940 & 960 deNs' 1993 940 GL Wagon - "Odin"

edited June 18 in RWD

Preface: I've been writing this for a while, keeping it on a personal blog and though I've been rather reclusive, I decided it makes more sense to post it here rather than as some random website. I'll post pretty regularly at least initially to get this up-to-date. I have everything in markdown but it appears I have to upload images for each post rather than hotlinking, which means it'll take more time. If anyone has suggestions for hotlinking with markdown in the editor, I'm all ears.

01-01-2018 - A project was born

In 2015, my then girlfriend and I did a roadtrip across Europe at the end of our time living over there. The trip covered about 3 months, about 12,000km total and was in a 940 Turbo B230FK M90 Wagon, which doubled as both our transport and our accomodation for a large part of the trip. It had no aircon, but it had a sunroof, a modified stock radio for Auxiliary-in, and it was RWD and manual. Perfect! We called that car Thor because norse mythology fitted the cars heritage, but mostly because we got given a sticker by a friend that ended up on the dash simply saying 'Thor'.

Starting in London, travelling up to Copenhagen for a metal festival, then making our way through Europe over the next few months to end up in Greece. We handed the keys back to my mate I bought it off after meeting him in Athens, and he drove it back to London. It lived for a few years more after that. Despite its condition I would have liked to ship it back home, if not for the difficulty and Australia's import laws.

Some pics from that old car in 2015 and the trip:

An hour out of Copenhagen, after cannonballing from London over a day and a bit.!

Camping outside Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen during Heavy Days in Doomtown 4

In greece, just over 9000km in to the trip.

It was surprisingly comfortable.

Just look at this... bucket of magnificence!

After we came back to Australia, I was somewhat disheartened by the fact that manual Volvos of that era were for the most part, nonexistant. I decided to get an 850 T-5 (auto) as a 'close enough' which has served well as a daily for the past (almost) 5 years now. However that desire for a 940 M90 project never left me. After some discussion from a friend in the UK I kept in touch with, who I used to work with and sold me the original 940, I had an idea. Obtain a M90 gearbox in the UK, chuck it on a pallet and send the parts required for a conversion down under.


Volvo 940 Project

  • Clean Volvo 940 Wagon - budgeting $2000
  • < 250,000km ideally
  • Automatic, B230
  • Finish while wife is in Darwin for 12 months


  • B230 Turbo (FT or FK, as late as possible), 13C initially, mostly stock
  • M90 Manual from somewhere, somehow. Decided I wouldn't bother doing the project if this wasn't a possibility
  • Street/Cruising car. Needs to be (relatively) comfortable for long trips
  • Get it running right, mostly stock (stage zero omg), then start adding the fun stuff. Eventually maybe do aftermarket management, more serious engine work.. we'll see.

Because this was all just an idea at this point, I started scouring different places for 940 wagons, either turbo or non-turbo. Either way, the bug got me, and I just had to have another Volvo in my life.




  • 17-02-2018 - Base shell

    I eventually found a 940 through here, which I bought from James back in Feb last year as a shell, with a bunch of spares. Ideal as a blank canvas that was (relatively) clean was a good start. The car appeared to be straight, but it was a little rough around the edges. The diff was blown so that needed to be replaced, and I'd need to find an engine as well as a box for it, which was fine.

    From the for-sale ad some of you probably remember

    He had previously put a turbo engine in it when it originally came with a B230F and had subsequently changed the wiring harness in the engine bay to suit (e.g. MAF on drivers side).

    Was too late to get the engine combination. Sold before I got there!

    It appears to have been at BMG at some point and then eventually ended up in James' hands. I even did some scouring and it looks like it was for sale in the paper around the year 2000 for 17K. Would've liked to have the original standard issue green plates but they were handed back in. Doesn't matter, it'll probably be on club reg anyhow.

    Either way, despite most of the good bits (i.e. the engine) being gone before I arrived, I decided it'd be a good base anyway and the deal was done for this 940 wagon with no engine and trans with a busted diff. A good starting point :)

  • edited June 22

    26-01-2018 - Donor Car

    I got a message from my friend who I'd spoken about the idea with, and it just so happened that a 940 fell into his lap that had everything we wanted. As it turned out, it was one I helped him pick up from Hull back in late 2014/early 2015 and roadtripped it back to London in a day. It had a blown turbo, but it was cheap at 400 squids. I felt bad for not picking the blown turbo when we were looking at it so we wrenched over the cold winter to get that thing running right and it was his daily for a while.

