Volvo ruined my life

This boxy bastard held me back

4y ago

Some wealthy American business types stare from their office windows at a view of Central Park. Others, at the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, can see the whole of the UAE. I know a man whose office is a wooden gazeebo in his garden, and as he works he looks upon the merrie greenwood of olde England.

I look out of the window of my office onto the storage compound of a Volvo dealership.

One day, I’m going to have a Volvo estate. I’ve said this before, and I know it will happen. Not yet, because I’m not ready, and not tomorrow. Probably not for years, to be honest, but it will happen one day. As Saint Augustine of Hippo said, 'Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.' Sometimes I think the inevitability of eventual Volvo ownership means it’s something I should just get out of the way. Otherwise, it’s a bit like pretending I don’t need to go to the dentist.

But all that is for another time. It’s not, in any case, why Volvo ruined my life. To understand that, we need to step back to c.1977.

Just out of shot is a teenage boy being mercilessly drowned at the end of a nylon line.

Just out of shot is a teenage boy being mercilessly drowned at the end of a nylon line.

I liked a girl called Susan (I’ve changed her name in case she’s reading this. Her real name is Sally). Sue lived in a modern house, with a driveway along one side and a garage at the back. It was up this drive I would have to walk as a downy faced new suitor to visit her than whom no fairer was.

Unfortunately, in walking up the drive I had to pass her dad’s parked car, and it was a Volvo 244DL.

Younger readers should know that this car harked from an era when Volvos really weren’t funky in any way whatsoever. The 244 had evolved from the earlier 140-series saloons, which had been designed by one of the directors’ children using a ruler, a pencil and a coin to draw around for the wheels. It was a brutally functional car, from a time when the pragmatism and dourness of the Swedes made the Scots look like the Banana Splits.

'…trembling vestige of my teenage heart'

Cyrano de Bergerac de James May

The 240-series – available as a saloon, estate or two-door coupe (God knows how that happened) – developed the shape-of-a-Volvo philosophy quite radically, with a slightly sloping radiator grille. There must have been massive and heated meetings about this at Volvo board level, because it’s difficult to see how it was necessary to introduce a rakish and unexpected angle other than 90 degrees to a modern Volvo. They had ruthlessly expunged the wanton curvaceousness of the P1800 and Amazon, and now this. Where would it end? With the V40. Bloody thing hasn’t got a straight line on it anywhere.

Look at the slight body roll. The car is flat out and so will the ducks be, any second.

Look at the slight body roll. The car is flat out and so will the ducks be, any second.

Anyway. The sort of man who chose to drive a car as square as the 244 was not going to let me anywhere near his daughter. I knew that as soon as I rounded the corner and came face-to-face with its bluff front. It screamed ‘stop!’ And I did.

I mean, he could have chosen a Rover SD1, Peugeot 504, Citroen GS, Ford Granada… any number of cars that were less boxy than the 244. Removal vans were less boxy than the 244, and they were designed to hold boxes. But no. He made a conscious choice to drive a car that said he didn’t care for the frivolous or the unnecessary or even the faintly rounded off. The 244 was the least styled a car could be whilst still allowing the occupants to look out of windows.

So; Susan remained elusive, and I believe I was slightly retarded, sexually, by the Volvo 244. Who knows how differently my life might have turned out if there’d been an Austin Princess on the drive. Even now, if I think about the Volvo 244, I feel the cold clutch of the unrequited on the trembling vestige of my teenage heart. Or something.

But do you know what really bothers me? Years later, when we had gone our separate ways, I learned that Susan’s father had suddenly and unexpectedly run off with a much younger woman. In his Volvo.

Where’s the justice in that?

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Comments (118)

  • Volvo ruined my hand... well almost.. ok not really but it did do a good job of scratching me. Timing belts and Serpentine Belts are so much fun to change on these. Had to create a belt tool out of a pipe end cap, rugged but got the job done.

      3 years ago
  • Remember the car phones of the mid 80s? Like a house phone handset, attached to the center console, cord and all? I know its analog but I wonder if you could get one to work...

      4 years ago
  • Curiously a silver 240 GL estate did anything but ruin my life. It was the family wagon and the first car I drove on my 17th birthday.

      4 years ago
  • Last year I acquired a Volvo V70XC Cross Country Wagon, used, with low mileage. It was what I could afford and frankly much better than my Chevrolet Cavalier (small and functional). I've never had fancy cars and frankly I felt as if I had a luxury car, leather interior, sun roof and heated seats (I was living large!) I think it all comes down to perception Mr. De Bergerac. You embody a youthful outlook and frankly I live vicariously through you as I watch you go out and have your adventures. No worries Mr. May, a Volvo will only come into your life when you choose to let it. Your youthful heart, outlook and sense of adventure will always be there and we are the lucky recipients to see all you will accomplish. :)

      4 years ago
  • I drive a 240 - did I sexually retard myself? XD

      3 years ago