Monday, November 26, 2012

A fast turnaround



Sometimes a project is a bad decision. In this particular case, I was convinced by a friend that this car was one helluva deal, and that I'd be stupid not to buy it. It's a rare 1979 Volvo 242. The last of the flat-nose coupes! I didn't know what that meant, but it sure sounded like he thought it was important! And R-Sport gauges, don't forget. Very trick.

I'm not exactly a guy who's owned a zillion cars, but I have had a good number. Most of them have been some sort of basic transportation that I've managed to spend some time on, but I've had the occasional fun toy and nightmare project, too. This is more along the lines of the latter. 

Short story: I bought, for $1000, this Volvo with a small-block Ford engine in it. And then I realized that this weaksauce, 165-horsepower 302 was a bad answer to any of my car questions. I could swap the drivetrain into a good wagon shell, but the engine's mated to an AOD automatic trans. A five-speed makes more sense, especially compared to this epitome of slushboxes. So this car had to go.


Problem is—and that was an especially infuriating problem, souring me on the whole car—the sucker wouldn't start. The foil-hat wearing survivalist loonie decided that a points ignition was better than an electronic one because, duh, EMPs. If the car gets hit by one, it can keep right on running! Well, if it runs. Also, points ignitions suck. They produce shitty spark and require regular maintenance. They're so shitty, in fact, that no one makes them for automotive use anymore. The guy used a Mallory dual-points setup for marine applications. And it worked like shit. Oh, and did I mention this guy's wiring job was a complete, unfused clusterfuck? Connections were awful and grounds were barely adequate. What a mess.



Pertronix and other companies make high-energy retrofits for lots of applications, but those cost a couple hundred bucks. I wanted to get this thing running for as cheap as possible so I could sell it. They sell these cheap ones on eBay for right around $50. They're imitations of the General Motors HEI design, so it's a coil and distributor all in one. Shit, a replacement coil at the local parts store is $35 bones alone, so this sounded like a screamin' deal. 



I ordered one up, and waited until my dad came to visit on Thanksgiving. We lined up all the important bits, took out the old unit, swapped in the new one, and fired it up. Boom, right on the first crank. Immediately. No hesitation, no sputtering, a good, solid runner. We couldn't find a timing mark on the crank pulley, so my dad adjusted the timing a bit by ear. That was good enough for me.

It sure did sound nice, though. Made me reconsider keeping the car. Briefly.

I posted a video on the internet of it running (to accompany my craigslist ad), and sold the car two days later. The new owner is going to yank the drivetrain and stick it in his 1970 Mercury Cougar. His Cougar has a bad cylinder head, and he's always wanted to put an AOD in it anyway. Perfect.

All in all, I lost about a hundred bucks, a bit of driveway space, and a bit of time with this car. Not too shabby a price to pay, in the end. And now I know what I really want: an XJ Jeep Cherokee. They make more power and similar torque to that 302, there's more aftermarket than I could possibly imagine, they're practical, durable, and available in a five-speed. Also: Have I mentioned I love that two-box shape

When I sold my old Mercedes 240D, I told myself I wouldn't buy another car that's older than I am. This Volvo only served to reinforce that notion.

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