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.