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164 in 2015

Guest post by Tim. It has been almost a year exactly since ODV has reported on the Burg, the wayward Triumph of Hope Over Experience Volvo 164. So what has happened to it since then?



After a slumber under a car cover won a Swedish Car Day ’14, a little air in the tires and it was ready to roll for some upgrades and repairs.


It was still on the tire/rims (and hubcaps) from a 145, and I just didn’t think they looked all that good.

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A set of steel 240 rims, painted glossy black was just the ticket.


Much better!


One of the first adventures for 2015 was to take a trip back to where I purchased it from to show the former owners that it was in fact up and running.


That same weekend saw the 164 in a small car show at eEuro parts HQ in Connecticut. A lot of neat Swedish steel there that day. I managed to pick up some bargain basement parts (including a pristine 140 shit lever and knob that also fit the 164), and an assortment of other 140/160 parts that may, or may not have been suitable for my car. But for cents on the dollar, it made sense.


May saw the addition of a new face to the family: Malwig.


Pending an 800 mile road trip to Carslisle for the Import and Kit Car show, we decided to take care of a grinding noise coming from the right front. Turns out the bearings that I bought at the eEuro car show for $1 each (regularly in ~$10 each) were a perfect fit. And no more noise!


Packed up and ready to go, against many better judgement. TOHOE!


I was proud of the 164 for having made it all the way down (and back) without any major issues. She looked good out there on the show field!


Memorial Day brought a vain attempt at bringing the burgundy paint back to life. A lot of effort for little results, sadly.


July included a few small local road trips.


Reports of a 164 in a MA junkyard brought us to Greenpeace. It was a ’75, but there were many parts that I could use. Too bad about that drivers side fender, it was rust free.


I grabbed as many small parts from the engine bay as possible, figuring that I was bound to get something that worked, or could work.


I also grabbed the passenger side front fender that was also mostly rust free.


I was also happy to have grabbed this rubber boot that covered the e-brake handle.


The B30 wasn’t running quite right, and our valiant efforts at adjusting the valves and other work didn’t do much to quell the stumbling and stuttering.


The Burg, Fridgewig and Malwig looking good on the show field.

It needed to be running though, because August was the High Holy days of Volvo-dom: Swedish Car Day at the Larz Anderson museum in Brookline, MA.



The Burg wasn’t the only 164 on the field that day. I was happy to see two others, even if it meant that I didn’t have the best (and worst) 164 there. Just the worst.


The opportunity to buy a complete (but non-running) 164 reared it’s ugly head, and I took the plunge.


Hanging out with Handsome Boy, the 145 in the rain.


After much beer, discussion and more beer, the poorly running B30 was diagnosed with an old and tired fuel pump. A few dollars and days later, a new pump was in my hands and ready to go.


Almost looks like I knew what I was doing.


Unfortunately, the new fuel pump was putting out the correct PSI, and the old and tired fuel pressure regulator that had worked in conjunction with the old and tired fuel pump gave up the ghost.


This was the only time that the Burg has ever left me stranded.


A new regulator was installed, and a fitting for a test gauge was also plumbed in.


With such warm temperatures in the Northeast in the December of 2015, the Burg kept on rolling along. I even had the change to celebrate Christmas with the 164!


The Burg made the trek to upstate New York (~700 miles round trip) without missing a beat.


My brother-in-law even took a turn behind the wheel.


So there we have 2015 for the Burg. It was an exciting year, and I’m happy to report that there are many plans for 2016 to make it even better, including a return trip to Carlisle, suspension work and possibly some bodywork. Stay tuned, this Old Dead Volvo isn’t quite dead yet!


Triumph of Hope Over Experience


Guest post by Tim. 

For those of you that can’t make out that date, it is February 15th, 1989. That’s a very important date that we’ll come back to at a later.

It has been quite some time since there has been an update on The Burg, mostly because life just got in the way. That isn’t to say that nothing has been accomplished with the 164. Quite to the contrary in fact.

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When last we left the Burg, it was still immobile, parked in a garage. I managed to get the car registered and insured, so it was legal to drive on the road, if and when that time ever came. The patience of the garage owner was wearing thin, so a last big push was made to wrap up working on the fuel system, changing the water pump and taking care of a few other odds and ends.

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That lovely green stuff you see is of course anti-freeze. There might have been a misplaced gasket, which in turn necessitated taking the water pump off and reinstalling it, not an easy task. It took a lot of brute strength to get it properly placed, and none of us were happy to have to do it twice.

