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Old 09-15-2013, 11:20 PM   #1
83glt
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Default 1971 145 Express Competition Service Rally Car Restoration Project

INTRODUCTION

I’ve finally gotten around to starting a build thread for my recent acquisition. There is a long history behind this car, so that’s where I’ll start. Most of the historical information presented here has been sourced through various folks familiar with the car’s history and ownership. Special thanks to Ian from High Performance Auto, Mitch Duncan, Daniel Johnston, Dave Burnham, and several others who I hope to acknowledge as the build goes forward.
Because I’ve already owned the car for almost 5 months, I’m playing a bit of catch up here. So I apologize for the lengthy first post.

Here's how the car looked once upon a time:





THE HISTORY


Back in the early 1970s, this car was imported from Sweden to Torrance, CA where Volvo had located their North American Competition Service Parts Division. There are only about 4 of these Express cars known to have made it to North America. About 4000 or so were built and most saw service in Europe as ambulances and working vehicles as it was meant to supplant the Duett. Initially this car was used as it was intended – as a parts runner to local dealers. But at some point, Wayne Baldwin, who more or less ran the racing parts department, decided to turn this Express into a monster of a car. Wayne would go on to become a very successful rally driver for Volvo and was highly regarded for his mechanical skills – at one point building an entire 242 Turbo himself with parts off the shelf! Ultimately Wayne turned the Express into a rolling show room for Competition Service complete with just about every performance part they could throw at it. Full rally suspension, Stage IV rally engine, complete custom interior, custom wheels, rally gauge cluster, GT steering wheel, oil cooler, high capacity fuel pump, special gear box, roll cage, a shower in the back – apparently to hose down the dusty rally drivers, and much, much more.

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Old 09-15-2013, 11:21 PM   #2
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In March of 1976, Road & Track magazine published an article featuring the Express and all of its performance components. It was also something of a road test article. Rather than describe the article in detail, I’ll attach a copy here for everyone to enjoy. It also has most of the photographs of the Express from its prime that I have at the moment, though there may be additional photos and potentially an original build sheet being dug up. Check it out:





Arguably,soliciting this article was meant to reinvigorate Volvo’s performance parts division and certainly was meant to be a marketing exercise. It might be said that it helped push Volvo back into motorsports in a bigger way and ultimately led to its successes of the 1980s. That’s just my opinion anyway. True Volvo historians may disagree, but I always think of the 1970s as a time when Volvo was mainly focused on safety development, but still offered performance parts for those independent drivers who wanted to race Volvos. Regardless, there’s no question that the Express is a part of Volvo motorsports history and I’m honored to have the opportunity to bring it back to its former glory – however daunting the task will be.

After the article was written, and following the Express’ service as a rally support vehicle in CA and Mexico, Wayne brought it to the Rockleigh, NJ area when Competition Service was transferred to Volvo’s North American headquarters there. The Express remained in the ownership of Volvo at least through 1982 (I found an old NJ registration card in the glove box listing “Volvo Corporation North America” as the owner). Sometime after that a Volvo employee bought the car and drove it for personal use for about a year. That owner sold the Express in 1988 (last registration sticker on the car) to a local mechanic who he was friends with. It was all downhill from there sadly. The mechanic basically let the car sit on his lot outside for 25 years, all the while being exposed to the elements. As might be imagined, this took a toll on the car. Also, at least a couple sources have claimed that the Stage IV engine was auctioned off at some point. From what I’ve seen this appears to be at least partly true as the block still has several of the performance bits. I’m not going to know for sure what’s really inside until I tear into it – which is a ways off yet.
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Old 09-15-2013, 11:25 PM   #3
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HOW I GOT IT

There’s another long story about how the Express came into my possession that I need not go into here. Suffice to say that I picked it up for $500 a couple days before it was scheduled to head to the crusher. I hadn’t had a chance to do much beyond looking through the window until that point. The former owner had basically been brushing me off for a couple years as I kept pestering him to sell it to me. I had seen it sitting on his lot for about 6 years, but until we moved to the area I never had a place to keep it and work on it. Anyway, long story short, I was finally able to purchase it and I took delivery at the end of April earlier this year.


