I really should have known better. Having written more than a million words about modified cars and their owners’ stories during my career, I probably should have learnt a lesson or 10 by now. But that would mean I’d been listening to my own advice, or that I was immune to being a car enthusiast, when quite obviously all I want to do is spend money and break my car. Over and over again.
I covered off why I own a Volvo long ago, so that’s the first illogical decision I made. Maybe naively, I fully believed this update was going to be filled with joy and laughter; pictures of me clipping apexes on track and basking in the glory of an early morning mid-winter blast. And for the large part it is…
Apart from the driving part, that is. Now I’m counting pennies instead of apexes and the Volvo is unable to move without making some freaky noises. But I only have myself to blame, and with my big boy pants on I’ll hold both hands in the air and focus on the amazing changes that have been made and why I’m so happy with them.
Because on the whole, it was a summer of joy. The last time you saw the Volvo was at the end of August 2015; the pictures had been taken as I dropped it off at DynoTorque in Birmingham, where, long story short, I’d manned up and decided to fix a whole load of stuff properly.
My primary reason for going to see Craig at DynoTorque was to have an ECUMaster EMU standalone engine management system fitted. My 2.3-liter, B230FK-based ‘redblock’ had used a Motronic LH2.4 ECU since it was installed in the wagon a couple of years ago, but Mike Suter, who I bought the donor engine from, always said with better cooling, more fuel and a proper ECU I could make far more of the motor.
That had nagged at me since; the power was mine for the taking and after way too much deliberation I settled on the Polish-made EMU. It’s been temporarily mounted here where the glovebox used to live.
But I’m currently deep in the RCP* stage, using a spare dashboard to mock up a new look for the interior. I’m no Keith Charvonia when it comes to fabrication, but I’ll have a shot at something better than the gaping holes which are there at the moment.
*rapid cardboard prototyping
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Craig’s methodical, analytical approach to the Volvo meant as well as the flaws I’d listed, he made it his calmly dedicated mission to iron out all the others I hadn’t spotted. Genuinely, the man has the patience of a saint, and as he got deeper and deeper into the relatively shallow Volvo, the scale of what needed to be done became clear.
Up in the air on his ramps, the front suspension came in for some scrutiny. Where we’d previously made up a coilover conversion, now the front lower arms were angled up towards the bottom ball joints at an alarming angle. Craig just looked at me and said, “Does it bump-steer?” I replied, “Yes, a bit,” but genuinely I’ve come to forgive the Volvo’s many shortcomings as they’re my own doing. What I was essentially admitting to wasn’t bump-steer; it was that I’m a bit sh*t!
Which I am, but thankfully other people have done this before me. Lars Kristian Olsen is somebody I have to thank; having talked suspension in my last update, Lars read it and got in touch. He told me he could solve (some) of my problems as he makes uprated suspension components for Volvos. Hurrah! A couple of weeks later a package arrived from Scimec Motor in Norway. This alloy milled spacer block led the way, with Craig adding some rose joints to the spacers to the track rod ends.
But that was just the start. If you want to know the complete list of work that’s gone on and can’t be bothered to read the whole story, here it is now:
Scimec 40mm alloy strut/lower arm spacer blocks; front HSD adjustable top mounts; rose-jointed and bump-steer corrected track rod ends; OMP strut brace; Alcon discs, Brembo Audi S3 brake callipers; Driftworks braided brake lines; Vibra-Technics BMW E30 M3 engine mounts; ECUMaster standalone ECU, custom engine bay loom; Chevrolet LS coil packs; Audi S3 fly-by-wire throttle body and pedal; Nuke Performance fuel rail, cam pulley, fuel pressure regulator and filter; uprated Walbro fuel pump, Gates uprated cam belt; new fuel lines and fittings, injectors, spark plugs; full stainless steel 3-inch exhaust with custom-made heavy-duty mounts and free-flow silencers; battery box wiring and cut-off switch; smaller battery; gear linkage fully re-bushed with OE bushes; custom-adapted Caterham engine mount as gearbox mount; TVR carbon rear shocks; custom adjustable platform rear springs.Line Them Up!
