Volvo 244 GLT
Twenty years ago, when Volvo and Saab were less well-established here, I went to Sweden for a week, so that we could publish stories in Motor Sport about how these two very different cars were made, a very long way from the centres of the rest of the World’s Motor Industry. I remember being very impressed with what I saw, especially the care taken at Volvo laboratories over testing so conscientiously the raw materials and bought-in components used in these cars, of which the Type 122S was then the current model. Volvo tended to brush aside my enthusiasm, on the lines of how else could you make a motor-car. But I told Folke Reich, Volvo’s Export Publicity Manager, that if his Company took a full page advertisement in The Times newspaper explaining how they applied these Rolls-Royce standards in the manufacture of their cars, it might do them a great deal of good, in establishing sales in this country ….
The other day I found myself testing the latest Volvo, the up-rated fuel-injection 244 GLT, expeditiously laid on by Kevin Gover, who looks after publicity at the great Volvo Concessionaires’ Depot at High Wycombe, just off the M40 Motorway, which set me thinking about the early post-war Volvo entrenchment. In those days Brooklands of Bond Street were the British Concessionaires and so it was amusing to find Lex Brooklands’ stickers on the 1980 test car. I see that Volvo are currently advertising the longevity of their cars, pointing out that after four or five years’ useage a Volvo isn’t even approaching middle age, let alone retirement and that according to Swedish Government statistics this make lasts longer in its homeland than any other, with an average life of 17. 9 years before that final journey to the scrapyard. This accords with what I saw at Gothenburg back in 1960, although it will be interesting to hear from readers who have just scrapped a 1962 model or are using Volvos of the 1975 era….
In the 800-plus miles I drove the 244 GLT in just over a week I could not assess its long-wearing qualities although it seemed to me a very well-made and well-finished motor-car. Apart from routine travel, we took it up to North Wales, through some impressive scenery, sunroof wound back, to see part of the Veteran Car Club’s Golden Jubilee Rally, and then down to Llanstephan with its sandy beach-and picturesque castle on the hilltop, in pursuit of some more motoring data from the past. The Volvo, a big car with a large (for these. days) four-cylinder engine – of 96 x 80 mm. or 2, 315 c.c. – gave us very restful motoring indeed. As a conservative Englishman I disliked the blatant safety reminders, like a bleep to say a door had been left open, a flashing light to tell me I wasn’t belted in, and the permanently-lit running lights. But these are no doubt a sensible precaution and can be ignored – only once or twice did other drivers flash to say they objected to this mobile Christmas tree and I saw many other Volvos unlit during the daylight hours ….
The point about the 244 GLT is that it has this 2.3-litre overhead-camshaft engine with direct fuel-injection which gives the one-time “big barge” a new lease of life compared to the well-known 240 range that have the 2.1-litre power unit from which this later one has been developed. Originally designed for police work and indeed sold to police forces in a number of countries including the UK, the latest Volvo is quite a goer. It will do 112 mph with the aid of this 140 (DIN) bhp engine and what’s more important, will accelerate from rest to 60 mph in 9.7 sec and reach “the ton” – 100 mph – in 35.1 sec, in an impressive improvement on the pick-up of the Volvo 244DL. The up-rated engine has a flat torque-curve, peaking at only 4,500 rpm with good pulling power at a mere 2,000 rpm and it will run up to 6,000-6,500 rpm, giving maximum power at 5,750 rpm.
This is part of the formula for restful running. The Volvo 244 GLT runs at 3,000 rpm at an indicated 70 mph in overdrive, which puts it in the same unflurried category as the manual-gearbox Rover 3500 V8 in fifth speed. That is very high gearing, which the Volvo pulls well, aiding economy of fuel. The Laycock overdrive, which works in third as well as in top gear of the four-speed gearbox, is flicked in and out of engagement with a little switch inset into the gear-lever knob – I do not know who thought of this first, Triumph or Volvo (I’m sure someone is about to tell me!), but I do know that this is a very effortless way of having control of the gear ratio required at any one moment and I liked the lamp on the facia, not too bright, but there to tell you that you were in o/d when there was any doubt. The Volvo’s gearing is such that the engine can just cope with town speed-limits in top gear but not in o/d top. It will pull away from 1,500 rpm but the power does not come on tap until it is turning at 2,000 rpm or more.
Outwardly the Volvo is an impressive bulk of car, emphasising its practicability. The massive bumpers are black-finished, even the sidemounted radio aerial is in matt-black, and brightwork is conspicuous by its scarcity. The German light-alloy five-spoke wheels of the 244 GLT 61/2″ x 15″ and each weighing only 161/2 lb, are shod with those very flat-profile Pirelli P6 Profile-69 tyres. There are external mirrors on both sides, internally-adjustable, and mud-flaps behind all the wheels are fitted as standard. Safety and comfort remain the principal aspects of Volvos. Hence the aforesaid warning devices, the protective bumpers, and side protection and such inbuilt safety factors as a bulb integrity sensor, etc. But there is not much “fail-safe” on the brake servo when the engine isn’t running. The seats are outstandingly comfortable, the driver’s having height and cushion-angle adjustments in addition to the usual movements, and cushion-heating, and both front seats have lumbar support adjusters. This, and the Volvo’s generous interior space, renders it a supremely acceptable car to occupy on long journeys. The controls are well-contrived, the instruments easy to read and the test-car had a clock and above it an outside-temperature gauge (which costs £35.95 extra plus VAT), quite the Rolls-Royce touch!
Instead of the original long, floppy gear lever there is a stubby gaitered one, with polished knob of good size and a lift-up slide to prevent inadvertent reverse selection. A big boot, and plenty of sub-divided door-pocket and other stowages are useful. The fuel-filler cap is of the course-thread screw variety and when unscrewed it can be placed inside the flap that covers it, another neat feature. It hardly needs to be said that, coming from a cold country, heating is excellent and cool air is admitted from various outlets, including one that keeps the feet cool, the control to shut which, down by the bonnet-release, eluded me for too long. The wind-back metal sunroof is an excellent standard fitting on this model and provides draught-free ventilation. Other standard items include headlamp washers and wipers, front spoiler, laminated windscreen, tinted glass, and rear seat-belts.
The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering lacks “feel” to some extent but has a good balance between being too light but not heavy, with useful castor-return and is geared at just over 31/2 turns, lock-to-lock. The 244 GL T Volvo has special suspension and gas-filled shock-absorbers. This gives impressive adhesion in conjunction with those equally impressive Pirelli tyres and a comfortable ride, with not overmuch lean on fast corners but some lateral lurching at times. The vacuum-servo-assisted brakes, disc front and rear, with rear-drum parking brake, are so effective and pleasant to use as to be forgotten as an item needing comment. They have copper-alloy piping for the dual circuits, and rear anti-lock valve. If the engine needs to be wound up to get a sporting performance, when it gets noisy towards full bore, the 244 GLT is under all conditions a nicely long-legged, long-distance car.
Various extras are available for it, including paired spot-lamps, burglar alarm, etc. and a very good radio/stereo set with four special speakers. Incidentally, small items showing care of details are the radio aerial, corded to stop wind-whistle and the electrical system, protected by 16 fuses, with six spares. On the engineering side, cooling fan and alternator are driven by dual belts, on the belt-and-braces principal, so that if one breaks the other is adequate. As to the all-important matter of fuel economy, driving fairly hard but making much use of overdrive I got 24.5 mpg of four star but other drivers report 25 mpg overall, with better than 30 mpg. on some runs, which is very commendable for such a big, high-performance car. The tank holds 13.2 gallons, so the range is excellent.
I began to like this sensible Volvo the more I drove it. The all-black interior is unobtrusively smart and while the sportsman may think the car ponderous, it is an excellent proposition for those requiring a very roomy, very comfortable, fast family car. Volvo retain their six-figure total and trip mileage odometers as an indication of longevity. An automatic gearbox is available and Volvo are now making cars of from 1.4-litres to 2.7-litres. The 244 GLT sells for £8,695.90. -WB