Diary of a Used Car Salesman: A Fetish for Swedish Bricks

Photo: Murilee Martin

I hate the word fetish. It beckons the thoughts of neurotic foot lickers and perverts the world over. I always believed the word “aficionado” was more apt for my liking of old Volvos. It’s true that a lot of normal folks idolize the Porsches and Ferarris that embody the “speed” of the automotive experience. Some of us love the luxuruies of Rolls Royces and Bentleys . . . hell some idolize the Toyonda clones for their high quality and simplicity. In times past I’ve been ‘all’ there. I love the contributions all these manufacturers have given to our culture and our garages.  But these days, I really appreciate longevity . . . and frugality . . . and functionality . . . which is why I absolutely love old Volvos.

An enclosed pickup, hauler of seven, leather, sunroof, seats that you can sit in for hours on end. Throw in a powertrain you can’t kill with live ammunition and lines that exude function and strength, and you’ve got the classic Volvo wagon. When you turn the key the red brick engine gives forth this declaration of, “Vroom!!! I’m there! Let’s go!” That 4-cylinder engine will often be attached to a wagon body that still offers better fuel economy and towing capability than many of today’s substitutes.

Servicing is grade school easy. Most everything except the heater core is in arms reach. And the prior owners? Old Volvos tend to be the most conservatively driven, well loved and well maintained vehicles out there. I can literally count on both hands the number of hour plus conversations I’ve had with prior owners after buying their Volvos at the auctions.

As for the rest of it? Well, I’ll put it this way. Volvo’s of the late 1980s and early 1990s were made to last 18 years on average . . . in Scandinavia. With Georgia having the smoothest of roads and a blissfully rust-free climate, I can probably drive one until the steel wheels finally turn as square as the rest of the vehicle. But as fate has it, I recently needed to use one to return an old favor given to me years ago. This past week I had a grandma trade in her 1992 740 wagon for a 2004 Dodge Grand Caravan. It was love. But as with that old Camry I wrote about a week ago, I knew it was time to take the good fortunes of my past and “Pass it Forward.”

Since a good friend of mine knew of a young couple starting out, I decided to sell it to them for $1000 after performing a 200-mile test drive around metro-Atlanta. High quality parts, a gentle hand, and diligent maintenance will hopefully continue to make this old Volvo a keeper car, and deservedly so.

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One Response to Diary of a Used Car Salesman: A Fetish for Swedish Bricks

  1. Scott Kelley says:

    “a young couple starting out, I decided to sell it to them for $1000”

    Kudos and good Karma to thee.

    So much pure greed in today’s world.

    Sure, folks, at least some, dig into their lint-lined pockets and plunk pennies into various charitable containers, send centavos to folks torn asunder by tornadoes, cyclones, earthquakes, etc. but, on the person-to-person level especially I have noted much non-charity.

    A few years back I sold a well-maintained still-strong 1991 Toyota Previa van to a just-starting-out Iowa family.

    They needed it due to the female unit having spawned. It was the perfect vehicle for their circumstances.

    We took it to their mechanic a few miles away who thoroughly checked it and suggested a few minor repairs with the only “major” one being making the A/C work again (that was obviously needed from the get-go and I made no effort to hide that… even if it could be done).

    I knew I had made the proper decision when the young lad said, “No, it IS more than worth 500 bucks” I had lowered the price to and then reached my rock-bottom price of a mere $300 as the mechanic (who I trusted since I WAS observing the inspection and was educated in a basic manner regarding repairs/costs/parts costs/etc) read aloud his findings and I mentally factored the general”cost of ownership” if the lad bought the van).

    Yep… the young feller’ refused that give-away $300 price.

    That told me a lot about the guy.

    And I know i made the right decision and hope that but do not expect wondrous Karma to envelope me and reward me with the winning Lottery numbers leading to unearned wealth in the hundreds-of-millions of dollars range.

    Though that would be nice.

    Anyway… it pleases my shriveled worn-out decrepit Old Coot heart to read of another doing a good or at least semi-good deed for another human.

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