Updated: Nov 9, 2019
Today the classic car market tends to forget "sensible" family cars. Yet, the distinctly unsexy Volvo 200 enjoys a dedicated following.
Why is that?
The Volvo 240 remained in production for almost two decades, selling around three million copies, a third of which were the iconic wagons.
This longevity is perhaps the reason the 200 Series is one of those cars even non-car-enthusiasts can instantly recognize.
Not bad for a car that, when launched in '74, wasn't even a completely new model!
The new "200 series" built upon the sturdy foundations of the previous "100 series" model in production from 1966, whose bodyshell was modified for improved passive safety. Because, you know, Volvo!
A new McPherson strut suspension provided room in the engine bay for the new V6 engine co-developed with Peugeot and Renault, while the adoption of rack and pinion steering improved drivability.
I believe the enduring appeal of the Volvo 240 lies in the values that made it a commercial success in the first place: it's what I'd call a "statement" car. It's an object built to last in a throwaway society.
Its shape followed no trend. A Volvo 240 has no confusion about what it is, and its driver doesn't feel like he or she has to demonstrate anything to anyone. And that must certainly count for something, in a world of crossovers and huge fake exhaust pipes.
I'd gladly own one.
But even the good ol' brick couldn't fight the winds of change, and by 1989 its range was reduced, its days looking numbered.
Then in 1992, a strange phenomenon happened.
Volvo Italia invented the name "Polar" and stuck it to the hatches of 240 wagons loaded with options and offered at an attractive price in the wake of the new 850's launch.
And Italians went bananas.
All of a sudden, a fifteen-year-old design was the car to have, much to the surprise of the people at the Goteborg HQ, who were nevertheless happy to oblige. So much so, that the last 240 ever made, preserved for posterity at Volvo's corporate museum, was indeed a "Polar Italia" spec wagon.