Roy’s Volvo 340 GL isn’t mint. It wears its battle scars with pride, each one a reminder of a life well lived. Delivered new in Bolton – and subsequently sold again by a Volvo dealer in Chorley – it appears to have spent its entire life in the North West.
The light rust on the bodywork hints at time spent on the coast at Formby, Southport or Wallesey. The stone chips on the bonnet suggest trips along the M6, M61 and M58. The hole in the back seat hints of some overenthusiastic loading.
These things do little to detract from the appeal of the Volvo 340 GL. This faithful old hatchback has survived the passage of time and has stories to tell – the scenes of unimportance that go to make up a life.
Kids being whisked home from the school disco on a wet Friday evening in the North West. Being parked alongside other unassuming family hatchbacks in the supermarket car park. Crammed with luggage for the annual trip to the seaside. Battling the rush hour traffic on the A6 in Chorley.
Today, the Volvo 340 has never been more appealing. Hampered by an image crisis when new, it quickly spiralled into the bargain basement section of the classifieds, before enjoying a renaissance as a retro rear-wheel-drive oddity.
It always felt a little like Volvo’s adopted child. Born as the Project P900 in the early 70s, the Volvo 300 series was destined to be a DAF-badged family car. But following Volvo’s takeover of the Dutch company, the planned DAF 77 name was dropped in favour of The Volvo 343.
This wasn’t Volvo’s finest hour. The press used words like ‘mediocre’, ‘stolid’ and ‘staid’ to describe the Dutch-built Volvo 340 GL. It didn’t help that it was designed to accommodate DAF’s Variomatic transmission, which meant the option of a manual gearbox was slow to arrive.
It may have been a Swedish-Dutch-French creation, but the Volvo 300 series was perfect for Britain. The firm’s marketing department played the middle classes like a puppet, quite literally positioning the car as a Volvo that costs less than a Ford. Why drive an Escort when you can have a Volvo?
The Hyacinth Bouquets of Britain loved it. The Volvo badge added a touch of prestige to the driveways of suburbia and soon became the hatchback of choice for people who use knitted toilet roll covers and write letters to Points of View. For the rest of us, it was a slow-moving obstacle to frustrate us on our way to work.
Against all the odds, production of the Volvo 300 series spanned 15 years, with the last car rolling out of the Eindhoven factory in 1991. By this time, nearly 1.1 million had been built, with the hatchback joined by a saloon version, and Volvo adding a 2.0-litre engine and a manual gearbox to the list of options. But it could never shake its fusty and fuddy-duddy image.
Roy isn’t a fuddy-duddy. He almost certainly doesn’t have a knitted toilet roll holder in his downstairs loo. But he does own a rather lovely 1988 Volvo 340 GL. At least he does at the moment. Furnish Roy with 800 pounds and it could be yours.
He told PetrolBlog, “Ideally, I would love it to go to a good home, to someone who will work through all the little jobs until it’s back to its former glory. However, I know that as soon as I hand over the keys, that’s not really any of my business anymore.
“If someone can get some use and enjoyment out of it, I guess that’s what counts.”
It comes with the provenance of appearing in a play set in Skelmersdale, which is far more exciting than a knitted toilet roll holder. There’s also a huge stack of receipts, an optional cassette holder and an original dealer sticker on the back window.
With 53,000 miles on the clock, it’s a low-mileage car, even if it is powered by a Renault engine. What’s more, Roy is only the third owner, having bought the Volvo in 2013.
“I’ve really enjoyed having this 340; it’s quick enough to be fun, but economical enough to be useful,” says Roy.
“It’s actually been a great family car, especially when the kids were smaller, although I’m not sure how much they appreciated being picked up from school in it, when all their mates’ parents had modern cars. That stuff is character-building though, right?”
He’s honest enough to admit it’s not perfect, but knowing Roy, he’ll be only too pleased to run through everything over a mug of tea and a chat about the good old days. Just don’t ask him about knitted toilet roll holders.
Some of the faults are listed on the Gumtree advert. A Volvo 340 GL for the equivalent of a few monthly payments on a PCP deal – a car that’s primed for the next chapter in its life. Ready to play a part in more scenes of unimportance. You know it makes sense.
If you fancy getting in touch with Roy, here’s his Twitter account.