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The Definitive Guide to the Legendary Volvo 142

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The Volvo 142 is one of the most iconic models in Volvo’s long automotive history.

Produced from 1966 to 1974, the 142 pioneered Volvo’s foray into a sporting sedan class beyond its traditional focus on safety and reliability. With a more powerful B18 engine, sport-tuned suspension, and distinctive styling, the Volvo 142 delivered excitement while staying true to the brand’s values.

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More than just another boxy Volvo, the 142 has left a lasting legacy in the auto world. Let’s explore the history, variations, performance specs, motorsport heritage, and vibrant enthusiast community keeping the legend of the Volvo 142 alive today.

Background and History of the Volvo 142

The Volvo 142 represented a shift for Volvo into more premium sports sedans to compete with rivals like BMW. But the 142 also maintained Volvo’s renowned quality and high safety standards. Developed alongside the 144 4-door version, the 142 debuted for the 1967 model year as a 2-door sedan/coupe.

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Unlike Volvo’s previous 120 Series, the 142 featured a more powerful B18 1.8 liter overhead valve engine plus front disc brakes and an Audi-type front end with double wishbones and coil springs. The 142’s handsome styling with slim roof pillars and lengthened nose gave it a lower, sleeker, and sportier look than older Volvos.

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Volvo made continual improvements over the 142’s lifespan including a larger 1.9L B20 engine introduced in 1969 along with a redesigned rear axle. As emissions regulations tightened in the early 70s, power decreased but handling grew sharper. By the end of its run in 1974, the 142 cemented its status as Volvo’s first true sports sedan.

Key Volvo 142 Models and Variants

Volvo produced several different 142 models over its lifetime that embodied Volvo’s move upmarket along with customers’ growing appetite for performance. Here are some of the most noteworthy and collectible 142 models today.

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142S The high-performance 142S debuted in 1967 featuring Volvo’s B18B engine tuned to 115 PS along with front disc brakes and a sport-tuned suspension with stiffer springs and shocks. Distinguishing exterior features included a matte black grille, rear fog lights, and dual exhaust tips. The luxurious interior even included reclining bucket seats, earning the 142S nickname the “sports car with four seats.”

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1800ES Sportwagon A rare take on the 142, the 1800ES Sportwagon combined the 142 2-door coupe body with a station wagon rear end. Only 8,077 examples of this unique “shooting brake” model were produced from 1971-1973 powered by the B20 2.0 liter engine. With plenty of cargo room yet sporty styling, the 1800ES enjoys an enthusiast following today.

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142 GLE As the top-of-the-line 142 model starting in 1970, the GLE (Grand Luxe Executive) received Volvo’s fuel-injected B20F engine producing 125 hp along with power windows and seats. Luxurious exterior touches like brightwork on the grille and premium interior appointments elevated the GLE above the other 142 trims.


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Seeking better fuel efficiency in the early 70s, Volvo launched the economy-tuned 142E in 1972 using a low-compression B20 engine and taller gearing in place of the B20F. While performance suffered, the 142E achieved over 30 mpg highway fuel economy: a rare sub-model, only 3,000 total 142Es sold in its short two-year production run.

Volvo 142 Performance Specs and Engines

Throughout its lifespan from 1967 to 1974, the Volvo 142 was offered a range of B18, B20, and later B21 engines, each with distinct specs and performance capabilities.

Here are some key details:

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B18B – 1.8L OHV inline-4, twin SU carbs, 115 hp, 123 lb-ft torque (1967-1970 142S)

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B18D – 1.8L OHV inline-4, single carb, 90 hp, 106 lb-ft (1967-1968 base models)

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B20A – 2.0L OHV inline-4, twin side-draft carbs, 108 hp, 114 lb-ft (1969-1971)

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B20E – 2.0L OHV inline-4, Bosch D-Jetronic injection, 125 hp, 133 lb-ft (1972-1973 GLE)

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B20F – 2.0L OHV inline-4, Bosch K-Jetronic injection, 125 hp, 133 lb-ft (1970-1972 GLE)

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B21A – 2.1L OHV inline-4, single carb, 100 hp, 133 lb-ft (late 72-74 base models)

Complementing the engines were 4-speed manual transmissions or 3-speed automatics depending on trim and year. With curb weights around 2,500 pounds, performance ranged from modest on lower trims to quite quick with the GLE and 142S models able to hit 60 mph in under 10 seconds. Handling prowess increased throughout the car’s life along with braking performance thanks to front discs.

