It’s not every day you see a Volvo 142S. When you do, you quickly realize how beautiful a boxy car can be. Especially with a drop and a good set of wheels.
The Volvo 142S is quickly becoming one of those cars that’s not only hard to come by but also rising in price. It wasn’t that long ago when these cars were only desired by safety-conscious people or those with the love of anything Swedish. Tony Adzhemyan, though, wasn’t a total fan of the brand or country but knew he liked the car. “It was just something I happened to see,” he told us, “It was on Craigslist and was posted for over a week. Nobody gave the original owner a call for it until I did.” A little bit of talking later, and Tony was able to get it for a great deal.
It can be hard to explain why the shape of the 142 is so desirable, but we have a theory on why. It has the right blend of European sensibility with a little bit of American brutishness mixed in. It’s able to seat four comfortably – even as a two-door – while its square body lines give it a strong and athletic character.
Tony’s 142S takes the look and improves it by getting a lower stance with its 800-lbs/inch front springs and 250-lbs/inch rear springs. Tony has been more of a BMW guy – we’ve featured his 2002 before – and he quickly had to learn about the trials of lowering a multi-link, solid-axle car. Since it has a Panhard bar to help locate the rear against side-to-side movements during its travel, he needed to make sure it was adjusted correctly for the static height he wanted. Fortunately, an IPD adjustable Panhard bar makes that job easy.
The rear also uses an IPD sway bar in the rear for body roll control. Other IPD parts include the adjustable front torque rods and an IPD front sway bar.
Since the Volvo 142 is a vintage vehicle, the interior is handsomely modest. The original seats have been replaced with a set of Recaros. Though, their brown upholstery matches well with the rest of the old-fashioned Volvo interior.
The old Volvo steering wheel is long gone and replaced by a Momo Super Grand Prix. It’s a fitting addition since it matches the wood grain details of the 142S dashboard.
The gauges are from a 142, but a GT instead of the original S. The S had just a bar-style speedometer that swept from left to right along with a fuel and coolant temperature gauge that had similar looks. The GT, on the other hand, included a tachometer and used all round gauges. Further, these gauges are out of a European version of the 142GT, so that’s why you see that the speedometer reads to 200-KPH.
A three-piece wheelset makes any car look so much better, but a set of Gotti J55Bs in 16x7 in the front and 16x8 in the rear are much more special. The iconic brand of French-made three-piece wheels are no longer around except in a model name only, so these are truly a rare set.
The large grille opening with its angled bar is easily recognizable as “Volvo” to anyone with even passing knowledge of European cars. The first time it was used was way back in 1927, along with its “masculine” logo. However, it’s not the symbol for Mars, as many assume it is. The circle with its arrow pointing at the 1-o’clock position was an ancient alchemic symbol for iron. The original owners of Volvo wanted a symbol of strength. Even in the early 20th century, Sweden was well known for its steel production and is why the “iron mark” was chosen.
Strength and durability are qualities that the Volvo brand has been known for since its inception. When it comes to engines, the B20 Red Block comes with an equal reputation. They are easy to maintain and love forced air induction. It makes it a favorite for anyone wanting an easy and cheap way to the turbo life in their Volvos.
For Tony’s car, it’s quite a bit more simple with its Weber 32/36 DGV progressive downdraft carburetor, which is perched above a rare Cannon intake manifold. The Spanish-made two-barrel induction is easy to tune, and parts are readily available in the United States.
Other modifications to this engine include a Pertronix ignition conversion to remove the old points system of the distributor. Tony also added an alternator with a polished chrome mounting bracket in place of the generator the 142 originally came with. Outside of maintenance items, the engine hasn’t been touched internally. Though, that also means it tops out at around 65-MPH and makes highway travel a slow progression while staying put in the right-hand lane.
The exhaust has been custom piped, and when you look behind the car, you also see the original Volvo mud flaps.
While most 1970s European cars have large bumpers to satisfy USA regulations, anything prior to the 1973 model year was exempt from the requirement. So, being a 1972 142S, you don’t see the large bumperettes that really drag on the clean looks of these classic cars.
“Just driving down the road, I get a lot of honks and thumbs up,” says Tony. People just really appreciate the yellow brick and know how special it is upon their first glance. “They might not know what it is at first,” he continued, “but once they realize it’s a Volvo, they are thrown completely off, and it gets a lot of love after that.”
While it is one of four cars he owns, Tony drives this car quite a bit. “I try to drive everything at least once a week to keep their batteries charged and oil circulating,” he said, “but I drive this car three to four times a week.” Even though the car doesn’t make a ton of power and uses a solid rear axle, it is a fun car to drive.
With Volvo’s reputation of being tough and tanky, this 142S might even outlast some of the cars he currently owns - even the ones he's rebuilt. It may even outlive Tony as there are many elder Volvos out there today that are still running and driving, nearly like they were when new.
While it’s not a literal box on wheels, the square design of the 142 will always look different in the sea of modern, rounded body styles, and that’s why a 142 will always get someone’s attention. Add in the iconic reliability of the Volvo brand, and you have a car nearly worth its weight in gold. It’s a style and reputation not many cars can match and why they have become so valuable. Even for Tony, it was the color and shape that brought him into the Volvo, but he’s staying with his 142S because of its dependability and drivability.
Story by Justin Banner
Photos by Antonio Alvendia
If you enjoyed this Volvo 142S, you can find additional Volvo-related content at volvo.fcpeuro.com, as well as more build features like this one, here. If there's anything specific you would like to see, or if you have any questions/comments, leave them in the comments section below.
Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to Europe, and now has sights set on restoring a classic Mercedes. Antonio was a principal photographer on the limited edition hardcover book on Singer Vehicle Design's Porsche 911 builds, entitled One More Than Ten. Future goals include returning to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and driving the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS