I promise that this is not a sea-faring tale, nor another one of those mini-rants about a car I found on Craigslist. No, this is a bit of background about my daily driver, that we fondly call "The Admiral", a 2000 Volvo V70. I've had the car for a little over two years now, as I bought it used in October 2011 in Erie, PA, with just under 180k on the clock. It spent some time as my daily commuter and has done many long trips, including several to Michigan, upstate NY, and most recently, moved my partner and I from NJ all the way to sunny San Francisco, CA. This V70 has been a great car, not to say that it hasn't been trouble free, but I've grown quite attached to it.
Why a Volvo?
In 2011, my boyfriend, Phil, and I had been having some doubts about the future of my 1994 Volvo 850 wagon, as it had led a hard life prior to my ownership. I had bought that car in a pinch on Craigslist with bad tint, oversize chrome wheels, and no maintenance records. I had managed to put about 60,000 miles on the 850 in a little over a year. The 850, which we affectionately called "Winston", had its share of unique problems over the couple years I owned it, so we named it after a semi-distinguished, yet grumpy, old man.
I put a lot of time into trying to rehabilitate that car, but it had been treated quite poorly and that made interesting problems arise periodically. Some of these problems included a short in the interior lights that started a small fire in the dome light assembly. Also, the automatic transmission had displayed a few funky symptoms and would turn its fluid to a burned up brown mess within a couple months of changing it. Though, aside from these problems, I never had a breakdown or need for a tow truck, unlike my previous Subaru, and Chevrolet pickup, among others. My boyfriend and I decided to look around casually for a new daily driver.
I spent a few weeks looking at economy cars which included a Suzuki SX4, a 1st gen Fit and a 07 Rabbit, but these cars cost a bit more than I was looking to spend, and my credit at the time was less than stellar, so financing one probably wasn't a great idea. I'd ruled out looking at Subarus as I'd recently left a Subaru-focused business that my friends and I started, and I didn't want another reminder of that failure. I'd also just started going to classes at Rutgers in the afternoons and evenings after work, so whatever it was had to be reliable.
Finding The Admiral
I talk regularly with one of my exes, Mike, who runs a used car dealer out in Erie, PA. He's always going to auto auctions throughout NJ/PA and shares pictures of unique and otherwise interesting cars that he finds along the way. We'll geek out occasionally over odd option combinations or rare colors offered on vehicles. In early October 2011, he texted me that he picked up a really nice 1-owner 2000 Volvo V70 which had been dealer serviced since new. He also told me that the car was a rare combination: Non turbo & manual transmission, but loaded with the comfort options like leather, moonroof, heated seats & mirrors, etc. I half jokingly asked Mike "when should I send in a check?" but the more I thought about it, the more that buying another V70 made sense.
Since things had been rough financially over the past several months, my partner, Phil, had offered to put forward the initial purchase price of whatever car we were buying, just so that we'd have something we could rely on to get around. It really did take some convincing in order to get him to buy an 11-year old Volvo with nearly 180,000 miles on the clock, but that's just what we did. At $3750, this V70 was hard to beat, I thought. Mike's shop took care of the timing belt service, water pump, and an oxygen sensor before we came to get the car, just in time for Halloween 2011.
We named the V70 "The Admiral" as a nod to its Nautic Blue color, and the old-man crankiness these Volvo wagons seem to display with age, from time to time. The Admiral has taken us to weddings, funerals, out of state, across the country, and through all types of weather, and to keep a good thing going, I've put in quite some time and money in maintenance and repairs throughout the past two years. In fact, I'd venture to say I've done the most work as far as preventative maintenance goes versus any of the other cars I've owned.
Some of the work I've done on The Admiral includes the following -
-Timing Belt & Water Pump
-New Control Arms (right one done 2x)
-New Inner & Outer Tie Rod Parts & Boots
-4 Michelin Primacy MXV4 Tires
-New CV Axles L&R
-New Catalytic Converter
-New Cat-back Exhaust from Viva Performance
-Bilstein HD Struts & Shocks all around
-New End Links
-New OEM Front Springs & HD Rear Springs
-New Shock/Strut Mounts and Hardware
-New Calipers at all 4 corners
-New Stainless Brake Lines & Hard Lines for rear
-New Rotors & Akebono Pads all around
-New EBrake Hardware, Pads, Etc
-IPD HD Ignition Coils & NGK Plugs
-New Clutch, Lines & Dual-Mass Flywheel
-New Alternator (Replaced this in a hotel parking lot!)
-New Accessory Tensioner & Belt
-New Motor & Trans Mounts all around
-New Heater Core & All Coolant Hoses Replaced
-New Master Window Switch
I imagine that a significant amount of service may be in store for the 250k milestone, including:
-Timing Belt Service (Again)
-PCV Service (Intake manifold has to be removed, etc)
-PS & AC High Pressure Hoses, Possibly the A/C Compressor
-Flex joint between steering column & steering rack
Today, the V70 has 235,600 miles on the clock, and although I'm not doing a 100-mile round-trip commute any longer, I wouldn't hesitate on calling on its service in a similar fashion once again. Its always reasonably economical at 23-27mpg. Sure, it's starting to sip an ounce or two of oil between changes, but the engine is quiet and smooth as always.
The Admiral has been really good to us. It's always had enough room for whatever amount of people and cargo I want to carry. This dedicated blue wagon dragged a 3000lb trailer up over mountains and across the country. It's stood up to careless drivers, wandering shopping cars, and a hailstorm. I've gotten used to walking up to that familiar blue Volvo wagon; its dome lights glowing warmly in the night, the "clack clack" of the metal door lock pins and actuators, and the feeling of that worn leather on the driver seat bolster as I'm about to go for a drive. It's reassuring that I can count on the Admiral to start every time and take us wherever we're going, next.