CONDITION


This is how it looked last year when I really started pushing the prior owner to sell it to me. This spot was its home for the past 25 years or so:


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Old 09-15-2013, 11:26 PM   #4
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Old 09-15-2013, 11:28 PM   #5
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Old 09-15-2013, 11:28 PM   #6
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Old 09-15-2013, 11:28 PM   #7
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One of the things I noticed about it last summer when I was being more aggressive about buying it was the paper wasps. They were everywhere. I could see them going in and out of every little crevice, hole and crack. There were easily hundreds of them. I could also see sun-bleached dead wasps on the dash from years past, so I knew the car was pretty infiltrated. Fortunately, wasp colonies die off year to year, and only the queens stay on. They start laying eggs for the next year’s colonies in the early spring. Knowing this, and after it was confirmed I was buying the car, I surreptitiously doused the most obvious cracks and holes with wasp spray a couple nights before the car was to be delivered. Good thing I did, because I definitely saw wasp movement that night, even though it was only April.

Here is how it looked the day I took delivery, and my starting point. Notice that even though I sprayed with wasp spray, I still found 2 live queens already building new nests and laying eggs!




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Old 09-15-2013, 11:29 PM   #8
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Just to wrap up on the wasp theme, I filled a shopvac bag full of old nests. Here are some pics of the cleaning process:





So I don’t have to tell you that the car is rusty. The problem is, the gentleman who owned it for a year or so between Volvo and the owner I bought it from, had painted the car with a translucent red lacquer paint that might have been awesome had the car stayed garaged. But it totally oxidized in the many years exposed to UV and the elements. So now the car looks even worse than it is. But, there’s still no question that there is going to be significant body work required for this restoration. More on that later …

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Old 09-15-2013, 11:30 PM   #9
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Here are some more pics from the day I took delivery. I immediately began stripping the interior and cleaning. Check out all the spare parts that were in the back!




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Old 09-15-2013, 11:30 PM   #10
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I'm almost certain that's the original 1800 passenger seat mentioned in the R&T article. And a spare set of Rallye gauges!!!

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Old 09-15-2013, 11:31 PM   #11
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Once I got the interior completely removed and cleaned up, I could really see what I would be dealing with in terms of body work:






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Old 09-15-2013, 11:31 PM   #12
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Tetanus anyone?



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Old 09-15-2013, 11:31 PM   #13
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Cool level: 10
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Old 09-15-2013, 11:32 PM   #14
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After taking all of that in, I began cleaning the engine bay. Look how dirty it was before:



And after several hours of elbow grease I got it looking like this:



I was amazed to see how much dirt and grime was on everything. Twenty-five years of dust and dirt that had settled there.

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Old 09-15-2013, 11:32 PM   #15
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GETTING IT RUNNING

The next step was trying to get the engine running. Thanks to Ian from Hi Performance Auto’s courteous guidance, I was fairly quickly able to diagnose what was wrong with the engine. Fortunately, I could turn it over by hand, so it hadn’t seized. At least the prior owner had periodically rotated it, and apparently had even got it running about 4 years ago when someone flew out from California to look at the car for a possible purchase. I can see why they decided not to spend the cash to ship it back out there. Anyway, the engine had been run somewhat recently, and the prior owner had disconnected the fuel lines to prevent the varnish from getting to the carbs. Check out inside the fuel tank!



I was able to restore the fuel gauge sending unit by using “Safest Rust Remover”. It’s a chelating product like Evaporust and is amazing! The sender needs to be saved as the Rally fuel gauge won’t read properly without it.



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Old 09-15-2013, 11:33 PM   #16
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The carbs needed complete disassembly and rebuilding. Joe Curto, the local SU guru, hooked me up with the rebuild kits and I went to work. Once the carb rebuild was finished, I tried starting but still wasn’t having any luck. I could get it to run using starter fluid, but the engine would die as soon as that burned off. After some head scratching I tried adjusting the fuel mixture screw and that got the engine running on the first try! There was a lot of smoke, and there are a lot of leaks everywhere from all the old destroyed gaskets, but it was incredibly satisfying to get it running. These old B20 engines are something else!

