Tom and his car

Tom's 1967 Volvo

This car has now been sold. This page is now history.

(Click on images for larger versions)

Since I mention cars and Volvos pretty often in my classes, students sometimes ask about my car. Well, here's probably more than you wanted to know about my 1967 Volvo. There is some pretty technical stuff here that will only appeal to the "gearheads" among you, but you asked!

I acquired this car in 1972 while I was a student at Santa Barbara City College. At that time it had 35,000 miles on it. It has been my daily driver for 40 years. I have driven it across the US and back 3 times, and up and down the West Coast countless times. It now has over half a million miles on it, and is still going strong.

In 1993, at 288,000 miles, something horrible happened inside the engine. It lost power, ran rough, and compression on #1 cylinder dropped to 130 psi. (the others were consistent at 150). I assumed it was a burned valve, so rather than have my car out of commission for a couple of weeks, I acquired a cylinder head from a 1974 B20 (bigger valves), had it thoroughly refurbished, including installation of case hardened valve seats (to allow the car to run on unleaded fuel). My thought was to swap heads on a weekend and be back on the road Monday morning. When the Saturday for the swap came, I pulled the old head and much to my dismay found that it was fine. The problem was a chip off the top of #1 piston that allowed compression loss into the crankcase. So much for being back on the road on Monday.

Volvo B20 engine

So the car sat in the garage while my family and I went to Kenya for a year. When we returned I did some shopping around and found a good deal on a 1974 B20 short block at GW Performance in Portland. Rob did a great job on the rebuild. It is bored .030, balanced and has a street performance cam. With a little help from my friends Immanuel, Jae Hyong and Alex, we switched the engines, and put the rebuilt head on the new short block.

While the car was in the garage (for 6 months after our return from Kenya), I also completely gutted the interior and trunk and treated all the floor rust I could find. I tried to insulate the interior as best I could, by spraying layer after layer of rubberized undercoating on the inside, then carpet underlayment and finally new carpets. I also tried to reduce road noise by replacing insulation under the dash. The best thing I did for interior soundproofing, however, was to get an original equipment shifter boot.

The final touch was a new inside-and-out paint job.

A few months later I installed a stereo and CD changer. The changer originally went in the trunk, under the rear window shelf.

Tom's Volvo

Sometime later I installed an M41 transmission with overdrive. This was acquired for $150 from an "American" wrecking yard in McMinnville Oregon out of a 1975 242. The unit was in excellent condition. I used the transmission cover off the original M40. All I had to do was drill and tap a hole in the cover for the overdrive cutoff switch. I also used the original M40 backup light "switch" since the M41 backup lights run off the displaced shift linkage that won't fit in a 122 without severe modification.

I also used a forward drive shaft component from a P1800, and a speedo cable from a 122 overdrive (these are hard to obtain in the US -- the 140 and 240 speedometers were different, so you need to get one for a 122. Unfortunately, 122s were not made with overdrive in the US. Only 123s). Also the cross-member under the transmission had to be modified slightly to accommodate the o-drive unit.

The one-man installation went well. The biggest problem was reaching the transmission to bell housing bolts with the required 3/8 allan wrench. However, for the first year there was a bad shudder on takeoff. Finally, I installed a B30 engine mount in place of the stock transmission mount. This solved the shudder problem. Unfortunately, it raised the transmission so much that every time I would shift into first or third gear, the shifter would bang into the mini-gauges I had installed under the heater controls. So I rigged a sheet metal spacer to mount the gauges forward about an inch. I can still read them (barely), and the shifter now only comes in contact with them if I get a little over zealous in my shifting.

In 1998 I rebuilt the stock SU carbs. I had the throttle bodies drilled and rebushed professionally, but did the rest of the rebuild myself, installing "DX" needles.

Volvo interior

In the Summer of 2002, I finally found some good leather seats at a local auto recycling yard, and had the interior upholstery redone to match the seats. I fabricated seat mounting hardware out of recycled steel (part of the old Ferry Street Bridge, from BRING recycling), which provided enough room to move the CD changer under the driver's seat. Then I built a speaker box that fits in the trunk along the rear window shelf. It mounts two 6X9 speakers and an 8" subwoofer. I also put 5.5" Blaupunkt 2-way speakers in the kick panels. The sound system totally meets my needs for rich classical sound that is loud enough to drown out the road noise!

Speaker box in trunk

A while back , the car sat in the rain under a car cover for over a year, and got very damp and moldy inside. It took quite a bit of scrubbing to get the upholstery looking good again. The worst part, though, was that the fuel had gone bad. It smelled like turpentine, and there was green gook built up inside the carburetors. The carbs had to come apart again, and undergo a thorough cleaning before they performed normally. I really didn't want to drain the fuel tank in my garage, so I filled the tank with new fuel (fortunately, it was less than half full when I put the car in storage), and added a can of octane booster. It still ran bad until all that bad fuel was used up, but at least it ran.

I am very pleased with how it runs now. When the SU carbs are well tuned and synchronized, the car runs great. I like SU carburetors!

In October, 2003, the odometer stopped working at 374,000 miles. However, I'm sure by now the car is over the half-million mile mark, and is still going strong. I drive this car every day that I'm in the US, and look forward to many more miles in the future.

The new look

Recent modifications include sport springs, Bilstein shocks and 14" chrome wheels. This gives the car quite a different attitude, and ride. Here's a more recent photo. I've kept the old springs and wheels in case I ever feel like going back to that "stock" look. In the engine compartment, I installed a Pertronics electronic ignition, doing away with the mechanical ignition points. I also added a "flame thrower" ignition coil. Now once in awhile, the engine will actually start as soon as the ignition is switched on, before the starter even engages. I don't know if it's the hot coil, the electronic ignition or both that allows this to happen, but it's kind of interesting. Yes, the timing is correct at 11° BTDC.