Volverhauled: The Former DTPC’s Interior & Exterior Makeover

Words and most photos by our friend Karl.

I’ve been along for the ride (literally and figuratively) for most of the post-DTPC transformation work that my brother has been doing to this car. Since the last update was posted, Alex was putting in some pretty serious hours at work, which left little time for any progress on the 242. He collected parts but never had time to install them. It sucked to see that he really wanted to improve the car, but never had the time to give it the attention it deserved. It was getting to a point where I think he felt overwhelmed by the to-do list in his head.

Ed: This is where we pick up in “the car formerly known as the DTPC” saga. Last we heard from new owner Alex, he had thoroughly rebuilt the suspension and made his own custom wheels.

When Alex decided to take 2 months off and fly back to Sweden so he could finish off some school work, I figured that would be my opportunity. His return date was set for the same day as his birthday. Perfect! I could not only help my brother get back on the 242-wrenching train, but also drop a sweet-ass birthday present on him.

But what to do? Cosmetic enhancement? Big brakes? Rocketdyne F1 swap? I finally decided that replacing the interior was the best choice. Alex had already collected a number of parts for it, it was a fairly well defined task, and would do the most to improve the car as a whole (in my opinion).

Any good LA car has indie-film credentials. In this screen shot we can see the cracked desert themed dash.

Why replace the interior? In case you’re not sure what 330000 miles and 32 years can do to a car interior, allow me to paint you a picture: The dashboard was so badly cracked that it had literally split in half, the vent ducts had over an 1/8” of dust and crud inside them, the door cards were badly water damaged, the parcel-shelf fabric had turned to dust, the floor carpet had several holes, there were squeaks and rattles everywhere, and the whole inside of the car just felt very tired and worn out. The only reason the seats weren’t nuked was because CFlo had replaced them during his stewardship of the car. Admittedly, I’ve seen cars with worse interiors, but it was badly in need of attention.

CFlo: Here’s the scuzzy state of the interior when I bought the car in 2012, for reference.
CFlo: It cleaned up OK but was a quick-n-dirty refresh. As delivered to Alex in 2013.

The plan, in broad strokes, was to convert the tan interior to black, clean it up, modernize it, and also add some custom touches. I also wanted to give the exterior a good once-over and help turn the car from a 40-footer into more like a 15-footer.

Less than I week after Alex had left, I moved my project car out of the shop and put his in its place. I started by tearing all of the old interior out. Everything must go. Physically pulling the interior in a 240 doesn’t take long at all. I had most of it out in just a few hours.

Parked and ready to be gutted.

I’m gonna give you an engine low to the ground… extra thick oil pan to cut the wind from underneath you. It’ll give you thirty or forty more horsepower. I’m gonna give you a fuel line that’ll hold an extra gallon of gas. I’m gonna shave half an inch off you and shape you like a bullet. I’ll get you primed, painted and weighed, and you’ll be ready to go out on that racetrack. Hear me? You’re gonna be perfect. Well… maybe not most of those things. Or any of them.

Mid tear-down progress shot. Gross!

Carefully bagging and tagging all the clips, screws, fasteners, and panels slowed the process a bit but paid massive dividends later.

Interior after the first layer of sound deadening had been installed. There was definitely a lunar lander vibe going on.

With the interior out, I could start laying down a foundation. That came in the form of huge 40lb box of sound-deadening insulation. After vacuuming and degreasing the exposed sheet metal I laid down a layer of thick, foil backed adhesive. The foil helps keep some of the radiant heat out of the cabin, but the main player is the adhesive. It acts as a mass-damper, attenuating low frequency vibration. It’s especially effective in the middle of unsupported panels, like inside the doors and the footwells. Next was a layer of self-adhesive foam over top of the foil. This foam helps reduce noise higher in the frequency range.

Second layer of sound deadening, aka my-back-is-killing-me-from-being-hunched-over-for-six-straight-hours.

While I had everything gutted I also installed a heater box from a ‘93 240, which has a much more effective AC evaporator and a blower fan that’s 10 years newer. Anyone that has worked on a 240 can tell you that a heater box swap is a bear of a task. It involves pulling the entire dashboard out and most of the structure around it. This was a prime opportunity to get that job done.

A few of the interior parts couldn’t simply be replaced (due to rarity) and required refurbishing. A prime example was the front and rear door cards. They are 242-specific, and black ones are extremely difficult to find. I decided to paint the stock panels using vinyl paint, and the results were pretty impressive. The front door cards were also freshened up, converted to black trim and got a pair of MB-Quart 4” 2-way speakers.

It’s amazing what a few coats of vinyl paint can do to give interior panels a new lease on life.

Astute readers may also have noticed that the windshield was removed. The reason for this was two-fold: It’s the only way to get the headliner out of this car without folding it in half (more on that later) and 300,000 miles had left the glass thoroughly sandblasted. These cars were built before the advent of high tech polyurethane window adhesives. The material of choice back then was butyl rubber. You know, that black sticky ooze that gets on everything and refuses to come off anything. There’s no slick way to remove this stuff, so after several evenings of scraping, cleaning, scraping, and more cleaning the window frame was finally in presentable shape. Thanks to Steve for all the elbow grease!

Begone with you, butyl!

With the sound deadening done I could finally install the carpets and seats. The carpets and rear seat are from a late 80s 240 with a black interior. The carpet needed a lot of love before it was fresh enough to install. The rear set just got a quick once-over with a vacuum and interior cleaner.

Note the new (synthetic) suede-wrapped parcel shelf and MB-Quart 6”x9” speakers. Not too shabby!

