1974 was a special year for Sweden: ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest and Volvo launched the new 240 series. Little did they know that these two models would become enduring successes. The Swedish manufacturer introduced three versions for the first time in the launch year of a new model series: the Volvo 242 two-door saloon, the Volvo 244 four-door saloon and the Volvo 245 five-door estate.

Safety before design

These models are a logical evolution of the Volvo 140 series. The new design line is inspired by Volvo's VESC study. From this 1972 safety concept car, the 240 takes the prominent front end and the large, massive bumpers. Depending on the version, the new Volvo is between 4.785 and 4.898 metres long, with a wheelbase of 2.640 metres.

Gallery: Volvo 240 (1974-1993)

The number series in the Volvo 242 type designation stands for four cylinders and two doors, and this body version was built from 1974 to 1984. The four-door saloon was offered under the name Volvo 244 (four cylinders, four doors) from 1974 to 1993 and the estate version Volvo 245 (four cylinders, five doors) also from 1974 to 1993.

A four-door saloon with a prestigious six-cylinder engine was marketed from 1974 to 1982 as the Volvo 264 (six-cylinder, four-door). In some markets, a two-door saloon with six cylinders was also available from 1975 to 1977, under the name 262 (six cylinders, two doors). The six-cylinder estate was offered from 1975 to 1985 as the Volvo 265 (six-cylinder, five-door).

Volvo 240 (1974-1993)

Volvo 245 DL

Volvo 240 (1974-1993)

Volvo 244 GL

For the 1983 model year, various types were given new names. The four-cylinder models were now called Volvo 240 and the 265, Volvo 260. From 1977 to 1981, the Volvo 262C, a six-cylinder, two-door coupé with a distinctive design, strengthened Volvo's reputation as a premium brand.

Volvo reinforced its leading position as one of the most innovative manufacturers in terms of safety by introducing a steering column with several breaking points and installing the fuel tank in a protected place in front of the rear axle. In fact, at the time of its premiere, the Volvo 240 was considered to be the safest vehicle in the world with the best passenger protection. In 1976, the Volvo 240 series was even chosen as the benchmark vehicle for safety research by the US road safety agency NHTSA. This distinction was renewed in 1991.

Volvo 240 (1974-1993)

Volvo 244, 264 and 265

The new features of the 240 series models were the chassis with McPherson struts and four-cylinder engines with overhead camshafts. The famous four-cylinder B20 was initially offered in parallel for entry-level versions.

In the Nordic market in particular, two-door saloons are as popular as ever, so it was only logical for Volvo to include the Volvo 242 in its sales programme. While the four-door and the estate broke all production records and continued to be built until 1993, production of the Volvo 242 stopped in 1984, as originally planned for all models in the series.

Success in motor sport

During its ten years of production, Volvo offered the 242 with numerous engine and gearbox variants. The sporty Volvo 242 GT variants from the late 1970s and the Volvo 240 Turbo, which was only offered in North America, were particularly popular. Only the motorsport version of the Volvo 242 has more power, with 330 PS and a top speed of 162 mph. It was in this car that drivers Thomas Lindström and Gianfranco Brancatelli won the European Touring Car Championship in 1985.

Volvo 240 (1974-1993)

Thomas Lindström and Gianfranco Brancatelli 1985

For a short time, the Volvo 244/264 could also be ordered with a V6 petrol engine. But it was another six-cylinder engine that became extremely popular: the world's first six-cylinder diesel for use in passenger cars. From 1979, the Volvo 240 models were therefore the first Volvo passenger cars with a diesel engine. The self-igniting engine, known internally as the D24, was developed in collaboration with Volkswagen. In some markets, a five-cylinder diesel was offered instead.

Initially, Volvo estimated that the Volvo 240 family would be produced until the early 1980s, but the series exceeded all expectations and became a legend in its almost 20 years of production. Two major facelifts in 1981 and 1986 were enough to ensure its eternal youth. In all, the Swedes produced more than 2.8 million units of the 240/260 series between 1974 and 1993. The best-selling body version was the Volvo 244/240 four-door saloon, with almost 1.5 million units sold.