Well, that went surprisingly well.

Between my car ownership history and that of my parents when I was growing up, I’ve been around high-mileage beaters my entire life. One of the things that I learned early on was to never look too closely. It really doesn’t matter whether you know that the rings are worn, or it’s down on oil pressure, or that the transmission is slowly grinding itself to pieces. All those things are going to happen anyway, and stopping them is a matter of major outlay that it’s simply not worth doing on an old beater.

As a result of this philosophy, I don’t make a habit of compression-testing my cars unless they’re actually showing signs of a weak cylinder. After all, what you don’t know can’t hurt you, right?

I broke that rule today, and decided to put my 850R to the test. I’d been feeling a bit down about it lately – the transmission is getting noisy, and its chronic oil leak has risen to “the Exxon Valdez parked on my driveway” levels of bad. As much as I’d love to fit a new (manual) transmission, I couldn’t quite justify it if the engine was on its last legs, and at 216,000 miles, it has every right to be a bit tired.

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After all that worrying, what did I get? Spot-on 180 PSI on all cylinders, with no variation to speak of, and still very much on the high side of the factory specs (158 - 186 PSI). For an engine that’s gone as far as mine, and that has obviously been driven ‘enthusiastically,’ I’m amazed. I was expecting it to be borderline at best, but instead, it’s still nearly as good as new. I think, too, that it speaks pretty well of the Volvo Whiteblock; despite not having the cockroach-like levels of durability of the old Redblock, it’s still a remarkably solid motor (so long as you never overheat it).

It’s always fun looking at amazingly long-lived engines; what are some of your stories of engines that refuse to age?

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