Motorsport Legacy of the Volvo 142

In addition to excelling as a sporting road car, the Volvo 142 built an impressive motorsport resume in the late 1960s and early 70s. Competing in touring car and rally racing series worldwide, the 142 proved it could outhandle many sports car rivals.

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The 142 claimed the European Touring Car Championship both in 1970 and 1971 defeating BMWs and Alfa Romeos. Volvo’s 142 race cars upgraded to about 220 hp also won Deutsche Automobil Rundstrecken Meisterschaft (DARM) series from 1969-1971. In rallying, a 142 won Kenya’s grueling Safari Rally in 1972, outlasting the punishing conditions where few finish.

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While factory support ended around 1973, privateer 142 racers continued winning in touring cars through the 1970s. The model’s robustness and agility on track cemented its reputation as tougher than the Volvos of old. For enthusiasts today, the motorsport successes of the 1960s provide an exciting history behind this model.

Importance to Volvo’s Brand Evolution

The Volvo 142 represented a major inflection point for transforming Volvo’s brand image and upscale positioning that continues to this day. Without sacrificing safety, the 142 demonstrated Volvo could build cars with style, performance, and driver enjoyment in mind.

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The model proved tremendously successful, outselling Volvo’s past models and bringing new customers to the brand. Its appeal to younger buyers and women stands out, as the 142 coupe did not conform to the typical stuffy Volvo stereotype. By broadening Volvo’s customer base and competitive set, the groundbreaking 142 set the stage for even more potent sports sedans and wagons to come.

Volvo 142 Enthusiast Community

Given its legendary status among Volvo’s historic lineup, the Volvo 142 remains beloved by collectors and enthusiasts today who keep surviving examples on the road. Owners clubs like the Volvo Sports America association organize meetups, offer parts support, and provide forums for discussing maintenance tips along with vintage modifications.

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While rarer performance editions like the 142S and two-door 1800ES often receive the most attention, even base 142 coupes and four-door 144s have enthusiast followings. Keeping a 50+-year-old Volvo running requires dedication, so many owners bond over the shared joys and challenges of vintage Volvo ownership. Auto events like Volvo Meet coverage and Scandinavian Car Shows allow 142 fans to share knowledge and celebrate the cars.

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With pristine examples exceeding $20,000 in value, and even project cars costing several thousand, the Volvo 142 carries real financial value alongside its intangible collectability. For vintage Volvo collectors, the 142 represents the pinnacle of the brand’s early sports sedans.

Buying Guide and Restoration Tips

For those looking to purchase one of these vintage Swedish classics, certain tips and insights can help find the best example.

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  • Avoid rusted models unless you plan a full restoration. The 142 chassis can suffer from severe rust if not garaged or maintained properly over decades. Check wheel wells, floors, trunk, and fender bottoms closely.
  • Matching numbers of engines and unmodified examples command higher prices of over-restored and modified cars among collectors. Documents verifying original components help prove provenance.
  • Later production 142s generally have fewer issues than early builds as Volvo refined the car over time. The 1972-74 models improved rust protection for more chassis longevity.
  • Performance models like the 142S and GLE tend to cost 50-100% more than base trims. Weigh this premium against personal preferences.
  • Look for service records, past maintenance repairs, and upgrades like charging system and suspension rebuilds to ensure a solid base.

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While restoration costs can be daunting. Many Volvo enthusiasts relish the chance to refresh an old 142 to its former glory fully. Online forums and specialty parts vendors provide the resources for even ambitious projects like engine swaps and performance upgrades to keep the timeless 142 exciting today.


From its sleek, sporty styling to uprated powertrain and sharp handling. The Volvo 142 broke new ground for Volvo while respecting the brand’s core qualities. This balancing act made the 142 an instant success that redefined public perceptions of Volvo as the sportier.

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Volvo 142

On track in touring car and rally racing. The surprisingly muscular 142 took on Europe’s best sports sedans and came out on top. This motorsport pedigree demonstrates the performance credentials beneath the 142’s practical 4-seater body.

Lasting for nearly 10 years almost unchanged, the Volvo 142’s enduring appeal passed the test of time. For the Volvo faithful and Swedish car fans. The history and qualities of the groundbreaking 142 will always have a special place. Its influence on Volvo as a driver’s car and status symbol persists today.

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