So you can see there was no messing about; Craig did what I could afford and I genuinely can not thank him or sing his praises enough. One thing I know bugs me when updating you guys on the Volvo is that I very rarely write about taking it somewhere and actually driving it. Like I said, that was something I was hoping to remedy with this story. There are two reasons why that’s not going to happen though.
1. There’s simply too much work to cover off in one story.
2. The Volvo is broken, but you’ll have to wait to find out what didn’t even make it to the end of this update.
Future-proofing the project was a big thing for me, so having an ECU that can handle 1-12 cylinders means it can stay with the car forever, no matter what engine I choose to run. Anti-lag, launch control, switchable maps, Bluetooth connectivity so I can run a tablet dash, and a whole load of other stuff as standard won me over.
Craig did a couple of things I’m a massive fan of too. First up, he chose to bin the distributor and run Chevy LS coil packs mounted on the rocker cover. He moved the oil filler to the rear and then used an LS rocker cover mount frame and welded it on to my cover. A stronger more consistent spark can only be a good thing.
This meant he was able to bin a whole load of wiring and the distributor in the process, which has made the engine bay much nicer to look at. Machining down the distributor base, it now makes an excellent block breather!
Fuel and air came next. The latter was largely taken care of by Forge Motorsport a couple of years ago when they renewed the entire induction setup (aside from the turbo) through to the throttle body, and I’ve been gagging to make the most of it since then.
It still makes me smile when I lift the bonnet off and see the tubes and slabs of alloy; you can see here that the viscous fan was deleted at the same time. Every little bit helps, huh?
The fuelling was largely taken care of by Nuke Performance; again I mentioned them last time but their kit really needs to be handled to be appreciated. The quality is premium, and even their packaging has a designer feel to it; but then it is from Sweden. The fact it can now deliver enough fuel to allow me up to around 800bhp, which is going to be way more than I ever need, is just the ticket.
Now there’s a Nuke fuel rail, fuel pressure regulator, fuel filter and an uprated fuel pump under the back end. The latter is rather noisy, which just means it must be pumping a whole load of fuel forwards, which I’m a fan of.
Craig suggested I bin the original cable-operated throttle body system and go for an Audi S3-sourced electronically-controlled equivalent, which, being a fan of old school approaches, I was a bit hesitant about at first. But now? The combination of the Audi pedal and throttle body give such an instantaneous response that I would never go back to the original setup. When it comes to mapping, the accuracy is enhanced as well.What’ll She Do, Mister?
Did somebody mention mapping? It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s discussed the topic, that everybody has their own preferred rolling road, and I very quickly realised I needed somebody who knows the ECUMaster system inside and out. Bizarrely, I have Instagram to thank for finding Sam Cotton at Jam Sport in the Midlands of the UK. He saw a picture I posted of the ECU and mentioned he’d mapped tens of them; Craig and I had heard of somebody who was the ‘one’…
Turns out that was Sam!
Another bonus was I know Jamie Going who started Jam Sport, where Sam is based, from a magazine I used to work for 15 years ago. Seeing as they prep and run some serious-power road and race cars, and have a proven history, I was more than happy to trailer the Volvo over there. My confidence levels were high, and I wasn’t disappointed. After a days work on the rollers the Volvo made 290bhp running 16psi of boost, with Sam having to back off because the clutch was slipping. That will be enough power for now, honestly. Until I meet Paddy on the road somewhere…
Another reason for making a new dash is because Sam left me with these two beauties, one to flick between high and low boost (250bhp) and the other – anti-lag! Yes, I have the most childish of pointless modifications in a car like mine. I’m thinking of paying a monthly retainer to a turbo company, but that’s not the loud noise I was referring to in the title.
No, I’ve nearly reached the end so you’re not far away from finding out what I’ve been alluding too. But there are a few more mods to show off yet! This is my battery cut-off switch which Hux installed, and I finally decided on something to write on it. I’m not sure if it’s me versus the car, or us versus the road at this stage.
One thing I did learn way back was when you add more power you should always upgrade the brakes and suspension, and when Craig remembered that the Volvo has a 5x108mm PCD he pulled a set of Alcon discs off the shelf. I can’t remember the exact size, but coupled with some brand new 4-piston Brembo callipers that were destined for an Audi S3, plus some Craig bracket-making magic, the Volvo pulls up a lot sharper now.
