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Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
4/4/23 2:28 p.m.

Hi Y'all...

I just got offered a 1994 Volvo 850 Turbo Wagon that seems to be pretty clean for next to nothing. Actually, my mechanic nephew got offered the car, but he just got another dirt cheap project in the form of a 2001 GTI VR6, so he wants to pass this one along to me. All I know is it has nearly all its service records, it's been meticulously maintained, it's a one owner car with an automatic, it has around 130k on it, and it looks a lot like this (not the exact car):

What do I need to know about these? It comes with winter steelies and the twist 5-spoke Turbo wheels, and it recently had the timing belt done. I need another car like I need a hole in the head, but I have had a hankering for something Scandinavian ever since a pine tree launched a limb toward my 2003 Saab 9-5 a few years ago. Any insight on these would be much appreciated!

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/4/23 3:52 p.m.

I loved my 1995 Volvo 850 wagon, na with manual trans.  

At only 130k, I'd say go for it.

Incredibly comfortable seats and a high utility design.  I hope the seats are the dark charcoal ( near black.).  The other option is tan and the tan just doesn't wear as well. 

Very comfortable seats and generally the car is a great hyw traveler.  Even the manual adjust seats have like a 6 way adjustment. 

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/4/23 3:54 p.m.

My ex- bought one about 10 years ago.  Very comfortable car - if it has the black leather seats, they are an awesome combination of comfort and support.  She had endless problems with the transmission.  Eventually dumped it at a huge loss.  Next owner got rear-ended and it was totaled. 

A GTI VR6 is definitely an upgrade as a project car, and I'm no fan of the VR6.  

car39 Dork
4/4/23 4:34 p.m.

Biggest issue with any Volvo is deferred maintenance.  If the repairs are reasonably up to date, they can be solid, comfortable drivers.  The 850/S70 series was a great car.


dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/4/23 4:44 p.m.

Love the look of those. Always wanted to do a track car based on one of those but it would need a RWD conversion and a manual trans with a motor of some sort.   

I think the v70 got the exaggerated tail lights up the sides of the lift gate that while not bad looking we're not my favorite look.  

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/4/23 5:53 p.m.

In reply to dean1484 :

These lights?

That Volvo above is the exact color of mine with the same hub caps.  But, I had the Charcoal interior rather than tan.  This one has the rarer cloth seats.  The cloth (even in tan) is very durable.  Its just the tan leather.  It seems like it was thinner than the charcoal.  

Streetwiseguy MegaDork
4/4/23 6:05 p.m.

If it's old enough to be one of the four bolt wheel cars, it's near impossible to find brake parts.  Those are pretty rare, though.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
4/4/23 7:23 p.m.

Ok, I've got more details: 

-1 owner car

-Actually has 113k miles, not 130k

-Recent struts, timing belt, and more

-2 sets of wheels: winters on factory steelies and the 5-spokes

-5 lug car

-Little to zero rust, garaged since day one

-Dark gray CLOTH interior with heated seats

-Service records dating back to 2000 when the place switched to computers from paper

I got a few pics but I will have to post them later. Looks like a winner. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/4/23 8:33 p.m.

Sounds even better, so far.  

If you do move forward, my best advice is to make sure you have a set of torx bits.  I got by with a set like this in 1/4" that could be added to either a ratchet handle or a straight handle like a screw driver.  

Then entire car is put together with these (and put together nicely.)  You can't even change a spark plug without them...really.  The spark plugs are under the decorative, logoed black cover and guess what?  That cove is held on with 6 torx bolts.  

When reading the paperwork, see if there is any history of engine mounts being replaced.  In the picture above, that circular disk is a top engine mount.  They are notorious for the rubber to break and generally this mount is then not doing its job.  But, when it's not doing its job the other mounts, the lower mounts are getting overworked.  Good mounts really firms up the feel and road smoothness.   

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/4/23 9:02 p.m.

If your seats are manual (not power operated) they still have height adjustability but It is not really all that intuative and you could miss it all together.  Between the seat and the center console there is a small lever which you could go your whole life not knowing it is there.  

I found these instructions:  

1 Height adjustment (manual)

The front section of both front seats can be adjusted to eight different height settings and the rear section

of both seats can be adjusted to nine different height settings.

Lever forward = adjustment of front section

Lever rearward = adjustment of rear section

For simplicity, imagine that the seat is attached to the car a 4 points, much like 4 legs of a dining room chair.  Two rear and two front.  Lever forward and the two front legs go up and down. Lever rearward and the rearward legs two go up and down 

But, if you're trying to adjust the seat, while sitting in it you sort of need to do the following...
Desire to lift the rear of the seat:  Pull lever rearward and sort of jump up on the seat to sort of take your weight off the seat to encourage the seat to come up.  

This is what the hidden lever looks like: 


ShawnG MegaDork
4/4/23 9:09 p.m.

In reply to dean1484 :

I remember reading that the 960 engine responded well to turbocharging. 

More displacement, same engine architecture and rwd already.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
4/4/23 10:03 p.m.

Ok, now I have pics!

The car came in to get the summer wheels swapped back on. These are those wheels, and they are among my favorite Volvo wheels, so that's cool. 

