Volvo 140 Series B20

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Volvo 140 Series

Volvo 140 B20

Volvo 140 Series B20

1966 - 1974
4 cyl.
1778/1986 cc
60 -115 bhp
4 spd. man / 3 spd. auto
Top Speed:
108 mph (174 kmh)
Number Built:
2 star
Volvo 140 Series B20
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


The Volvo 140 Series was produced from 1966 to 1974. The range comprised the Volvo 142 2-door sedan, the Volvo 144 4-door sedan and the Volvo 145 5-door station wagon. Volvo began manufacturing the Volvo 144 at Torslandaverken in the late summer of 1966 for the 1967 model year.

The 144 series, which followed the Volvo Amazon (replacing it in its 4th model year), was the first Volvo to use a tri-digit nomenclature, indicating series, number of cylinders and number of doors. Thus, a "144" was a 1st series, 4-cylinder, 4-door sedan. The 144 was the first Volvo to feature a more rectilinear or boxy styling. Compared to the Volvo Amazon, the 140 was a radical departure with minimal exterior and interior carryover, notably a stylised version of the front split grille. The car's basic shape would survive into the 1990s as the 200 series.

Mechanically, the Volvo 140 used many of the same drivetrain components as the Amazon, but also showcased many improvements, including disc brakes on all four wheels. It was named car of the year in 1966 by Swedish magazine Teknikens Värld. The engine in the standard 144 was the same as found in the standard Amazon (121), the 1.8 litre B18A, but the 144S was given the more powerful B18B from the 123GT and 1800S.

Late in the 1967 model year the 142 (2-door sedan) began production, in time to build 1500 units for the first year. In 1968 the Volvo 145 5-door station wagon began production, completing the 3 body styles used in the 140 range. For the 1969 model year Volvo enlarged the B18 to become the 2.0 litre B20 and replaced the generator with a more modern alternator. It was also in 1969 that Volvo introduced the 164.

The B20 Engine

The Australian release of the B20 engine followed hot on the heels of its European introduction. Also included in Volvo's range for 1969 was the six cylinder 164, which shared much of the 140 series structure and styling from the windshield back, while incorporating a 6-cylinder engine, the B30 which was simply a B20 with 2 more cylinders and a few strengthened and enlarged components.

Along with the increased-capacity that the B20 engine offered, there were improved torque characteristics too - and these were arguably the best reason for the Volvo engineers to have bored out the engine to 1986cc. The power output of the twin carburettor engine was up by three bhp over the original, giving 118 SAE bhp, and the torque figure was 123 ft./lb. - as compared to 112 ft./lb. on the earlier 144S. The standard single carburettor engine produced 90 SAE bhp, but torque was improved to 119 ft./lb. at 3000 rpm. Valves were chromed and were larger - oil pump and sump capacity was increased, and the cooling system was boosted to cater for the extra power.

Other changes under the bonnet included an exhaust emission control, thermostatically controlled pre-heating to provide quicker warm-up in cold weather and the generator was replaced by an alternator. Externally, there was little to indicate that the car was Volvo's latest and only a keen eye would have picked the discreet B20 badge adorning the left hand side of the grille. Inside, changes were restricted mainly to upholstery, with textile material replacing the vinyl covering used in previous models.

The Volvo seats, which were not only class leading but arguably the best then available, still offered superb comfort, were adjustable into an infinite variety of positions, and even provided a control for adjustment of the backrest area which supported the small of the back. The amount of space inside the Volvo was deceptively generous and back seat legroom almost rivaled that of the Austin 1800. Headroom and shoulder room were equally as good. Large glass area and adequate headroom for the tallest passenger made the Volvo a spacious car in which four or five full-sized occupants could stretch out in complete comfort without feeling too much squeeze. The doors, too, opened out to an 80 degree angle, making for easy entry and exit.

Floor treatment was a sensible blend of luxury and utility, with rubber matting covering the lower areas and a carpeted central transmission tunnel. The instrument panel boasted an odometer reading to 999,999 miles - which we believe was the only mass produced car to have done so in 1969 - and indicated Volvo's confidence in the strength and longevity of their cars. But the actual instrumentation was very basic, consisting of ribbon-type speedometer, fuel gauge and temperature gauge - all other information was conveyed by warning lights.

The 144 could be optioned with a Borg Warner three speed automatic transmission, controlled by a column mounted lever. If you did option the auto, the 144, wiith its 2650 lb. four door body was an unspectacular performer, topping only 84.5 mph after a long run-up and covering the standing quarter mile in 20.3 seconds. This was sluggish even by the standards of 1969 - so the manual was definately the transmission of choice.
Actually, the car acquitted itself quite creditably in stop/start city and suburban motoring, having little difficulty in keeping up with the majority of traffic. However, under hard acceleration engine noise intruded more than one would have expected considering the relatively silent progress while the accelerator was being used more gently.

