My first experience with the Volvo marque was a 1982 264 GLE with the 2.8 liter V-6. BIG mistake! This car was a nightmare and I swore I would never own another Volvo....... fast forward a few years and I am selling the last American car I will own for a while. My friend had bought a 1988 Volvo 745Ti and after rebuilding the turbo and repairing a few other things, his wife decided she would rather drive the Volvo he had up for sale so I bought the wagon from him. This car has totally changed my opinion of the pre-Ford Volvos. As long as you stick with the 4 cylinder motor (preferably in turbo trim) these cars are great! There are a lot of aftermarket and performance parts available and the Volvo owner can make the car fit their needs. I wanted a safe car that could haul the family around but at the same time wanted a car reasonably fast and nimble.
The first thing to go were the wheels. It is very hard to find wheels for rear-wheel drive cars in todays front-wheel-drive market but my friend at Kauffman Tire found a newcomer to the US market, R H Alurad, a German wheel manufacturer. These wheels use an adapter system similar to the Porsche design, a hub-centric adapter bolts to the cars hub and the wheel bolts to the adapter. The wheel/tire combo I decided to go with was a 16" x 7.5" wheel with a Toyo Proxes 225/50ZR16 tire. The aesthetic value was well worth the cost and the car handles better too, but with all the space in the wheel wells it looked like this was the cross-country model. Not wanting to be confused with the SUV crowd I purchased some Intrax springs and iPD front and rear sway bars. Now the car was starting to look better and handled GREAT.
I had already replaced the mast for the power antenna but wasn't really happy with the way it looked. I also had no use for the roof rack so one day I got bored and took them both off and filled in the holes. I had planned on painting the car anyway..........The antenna was replaced with a roof mounted Fuba. The aluminum tailgate had some corrosion underneath the paint so I went ahead and used some etching primer to correct that, you can see the grey primer in the following photos. This car was driven in Canada (snow and ice with salt) for the majority of its life but because of the diligence of the owners, there is no rust on the car. For all of you who know how the greenhouse design of the wagon allows ALL of the sun generated heat inside in the summer, the quick fix for this is window tint with UV filtering, this also saves your interior from fading.
The next thing to work on was the motor. Being a turbo motor, there are many places from which oil can leak so I replaced the oil filter cooler adapter o-rings, the distributor, and the valve cover gasket. I then cleaned out the oil condensate box and all of the vacuum lines and nipples to make sure the crankcase ventilation system was working properly. Using dinosaur oil is a no-no with turbo engines and after cleaning all of the carbon deposits out (you should have also seen the turbo while it was apart, pieces thought to be metal were carbon deposits clogging oil galleries, it had to be cleaned at a machine shop) I can understand why. I use Mobil1 and it clears up a lot of problems. This slowed the flow but to end the oil leaks I ended up taking the car in to have the engine rear seal replaced, also had the transmission front seals replaced while I was paying for the labor to have it removed from the car. The shifter bushings were replaced after I got it home and next on the list was the rear transmission bushing and seal.
The Volvo gauges are great but I really wanted to know how much boost I had going to the motor, the factory guages are not calibrated or marked. Autometer solved this problem. I got their boost guage and air/fuel ratio meter to know a little more about what was going on with the turbo and motor. There are no aftermarket manufacturers that I know of that offer a 2-guage pod for this car so I bought the Autometer dual guage pod for the last generation Ford F-150 (p/n ATM-15300) from Summit Racing (1-800-230-3030) and used the heat gun a little to convince it that it belonged in my Volvo, it worked out pretty well. The plan is to replace the factory boost guage with a VDO oil pressure guage.
After installing the boost guage I found out that I was only getting 5 pounds of boost, the specification from the factory is around 7.5 psi. I had heard a lot of guys on the various lists talk about a G-Valve and decided to give it a try. This valve is a low cost manual boost controller and eliminates a lot of lag. Basically, the wastegate on the turbo bleeds off the excess boost and is constantly opening as the boost builds up. With the G-Valve the wastegate is closed until the dialed in boost limit is reached. Even my wife could tell a difference in the way the car accelerated. This G-Valve is CHEAP, parts for one are around $10.
Wanna build one? :-)
I found the G-Valve design on Gus Mahon's page (printer friendly pdf version HERE), the guy who has a 13-second minivan. The following are his directions with part numbers for making one: Get a grainger valve. "Grainger valve" is just a nick-name for a simple ball & spring check valve with adjustable spring tension. McMaster-Carr sells them as part number: 48935K25.
To make the valve, move the check ball to the other side of the spring. Then screw on a brass barb fitting (McMaster Carr part number # 5346K51).
