Posted in car of the year, majorette

JG Car of the Year: Majorette Volvo 245 DL Restoration

Those of you who have been following the blog will immediately recognise this one. The Majorette Volvo featured here today is the same one featured back in May when I created a super-simple step-by-step restoration guide. Go check it out if you haven’t already!

When I asked people from various circles to vote on their favourite car (featured below) I was already half-expecting the Volvo to win, simply because of the positive response it had already received. It wasn’t my first restoration project, but one of my most intricate, and I’m flattered by the appreciation people have shown it.

The Car: Volvo 245 DL

When I was a tiny person, I grew up in three cars. The first was a tan and brown Volvo 245 station wagon. The second was a yellow Volvo 245 station wagon. The third was a purple 945 station wagon. Notice a pattern?

Safe to say, I was part of the generation that grew up in the station wagon (or “estate”, as we call them in England). While today’s children grow up in the minivan and the crossover, we who sit on the threshold between Generations X and Y now lament the slow demise of the station wagon, of the land yacht, of the world of twenty miles to the gallon – and of cars with personality.

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The coolest station wagon ever made? “Buy my Volvo” by PonyHands / Castor. Flickr. original

2016 is well known now for having taken many fine folks. Robert Vaughn, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, and Fidel Castro are just a few beloved names to haunt this year’s obituaries. But a lesser known figure to pass away this year was Jan Wilsgaard – designer of the iconic Volvo 200 and 100 cars. He was one of only 25 designers nominated for car designer of the century.

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“Volvo 145S” by James Tworow. Flickr. Original

At a glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking the 200 series was nothing more than a facelifted version of the 100 series of 1966-1974. In fact, the new 200 series was more based on the VESC (Volvo Experimental Safety Car), unveiled at the 1972 Geneva Motor Show. The innovations on that concept set Volvo apart as a natural leader in automotive safety.

Two years later, in the summer of 1974, two great pop-culture events took place. Richard Nixon resigned after Watergate on August 9, and on August 21, the 200 series made its public debut. Sure, it looked like the 100 that came before it. But those big bumpers said: “Look at me. I’m safer.”

There were four cylinder engines and V-six cylinder engines offered in a range of brick styles and trims to please everyone. MacPherson strut front suspension, rack-and-pinion power-assisted steering, bigger headrests, and larger crumple zones were all added to the new car.

It proved popular. Of the 2.8 million cars sold, nearly 1/3 were station wagons. Is it hard to understand why? This car was an instant status symbol. It was the Swedish brick – the car whose stringent safety standards and indifference to stylishness made it the perfect family auto. There are wagons like the Audi RS6 Avant or the BMW M3 Touring that would send any 30 year old accountant into a dampened frenzy. But they will never be as coveted and as charming as the Volvo – because the wagon has a timelessness and an attitude that cannot be replicated.

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“Beach & Countryside” – The Red Volvo at 69 Backroad Way. Owen W Brown. Flickr. Original

The Volvo will remain the definitive car of the decades spanning the 70s and 80s. A car that underwent so little exterior change in 20 years (and, if you add the 100 series, nearly 30 years) has to be the one to sum up its era.

Perhaps that is what makes it so tragic that Volvo currently sits in Chinese hands. In 1999, Volvo sold their passenger car interests to Ford for $6.5 billion. In 2010, Zhejiang Geely bought it for $1.8 billion.

My parents haven’t owned a Volvo since the early 1990s. They’re the old generation of Volvo drivers, the ones who longed for cars like this.

Ireland Images
“Ireland 1” – Ireland Images – Old Volvo. Filip Gierlinski. Flickr. Original

The Model: Majorette Volvo 245 DL

As I mentioned in the first part of this post, I grew up in Volvo wagons. I remember there being a grainy photograph of me sitting on our German Shepherd dog one summer, in the back of a tan Volvo 245 estate, tailgate open.

This wasn’t the first time my mother had decided to drive Volvos though. They were popular mom-mobiles, but they were executive luxury cars too.

This restoration project was done as an homage to my mother’s first and most beloved Volvo.

In the late 1970s Volvo added fuel injection to its all-alloy V6 engines. These cars soon had interior appointments to appeal to an affluent UK market, and affluent you had to be. With a list price just short of £7,500, and an average UK wage of £5,400, this truly was Volvo’s entry into the luxury car market.

My mother’s Volvo was that exact model, with all its luxury appointments. It came in metallic light blue, had all the standard features such as air conditioning, heated seats with lumber support, leather upholstery, electric windows and automatic transmission.

While the Majorette car is technically listed as a 245 DL and copies the mid-70s design cues, I wanted to recreate the Volvo 265 as much as possible.

The Majorette die-cast Volvo 200 series coincided closely with the lifespan of the real car, being produced between the years 1975 and 1982 (funny how the real thing should outlive the toy by almost 10 years!)

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I have two copies of the Majorette Volvo 245 DL in my collection. Next to my restored version is my first, the metallic brown that came in the 300 series with a Sterckeman “Lovely 400” caravan.

volvofrontq

The restored Volvo also came in brown with “Touring Club de France” livery.

Collectors will be aware that the other colours for this car were red, green, white and yellow.

volvotailgate

Just as you would expect with a 1970s Majorette, the Volvo 245 came with opening parts – in this case, the tailgate – and squishy working suspension. It seems to be especially floaty on this Volvo. It added a great deal to the play value. Notice also the tow pack, which did not come on all models.

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There were the three wheel variations of that era, of course, including the tri-spoke “star” wheels seen on the blue car, and the three point “nuclear” wheels seen on the brown. There were also the new style wheels.

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Not all the models came with the trailer hitch, but I’m glad mine do. It just wouldn’t be right being unable to hitch these models up to a pair of caravans. The real car could tow 3,300 lbs.

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The station wagon may be going the way of the dodo, but there are few cars on the road which will have such a lasting legacy as the 200 series.

volvobeach

I think all this car needs is some surf boards on the roof, don’t you?

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The license plate reads “921 GM 69”.

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I can’t say I’ve come across many Volvos in small-scale die-cast, but I am expecting the arrival of the Matchbox P1800S very soon, and will be doing a feature on it.

Thanks for reading, and have a happy new year!

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Author:

Graphic designer, writer for Classic American auto magazine, journalist.

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