Volvo 242 Turbo

When I was 16, I got my first car – a 1992 Volvo 240 wagon.  For those not familiar with the name, I’m sure you’ve seen the car.  Here was mine:

My friend’s dad had gotten a black 240 sedan a few years before and I always thought it was such a cool and eccentric car.  Soon after getting my wagon, I found out about the rarer 2-door model, the 242, and instantly decided I wanted one – a black one with the turbo.  A year or so later, I’m bored and checking out the 240’s on ebay one day when I find just that.  It was a project car for certain, but I wanted it to be.  That exact black/2-door/turbo combo made it pretty rare, so with my luck, surely it was located in Oregon or somewhere far away…  I  scroll up to the location – it’s not even 2 miles down the street.  Long story short, I begged my dad to help me pay for it up front and he did, so thus began my never-ending, money-eating labor of love.  I eventually sold the wagon but still own the 242.  This page is really about that car, shown at the top.



When I bought the car, the engine ran, but not particularly well.  With 250k miles on the clock, poor compression numbers, and an inferior design compared to newer Volvo engines, I decided it had to go.  I opted for a later model Volvo engine from the 940 Turbo to replace it, which looked like this when I pulled it from a Volvo at the junk yard.

I had the engine fully rebuilt (bored, decked, valve job, etc) and decided to go ahead, dig deep into the 242, put it out of commission for several months, and do the job right.  Anyone who’s worked on a car/boat knows how this slippery slope goes (“Well, if I’m already doing X, then I might as well do Y…”).

In this spiral dive-bomb of logic, I decided that with the modifications I had already made or wanted to make to the engine, (larger turbo, altered cylinder geometry, different cam, etc) it didn’t make sense to put the factory engine control unit (ECU) back into the car.  Instead, I decided to install a Megasquirt ECU.  What is Megasquirt (MS)?  Well you can read all about it here, but basically, it’s an aftermarket open-source ECU that can be made to run many spark-ignition fuel-injected engines.  As it turns out, all engines of this type pretty much work the same – at least from the ECU’s standpoint – so the user builds and installs the MS making all the necessary connections, (to coolant temp sensors, fuel injectors, ignition coils, etc.) then tunes the MS by connecting it to a laptop and using some tuning software written to be used with it.

Knowing this, I continued assembling the engine with the necessary MS sensors and connections going into place.  For example, below you see a toothed wheel on the front of the crankshaft.  This had to be installed in order to use a more desirable ignition system from a Ford Focus with the MS computer.

After a little more wiring and bolting, the engine was getting close.

 Meanwhile, the engine bay went through this:

And finally, the engine goes in:

And after a few more dozen hours, I had this:


Meanwhile, interior got an overhaul too.  The original tan interior was faded and gross looking, so I converted to a black interior using mostly black interior parts from junkyard 240’s.  The seats and door panels I had reupholstered by a local shop.

And finally, it was pretty much done.


At this point I was a full-time undergraduate student so work progressed slowly for a few years.  When I graduated from college, I had the car repainted from the belt-line up – the harsh Florida sun had taken its toll on this Florida native.

The shop did a great job, smooth as glass.


The car is more or less at a stable point now.  After spending a year or two ironing out all the kinks that come along with such a drastic project, I had the ECU tuned as well as I could get it, so I took the car down to a Dyno shop (Central Florida Turbo) to squeeze out the last bit of power.  The dyno chart is below – 231 HP @ 4800 and 303 Ft. Lbs. @ 3100.