1988 Volvo 240GL
A Swedish tank gets a new lease on life
Published on 26 Sep 2023
As the sun directly blazes overhead, I barely feel it while lazily steering this 1988 Volvo 240GL down Ministry of Defence Road (yes, that’s the official name of the road on Google maps). Driving in fourth gear at an indicated 40mph, engine purring away and air conditioning impressively chilling the cabin, the car almost seems like a time capsule. It’s like I have somehow time-travelled to 1988 and am testing a brand-new example that’s just landed in Sri Lanka. Is this the real life? Or is it fantasy?
It is real life, as evidenced by the car’s physical presence, and of course its 15 Sri license plate. Owned by car collector Kishan Dominic Perera, and fresh after a painstaking restoration to near-factory condition, the car is a lesson to all aspiring restorers as to how it should be done. Everything, right down to the stickers in the engine bay, the plastics, the functionality of the gauges and electronics, is spot-on. The radio works, as does the air con, and the instrument cluster’s needles don’t have that “Shaking Stevens” vibe common on many classics due to the fatigued electro mechanicals behind their mechanisms.
Having a chat with Kishan over a cup of tea, I discover that Kishan has always been fascinated with rudimental robust automotive designs from the Eighties and Nineties, as he puts it. Mind you, this is coming from a chap with a modern 911 Carrera T sitting just outside the office in which we chat, in all its seven-speed manual glory. Our Editor Nimal drove that car some time ago when it was first imported to the country, and did a review for Motor.
However, the 911 is more a weekend toy for Kishan, and he admits that he regularly drives the Volvo a lot more. He cites examples such as the Mercedes Benz W123, W124, BMW E30 / E34, Toyota Land-cruiser 80 series, Peugeot 504 / 505 and Volvo 240, 340, 740, 940 series as being of particular interest to him. This led him to search for a 240 with its original engine. The search was rather arduous, as not many cars survive, and many that do have seen their original engines swapped out for a sacrilegious diesel option.
As luck would have it, Kishan stumbled on this particular car online, advertised for sale by a young man who meant to restore it but couldn’t get around to it. The car sported its original petrol engine, and Kishan purchased it in January 2022. By June 2022, the restoration was underway, with a lot of parts sourced from the UK, Sweden and Germany. Kishan tells me that local searches for parts were fruitless. The project was completed in March 2023.
Kishan says that the car has been a joy to drive so far. It’s supremely comfortable, reliable, safe and economical. The maiden long-distance journey was a 600km round trip to Nilaveli, which he says, the car handled without a single issue, while giving him a fuel economy figure of approximately 10km per litre.
This particular 240GL is motivated by a Volvo Red Block B230E engine. The 2.3L four-cylinder mill utilizes Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection to deliver 114hp and 136lb-ft to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. As you’d expect, you’ve got power steering, and power-assisted disc brakes on all four wheels.
Seeing a car that’s been meticulously restored to this level is impressive, and driving it is even more special. That’s why I’m going to end this review with the words I wrote on my LinkedIn update shortly after encountering Kishan’s Volvo. It went, “Featuring old cars is just as interesting as checking out the latest ones, although with Sri Lanka's near-total automobile import ban, we don't get much of the latter. That's why it was a pleasure to drive and photograph this 1988 Volvo 240GL”.
I did promise that the full feature would follow…and you’ve just read it!