Keith’s Blog: The Uber Rollback Program

Three strikes and you’re out. That’s been my philosophy with old cars for some time.

Recognizing that a car that comes into the SCM Collection may not have been used regularly, I anticipate a period of unreliability as they are put into service.

However, our 1965 Volvo is testing my patience.

When it first arrived, I had specialist Cameron Lovre at Swedish Relics check out the car. He remedied many issues with the worn-out front suspension, dried-out window gaskets and shocks and springs. He tuned it as well.

It was already updated with PerTronix ignition.

Nonetheless, a week or so later the 122 exhibited what car journo Paul Duchene refers to as “fainting-goat syndrome.” Suddenly, it began running on two cylinders.

As Swedish Relics was closed due to the coronavirus, we had a rollback take the car to Ed Grayson at Consolidated Auto Works. Ed is a Jaguar expert, so the twin SU carbs on the Volvo were familiar to him.

He adjusted them and the car ran perfectly.

A couple of weeks later, my daughter Alexandra and her friend Ross Meinhart drove the Volvo 60 miles to the Oregon Coast. In Astoria, the car began to run poorly. When we got back to Portland, it was back to two cylinders.

Not wanting to risk having the car die on the freeway, it was another rollback for a return to Consolidated.

Ed said the car fired right up when he got it and ran fine. He fiddled with a couple of things but didn’t find any smoking pistols. He surmised that we might have flooded the car at some point, and it never really cleared up.

During the next two weeks I put about 250 miles on the car, and it ran perfectly.

Then, last week I was on Interstate 5 North near Portland’s Moda Center when the Volvo, without warning, lost all power. Dead.

I coasted towards the narrow shoulder with cars and trucks whizzing by at 60 mph. Some good Samaritans from California stopped and pushed the car further out of traffic.

Miraculously, Matt Crandall of the Avant-Garde Collection pulled up.

“When I saw the Volvo stalled on the freeway, I was sure it was you!,” he said.

“I’ll give you a ride home, then get the Avant-Garde rollback and take the car to our shop,” Matt said. “I’ll have our tech Chris figure out what is going on.”

Matt jokingly asked if I had enrolled in the Uber Rollback program, where they have rollback trucks in constant circulation, waiting for old cars to break down.

I haven’t heard back from Matt or Chris. I’m hoping they find something simple that is malfunctioning and that the car can be put back into SCM service.

If they don’t, I will be tempted to sell the car. I don’t have time in my life for cars that don’t want to stay fixed. The Volvo has gotten more than its share of attention and money. It should be reliable by now. Fundamentally, it is a very simple car, with a basic pushrod engine and a straightforward electrical system.

I have other cars to drive, and if every time I take the Volvo out it comes back on a flatbed, then it is not the right car for me.

 

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market, now in its 33rd year. Keith has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and had his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity. He has received many honors, including the Lee Iacocca Award, the Edward Herrman Award, was inducted into the Concorso Italiano Hall of Fame and more. He is on the boards of directors of The LeMay Museum and Oregon Ballet Theater, and was formerly the chair of the board of the Meguiar's Award.

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  1. Has the gas tank been thoroughly cleaned in your ownership? Wouldn’t be surprised at clogged fuel lines. Don’t give up so easily! That’s the joy of old cars – never knowing 100% if you’ll get there! “All mechanical issues are electrical.”

  2. Keith, i had the similar problem with an 88 Carrera Cab i bought out of Ca in 2015 that had SAT in previous owners garages more than being driven, as i started putting miles on it, it would have the reoccurring ‘miss’ usually at start up ,sometimes would clear up sometimes not, in for plugs, wires replace one bad injector, drive a few times …fine…then same issue…in for more tune up stuff..check for vacuum leaks new fuel filter…ran great a few times then missing again…until a friend said “ maybe its the gas? Hummm…sucked all the gas out added ethanol free 89 octane bumped octane to 92 with ‘boost’ and added a can of Seafoam…no problems since and runs better than ever…sometimes we just over think the problems and ignore the obvious…Chuck Coli

  3. Keith isn’t it remarkable how sensible (if I dare use that word) we become as we get older. I suspect at least for me that word is easier brought to mind when selling a new acquisition as opposed to buying one.

  4. From 1961 for nearly 40 years I owned 4 cylinder Volvo’s. All were equipped with SU carburetors except for the last one which was fuel; Injected. None of them gave me the problems you are experienced! Problems I encountered were usually due to my modifications to the car. One of my favorites was my 1967 (?) 144 which I installed a overdrive unit from a P1800,air conditioned and seats from a 164. It would easily cruse at 80. How unfortunate that you are having situations, that a shop manual would probably help you overcome.

  5. Sounds electrical to me. I think. You should get a wiring diagram, a test light, and a VOM, and hand them all to your son, with instructions to call you when he’s found the problem.

  6. Hi Keith — As others have mentioned (albeit difficult to diagnose remotely) your issues point to fuel delivery. Gas tank been cleaned/boiled? Also, I realize it’s possible to tune those SU carbs, but if they’re original they most likely need rebuilding at this stage – Paltech Technologies can be your friend here. As a point of pride, don’t give up!!