Another problem were the original motor mounts, which quite frankly weren’t up to the job. Craig recommended and fitted a pair of E30 M3-spec mounts from Vibra-Technics, which again have made a world of difference. They’re coupled with an adapted Caterham engine mount that now works as the gearbox mount. The whole setup is stiffer without too much feedback through the shell.
Right, I’ve just looked down and seen I’ve banged out nearly 1900 words, so I’m going to leave it there and pick up on some of the other modifications next time. They’re worth it and I don’t want to just gloss over things because of time; every project car is a journey and every step is there for a reason. And because I want to fool those that have skipped to the end to discover what the loud noises are… The gearbox went bang after 100 road miles. So right now I’m pricing up flywheels, clutches, diffs and working out how to install my killer, custom-designed new Cobra seats. As ever, we’re nowhere near the end of this story.
But for now this one picture makes me very happy, as that’s the way the car sits outside today. It might look similar to last summer, but it’s all so different. Hiding behind the RAYS Volk Racing TE37Vs are new brakes and proper suspension geometry; Craig fitting new adjustable top mounts to replace my worn out rubber OE ones and fine tuning the spring rates so it doesn’t catch or rub.
Happy days are nearly here. Again.
A massive thanks to everybody who has helped with parts, advice, spanners or just general support so far. Forge Motorsport, Huxley Motorsport, RAYS Wheels, Nuke Performance, ECUMaster, Lars @ Scimec, Sam Cotton and the guys at Jam Sport, and of course Craig and everybody at DynoTorque in Birmingham. You’re all stars!Bonus Images
How you got that OMP bar to work is anyone’s guess. I tried one of those and it was crap!
Everything else however is rocking!
Need to get back to work on mine.
Damn, this wagon is soooo pimp! Just a tip, get an intake from an B230E they flow a lot better than the one you got on there now.. The downside to it: you have to weld in injector bungs
Gorgeous. It looks like you have it pretty well wrapped up but just in case I would highly recommend snabb.us - a new Volvo gofast goodies manufacturer that fills a lot of gaps for Volvo enthusiasts. I believe they just got a UK distributor. If anyone knows Volvo it is Ithaca NY, possibly the greatest classic Volvo haven in the east US (due to the two colleges and general hippie atmosphere), in the shadow of Watkins Glen Int'l.
This has been one of those true "builds" in the sense of how much is retro fitted. Truly brings the big kid out in me! Absolutely love this build and story as a whole. Love the unique touches that this thing is picking up from all areas of your auto/personal experiences. A true enthusiasts vehicle. As always, can't wait for the next update!
@Nick Plett Thanks, that's a lot of love. Appreciate it :)
@Bima Leksono In most of these photos it had been sat inside a garage for four months, then straight on to the dyno. When I got it home I washed it, promise :)
@GusssVaz I'm sad because I can't record a video! It would just be sat there not driving, I could make some loud anti lag noises... But that's not what we're here for.
Love everything about your wagon! If I was to build one, it'd definitely be along the same route and design philosophy. Can't wait till you get the tranny sorted and up the power. Maybe an air locker rear diff? Might be fun, no?
The build stories on SH are always my fav, particularly yours. And you're a true man replying to everyone's comments, positive or negative. Although compared to most builds featured online, you've got considerably less haters. Must be doing something right man!
@xrockonx Thank you, I guess Volvo is fairly inoffensive, one of the many reasons why I bought it originally. Glad you like the way it's going though, and I never really considered the lack of haters, interesting point!
I'm looking in to diff options now, so hopefully a solution isn't far away :)
This might be my favorite 240-series wagon, so I'm always rooting for Project Stripclub. Really glad to see the improvements made, and look forward to more progress made so you can at least enjoy the thing on the road while you go forwards with it!
Also, I hope you bring back the 80's sunset combo stickers on your windscreen again, it just looked so right.
@IRONWOLF RD Thank you, that's a proper compliment right there given the amount of wagons around. I appreciate it.
I really liked the sunset combo stickers, it was just a bit too loud for me on a daily basis. Plus we did some filming with it that meant they needed to be removed. I'm working up to a cheapy colour change that might include some similar graphics on the side, so stay tuned :)
Great car man, I remember you passed me on my way down to players classic last year.
