Harking from the days when Volvo built cars to a standard rather than down to a price (rebadged focus, anyone?) the 740 was introduced in 1983 intended as a replacement for the 1960's derived 240, although in actuality the 240 just outlived it, the last models appearing on a 1993 K reg.
Although worth very little these days, the volvo 740 represents a sensible choice for a practical and reliable everyday car- they were designed and built for an intended 19 year lifespan, which goes some way to explaining why plenty of 740s of advancing years are still seen on the road, particularly the estate variants.
2.0 and 2.3 litre petrol engined variants used the familiar 4 cylinder engine from the 240, and providing its looked after (as with most cars) it is capable of attaining truly vast mileages- a high mileage car should not be discounted from your prospective purchase list if accompanied by a service history.Turbocharged cars have their own set of problems, but with this type of car most faults will be commensurate with age/wear and tear. Usual checks apply, ie, make sure its not burning oil, rattling, kniocking etc, and you should ensure the timing belt has been changed at the required intervals; this is especially important if you have one of the rarer 16 valve GLT versions, which also has balance shaft belts, because if the belt lets go it'll promptly bend its valves- all 16 of them. Its not a particularly easy job either, although the GLT is something of a performance bargain, performing in a broadly similar way to the turbo models- get it over 3000 rpm and it starts to fly. officially it was 0-60 in 8.5 secs and top speed of 125 mph. If you are that way inclined, it is possible to add a turbo to a 16 valve GLT to create a real Q car with Cosworth levels of performance.
There was also a little known turbodiesel variant- never very common, it used the VW LT 2.4 litre straight six (D24t) and even rarer, with an intercooler (D24tic). This engine requires meticulous servicing using quality parts if it is to remain reliable, oil and timing belt changes carried out on the button. They can overheat, heads can crack, and they are not very easy engines to work on. there are two timing belts, which require volvo special tools to change, and use bucket and shim tappets which are meant to be checked every 25000 miles. In its favour, it sounds good, has plenty of torque (more than the 2.0 petrol) and is potentially the most economical 740 you can buy, 40 mpg being attainable. if looked after 500,000 miles has been seen.
These cars were not cheap when new, so many tended to be bought by wealthy professional people who could afford main dealer servicing, and these are what make good buys.
Things to look for- whilst they are not particularly rust prone, the wheelarches, battery trays and sill areas can all corrode. Unfortunately, one area where volvo's legendary build quality was not up to standard is the electrical system. The 740 can suffer from many maladies, including non-functioning gauges,dash lights, windows, heated seats etc etc. you should check all the electrical items you can- including on 4-speed man/od cars that the overdrive button on the gearstick engages 5th properly, the solenoid has been known to fail which will leave you with a pretty low and frantic top speed in 4th. What is also likely is that the headlining will either be sagging badly or missing completely. The adhesive fails just like old saabs and Rover sd1s, its easily fixed with some trimmers glue and a syringe if its still there.
These are large (by the standards of the day) heavy cars, which can lead to sagging springs and worn shocks, something else to check, particularly on the popular (because the load area is vast) estate variants. In the '80s the volvo estate was the quintessential antique dealer's car- many are likely to have been worked hard hauling heavy stuff around. it does'nt automatically follow that "if it fits in, the car can take it" - as I have witnessed with somebody almost lifting the front wheels off the ground with a full load of housebricks in the back!
No, it won't win any races, the volvo wasn't built for that- unless you get hold of a 740/760 turbo- these have a pretty suprising turn of speed- but it's reliable, comfortable and has plenty of torque for towing. fuel economy, as I'm sure you will be aware, is not a strong point, typically 18-28 mpg depending on use.I would buy on condition rather than spec, leather seats, air con, cruise control, electric sunroof are all good to have but lack of these is no reason to discount an otherwise excellent car. They make a totally practical used buy, and is one of the few bangers you can buy with the knowledge that it could well have a good few years left in it, as well as being an immensely strong car, with the passenger compartment enclosed in a "safety cage" to protect passengers. Launch TV adverts showed the car dropped on its roof, driven nose first off a tall building with virtually no deforming of the passenger cell. It's a lot of car for the money. If you don't need an estate version, the saloons are pretty much worthless unless truly exceptional which means there are bargains to be had.