1974 Volvo 164E: Goteborg Goes Brougham

There was just something about that grille and that beautiful leather trim. As a fourth grader in about 1989, I knew nor cared one whit about British styling influences on the plushest Volvo. I just knew I liked them. As most of you fine folks know, save a few persistently negative persons of interest, love has little to no basis in rationality.

Mike Lundahl and his wife Cathy were long-time friends of my parents, and Mike took over the Volvo dealer when his dad retired. So I was down at Lundahl’s frequently with my dad, and not just when the 240GL or DL wagon needed an oil change or tire rotation.

While Dad sat in the showroom and shot the bull with Mike, I’d wander around the service area or the lot. It didn’t hurt that my folks were friends with the owners; I pretty much could wander around at will, provided I didn’t irritate the mechanics or go near the cars being serviced. I always steered well clear of those areas.

Sometimes there were interesting old Volvos sitting about. I remember one decommissioned 164E sitting at the furthest corner of the service area.

As I recall it was blue and had a blue interior. I actually got in and sat in it (not a customer’s car, I think it might have been a trade-in awaiting refurbishment or replacement oily bits).

Or awaiting the wreckers; it had a thin coat of dust on it.

How well I remember that interior! It was very similar, of course, to my folks’ Volvo 240s, but at the same time those seats and the instrument panel were different, being the earlier pre-1975 panel with round HVAC vents and clock instead of the rectangular ones in the 240.

I was intrigued with the door lock buttons, as they were chrome in the flossier 164E instead of interior color on Mom and Dad’s 240s. I actually unscrewed one and was going to take it with me until Mom saw it! “You go put that back on that car right now!!”

So yes, I must admit I got a thrill when I saw this super nice ’74 164E on eBay last year. It was luxurious, but also practical at the same time–as Volvo played up in its advertising.

The deep aquamarine blue paint and saddle tan interior is beautiful on this car. When combined with the (factory) blue carpeting, it was suitably clubby as befitting its status in the Volvo hierarchy. So, what is this particular 164E’s story? It is quite the time capsule, that is for certain.

Well, this auction has long since passed. It was on offer on eBay by Rover Classic, and I’ve since lost the old link to the auction. But fortunately, I saved the description in the seller’s own words:

This Nebraska Native has Fuel Injected Engine, Automatic Transmission, Power Brakes, Leather seats, Manual windows, Manual door locks, CD / AM / FM, Factory Air Conditioning. Engine is in Good Shape, does not smoke, does not leak, nice and quiet. Transmission feels Perfect, shifts without any problems, without delay and without noise. Suspension is in Excellent shape, Car tracks nice and straight. There is No Evidence of any Electrical problems. The exterior is in Excellent shape for a 1974. There is absolutely no rust any where on the car. Leather Seats, Carpet Floor and Glass are all in Great shape ( !!! Check out the pictures !!! ) Interior of this car is Nice and Clean. This 164 has 4 matching Brand NEW Tires that are mounted on Good straight rims.

Clearly, someone loved this car and took excellent care of it, for it to have survived the harsh Nebraska winters. I suspect it was never driven in the salt.

Though a three-speed automatic transmission was standard equipment, those who wanted to row their own gears could select a four-speed synchronized manual unit with electronic overdrive.

Here is the B30F inline six, looking just as tidy as the rest of the car. In 1974 North American-bound models, it was good for 138 hp @ 5500 rpm and 154 lb-ft at 3500. An 8.7:1 compression ratio, seven-main-bearing crankshaft, four-wheel disc brakes, 21.5 cu. ft. of trunk space and turning circle of 34 feet are just some of the generous specifications listed in the sales brochure.

And I was reminded of all this today when my good Scandinavia-based friend, Ingvar Hallstrom, messaged me today with this information:

“This had gotta be the last car, if not the only car, that got its turn signals mounted ON the bumpers. It always struck me as hilarious, and it’s a decidedly odd designer’s choice because it got them already from the start with the slim bumper ’69 model year. Have you any idea why they went for that quite bizarre way? And can you even remember any other car with any kind of lamps mounted on the bumpers? I can’t think of any…”

That fact on the Ovlov 164 never occurred to me, but I have to say, I can’t think of any other car, save the VW Beetle, which had its signals moved from the tops of the fenders to the bumpers sometime in the late ’70s, though not in the U.S. The final ’79 Cabriolets still had the fender-top blinkers. Of course, that was hardly a new design, but still…

A car complete, and who wouldn’t want to have a plush, comfy sedan with a straight six, good handling and–best of all–those most excellent bucket seats?

And for those who were more concerned over the luxury aspects, that so-veddy-British grille-and-foglights treatment, the longer hood and ample chrome trim was more than enough for folks to know you weren’t in your Uncle Sven’s 145!

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All in all, just a gorgeous, classic Volvo sedan. Hope she found a caring owner!