The automatic transmission was responsive, and downshifted readily when steep hills were encountered or when pulling out to pass at medium highway speeds. Actual changes were smooth, with a minimum of power loss. However, little braking effect was available on steep downhill descents, even with the transmission locked in low. Not that the Volvo 144 needed it, given it was fitted with four power assisted disc brakes and a divided system which still left 80 per cent of full braking available in the event of a failure.

On The Road

Even without making allowances for its 2650 lb. bulk, the Volvo handled remarkably well. The steering tended towards heavy, but it was very responsive and transmitted just the right amount of road feel. On sealed surfaces the Volvo displayed a mild degree of understeer easily transferred to oversteer by realeasing the throttle in mid-comer, and once you had a little practice you could place the Volvo with pinpoint accuracy and complete predictability.

Being a Volvo, it predictably would respond to emergency situations well, and unless you were a complete idiot it was almost impossible to get the car into trouble - and that inspired confidence. On gravel roads the 144 could easily be induced into a controlled oversteer attitude. The ride over rough roads was excellent, much of the credit going to the well-located coil spring rear suspension with its rubber bushed support arms and torque rods keeping the wheels in contact with the ground.

On Australia's long highways the Volvo would excell. The vast 24 cubic feet boot could swallow an enormous amount of luggage (although there was a high loading height which made lifting heavy suitcaces a bit of a chore), and the car cruised at any speed up to maximum with plenty of reserves of safety from its efficient braking and excellent handling. And at average legal Australian cruising speeds the B20 automatic would return in the region of 27 mpg.

Safety On The Inside

Safety engineering that went beyond a few rolls of padding here and there gave passengers a feeling of security that few other cars could match - even today. It used a construction method whereby the front and rear sections were designed to collapse progressively in an accident while the passenger carrying central section remained intact, there was a collapsible steering column, and the backrests deformed to prevent neck injury if the car was hit from behind. Volvo seat belts with what was then considered both novel and very convenient floor mounted catches were standard wear up front, but anchorages only were supplied at the rear.

The windscreen was of laminated glass and the demisting system extended to the rear window where two outlets were provided to ensure clear vision in wintry conditions. Heater controls consisted of three discs with serrated edges which protruded fom slots in the dash. Illuminated at night, these controls were easily operated and allowed for precise selection of the required degree of heat. Outlets were provided for rear passengers (on the exterior under the rear window on the 142 and 144 and as a grille next to the right side taillight of the 145) and electrically defrosted rear windows were introduced. The split rear side window on the 145 became one piece, although it could no longer be opened.

Fuel Injection for the B20

In 1971 the first of several styling changes were introduced, including a revised black grille which saw the now ubiquitous Volvo diagonal line introduced as well as new wheels. 1971 also saw the introduction of the B20E, which was a high compression version of the B20 which introduced Bosch D-Jetronic injection, giving a power figure of 100 kW SAE or 90 kW DIN. These new cars were either given the designation E (the German word einspritzen, or "injection") or GL (for Grand Luxe), which was a more upmarket version of the car. A console on the transmission tunnel with a clock was now standard.

The styling changes continued in 1972 with the introduction of flush mounted door handles and a slightly revised dashboard with fake woodgrain trim, newly designed switches and a small central panel with a clock. The transmission tunnel was taken from the 164 as was the same short-shifter gear stick and the automatic transmission became controlled by a T-bar mounted on the floor at the same place. The outer 2 rear seats now had the mounting points for retractable seatbelts.

In 1973 the 140 series received a major facelift in 1973 with a new plastic grille, new larger indicators and a completely revised tail end. Also, the S designation was dropped and the range consisted of 3 trim levels, standard (with no designation, known as L, or "luxe") de Luxe and the most upmarket, Grand Luxe. The interior also had a completely revised dashboard with a new instrument cluster consisting of dials rather than the strip speedometer previously used, rocker switches replacing the push-pull switches (with the exception of the headlight switch), and vents to direct air towards the person augmenting the defrost and floor vents.

In 1974 all US 140 series came with a B20F engine using the Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection system. Also, several safety changes were introduced including a fuel tank that was located close to the transaxle to protect it in the case of a rear-end collision, and larger bumpers that protruded more from the body. The quarter-light windows in the front doors were removed as a result of the improvements in ventilation inside the car, and small anodised aluminium strips were added to the bottom of the side windows. Total production of the 140 series included some 412,986 2-doors sedans, 523,808 4-doors sedans, and 268,317 station wagons In 1974 the 140 series evolved into the 240 series for the 1975 model year. The 164 was continued for another year in certain markets.
Volvo 140 B20

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