Even though CFlo had dropped in a pair of decent stock seats, they were still pretty saggy and not all that comfortable. They were also the wrong color. Rather than fight a losing battle replacing these with another set of questionable stockers, I decided to step it up a notch. The car needed seats befitting of its new character. Enter: Front seats from a Volvo C30 with black cloth and manual controls.

Initial test-fit of the new (salvaged) C30 seats.

They’re certainly not fixed back bucket seats, but really do a lot to update the feel of the car. My good friend Doug allowed me to pilfer his adapter bracket design, which made these a bolt-in affair. They represented only a marginal weight penalty compared to stock seats, which I guess was moot considering I had just piled on 40lbs of sound deadening.

Since the headliner was out I could also give that a makeover. It was recovered in the same foam-backed synthetic suede I used on the parcel shelf. The headliner was stripped and cleaned, then both the headliner and the fabric were sprayed with DAP Landau Top Adhesive, allowed to set up for 5-10 minutes, and finally pressed together. The overlap was folded over and glued in place. After that it was simply a matter of cutting out all the holes and re-installing the finished headliner.

Headliner after being covered in synthetic suede. Pictures don’t do this thing justice. It came out super nice!

With most of the interior out of the way, it was time to add some modern electrical amenities. I retained the manual mirrors and the crank windows, but added a (somewhat) period correct Blaupunkt RCM126 head unit, bluetooth audio, cruise control, central locks, and keyless entry. The cruise control was pulled from a newer 240 and bolted right in. Same for the central locking system. The keyless entry consisted of a receiver module, fob, and relay from an early-model Volvo 850. The relay needed some hot-wiring internally to make it work in a 240, but it resulted in a clean, kludge-free installation. I knew that Electrical Engineering degree would come in handy at some point.

CFlo: The Blaupunkt RCM126 has a key card for security and AUX in, which Karl repurposed with a Bluetooth receiver. Here we see the traditional choice in Swedish folk music displayed on Karl’s iPhone.

Since the original dashboard was a wreck, I decided to replace it. The new dash came from a late-model 240. Some minor cracking was first repaired, then the dash was flocked. This is the hard, fuzzy texture you sometimes find inside jewelry boxes or glove compartments. The flocking was done by covering the dash in adhesive and spraying the wet surface with black flocking fibers. It not only cuts down on glare off the dash and covered up the crack repair, but looks pretty damn sweet too.

Flocked dashboard and black center console.

I also took the time to patch a small rust hole under the rear quarter window on the driver’s side. Even though I was careful to keep the heat out of the body panel, it still managed to warp quite a bit. Luckily, CFlo had body dollies and was willing to use them. I also conned him in to priming, sanding, filling, and painting the patched spot. The front of the hood also got a similar treatment.

Tack weld, wait for it to cool, tack weld, wait for it to cool, repeat ad-infinitum.
CFlo is the resident “ace” body man at the Daily Turismo World Headquarters. Just look at that body. Look at it.
The weld repair area, ground down, metalworked, filled, sanded, and primed – just prior to paint.

After that it was all-hands-deck for washing, clay-barring, and buffing. I recruited a number of friends that were sympathetic to the cause and we put in a hard 12 hour day. The paint still had some pockmarks, chips, and thin spots, but on the whole I was very happy with the result. This is probably the job that did the most to freshen up the look of the car.

Fully detailed. Clay barred, buffed, polished, and waxed. Concertina wire lends urban ambiance.

Unfortunately, this is where the story took a bit of a turn. I was forced to leave town for work and didn’t get a chance to finish the car before Alex came back. I felt pretty shitty about faltering so close to the finish line, but it was out of my hands. After picking Alex up from the airport I surprised him with the car as it sat. He was pretty speechless. It was a great moment.

The big reveal. Alex sees his made-over 242 for the first time in months.
“Something looks different…I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

At this point I realized I was pretty burnt out on the process and it was great to have Alex around to get the last few bits finished. We had a brand new windshield installed, buttoned up the interior, cleaned and installed the waistline trim, and gave the car some regular maintenance.

The completed interior is now befitting of a fine gentleman of Alex’s social stature.
The headliner is covered in nothing but the finest in off-brand imitation suede.
You can actually see other Volvos in the paint now. That’s not a hallucination. Photo by Alden Merchant.
At the 2015 annual Volvo show in Davis, CA. Photo by Alden Merchant.
From “Coffee & Cars with Pelican Parts” in July 2015. Photo by CNCPICS.com

Wrap up: When first faced with the gutted interior I realized what a bear of a task I had taken upon myself. The only way I would have any hope of completing it in time for Alex’s return would be to put in every spare hour I had on the car. I never bothered to keep a log of my hours, but I can say confidently that not a single day passed where I didn’t spend at least an hour on some aspect of this project. It was a hell of a grind, but the look on my brother’s face when he saw the car made it all worth it (even though it wasn’t quite finished when he did see it).

I want to give special thanks to the people that helped make all this possible: CFlo, Steve, Neel, Jay, Aubrey, Doug, Jacob, and my dad. Thank you! I couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks also to Daily Turismo for hosting this write-up.

There are still bigger things on the horizon for the former DTPC, so stay tuned!

Ed. CFlo: and a big thanks to Karl for his detailed account of all the work done. I’ve driven the car since the transformation and I have to say – it’s amazing what new seats, a new windshield, sound deadening, and hundreds of man-hours of work can do to a 30 year old Volvo. You can find the 242 and all of our other project car posts here…in our mysteriously named Project Car section.