C. Richards sitting on his work-in-progress Volvo 240.
What car comes to mind when you hear that phrase? The original VW Beetle? The original Jeep -- made by Willys, Ford and others? The Checker Cab? How about the Volvo 240?
Volvo has come a long way down since the car division was sold to Ford in the 1990s and then was taken over by China’s Geely in 2010.
But it wasn’t all that long ago that the proletarian 240 was the go-to step up from the Beetle. By no means the Volvo luxury brand of today, but much more modern, serviceable and less quirky than Hitler’s “people's car.”
Volvo built almost three million of these bank vaults-on-wheels and an awful lot of them remain running. There are clubs to talk shop. There are parts makers making parts. Chances are, you could build one from scratch if you wanted to even though formal production ended in 1993.
What’s being scratched now are heads at the various factories in Sweden and in China. “What can we do to boost dealerships’ repair department income?”
And they came up with a clever answer.
Tow any broken down Volvo in America for free.
Sounds like a great deal, right? Well… not really. Conditions apply.
Here are some of them:
--the broken down car must be no more than 25 miles from an authorized dealer or body shop.
--that shop must perform the repairs or you’ll be charged for the “free” tow.
They’re not going to get all that many free tow requests compared with the number of cars on the road.
Owners of the 240 and the earlier models going back to the first one on our shores in 1957 tend to keep them in pristine condition. And they tend to be either DIY types or customers of mechanics who specialize in these semi-antique, semi-classical classics.
Under its current non-original owners, they pitch their tin with references to the quality and safety of the old models but now consider themselves a luxury brand. Ask Consumer Reports or Kelly Blue Book. Neither is enthusiastic while still trying to be.
So let’s hear it for the 240.
--The Fiat/Renault merger has died because of meddling by the French government and its beleaguered stepchild, Japan’s Nissan. Let the finger pointing begin.
--The haunted clock turned out not to be haunted. The time leaps and lags were caused by a radio frequency field between the TV set above it and the satellite receiver below.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2019