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Junkyard Find: 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo With Nearly 500,000 Miles

1990 Volvo 740 Turbo wagon in California junkyard, RH side view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOne of the frustrating things about my job looking for interesting discarded vehicles is the fact that most cars and light trucks didn’t start getting six-digit odometers until the 1980s or even the 1990s. I find vehicles that I know must have racked up incredible total mileage figures, but their odometers all turned over (once? ten times?) when they got past 99,999 miles.

Fortunately, Volvo felt sufficiently optimistic to adopt the six-digit odometer way back in the 1960s, so I was able to read a very impressive figure on the one in this 740 wagon: 493,549 miles.

24 - 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo in California junkyard, speedometer - Photo by Murilee MartinYes, that’s close to 16,500 miles every year for its three-decade lifespan. I’ve found a Mercedes-Benz W201 with better than 600,000 miles and a Volkswagen Rabbit Cabrio showing a not-sure-I-believe-it 930,013 miles, plus lots and lots of junked Hondas and Toyotas (and one Oldsmobile) with readings of close to 400,000 miles, but this Volvo in the San Francisco Bay Area ranks near the top of the longevity sweepstakes.

24 - 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo in California junkyard, interior - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOne thing I’ve found with extreme-high-mile junkyard cars is that most of them were in decent cosmetic shape when they finally wore out (or, more likely, were traded in and then proved radioactively unsaleable at auction). That makes sense, because the kind of vehicle owner who takes care of all the maintenance over multiple decades also takes good care of the body and interior. A nasty hooptie with a shredded interior tends to get thrown out when something mechanical costing more than a couple of hundred bucks fails. Looking at this car, I’d have guessed it had perhaps 150,000 miles, not three times that. I see this phenomenon often with high-mile junkyard (rear-wheel-drive) Volvos.

24 - 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo in California junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe turbocharged engine is a bit of a surprise, though, because cars with forced induction run hotter, blow head gaskets more readily, and generally get hooned on harder than their naturally-aspirated counterparts.

24 - 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo in California junkyard, boost gauge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsPerhaps the automatic transmission served to keep the drivers of this car from getting too lead-footed with that 162-horse turbo motor.


To a radar gun, it looked exactly like a Porsche 944… though I’ll bet the brick shape of the Volvo made it detectable at a longer range.

For links to 1,800+ more posts like this one, head to the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.




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