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One of the many times that would happen in the resurrection of the Burg, some parts for the B30 just don’t exist. Take, for instance the lower radiator hose. There is one company in Australia that currently makes the hose that is properly formed. All of the domestic supplies offer a “one size fits all” hose that actually doesn’t quite work right. A little fooling with the coil inside the hose managed to give it some semblance of proper shape.

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Once it was all buttoned up for the second (and last time), the new water pump (and the new alternator) looked rather good. Or at least we hoped.

That, my friends, is the true Triumph of Hope Over Experience.

After a twenty-five year slumber (remember that inspections ticker above? That came from the car that donated it’s engine, the orange 164 that hadn’t been on the road since 1989), the mighty B30 engine ran, and all things considered ran quite well.

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With the hood finally back on after having departing from the body months and months ago, the 164 was ready for it’s (second) maiden voyage to it’s new home in Rhode Island.

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I can’t quite describe the feeling of driving this car for the first time. Wait, yes I can. Ear deafening. At this point the car had basically two straight pipes, exiting somewhere near the mid-point of the car with an ear splitting roar. Combine this with iffy brakes, tires that had seen better days, and the thirty mile jaunt back home was exhilarating and nerve wracking at the same time. It was one of the most exciting rides of my life, simply because a lot of people thought it couldn’t be done, myself included. 2013 had been a rough year, and having a project like the 164 to work on with my fantastic group of friends was just the antidote. Driving in on I95 that day in July was the culmination of that time and effort, and I couldn’t have been happier.

2014-07-18 08.29.21Of course this isn’t the end of the story, and there is much more coming.

The Swedish Crown Victoria

Guest post by Tim. 

As a recent convert to Old Dead Volvos in the most literal sense, I’ve come to appreciate the virtues of the 164. To many people the B30 is an anomaly and something of an evolutionary dead end (the Penta AQ170 series marine engine notwithstanding). To me, however, it is an interesting offshoot of the traditional Volvo ethos of safety and economy.

The 164 was meant to compete against the lower level luxury class from the Europeans, presenting a face that only an Englishman could love: the Wolseley 6/99.

This very fact alone told you who the Swedes were trying to market this car towards, but in the end it also appealed to the American tastes: larger engine, longer wheelbase, leather interior and fuel costs be damned.

By 1973, the Volvo 164 gained the suffix E and B30 Bosch D-Jet fuel injection and was a fairly sprightly performer. In Federal trim it generated 138 net hp and sprinted 0-60 in 10.8 seconds, and testing produced a fairly impressing average of 17.8 miles per gallon. These figures will come into later on, so don’t forget them.

That miles per gallon number would be critical when gasoline became scarce in thanks to OPEC in 1973. Suddenly, the traditional full sized American automobile didn’t seem like a great idea anymore, and the consumers appetite shifted into high gear towards smaller and more efficient models, something that had started a little over a decade earlier with the Ford Falcon, Chevy Corvair and Mopar’s Valiant.

Gasoline prices effect everyone equally and just as much as John Q. Public felt the pinch in the wallet, so did government agencies. As one of the biggest purchasers of vehicles, the law enforcement agencies took the brunt of this right where it hurts most – in their budgets. Since police officers spend most of their workday in their rolling offices, higher gas prices were not a good thing.


Enter into this mixture of high gas prices and low fuel economies for the traditional police cars both the Los Angeles Sheriff Department (LASD) and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Along with Motor Trend (MT) they launched a far more comprehensive  joint vehicle evaluation program. Started in 1974, this evaluation was aimed and finding the best performance for the dollar in all kinds of categories, ones that wouldn’t necessarily mean the largest automobile was the best. Motor Trend magazine got into the act as well, claiming

“The average police car is little more than a taxicab with a big, wasteful engine. Motor Trend has a plan to end that, and save American taxpayers a bundle in the process.”

The testing that ensued was made up of six phases that utilized some of MT’s standard road test procedures along with tests that were specific to the law enforcement community. The scoring was set up so that 100 was the best possible outcome for any one vehicle. The test areas included:

  • High speed handling
  • MT road test metrics, including acceleration, braking, and handling
  • Human and space utilization
  • Heat check for various fluids over multiple time periods
  • Repair evaluation for ease and economy for fixing damages and maintenance

True to their belief that there was “…no logical, tactical, economical, legal or moral reason why any sedan used by any government agency need be larger than…an intermediate” MT pitted  the 164E  up against the Chevrolet Nova, Dodge Dart, Pontiac Ventura (a Nova clone), AMC Hornet and lastly a Plymouth Valiant. Since the tide of foreign cars was definitely here to stay, the test also included a Datsun 610, Mazda RX4 and a Toyota Corona MKII as purely administrative vehicles.

