There is a red Volvo 240 that I see parked around Durham every once in a while.

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I always enjoy seeing it because it brings back memories of the 240 I owned for a year when I was living in Florida. 

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The car I had prior to the Volvo, a 1994 Mazda 626, had blown a head gasket, and at 193,500 miles, I decided had reached the end of its life. I needed a cheap runabout for a year, and found this 240 for $600. It was solid, no rust, and though very dirty inside (I think I found about half of the Gulf Coast beaches in the back seat), it ran really well. I gave it a tune up, replaced the ball joints, and cleaned it up (the interior was actually in fantastic condition), and it ended up serving as perfectly reliable transportation for a year. In fact, I would have happily driven it across the country. Yes, it was painfully slow – though I could get it sideways in the wet – but it was also a lot of fun to drive around because everyone noticed it.

As solid as it was, it could have been a great project car, actually, especially when I learned that there are all kinds of conversion kits for fitting small-block Chevys into these things. But as we ended up leaving the country, I sold it. I later learned that the subsequent owner failed to take care of it and, as a result of never changing the oil, blew it up. It’s always sad when a car that could have easily done another 100,000 miles meets an untimely end.

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