In this post I will try as best as I can to summarize how this project started, what has (and has not) been done over the last 8 years, show some pictures and embarrassing videos, and give a general layout of where the project is heading.
I have always liked Volvos for their quirkiness and underdog status. When I was born I was driven home from the hospital in a 745 GLE, which in time became the first car I learned to drive on. By that time it was pretty beat up, but I liked the car regardless. After I turned 18 I bought myself a 1997 Camaro Z28 with the money I had earned from my jobs, and took that car with me to college. I didn’t like putting so many miles on the Camaro, so I started looking into getting a beater Volvo just to drive around. I ended up buying a 1988 Volvo 740 Turbo on craigslist for $300, and that’s when I got my first taste of forced induction. It was all downhill from there.
The Boat Engine
In March of 2006 I came across a used Volvo Penta AQ171C engine for sale on craigslist. This engine came out of a Bayliner because the exhaust manifold had developed a leak, and it was cheaper for the owner to replace the engine with a SBC than to buy a new manifold. The engine is based on the Volvo B230 block, but the stroke is increased to 86mm to give a displacement of 2490cc. The engine also has a DOHC 16v head, and dual Solex carburetors. The compression ratio is 9.7:1, and peak power is 167hp @ 5700rpm.
After a few emails and phone calls back and forth with the seller, I purchased the engine and brought it home.
I was pretty excited at this point, and immediately got the engine running with the stock ignition setup:
One great thing about this engine is that people are always looking for spare parts for it. I was able to sell off most of the marine specific parts to people from around the world and actually sold parts for more money than I paid for the engine to begin with.
Since buying this engine, I was pretty good at stumbling upon used boat stuff on Seattle craigslist. Ended up purchasing another AQ171C, a disassembled AQ171A, a disassembled AQ151C (2.5L 8v marine motor), and a few rare camshafts and a 531 8v head! I somehow always found sweet deals on these things.
At this point I was faced with a problem. I had the fairly stock 740 Turbo, but even then I knew that car wasn’t worthy of this engine. So I started looking for a 242. I posted a wanted ad on Turbobricks.com and luckily found the perfect car for the project, and it was even fairly close to me. The car was a 1984 Volvo 242 Turbo, but it did not have an engine or transmission installed, and needed a lot of work done to it. The suspension was frozen solid in the front, the paint was sun faded on top, and basically just everything needed to be replaced. But it was a solid chassis! It had been an eastern Washington car most of it’s life, so there was almost zero rust except for slight surface rust under a couple parts of the floor. We agreed on $150 and I towed it home to my garage in Bellingham. By mid-April I had completely gutted and cleaned the car so I could begin the project. I also painted the floor with Eastwood Rust Inhibitor, just in case.
First order of business was to get the engine mounted in the car and running. At this time basically nobody on Turbobricks was running a 16v in a 240 because of the lack of clearance for a distributor on the head as comes stock. I did a bit of research and bought some coil packs from an LS1 truck to use with a MegaSquirt v2.2 box I had. To do this I wired up the necessary components to use the stock VR sensor to read the holes on the 60-2 flywheel.
Now comes a rookie mistake. After trying for weeks to get the car running, I was still unable to get it working. This was my first ever MegaSquirt (or aftermarket EMS for that matter) install, so I figured I just had something wrong in the settings or wiring. After checking things over so many times, I was still stumped. Finally I decided to count the sensor holes on the flywheel that I assumed used the standard 60-2 pattern. I was wrong. For the marine engines (and the Regina cars) a 44-2-2 pattern is used instead! Well that explained why the car would try to start, but then shoot fire out through the carbs.
I found a used 60-2 flywheel from a Volvo dealership somewhere for a good price, and a week later I had the engine running fine. Lesson learned about assuming things. Anyways, here is a short video of the car running with the carbs:
At this time I was attending Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington for my bachelor’s degree. I had a part time job, so I was able to buy some stuff for the car. I did not have a real timeline for the project, so I was really good at waiting and getting good deals on parts. A good deal came up on a Garrett GT35R turbo, so I bought it. Bought some forged H-beam rods from John Vanlandingham in Seattle as well. Eventually I sold those and bought the rods that R-Sport International offers, based on concerns with John’s piston design (or lack of design) for the 86mm stroke engines. Bought Wiseco pistons to go with the rods too. Eventually I changed my mind about which turbo to run, so I sold the GT35R and bought a Holset HX50. Got some double adjustable Koni race inserts, coilover parts, and a fiberglass replica Group-A wing. Slowly but surely I was gathering up the parts I would need.
At this point I had a Crescent socket wrench kit, a floor jack, a cordless drill, and some basic hand tools. Not nearly enough to fabricate a car. One of the most useful tools I own was then purchased. Enter the angle grinder. With this I was able to modify my strut tubes to fit adjustable coil-over sleeves. I ended up selling these because I wasn’t making use of them at the time, and now I have something else in mind for the front strut tubes.
Then I started taking parts of the car off the car to clean and paint them before they went back on. I cleaned up the k-member and painted it satin black and installed some RSI Stage III engine mounts.
I also undertook the laborious task of removing all the tar paper from the floor and firewall of the car. Please no more.