Can't wait to see your next updates
@Chaz Thanks, reckon I might be on for some track time this year at Players if I get my gearbox issue sorted. See you there.
Nice work Bryn! Just remember, with breakdowns comes upgrades!
I remember, before I upgraded the m47 to a BMW zf gearbox on my Golf Mk1 rwd, I ruined 3 gearboxes in one month in the middle of season. I'm never gonna use a m47 again :)
Good luck and I hope you will be able to enjoy it on the track soon!
@SimonHenrikJonsson Hi Simon, yeah I suspect I'm just plain asking too much of the M47. Lesson nearly learnt :)
How did you mount the ZF gearbox? Chop the bell housing or use an adapter? And precisely what box did you go for?
I chopped the bell house, a BMW disc. The gearbox is from a BMW 328 e36. I don't know the partnumber but I might be able to wright it up for you.
Unfortunately there is 1:1 ratio on zf gearbox so I needed to change the ratio in the rear axle, just to get a max speed of 230km/h. But that depends on what wheels you got as well.
You can also use a Getrag from a older BMW as well, on them you can easily put an adapter between the gearbox and bell house and use the bell house from the volvo.
@SimonHenrikJonsson Simon, I think that you mean that the 5th gear is 1:1, and that is not bad at all in my book. I wouldnt prefer an overdrive gear.
Second, why would you choose a GETRAG? Is not stronger than the ZF, the ratio's are nearly the same. Yeah, it's shorter. That's why?
I'am a Volvo guy from Norway and i have a volvo 940 from 96. It has a Går rett gt35 and a 264/12.5/11.2 cam I think in it, hoping for 400hp. What turbo and cam are you running? 😁
@Jens MG Hey! I'm running the turbo from a 960 auto, so it's pretty small, I can't remember the exact model sorry. Plus the cam is standard too, what I lack in internals I make up for with management and fuelling etc. Good luck!
Love the Volvo updates, last year I met a fella that owned some kind of Sedan (I'm not a Volvo guy, didn't catch the model) that was swapped with an inexpensive GM 5.3l V8 (we can pick up complete running longblocks here for about 450usd), and then turbo'd with an ebay special! I don't recall what it made for power (low 600s or so?) but it had enough punch to run down a Lambo later in the day and BEAT it in the 1/2 mile!
@tcworley Never say never :)
any video of it on the dyno? a bit disappointed when i learned that there wasn't a video after reading the title.... scratch that i need to see a video of this beast driving!
@super jesus Sorry Jesus, yeah the plan is to shoot some video when it's all up and together. I dropped it off at the dyno and Sam did some set up runs with me there but the bulk of the mapping was done the following day. I've shot some in car stuff already, just need to top it up with some better driving!
@vroomtothetomb To be honest, I don't know. There is some fabrication involved but I don't know every detail, I should find out more really but Craig did so much work it was hard to keep track.
When converting over to these you'll need a bit of kit to get it all working as it should; typically something like an aftermarket ECU capable of controlling the throttlebody (though SOME can be controlled with just a pedal assembly), the throttlebody itself, the pedal assembly from a compatible car/manufacturer, and a bit of wire. Also, in this particular case it looks like someone knocked out an adapter plate to bolt it all up to the Volvo intake manifold. These can be found on tons of cars nowadays but you can also order their "motorsport" versions from various vendors. A lot of mid/high hp porsche and other fellas seem are rocking the 82mm (though there are other sizes that range from 45mm and up for various applications) 0 280 750 101 version which I've seen go for as cheap as 110.00 usd on ebay!!!
More info can be found in the bosch motorsport catalog found here:
Also, look how responsive they are, crazy...
Quit playing games with my heart, Bryn!
I really thought it was what you alluded to that went bang-probably because that would just be MY luck!
Good luck with everything.
@vroomtothetomb Yeah sorry, by I have to play every card when trying to convince people to read about an old Volvo ;)
@Nate It's currently got the M47 five speed box, I have an M90 here ready to go in, but I also want to swap to an uprated flywheel which means I can run a decent Sachs clutch. The latter is currently slipping at 290bhp, so it's very necessary. I'd also like to fit a decent diff, so when you add it all up that's a fair few pennies right there.
In the meantime I think I'll stick another M47 in there and just drive the thing.
