This article on Michael's Volvo was originally published in the June 2018 issue of Street Machine magazine
FOR sale: beige 1983 Volvo 240GL, 89,000km, one owner, located in Perth. An advert like that wouldn’t get many traditional street machiners sweaty, but it was exactly what Michael Wray had been looking for.
It might look like Nanna’s Chantilly lace curtains, but Michael’s Volvo packs a blown L98 under the bonnet and epic amounts of clever engineering. The headlight covers, rear windscreen louvre and mudflaps are all original to the car, lending it extra sleeper cred
“Years ago I’d had an earlier 240 Volvo with a 350 small-block and a Top Loader, and it was fun, but certain things weren’t done right. I wanted to build another one,” the Melburnian explains.
“My car was originally built in Clayton, Melbourne, where they used to build HSVs, and was sold new to a lady in Perth in 1983. The old lady’s grandson sold it after she passed away and it only had 89,000km when I bought it sight-unseen.”
While Michael had to make new 3/8in feed and 5/16in return lines out of metal hardline, the rest of the fuel system is mostly standard. He did fit an Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator and added a DeatschWerks 340L/h in-tank pump, though this is going to be removed shortly. “The fuel pump and injectors are right on the duty cycle limit even with the current set-up, so it will need a fuel system upgrade,” he says
Michael’s plan was always to jam the engine bay full of modern LS grunt, but he also wanted to keep the body as Volvo intended while integrating as much OEM engineering as possible to make his sleeper drive like a factory-built car. So he drove it to his mate Stuart McSwain’s shed, where the stock 2.3-litre four-banger was quickly turfed in favour of a Gen IV L98 out of a VE Commodore. Initially Stuart and Michael built the car aspirated, adding the TVS1900 supercharger from a Camaro ZL1’s LSA later on.
Apart from the boost-friendly LS9 camshaft, the L98 is pretty much how Holden intended. Michael did purchase a trunnion upgrade kit for the rockers from Summit Racing, along with a GM Performance sump that fitted straight into the Volvo’s engine bay after it and the pick-up was shortened.
Michael used the original transmission cradle modified to take a rubber mount from an HZ Kingswood, and after some light hammering of the trans tunnel, the Tremec TR6060 was fitted. “We had to cut some of the rear of the tunnel to fit the remote shifter,” he says. “We machined a spherical housing to make the shifter a bit shorter, but this put it in the perfect location. We also machined our own shift lever so we could use the stock carpet, which was in mint condition.”
For the exhaust system, Michael and Stuart once again dove into the GM parts bin. “I bought some stock tri-Y VE SS headers and cut-and-shut them until they fit around the steering shaft. The rest of the twin 2.5-inch exhaust we made at home.”
Michael had the renowned American tuner Pat G tune the car after sending him logs from the VE E38 ECU captured by HP Tuners Pro software, with a wideband looking at air/fuel ratios.
Rounding out the drivetrain is an 8.8-inch limited-slip diff from a V6 Ford Explorer with a similar 3.73 ratio to modern HSVs. Michael’s Volvo even runs the matching Explorer tailshaft, which he shortened three inches! “The diff was actually the first thing we started on,” he continues. “I cut the original Volvo diff up to make a jig, then mocked the Explorer diff up and had my mate Matt down in Geelong weld the housing. It worked out spot-on with the Ford Territory 17-inch steel wheels I used, once we rolled the inner lip of the guard.”
“The cooling system is all BF Falcon V8 parts, including the radiator and fan assembly,” says Michael. “We had to make very slight clearancing for the end tanks, but then it all bolted in even with the header tank and stock hoses. The bottom radiator hose is from a GQ Patrol and the top one is from a VY SS”
Michael scored a slightly lower ride height thanks to King Springs, working with adjustable Koni shocks up front and top-spec adjustable GAZ units out back. He also had the Volvo’s stock lower four-link arms reinforced, with custom adjustable top arms and a custom Panhard bar to clear the fat 8.8-inch diff.
The front brakes were upgraded to match the large Explorer discs out the back. Michael went for 330mm discs off the high-performance Volvo S70R, paired to gigantic monobloc Lexus LS430 four-pot calipers that he and Stuart made adapters for at home. A Ford Explorer master cylinder bolted straight onto the Volvo booster.
Once Michael had the car running right, it was time to add the real party-starter: the rebuilt Eaton TVS1900 supercharger off a ZL1 Camaro’s 6.2L.
Michael hasn’t yet been to the dyno or drag strip to see how many ponies the blown L98 is actually getting to the ground. “It’d be hard to say exactly how much power it makes,” he says. “It depends on the intake air temps, as they make a huge difference. You can definitely feel the difference once it heat-soaks.”
We can’t imagine what the family of the original owner would think of what has happened to her beloved beige Volvo!
1983 VOLVO 240 GL
Colour: Sandstone Beige
Brand: GM Gen IV L98
Capacity: 364ci (6.0L)
Blower: GM TVS1900
Camshaft: GM LS9
Heads: L98 rectangle-port
ECU: GM Siemens E38
Gearbox: Tremec TR6060 six-speed
Clutch: GM LS7
Diff: 8.8in Ford Explorer LSD
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: King Springs, adjustable Koni shocks
Rear: King Springs, GAZ adjustable shocks, reinforced trailing arms, custom upper arms
Brakes: Volvo S70R 330mm discs with Lexus LS430 four-pot calipers, (f), Ford Explorer discs and calipers (r)
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Ford Territory steelies 17x7.5 (f & r)
Rubber: Goodyear Eagle F1 235/45 (f & r)