One of my other most useful tool purchases, possibly even more so than the angle grinder, was my first welder. I saved up and bought myself a Lincoln Electric Power MIG 140C and a welding bottle to go with it. Having never welded anything in my life before, I started by seam welding the chassis of the 242. I’ll just say that at this point I have used multiple MIG welders, both low end and very high end ones, and I wouldn’t trade mine for any of the others I have used. It’s 120v so you don’t need to plan your welding around if you have access to a 240v outlet, and if I need to weld something thicker than this welder can handle, it really shouldn’t be going on the car!
The goal for my 242 has always been to have a trackable street car, but as of lately it has changed more to a streetable track car. In 2006 I had pretty good general knowledge about cars, but really did not have the experience, knowledge, or tools to design and fabricate my own car from the ground up. I knew what end result I wanted, but not exactly how to get there. Obviously over the course of the last 8 years, my goals have changed a bit. Back then I thought it would just be insane to have 500hp from the engine in turbocharged form. Right now I have set a target to achieve 600whp from this engine using a series turbocharger/supercharger configuration. This car is not being built to comply to any particular racing class, it is just being built exactly the way I want it. I am an engineer and take pride in finding my own solutions to problems. Sure, there are plenty of off-the-shelf solutions that work for most people out there, but if I can make something that is better, I will. This project should be looked at more as an engineering project rather than just another modified car build-up. Besides my power target, I have focused on reducing the weight of the vehicle as much as is practical. My weight target is 1200kg (2650lbs), and I have tried to decrease the center of gravity height and the inertia of the vehicle with smart packaging of components. The car will also feature aerodynamic modifications to increase downforce and stability of the vehicle. In 2008 I tried to put the concept look of the car in my head into an image, and this is what I got:
I decided that I wanted to get rid of the live axle in the rear, and opted for a BMW E30 semi-trailing arm rear suspension to take its place. Found one of these on craigslist and picked it up. A few months after that I came to the conclusion that if I was going to be retrofitting the rear suspension anyways, it would not be a whole lot more work to install a real independent rear suspension instead of what the E30 uses. I started looking around at different options, between the 2003-04 Mustang Cobra, C4 Corvette, E38 BMW, and E39 BMW. I ended up choosing to go with the E39 BMW rear suspension for several reasons. It is a true double wishbone suspension, and it is relatively lightweight with its all aluminum construction. Besides this, it is easy to adapt the large BMW 210mm ring gear differential since the E39 M5 comes with one stock. Strong axles are also available for this same reason. It has a 5x120mm PCD and comes with decent brakes, even though those are long gone. I was able to get a complete subframe/differential/suspension setup from an E39 528i from a wrecker on Bimmerforums.
After removing the stock 1031 live axle and suspension from the car I weighed it at 200lbs dead even. There was probably a pound or two of dirt on there included in that. I then weighed the E39 rear suspension at 201lbs. So I gain a pound there, but the decrease in unsprung weight is one of the main advantages of this modification. The springs and dampers in the rear will be connected to rockers actuated by pushrods.
In order to make fitting the E39 subframe easier and to allow packaging of the fuel cell behind the driver seat, I removed the rear section of the floor. I also added rectangular steel reinforcements on top of the subframe rails since I would need to notch the lower side of the subframe rails in order to mount the E39 subframe at the correct height. At the same time I also removed the inner wheel wells so that I could fabricate new ones with more tire clearance.
In order to match the bolt pattern of the rear, I bought some E36 M3 front spindles to use on the car. These spindles bolt to the strut housing instead of being an integrated part, which is a bonus. The steering arm lever is almost exactly the same length as the stock 240 spindles, and the taper is the same as well. I cleaned them up, installed new hubs and pressed in ARP wheel studs.
A little bit after this I bought some replica BMW CSL wheels in 18×9.5 and 18×8.5. I thought they were pretty sweet looking, but I have since sold them because I felt they didn’t match the car as well as I had originally thought.
A couple years ago I stumbled across a deal on a pair of CCW Classic wheels in very nice condition, for a steal of a price. The rears are 18×12 and the fronts are 18×11. This is the race version with swiss-cheesed centers to reduce weight, anodized black finish, and steel lug hole inserts. These wheels are perfect for the car in my eyes!
At the time I wasn’t satisfied with the cost and functionality of the adjustable camber plates available for the 240, so I designed and manufactured my own. The plates consist of a mild steel ring with 16 holes around the perimeter that gets welded to the stock strut tower. The other parts of the camber plate are made of stainless steel and bolt to this ring from underneath. Together, this allows the strut to be positioned anywhere within the ring, allowing any camber/castor settings in this range to be used.
For the front suspension I am sticking with MacPherson struts, but as mentioned earlier using E36 M3 spindles. The hardpoints will be modified to match the characteristics of the rear suspension in order to have a predictable handling car. I have Koni 8611 double adjustable race strut inserts that I will use inside custom machined strut tubes. The lower control arms will be custom made as well from 4130 tubing. For the outer ball joints I have Meyle full-metal units that will be used, while the inner connections will use steel rod ends.
Anti-roll bars will be installed at both the front and rear of the car. In the front I will use a knife-style ARB and in the rear I have not determined what will work best for my packaging requirements. The E39 rear suspension comes with an ARB, but if I can do a lighter and adjustable solution I will.