Guess what car didn’t win?


That’s right – with an overall score of 78.17/100, the Volvo 164E was the winner (I wish I could post a photograph of the 164E decked out in LASD livery, but there are exactly zero on the web or in any of my police car reference books). The Nova came in a very, very close second at 78.14/100.

By 1974 Volvo had a history of providing police spec vehicles in Europe so it was not impossible that they would field not only a competitive vehicle but the overall winner. MT explained that the 164 was taken from the assembly line at a very early stage and turned over to the Special Vehicles section at the factory, where special suspension, heavy duty interior bits and heavy duty wiring for lights and communication equipment. It is no wonder the 164 rated so highly.

Back to that fuel economy number that was all so critical in the fuel shortage years. The next best economical car was the slant-six equipped Valiant at 15.89, with the Nova clocking in at 16.15. These fuel economy scores were calculated with lights, sirens and AC on. Even when “having the hell barrelled out of it”, the Volvo still managed 14 mpg or better. When the average LASD police car for 1974, an AMC Matador, averaged 6 mpg over 25,000 miles in a year, you can see why even 1 mile per gallon more could make a tremendous difference.

So why did the 1974 Chevrolet Nova 9C1 go down in history as the first vehicle to break the stranglehold on what constituted a traditional police cruiser?

Plain and simple: it was not American. As noted in Dodge, Plymouth & Chrysler Police Cars 1956 – 1978, “Even in Southern California, no way could the Volvo 164E be America’s best patrol-class squad car”. And that was the sad truth. There was simply no way police officers in any municipality were going to swap out their body on frame, V8 powered 120+ inch wheelbase cars for six cylinder unibody 107 inch wheelbase foreign cars. So it wasn’t quite Volvo’s Crown Victoria, but it came damn close. Just as quickly as it rose to fame via MT and the LASD/LAPD, the police spec 164 fell into the dustbin of history.

One final note: As an 164 owner and having also climbed in and out of mid ’70’s American cars, I will say that the Volvo is a much tighter fit for my 6’1 frame, even if the testing figures don’t note that it was any less comfortable inside (the 164 earned the highest score in ergonomics with a 76 by a wide margin – the Nova was second with 64).

Stayed tuned, this isn’t the last time Volvo would make inroads into the American police car business…


Further reading:

July 1974 Motor Trend: “MT‘s Car Plan to Save Taxpayers $320 Million“, pt1

August 1974 Motor Trend: “You’ve Got the Wrong Car, Officer“, pt2


All images courtesy of Timothy Wade, unless otherwise noted.


Guest post by Tim. 

Momentum is important, especially when attempting to resurrect an Old Dead Volvo. I capitalized on my newfound progress and identified the next set of tasks that I could accomplish with minimal assistance from those with The Knowledge.

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This was going to be fairly straightforward: reattach the drive shaft. Since The Burg’s drive shaft was AWOL, another bit of Bitey would make the transition.

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I felt quite proud of myself for tackling this relatively simple job. I had to repeat several steps because I didn’t think things through completely, but it felt good to have to rectify my own mistakes. First it was forgetting to position the back half of the drive shaft in the right place regarding the emergency brake cables, then it was forgetting to maneuver the rear of the drive shaft into into place before securing the front, and lastly it was trying to figure out why the holes weren’t lining up. As it turns out, they only line up one way, so Zo and I had to jack up one side of the rear axle so we could rotate everything by hand.

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In the end, I got the drive shaft (mostly) reattached, the speedometer cable hooked up, and most importantly kept the momentum going.

I’m also adding to my list of things I want to repair in the future, including the rubber donut that dampens drive shaft vibration. The donated one from Bitey was looking rather sad, and I hope this won’t come back to haunt me.


All photos courtesy of Timothy Wade.

It lives! Or does it?

After fits and starts, work on The Burg commenced with great vigor. The plan for this day was to remove the exhaust from Spitey in hopes of salvaging enough to use as a makeshift exhaust on The Burg to get it down to Providence. Jim brought his torch up for the job, and after a delayed start we got down to business.

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My job was to crawl under the car with the impact wrench and sockets, ready to spring into action as soon as the nuts holding the exhaust together were cherry red. Needless to say, I was careful not to let any stray hot things fall onto me. Fortunately, all four came off with relative easy. Unfortunately, one of the pipes had two holes in it. We’ll worry about that another time.

After this, Jim wanted to show me how to clean the electrical connections in the ignition system. It was fun learning, even if I only retained about a quarter of what I was taught. Careful cleaning and repair work ensued.