This is the car. Nephew says it's in great shape with minimal rust, if any. Looks solid from here! 

It's a 850 Turbo, so it has the 20V 5-cylinder Turbo engine. Nephew tells me the lady maintained it "with an open wallet". I like that. 

It had the timing belt done 2 years ago at his shop. Also says that he thinks he remembers doing the engine mounts. 

Since then, it's only accumulated another 600ish miles. 

It's believed to be the original owner, and it's always been serviced at his shop since near new. They were gonna scrap it "because it's old". Only "major issues" are one of the headlight wipers is broken and it needs a serious cleaning/detail job. Whether I end up with it or not is up to my nephew; he wants it too but he's at his limit with vehicles. Either way, it's a cool car that deserves to be saved, and I'm glad it will get a 2nd chance with an enthusiast. Radwood material right here! 

Loweguy5 GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/4/23 10:45 p.m.

Omg omg omg.

That's a highly sought after car in a desirable color.

Not scary performance but fabulous looking and great seats.

Reliable when maintained as it appears to have been.

What an amazing find!  I just sold my 99 V70 non turbo with 180k miles and it was a fantastic car.

If I were you I would make arrangements to buy it first thing tomorrow.  Even if you drive it briefly, you'll be able to flip it later at a handsome profit if you get it all cleaned up.

pointofdeparture GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/5/23 1:04 a.m.

Looks like a nice score! I've had a pair of P80 wagons and currently have an R sedan, they can have some annoying issues but are fantastic cars overall. If you have any specific questions for a current owner I'm happy to oblige (and have a build thread going for my R in the appropriate forum).

Since you know the timing belt has been done, the one other thing I would make sure has been replaced is the PCV system, with OE Volvo parts only. It's a wear item on these cars and can cause the seals to blow out if not replaced, and non-specialists typically don't know that it is a necessary service item.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/5/23 3:36 a.m.

Check out RobertDIY on YouTube. 

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/5/23 3:39 a.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

If he doesn't currently own any Torx bits, he can go to the little tool kit that he will most certainly find near the spare tire. Under the pair of white cotton gloves will be a two sided torx driver that will fit almost everything on the car. 

Kendall_Jones Dork
4/5/23 8:41 a.m.

Volvos of that vintage use galvanized body panels, so they will never rust (unless you chip the paint deep enough).  I had an all black 850 turbo wagon we put like 200K miles on - I loaned it to an employee with the instructions to give it an oil change, he drove it another 20-30K WITHOUT an oil change until it blew up on the side of the freeway.  I was upset but kinda impressed.

calteg SuperDork
4/5/23 9:04 a.m.

That is an absolutely great score! If you don't want it, I do

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/5/23 9:16 a.m.

That roof rack looks like it could be the Volvo logo genuine accessory.  If it is, it will make your wood more rad!

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
4/5/23 9:39 a.m.

The deal is, the owner just ordered a new car, and when that gets delivered, this one goes to me or my nephew. We're still working out who will ultimately end up with it, but we agreed that if one of us needs to get out of it for whatever reason, it will go to the other, so no flipping. 

The owner is from my hometown. My nephew and I have scored deals in the past from people who are "done with their old cars" and we just scoop them up for dirt cheap. So far, he's owned 4 vehicles (not bad for a 20YO kid) and all of them were deals like this. Some of them needed minor work, like brakes or a tune-up, but people there look at them like "old cars" and they need the newest Lexus, Volvo, Mercedes, etc to keep up with the neighbors. That's how I ended up with my Saab for $100. Needed a battery, tires, and an exhaust repair, as well as a detail job. Drove the thing 20+ miles home without a hiccup! 

Knowing the disposition of the owner, yes, those are likely factory cross bars on that rack. I've also never seen one of these with a cloth interior; they always have leather. I prefer the cloth and the cool 90's pattern on the seats. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/5/23 10:05 a.m.

Another thing that is not perfectly intuitive...

You mention a headlight wiper is broken and that reminds me.  The way to get these headlight wipers to work is hit the windshield washer fluid for a bit of an extra long hold.  This will send water onto the headlights and a few sweeps of the headlight wipers. 

That is their function; clean the headlights. Their function is not what you might think, like windshield wipers, to keep the water off the headlights.  These wipers do not move when the windshield wipers run (other than the cleaning function of the windshield wipers.)

APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
4/5/23 11:54 a.m.

I bought a well cared for, normally aspirated, 850 sedan for my wife to drive when we first moved to NM.  It was a great car.  It was comfortable, fun to drive and dead reliable for the 20k miles or so that we had it.

It ultimately did it's Volvo thing and sacrificed itself to protect my wife when she rear ended an F-250 with it.  She hit so hard that she totaled the F-250.  Thanks in large part to the Volvo she was just a little sore the next day.  Really upset with herself but pretty much uninjured.


Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
4/5/23 11:58 a.m.

Oh, and I have a full set of Lisle Torx bits still sealed in the package. I'm good on those, guys! 

ShawnG MegaDork
4/5/23 2:06 p.m.

This thread makes me want another 850 Turbo.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/5/23 3:15 p.m.

Wagons are a +100% value boost in the Volvo world.


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