    Here's what it looked like when we picked up back in early 2015:

    And when we were using our old work carpark as the only place we had to work on the black car, in literally freezing winter temperatures to get it ready for the roadtrip. Also fixing the blown turbo on the red car too.

    Many moons later, when it found its way back to us:

    It was one that was originally his, had sold, and the neighbour he sold it to was going to scrap it! It's a 1998 Celebration model so basically a parts bin special with the clear front and rear indicators, nicer trim like half-leather heated seats, and various other bits that were cool. It had seen better days, but there was no better car that would suit for a swap.


    So it was decided, the engine and box would be shipped over, along with the bits required for the conversion on the Australian car.

  • edited June 18

    Just gonna update this sporadically when I get the motivation until it's up to date. As you can see by the headings, there's a couple of years worth of updates to come.

    03-03-2018 - Cleanup in the sun

    Today was the day I finally got everything out of the boot and had some time to sort/organise the spares and start cleaning up some of the dirt and grime from the engine bay as basically something to do.


    I also took off the bumpers to discover the bumper shock units which I was surprised to find. Despite having owned volvos for a while, I didn't get the chance to do much work to my original 940 and the 850 has been left stock and just had service items thrown at it, so I haven't really gotten my hands dirty on a Volvo yet. This stuff is probably boring to everyone but me. I chuckled at the idea of these bumpers like I'd seen years ago on my friend's Fiat 131 wagon that also had the shock absorbers behind.


    Taking the bumpers off was so I could take back some of the peeling white paint on them and get the damage out of them so I could clean them up and repaint them with some bumper black.

  • 17-04-2018 - Donor engine and box comes out


    My mate, the legend he his, took time out of his schedule to pull out the engine and box from the donor car ready to be shipped.

    940 that's gonna donate to... another 940

    Mmmm, I hope these wiring looms aren't too different

    Narrator in 2020: But they were different...

  • edited June 22

    25-08-2018 - Diff replacement

    I had a look at what was supposedly a suspected blown diff, and it didn't take long to identify that it was probably toast. There was a hole in the diff cover from part of the diff that ejected itself out. As it turned out, the center had blown, but I know so little about diffs that I wasn't game to replace the center then continue, so I figured the safest bet would be to get a known-good unit from somewhere locally.


    940 axle in the back of an 850!

    @Angus242164 is a top bloke. Sold me a rear axle with a 4.10 diff and now I just needed to swap it in!

    Time to get that old one out.

    I had some issues getting one of the panhard rod bushings off the new diff's mount, so I had to carefully, surgically dremel it off so it could be used.

    Mmm, tasty

    The speedo sensor had attracted it's fair share of metal filings from the old diff!

    I noticed that the wires for the speed sensor were fraying so I stripped, soldered and put heatshrink on the wires so hopefully it'll be a bit more reliable now.

    At the time, I did not realise that the rear brakes on the 940 were drums for handbrake and hydro for normal use! Memories flashing back to the first time I worked on drum brakes, and it wasn't a happy experience. The diff came out, that was easy enough, and getting the new one in was pretty easy as well, but getting those brake springs back on? I was hating life.

    Must have cat in at least one thread pic.

    It sat like this for a while on jackstands while I waited for the miserable weather to stop and I would spend some time outside with a beer getting it sorted with the right kind of pliers.

  • 22-12-2018 - Life changes

    Around late september, after removing the diff, my wife returned from Darwin early, and we start thinking about where we want to live, what we want to do, etc. and an opportunity came up where it would see us moving to the country. We found a place to live, and though the Volvo isn't moving under its own power, it's still planned to be done.

    Bye old house, you only had space to work on a tiny hatchback in that garage but you were alright

    It would at least mean space for the volvo and my other project car, as well as workshop space, so will be able to work on it more often. At least, that's the plan.

  • edited June 22

    March-April 2019 - DIY

    By early 2019 it became apparent that the best way to get the engine shipped down under was to go over to the UK and do it with my mate. Asking him to do all the work on that end wasn't ideal. An opportunity came up at work to fly over to Dublin, right after I had to be in Japan for a wedding. Perfect! I'll take the week off after, go to London and hang out with my mate, put the engine on the pallet and get it shipped.

    Somehow, by some miracle, that actually happened.

    Flying for 10 hours over Russia. Russia is vast!

    Flew with Aeroflot! Flight was barebones but it got me there.