13 Replies to “1974 Volvo 164E: Goteborg Goes Brougham”

  1. AvatarJohn C.

    What I always loved about the 164 was it’s deep spiritual connection to English cars like the Humber Super Snipe the Austin Westminster, the Wolseley 6/110, and the Rover P5. Luxurious compact by USA standards cars with 3 liter inline 6s and overdrive transmissions for more relaxed travel of a sort not honored by Germany, France, Italy, or Japan. We were denied those but Volvo stepped up. If only the Swedish woodworkers were not on strike for this model.

    I have made the argument here once or twice that the politics of a new generation of buyers in the 70s had much to do with their turning away from American and British models. This was why the shrinking and metooing of the domestics did nothing to slow their decline. The period print ad Tom found is great evidence for that point. Listing what the car does not have that one might expect to be possible on an American model. Volvo saying ignore the influences you see and understand that we are with you and hate the traditional American as well. A strange time.

    Reply
    • AvatarJoel Burns

      Love the 1969-71 164 model and 1972 164e with their original grill and bumper before US safety laws required the 1973-75 facelift that never seemed quite right…

      Reply
      • AvatarJohn C.

        It seems embarrassing to me that cars like Volvo, Mercedes, and Saab that marketed themselves as having more designed in safety, all required so much reinforcement in bumpers and door beams to meet what in retrospect seem such weak 1974 standards.

        Reply
        • Avatar-Nate

          Just to be clear : you’re slamming them for making the cars actually _SAFE_ .

          I’ve seen center punched Volvos, Mercedes and so on as well as American and Japanese cars from 1974, I have no hurry to die .

          -Nate

          Reply
    • Avatarrambo furum

      Why won’t some manufacturer revive stodgy looks in their cars? Traditions exist because they work.

      Reply
      • Avatar-Nate

        Balanced designs, yes .

        Stodgy no thanx .

        It used to be for every ass there was a seat, now they all look pretty much alike .

        My 1970 144S four door sedan was a terrific transportation appliance, it handled like the tires had asphalt magnets and scared the living shit out of a few loads of passengers going down hill (it was slow shakes going uphill) but in the end the amazingly good seats, top class build quality and so on weren’t sufficient to keep my interest .

        The owner’s booklet had a needle nosed bald guy in it showing how things worked, I didn’t want to turn into that guy and sold it on .

        -Nate

        Reply
  2. Avatardejal

    “There is No Evidence of any Electrical problems. ”

    Sometime in the 70s, Volvos electrical system was more or less bio-degradable. I think Mercedes also had some kind of similar issue. My neighbor had a 70s 4 door/4 banger after they went slant nose and after a few years the sheathing on any wires under the car started to de-laminate. Said it was the worst car he ever owned concerning reliability. He had a 53 or 54 Beetle in the garage that looked brand new and had previously owned a Volvo 1800 and a Datsun 240Z. He then moved on to VW Rabbits and another Volvo 4 door in the 80s and 90s. The second Volvo 4 door was fine.

    Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      Gosh if reliable electrical systems were the goal, making the switch to a Rabbit is a pretty bold choice. You should remember that foreign car electrical systems were way overloaded on cars they set to the USA. The extra features Americans demanded and our climate really did a number on them.

      Reply
      • Avatarz

        Yeah, he had a thing for foreign cars. Wrapped the 1800 around a telephone pole before buying the 204z. Never understood how he walked away from that one. He kept his cars immaculate.

        He never hated any of them except for that particular Volvo. And he bought another down the road regardless of the problems with this particular one. I suspect his wife liked it and the dealer was down the street from where he worked being important reasons. The later VWs for the same reason. I think he actually sold the 50s VW to the dealer because the dealer wanted to show it off in the showroom.

        Reply
  3. Avatarsiv

    I learned to drive on a ’71 164E, Pops bought it for my mom as a 5 y/o used car. Beautiful interior with that tan leather. Much nicer than the stripper 244DL they eventually replaced it with Destroyed the universal joint doing brake torque drag launches (it survived a few neutral drops) Told the folks I didn’t know what happened , the engine’s running fine but it just stopped moving. I’d love to find a well preserved 4-speed

    Reply
  4. AvatarGlenn Kramer

    A friend had one in ’72, my then-wife had a 122. Coming from American luxury cars and being familiar with the 122, the 164 seemed…odd. Other than build quality, it seemed to lack any feel of luxury, even the leather felt “applied”. It was a really nice Volvo, but I remember it as fairly expensive, on a par with a Buick Centurion.

    Reply
  5. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    Nowadays, Volvo would never run anything like that “A Civilized Car For An Uncivilized World” ad, particularly one implying that urban grafiiti is uncivilized. Today Volvo would more likely hire young vandals, er, graffiti artists for their ads.

    Reply

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