speed BW35 automatic gearbox that my green car had. So knowing all this, I decided to narrow my search for a manual 1968 – 1972 142.
What I didn’t realize, is just how rare these cars are. Every day for 2 years I searched ebay, forums, craigslist, IPD, VCOA and every time a good car would pop up for sale, it’d be scooped up before I could get someone out to look at it and unfortunately there just weren’t any cars that met my criteria on the east coast. Or so I thought….
My son was born in October of last year. His arrival really reinvigorated me, and I started scouring everything on the internet for a 142 that met my needs and desires. I found a couple cars, paid a couple people to inspect them for me, but wasn’t all that thrilled with what I was finding, until one late night at work. I realized I hadn’t checked the VCOA classifieds in a while, so I fired up the internet machine and started searching through the classifieds when I found my car. The only issue was that it was another 1974 and it had a damn BW35 in it. But, it was on the east coast and, better yet, it was only a few hours away from me!
I immediately picked up the phone, called the number listed and spoke to Dan - an 89-year-old Volvo fanatic who used to show the car with a fair amount of success. He described the car as mint condition, and stated I’d never find another one like it. There’s something about that word “mint”. When speaking about cars, it almost always means the opposite of its true meaning. When someone describes their car as mint, it usually means it’s a mint POS. Dan, being 89 years old, didn’t do that internet thing, so he snail mailed me some photos of the car. The car looked super clean… almost, dare I say, mint?
The day after Christmas, I finally had a chance to call Dan and I made an appointment to drive out, inspect the car and possibly drive it home. When I got there, right away I could tell it certainly was NOT mint. It was very clean, but far from mint. Bondo in the driver side door and the panel gap was off on the bottom of the door which screams side collision. The car had a poor quality paint job, with gassing on the roof, splotchy metallic lay, orange peel, tape lines, etc. The interior was redone, and was in very good condition. However the dash was cracked, seat covers were a little loosely fit and the driver’s seat was incredibly uncomfortable. BUT, the dash clock worked. That’s right, I said the dash clock worked. I’ve never seen another working dash clock on a 73-75 Volvo in my life.
I took the car for a spin, and it drove well. It just needed a tune up. I got back to Dan’s house, made an offer, haggled a bit, exchanged paper work and drove home in the new family cruiser - a 1974 142 GL. Along with the car, came a trunk full of spare parts and 28 show trophies. The car made the three hour trip back home without any hiccups at all. She did 85 MPH without any hesitation, although, 85 MPH with a 3 speed gear box is a bit interesting.
As soon as I got the car home, I immediately started swapping parts over from my rusty green car to the new-to-me blue car. I managed to source a NOS set of 164 bilsteins for the front, which only require removing about a millimeter of material from the lower A-arm to make them fit. I rang Cameron at IPD, and had them send me a set of rear bilsteins. I also managed to source a vintage MOMO steering wheel adapter hub, with a Nardi adapter ring and a vintage Volvo horn button that was pulled from a 1973 144, and then ordered a 390mm wood Nardi steering wheel. I Rolled the fenders, ditched the bump stops, mounted the 15”x8” Gotti J55B’s, and dropped the car on the ground.
Once that car hit the ground and I stepped back, I couldn’t do anything but smile. She was perfect, and I was in love, again.
Let’s call what you see here as the start. I’ve got big plans for this car, but first I need to sort the rear suspension out by coming up with an adjustable spring perch with a slightly stiffer spring. I also need to adjust the Yoshifab adjustable torque rods. Then I need to lower the spring cups on the front A-arms to gain some more suspension travel. Once that’s done, I’ll be starting on an engine build, which I’m pretty sure everyone will be pleased with.
Thanks to parts on hand and picked from my previous car, this project is just out of the gate and it’s already got an impressive list of modifications. These include:
• 390mm Nardi classic steering wheel
• vintage momo hub
• 15”x8” 5x108 Gotti J55B’s
• 800lb AFCO 5.5” tall front springs
• Bilstein shocks front and rear
• IPD front sway bar
• Rolled and trimmed fender lips
• Removed front bumper (ugliest things in the world)
• 1” Recessed rear bumper
• Kaplhenke Racing adjustable pan hard bar
• Kaplhenke Racing 240 rear adjustable spring perch
• Modified weight jack spring cup used for upper spring perch
• 5"x8" #250 springs
• Yoshifab adjustable torque rods (lowered length)
And so it begins. I’m sure Dan may be cussing me if he ever sees his car, because to him “mint” may have meant well preserved and stock. Well, it’s no longer stock and I’d also argue it really wasn’t “mint” to begin with.