Finally Volvo decided that they would combine the engine of the 240 and premium features of the 264 to create a new model, the GL. Introduced in 1980, the GL’s exterior was the same as the 264GLE, complete with the extra chrome trim, chrome grille and exterior paint choices. Inside, velour replaced the DL’s cloth, and there was additional color coordination of the door panels, hardware and carpet.
Air conditioning was standard, as well as a manual-crank sunroof. Bright trim rings and hubcaps were substituted for the 264GLE’s turbine-spoke alloy wheels. You could even get a 40-channel CB with your AM/FM stereo. Hey, the 70’s had just ended, give Volvo a break!
As with the DL, the 240GL had a 2.1L inline four cylinder engine that produced 107 hp at 5,250 rpm and 114 lb ft of torque. In a road test of the GL, David E. Davis of Car and Driver had much to say:
“(The Volvo GL) is a genuinely amusing car to drive. It’s alert, responsive, and stable. The handling, braking and roadholding that go with that luxury are first-class, and although the ride is European, it would not offend a Pontiac driver. (The 2.1L four) is an infinitely lovable engine…that just seems to beg for abuse”
In 1982, a GL station wagon was added, and the GLE’s turbine spoke alloys (a favorite of your author’s) were made standard. A six cylinder diesel had become available in 1981 as a standalone model, but for 1982 it was optional on DLs and GLs. Available in both sedan and wagon form, it featured a 2.4L inline six that produced 78hp at 4800 rpm. The 264GLE, simply called ‘GLE’ by ’81, was in its final year, replaced in 1983 by the new, even boxier (if you can believe it) 760GLE.
Starting in 1983, the 240GL was the finest 240 you could get. When I was born, my dad had a ’79 Bonneville (oft discussed in my posts here on Riverside Green!), but in 1981, he got rid of it and ordered a new DL two-door in maroon with tan cloth.
My brother was born in late 1983, and at about the same time I remember Mom telling me that Dad was ordering a new car. The car was a metallic silver over tan leather 1984 GL sedan.
My mom still had her dark blue ’77 245DL station wagon, but Dad’s new car was much fancier. The leather interior was really nice, and it had power windows instead of windup windows, which I thought a big deal at the time.
The manual sunroof was also a lot of fun. I remember playing with it a lot in the driveway. You pushed a button built in to the chrome handle, which unlocked it, then you just spun it until it was open. Simple, and no electric motor to wear down and break.
I believe it also had a tilt open feature – from the closed position, you pressed the button and spun the lever the opposite direction.
The Volvo 240 was arguably one of the world’s most practical cars at the time. They were very space efficient, with ample head and leg room for passengers. The trunk was a perfect box shape (like the rest of the car) with 13.9 cubic feet of space.
The wagons were even more practical, with 41.1 cubic feet of space in the cargo area – and that was with the rear seat up. Need more room? No problem, just load up those trunks or traveling shells onto the available roof rack.
Volvos reputation was built on these cars. Not only were they practical, they were assembled and finished to extremely high standards.
Instead of electrogalvinizing, used by many manufacturers at the time, Volvo used a hot bath process to galvinize every square inch of the bodyshell. It produced a protective layer of zinc that was three times thicker than possible by using electrogalvinizing.
Front fenders were made of Zinchrometal and used plastic liners in the wheel wells to boot. Door latches had built in drains, all exterior trim was made of stainless steel, and the exhaust system was aluminized. These cars were built to last, and Volvo wasn’t shy about advertising the fact. Their brochures in the ’80s spelled out all of these features, and more.
And how could I not mention Volvo’s safety cage design? Hollow steel A, B and C pillars were encircled on the tops and bottoms by yet more steel reinforcement, and tough tubular steel bars were built into all doors for side crash protection.
Volvo was probably one of the few manufacturers that featured wrecked 240s in their advertising – they were justifiably proud of all the safety built into their vehicles. In crash testing the 240, what you would see was the car totally deformed up to the windshield, with the rest of the car undamaged. The doors would open and close as normal, and oftentimes the windshield would not even be cracked.
Even in 2019, sixteen years since the last 240 was built, I see them here in town once in a while. But not too many are of the pre-1986 variety, and even fewer are the flossy GL model. I was checking out my local Volvo dealer, McLaughlin Motors, one Sunday back in April of 2012, and did a double take when I spotted this remarkably nice GL sedan around back. It was just like Dad’s except for the metallic brown/burgundy color. It was clearly in for service, as there was protective plastic on the front seat. I had never seen it around town before. But it was clear that it was well cared for, and definitely garaged. And I haven’t seen it since either.
As for Dad’s GL, I have many memories of driving down to the marina with him in the summer, windows down, sunroof open, to go putter around on the boat. It was a cool car, but by 1988 he was ready for a new one, and it was traded in on a fire engine red 1988 740 Turbo Sedan. My Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Ron actually drove in from Champaign and bought the GL from Lundahl Motors, and they had it well into the mid 1990s. Although remote, it could still be patrolling that college town to this day. At least, I’d like to think so.