Drill a tiny hole (about .020") in a brass barb first... (90degree brass barb is part # 44555k142). Take a bigger stronger bit, like a .035" or .040" bit, and slip it all the way down your chuck until it barely protrudes. Adjust it so that it's *almost* long enough to go all the way through the brass, but not quite. Drill with the larger bit until it bottoms out against the chuck. Now you have a thin brass wall left that's easy to drill through with the little .020" bit. These small bits can be found at hobby stores.
Then bang the barb into the hole on the end of the grainger valve with a hammer. It should be in there really tight! Then assemble the whole thing, and the finished product looks like this.
The G-Valve goes in-line between the wastegate actuator and the boost source. It has been noted that spiking seems to be minimal when the lines are kept short, and the vent hole is kept small. Try .020" - .022" for a vent hole. (The above directions are for a super sturdy G-Valve, mine has a plastic barb and a welding tip for the vent, I will probably build one with the brass barb and drilled .020 vent and retrofit it later.)
To adjust the valve, unlock the lock-nut, and screw the unit together, so that it gets shorter. The shorter you make it, the higher the boost goes. You should be able to get it really close to 13 lbs without hitting cut out. Re-lock the lock ring, and it'll stay where you set it. The knurled knob turns to make the valve body shorter or longer. The lock ring stops the movement after adjustments are made. The vent orifice needs no filter, as it never sucks air in. Making the valve longer LOWERS boost, while making the valve shorter RAISES boost.
I assume no liability for this modification, you perform this at your own risk. It is very easy to grenade your motor if you do not know what you are doing and do not know what is going on with your motor. I would recommend installing a calibrated boost guage and an A/F ratio guage so that you will know what boost level you are at and when the mixture starts to lean out. You do not want to go below .90, catastrophic things can happen to a motor under boost with too lean a mixture. I would start out low on boost and adjust the valve gradually until the desired boost level is reached. I felt safe going to 10 PSI with a stock motor but this could vary depending on your motors condition, monitoring your engine's vital signs are VERY important, run premium gas to avoid pre-detonation.
OK, now the car handles corners pretty good and is relatively fast from a low-modification standpoint. The factory speakers are pretty good as is the factory radio but I wanted a CD player with a little more low-end oomph. So, I decided to go with a simple Blaupunkt CD player and built a sixth-order bandpass enclosure for a 10" Blaupunkt speaker powered by a Blaupunkt amplifier. The amp and a window to see the speaker were flushed into the top of the box. At some point I will upgrade the door speakers.
The box does not take up too much room and I was able to sell the third seat on eBay (I still need to plug the seatbelt anchor holes that are visible above). You can tell from the CD player picture that I replaced the factory shifter also, it just didn't feel right in my hand. I relocated the overdrive switch to the console, it is the small red button on the right of the shifter. The only time you really need to use it is when towing, I never use it, so moving it off of the shifter was not an inconvenience.
I finally got around to replacing the now non-functional boost guage with a much needed oil pressure guage. I used the VDO vision series to blend in with the factory guages, they use a similar fiber optic lighting scheme. The 2 1/16 guage was too large to push through from the front so I used some JB Weld to position it behind the opening, it looks right at home. The wiring was pretty straightforward, most of the needed connections are there on the guage cluster, the only wire that needs to be run is the one going to the sensor. I bought the sender that has the idiot light provision so it was an easy swap.
The next thing on the list was E-code headlights, the ones our totally ignorant DOT decided we didn't need. It doesn't make any sense because the euro spec units provide more light where you need it with the added benefit of not blinding drivers because of the sharp cutoff. I discovered it is not easy to find these units in the US, I did find Tony Verrigni (1-800-888-6586, can beat dealers' price on any Volvo part and can get Volvo euro-only parts) carried new units for around $900. This included everything needed to convert over to E-codes. However, being the budget minded person I am, I tried to find someone abroad with used ones. I was fortunate and found Juha Pirskanen. He lives in Finland so these lights were made for similar Left Hand Drive cars and would work for me, with shipping they only cost $350, and arrived in great shape. The filler plates have provisions for wipers but I like simple and filling in the holes and repainting was my choice, I don't live in an area where I would need headlight wipers , no snow :-) He can also provide US Volvo owners with other light options and euro accessories, great guy to do business with and knowledgeable about Volvos, link to his "Tractor Pulling Center" at the bottom of this page.
Last thing done before car was sold was the 3" Flowmaster exhaust, sounded great and MUCH quicker spool up- Click thumbnails to see larger PIC:
Here is my friend Mike's car, check out the mono wiper conversion. Mike is currently fine tuning this mod and working on putting a kit together with step by step instructions so that anyone can do this conversion, he is a Volvo tech so he knows what he is doing :-)