Junkyard Find: 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo With Nearly 500,000 Miles

junkyard find 1990 volvo 740 turbo with nearly 500 000 miles

One of the frustrating things about my job looking for interesting discarded vehicles is the fact that most cars and light trucks didn’t start getting six-digit odometers until the 1980s or even the 1990s. I find vehicles that I know must have racked up incredible total mileage figures, but their odometers all turned over (once? ten times?) when they got past 99,999 miles.

Fortunately, Volvo felt sufficiently optimistic to adopt the six-digit odometer way back in the 1960s, so I was able to read a very impressive figure on the one in this 740 wagon: 493,549 miles.

Yes, that’s close to 16,500 miles every year for its three-decade lifespan. I’ve found a Mercedes-Benz W201 with better than 600,000 miles and a Volkswagen Rabbit Cabrio showing a not-sure-I-believe-it 930,013 miles, plus lots and lots of junked Hondas and Toyotas (and one Oldsmobile) with readings of close to 400,000 miles, but this Volvo in the San Francisco Bay Area ranks near the top of the longevity sweepstakes.

One thing I’ve found with extreme-high-mile junkyard cars is that most of them were in decent cosmetic shape when they finally wore out (or, more likely, were traded in and then proved radioactively unsaleable at auction). That makes sense, because the kind of vehicle owner who takes care of all the maintenance over multiple decades also takes good care of the body and interior. A nasty hooptie with a shredded interior tends to get thrown out when something mechanical costing more than a couple of hundred bucks fails. Looking at this car, I’d have guessed it had perhaps 150,000 miles, not three times that. I see this phenomenon often with high-mile junkyard (rear-wheel-drive) Volvos.

The turbocharged engine is a bit of a surprise, though, because cars with forced induction run hotter, blow head gaskets more readily, and generally get hooned on harder than their naturally-aspirated counterparts.

Perhaps the automatic transmission served to keep the drivers of this car from getting too lead-footed with that 162-horse turbo motor.

To a radar gun, it looked exactly like a Porsche 944… though I’ll bet the brick shape of the Volvo made it detectable at a longer range.

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  • Hummer Hummer on Feb 10, 2020

    These went from essentially everywhere in the early 2010s to non existent in the late 2010s

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Feb 11, 2020

    The overall shape of this vehicle appeals to me very much. Minor issues: - The tailpipe is way wrong. - The clock does not deserve equal billing with the speedometer and tachometer. [This vehicle burned something like $50,000 worth of gasoline over its lifetime.]

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.