Next it was on to the cooling system which I’ve since flushed/cleaned. So far there’s a new water pump, thermostat, cleaned/boiled radiator, new hoses, etc. The Express has still been running a little hot, but I’m not sure it it’s due to leaking coolant, so I’m still working out replacing all the gaskets and seals.

Soon I’m starting work on the brakes which are completely shot. Stepping on the brake pedal is like stepping on a stone. Ian has hooked me up with some stainless brake lines, and I’ve so far scrounged up some rotors. That’s about where I’m at so far in the project, although I have started some minor body work. Here is a shot of the fuel tank area in the back stripped to bare metal. It’s nice to see that there is some clean metal under some of that rust anyway! I started here because there were several rust spots, and I want to get the replacement tank in there and hooked up so I don't have to keep running it using the jerry can.




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Old 09-15-2013, 11:34 PM   #17
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This is going to be a multi-year, perhaps even decade long project. The ultimate goal is to restore the Express as closely as possible to the condition when featured in the R&T article. Finding some of the unique accessories is going to be a challenge anyone have a Recaro racing seat they can spare?

THE BUILD

So the plan is to get the brakes operational so that the car can be driven, if only around the driveway. From there I think I will start the body work in earnest. So much needs to be done, that the sooner I get to it the better. I really dont want the car to rot away too much longer. There are many spots where there is heavy pitting, and there will be new sheet metal going into this car obviously. Where I can, Im going to try the chelating products (BTW, check out ESPRIT RUST REMOVER on ebay its concentrated and way cheaper than Evaporust, and works great) to remove the rust. Ill be documenting that process as I go forward.
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Old 09-16-2013, 01:07 AM   #18
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WTF? A spare rallye cluster? I've never even seen one in person and you have 2?

It's about time you started a build thread. I'm looking forward to seeing the Express restored to it's former glory and am happy to help in any way I can.

There's a great article about Wayne Baldwin and his co-driver/wife Debra in this 82 Via Volvo magazine. The article refers to a short film featuring Wayne (& Debra) in action called "Blueprint for Endurance". If anyone has a copy of it, I (and I'm sure others) would love to see it.
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Old 09-16-2013, 01:57 AM   #19
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This is so awesome, I can't wait to watch it progress.
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Old 09-16-2013, 02:13 AM   #20
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Wow, great progress!
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Old 09-16-2013, 07:45 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hiperfauto View Post
WTF? A spare rallye cluster? I've never even seen one in person and you have 2?
Didn't I mention that before? I got really lucky there. It was in the Castrol oil box in the back just sitting there. It's a good thing I didn't toss the box around when cleaning out the back. The odometer on it only reads 995 miles, and it looks pristine, so I have to figure those miles are accurate.

Thanks for the article link. I'd love to see that film as well.
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Old 09-16-2013, 07:55 AM   #22
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Cool project! Enjoy the experience!
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Old 09-16-2013, 07:57 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 83glt View Post
After taking all of that in, I began cleaning the engine bay. Look how dirty it was before:



And after several hours of elbow grease I got it looking like this:



I was amazed to see how much dirt and grime was on everything. Twenty-five years of dust and dirt that had settled there.
What was your "elbow grease" to clean it up? Engine bay does look really good now.
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Old 09-16-2013, 12:24 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sine Qua Non View Post
What was your "elbow grease" to clean it up? Engine bay does look really good now.
Carb cleaner on the carbs and linkages. GUNK engine degreaser and water on the rest.

BTW, the original color of the car was Pacific Blue, and you can see that they never did paint the engine bay during the original build. There are many areas where the subsequent paint jobs are peeling and the original blue is holding up. I was told that the "second" owner stripped to metal before painting the translucent red lacquer, but the evidence isn't bearing that out.

I'm waiting to see some color photos to confirm, but my hunch is that they oversprayed in silver, masking off the original blue for the racing stripes that appear black in the B&W photos.
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Old 09-16-2013, 06:23 PM   #25
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wow, this is a really cool car. looks like you have ALOT of body work on your hands. Good luck.
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