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By this time, a rather large crew of folks had arrived, and it turned out to be a great night of a bunch of guys hanging around working on old cars. If I didn’t know what this hobby was all about before, I sure do now.

With the collective knowledge present, we forged ahead, we attempted to fire up The Burg with a healthy dose of ether down the intake manifold. Frustratingly it just wasn’t catching. After chasing down ignition gremlins, and some connections that had been re-installed correctly, we decided to check the compression.

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Initial results:

Cylinder 1 -30 psi, 2 – 120, 3 – 80/85, 4 – 140, 5 – 140 and 6 – 120.

Needless to say, I was in despair. Would this mean the end of my project? I didn’t have the resources to have this engine, or any of the other engines rebuilt.

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We pulled the valve cover off to check things out. Remember how great the valves above cylinder #1 looked (directly under the oil cap)? That might explain why it was so far out of whack. As it turns out the valves weren’t opening and closing on #1, so I was taught how to measure the tolerances on all of them, and Zo helped me to check each of the cylinders. The follow up compression check on #1 gave us a much healthier reading (although I failed to note it).

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Since the engine in Bitey hadn’t been run since 1989, it was decreed that an oil change was in order. I crawled under the car and drained the pan. Fortunately, it looked to be in pretty good condition, no water or any other contaminates. New oil was dumped in, and we were finally ready to try firing it up again.

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It was quite a thrilling moment when the engine finally caught. Even though it ran (sans cooling system and only on ether) for all of 15 or 20 seconds, it was still an exhilarating moment to hear it run without any awful sounds. I can’t thank my friends enough for making this night possible, and for helping in this crucial step of verifying that The Burg had a good heart.


All photos courtesy of Timothy Wade.

Life Support

The day of reckoning was here. Or the first day of reckoning, at least. On a nice and warm April day, the transplant team was assembled and the patient prepped.


We had prepared The Burg by removing its heart earlier in the day, making way for the new (old) engine.

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Photo courtesy of Timothy Wade

With the M410 overdrive transmission attached to the B30 straight six, the powertrain combination for the 164 is incredibly heavy, and impossibly long.


What do you do with a straight six and a bunch of empty beer cans?


Before the engine went in, however, the prerequisite standing around and looking at things occurred. It’s like the adage measure twice and cut once – if you look at the engine bay long enough, you can visualize the mayhem that’s about to occur.


Jim was kind enough to give me some pointers and tips, since this was my first foray into actually working on an engine and not just removing one.


I’d say it needed a bit of spring cleaning, wouldn’t you?


Everyone got into the act, even our photographer.


Everyone was going fairly smoothly. We removed the transmission from Bitey to replace it with the good transmission from The Burg, checked out the clutch and verified it was in decent shape, cleaned up the face with a sander and buttoned it all back up. As we hoisted the engine up into the engine bay, someone noticed that this:


It was a dirty, rusty mess, and after a few minutes of trying to remove it, the pulley broke into several pieces. The belt had melded right to the pulley itself, allowing water to pool and rust right through. I’m thankful whoever noticed it in time to give us the chance to swap it out.


Of course we actually had to read the Haynes manual to figure it out after a few minutes of fruitless wrenching.


Much more wrestling and grunting, shoving and pulling ensued before the engine finally went in. Haynes doesn’t recommend you remove or install the engine with the transmission attached, but when you take it out by removing the front end of the donor car, why can’t it go in the same way? Oh, that’s right, we didn’t want to plasma cut the front end off of the “good” car!

Much thanks to everyone who assisted in the transplant that day.

All photographs courtesy of Carrie Capizzano (unless otherwise noted).

Losing Face

When last we left our motley crew of 164s, they had made the big trip from rural CT to Wrentham, MA. While we had hoped the slightly higher compression B30 in Spitey might be in usable condition, it turned out that the straight-six in Bitey was the only one that spun easily.


Out came the tools and the torch, so we could more easily remove the power plant. As the front suspension crossmember is different from a 140/164 and a 240, we were all a little unfamiliar with the best way to extract it. Trial and error ensued, and before long, Bitey had lost its face.


Something’s not right here…


What else is connected down there that we can’t see? Oh yes, just that one bolt. And then that one crossmember. And then that heater hose…


Once we got the engine completely out, and back up at the garage, we pulled the valve cover off and saw this bit of unfortunate rust:


Nah, I’m sure that won’t be a problem…

Next up: removal of The Burg’s heart and making way for the transplant.


You look so sad, Bitey…


All photographs courtesy of Carrie Capizzano.