Street-Spotted: Volvo 240 DL

a car parked on the side of the road
Street-Spotted: Volvo 240 DLAutoweek

For a car that exited production in 1993, the Volvo 240 still doesn't feel old. But the model is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Of course, the 240 didn't look quite like this when it debuted. The Swedish automaker's "boxy but good" bread-and-butter model landed in 1974, wearing large, round headlights—perhaps easy enough to be confused for the 144 that it was replacing.

The engines were certainly new, as were quite a few mechanical bits, but to the casual observer, the changes may have looked like a facelift.

However, the round headlight look didn't stick around long. By 1978 Volvo introduced a quad-round headlight setup that is pretty difficult to find among the remaining examples today.


The quad-round fascia was a distinctive look, and it coincided with several other European automakers wearing very similar spectacles in place of their rectangular Euro-spec lights. (And relatively few, with the exception of the Mercedes-Benz W123, can even be readily spotted today).

The quad-round look quickly gave way to the quad-rectangular sealed beam setup that—if not quite rare yet—is getting more difficult to encounter outside of some traditional Volvo strongholds in the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest.

The final version of the 240's front fascia (if we don't count the Classic-badged look only for the 1993 model year as a separate item) is the one we spotted here, still looking very energetic. And it's easily the most common 240 arrangement.

a car parked on the side of the road
Volvo went through a few different headlight and grille variants before settling on this look in the late 1980s.Autoweek

By the time this look arrived in 1986, quite a few versions of the 240 had already departed.

Volvo stopped offering the two-door 242 sedan and the 262 coupe, and the diesel models also got up and left, because gas was cheap again. (Try finding a diesel 240 for sale today).

So some variety had faded from the lineup, with the 200 series by now having been joined by the 700 series in the US.

How did Volvo pitch the 240 by the second half of the 1980s?

"No car more perfectly expresses the basic Volvo philosophy than a 240 sedan," ad copy of the time boasted.

"If it's a Volvo, you know it has been designed with safety, quality, and durability as primary considerations."

Given the fact that we still seen plenty of 240s on a weekly basis, we can't really disagree.

When it comes to European sedans of the 1970s on the road today, the 240 is perhaps largely competing with the W123 when it comes to numbers still in use.

Will the 240 be as easy to spot in another 10 years as it is today? Let us know what you think in the comments.