OVER 20 years ago, before Swedish cars were known to any extent in this country, I went to look at the Saab and Volvo factories. The quality put into these cars was impressive and I remember telling the Volvo people that if they were to take full-page advertisements for their PVI21 in our Times newspaper, then published regularly, explaining the extent of the laboratory-testing of raw materials and finished components, including those from outside suppliers, and the general care taken in building Volvos, they would have an instant outlet for their cars in Britain. I don’t think they believed me, saying how else could you screw together properly such a complex product as an automobile, Since then the Volvo has earned a high reputation for ruggedness and quality.
I was reminded of this when a 245GLT Estate anived at the MOTOR SPORT offices for appraisal. Driving away from Standard House in the high driving seat of this old-fashioned vehicle, which didn’t seem to steer or ride in a particularly modern fashion. I felt I was contributing to a policy we are trying to eradicate, namely devoting too much space to “ordinary” cars, no matter how good, at the exNnse of those more interesting to our readership.
But it wasn’t long, or after many miles, that the merits and integrity of this modern Volvo became evident. For a 2.3-litre (136 b.h.p.) car it had useful acceleration, using the gearbox, and speed which had to be curbed along the M40 in deference to possible Radar. The controls and switchgear were most admirably arranged, the interior trim, if of unfortunate contrasting hues, was impeccably done, and you even had bummed real-leather upholstery. The amenities embraced central door locking. electric front windows with sensible press-down buttons instead of jumbly ones on the doors themselves, and smooth power steering with a very small turning-circle for such a long load-absorbing Estate car. The gear-change for the 4-speed transmission was adequate in action and in rho knob of the gear-lever was 1 thumb-switch operating the overdrive, witich applied to top-gear only. In oid the never mid* noisy engine (which has Bosch ignition, became acceptably quiet and, of course, fuel conserved — my figure was 25.6 m.p,g•If one indulged in coasting downhill and afterwards P. the lever back into top gear position the ,,id had. again to be selected, when wanted. with . switch. After disliking the car for thinking I .5. moron, who didn’t know when I had opened diair (ft most irritating telephone-bell burr-b.. informing me of this hut it’s a safeguard agoOti careless passengers,, or that I hail not belted up( big flashing light on the dash), and making me drive about th daylight with the running lights on, I began to take to it. The aforesaid lights can be put out by removing the appropriate fuse, of course.
The test-car was on Michelin 185 HR14 XVS tyres on its alloy wheels and cornering was adequate rather than pleasing. The brakes functioned nicely and the Volvo-Cibie headlamps, with flick-dipper from the I.h.-stalk that also worked the turn indicators, gave excellent illumination. The leather seats, medically planned, were comforable. the driver’s possessing every conceivable means to this end, including adjustable lumbar-support. I see th this not sluggish, very nicely finished and contrived, fully-equipped Volvo 245GLT a sort of vintage orientated car for today which could well appeal to some VSC-C folk, as Volvos did in Tim Carson’s day. Incidentally, the test-car was supplied by Let Brooklands, which has a nice partly vintage ring to it, and Volvo, whose output is over 50% cars, 25% trucks, 10% marine and industrial engines, 4% aircraft engines, 3% buses, and 2% hydraulics, appease those British customers with a conscience by stating that they have purchased £l25-million worth of British components.
This Volvo was very nicely fitted out. Besides the usual instruments, to the left of the pond you get a Volvo quartz clock and an outside temperature gauge, the latter a Rolls-Royce prerogative, although these, and the uncalibrated fuel-gauge, are not too easy to see. A big lockable cubby-hole is supplemented by numerous deep-lipped shelves and very useful divided front-door bins. A good rear wipe-wash is controlkd from the I.h. stalk; the clearly-labelled heater controls and 3-speed fan set up a very warmth-giving heater, with many fully-adjustable vents. Overseas users get a rest for the driver’s left foot, denied to r.h.d. cars. The rear-hinged bonnet, self-propping, is very easy to open, but the tailgate needs two hands. There are headlamp-washers, and many safety factors, including low-brake fluid and failed bulbs warning lights.
I can understand why discerning people buy Volvos, even if the long, slim Estate does look somewhat like a hearse. The 245GLT o.h.-camshaft fuel injected version costs £9,573 in 245GTL form, with overdrive — W.B.