@BradHarvey @Speedhunters_Bryn Thanks! The M90 box is generally regarded as the upgrade box of choice within Volvo circles as it handled the most stock power in any RWD Volvo manual. That said, I'm not a stickler for keeping it Volvo, so I have been looking at a T5. Who did your buddy use for an adapter plate?
@Speedhunters_Bryn Wow! Surprised the M47 went that far, hahaha! :D
Had a 940 with B230FT, an M90 and a few go-fast additions. Definitely go with the M90, as soon as possible! They really are "bulletproof" (from what I remember it was made by Getrag) and the difference in usability between 47 and 90 is just huge. Totally different worlds, also when it comes to rigidity and the way the gears "click in". Good clutch and more power, but mainly more torque will be no problem. I've personally seen them abused at around 400-450 hp and they were ok.
Thought about going with the dohc 16v conversion from IPD?
They make some great performance Volvo stuff. (drooling)
@Speedhunters_Bryn @BradHarvey He ended up just having the original 2 piece drive shaft modified by a little shop in town. Modified it from the bolt/plate style to the spline style it required (excuse the lack of tech speak lol). He bought the set pretty much put together from another enthusiast so it had to be sort of pieced together the rest of the way.
If you can swing it (seems like you are very capable both in skill as well as knowing the right people lol) the T5 is the IDEAL way to go. He has a modified G80 rear diff in it and deal god is it beautiful... I can imagine the M90 is signifigantly easier though!
@Speedhunters_Bryn Ive been looking at a t5 swap, this looks like a reasonably priced adapter
@FunkyChild @Speedhunters_Bryn I just realized I totally mistook what you meant when you asked me in a different comment about what adapter my buddy used lol.... That is the exact plate he used for the bellhousing, that just slipped my mind as the previous owner installed it prior to him buying it. Lots of people here in the USA use product from Kaplhenke, they can be expensive at times but quality of product is top notch.
@Speedhunters_Bryn nm, I guess he is sold out for now
@Speedhunters_Bryn I came to the comments to ask the exact same thing! First off its great to see someone else, especially on such an "enthusiast" oriented site building a Volvo.
That being said, I cant say I am terribly well versed in 240's as P80's are more my thing. Does the M90 hold much more power than the M47?
My roommate just threw a Tremec T5 from a '93 Ford Mustang 5.0 into his 242 Turbo and hoooollllllyyyy balls. If you can for ANY reason get your hands on one, that is the BEST way to go. Gear ratios are beyond fantastic for a turbo car, he can actually hold each gear for longer than 2 seconds lol...
Regardless, good luck with the build! I hope to keep seeing it pop up
@FunkyChild @Speedhunters_Bryn Yeah, the M90 can take quite a bit. Not as much as a ZF BMW box.
Depends on the usage. Going full neanderthal and really abuse the box? No, not so much. Like me, a 240 with somewhere between 200 and 300 hp (now closer to 200 hp but working on upgrades), daily driven, no problem, great box, shifts really good and lasts a long time, I've seen M90's with over 500K km that still worked fine.
@Speedhunters_Bryn @BradHarvey To be honest. An M90 gearbox is just as shit as an M47. 3rd gear will last you a week or so. The only real upgrade is a ZF from a BMW. Not 100% sure of what version, but here in Sweden they sell ZF gearboxes with volvo bell-housings completed and welded for an OK price. Just get a driveshaft, and you are ready to go. Might not be as easy to get that done outside of Sweden tho - But just a heads up.
@Speedhunters_Bryn @Douglaslindb @BradHarvey Question - How bigger the improvement is an ZF from a BMW over the Volvo M90? I ask because I run a ZF myself from a 1996 523i. I wonder how many horses can it keep before letting them all slip away :))) I guess that they are OK because I found out that the M3 E36 3.0 5 speed has the same gearbox. And that's 286 bhp on stock engine.
@Douglaslindb @Speedhunters_Bryn @BradHarvey thats pretty cool on the ZF, cant say that is common here in the "States". Its not the only option though! The more common swap here in the USA is a "T5" from an early 90's Mustang GT. Built to work with the 5.0 V8 originally so its pretty strong and the aftermarket for it is HUGE. So many shift kits and different ways to mod the box and ratios.
I'm going to look into the ZF swap though, thats pretty sweet!