    Hotdog and beer on the stopover at Sheremetyevo international airport

    Over the 3 weeks, I flew from Melbourne -> Tokyo -> Moscow -> Dublin -> London -> Dubai -> Melbourne, spending about a week each in Tokyo, Dublin and London.

    The B230FK and M90 had been waiting for a while (almost a year at this point!) for me to come collect it

    Once we went to find the parts stored out back it turned out that some pikies pinched some of the parts kept outside that were to be shipped, but it wasn't too many of the important ones so that was okay.

    This top bloke helped us to pull out the engine with his enormous telehandler

    Because of australian quarantine rules, I either needed a recently heat treated pallet or a plastic pallet to put the goods onto. No worries, found someone selling plastic pallets nearby so got a couple of different types.

    Damn quarantine rules. We then set out planning for how we would build a structure to keep it all together and secure on its journey down under.

    And made up some engine mounts out of scrap to secure it.

    Had to drain all fluids. No biggie.

    We made up engine mounts for the engine to attach directly to the pallet, and a frame to go around the pallet with strapping so that things could be strapped down with ratchet straps easily.

    One cleaned M90 and B230FK ready for export

    Over the week in london, we mucked around with modifying motorbikes (his primary hobby), caught a gig in town (slaegt, ketzer, etc. at Nambucca), cleaned up the shop, and generally had an excellent time.

    Putting a 160cc Husqvarna engine in a tiny pit bike!

    About halfway through cleaning up all the parts (again, quarantine), we had the thought that it would be better if we shipped two M90 boxes down under, because two is better than one, and since they're not a servicable item and they're not *that* common in Australia.. if I need a replacement or backup, I'd be stuffed or at least up for a lot of cash. So after some messages asking mates of mates, we found another one nearby, and also got some items that had been pinched from the original lot (like a shifter!) so that was good.

    One M90? Is ok..

    TWO M90? More betterer.

    Strapping it all down including some bits I'd need for the conversion. Managed to get the clutch hard line in there safely!

    Hopefully it holds

    The legend that has made this all possible!

    Eventually, we got everything loaded onto the pallet, wrapped up and I was back on a plane home while it waited to be picked up. Flew back on easter weekend. See you in 50-ish days?

  • BradBrad @Brad Sunshine Coast, QLD

    Great writeup so far. Really enjoying it. Please post more when you get the chance.

  • Thanks Brad 👍️ Got a large amount of updates queued up. Of the ~50 articles I've written so far I think we're up to 7-ish, so there's plenty more to post. Speaking of...

    20-05-2019 - Spare engine

    Before leaving for the UK I picked up a spare '91 B230FT from a 940 from a bloke who had other plans for his car, with the thought that if the engine and gearbox stuff from the UK doesn't pan out, that I'll at least have enough from this to get the car running and driving.

    Sorry for potato cam quality.

    We pulled it out of the car in his drive way, at night, but it all went smoothly which was nice.

    I'll be compression testing both and possibly taking a closer look at both to see which of the two is in better condition.

    It also gave me some parts that I wasn't able to bring with me on the UK engine, like the Aircon compressor. Gonna need it for those hot summers!

    As some of you might have seen from some of my threads, the combination of different years with engines and the chassis (91 B230FT, 98 B230FK and a 93 Shell) meant I've been trying to piece together the parts that will work.

  • May 2019 - On its way to Australia

    As it was leaving the UK

    To some people who have done overseas shipping, this next bit might sound obvious but I've never done anything like this before so to say I was a bit green would be an understatement. I've learned some important lessons doing this shipping biz for the first time. Namely:

    • Ensure if you ship something to yourself, if you mark the value for insurance as being x, make sure if you can that you don't put the value they see on the other end as being huge if it's just used parts. I basically taxed myself with my own parts with GST for the value I wanted to insure it for. I think my options were to insure it for less and get taxed less, but with the risk of the cost of it getting lost.
    • Understand all the costs on both ends. Shipping from the UK was cheap ($270 total for 2 gearboxes, one engine and spares) but thanks to the above GST crap and other miscellaneous charges, the melbourne-side fees before even quarantine is involved was over 1K. Make sure if you're bringing a pallet in, that it's worthwhile. I'm glad I got two M90s rather than just one. Then you've got the cost of the actual thing you're shipping on top!

    That, and shipping brokers are a shady bunch, they'll talk about the cost of maybe one or two things and then forget to mention things like Duty, quarantine, holding fees, and all the other stuff you might get stung for.

    It was interesting watching the pallet make its way over from the UK. I watched the shipping tracking websites because I didn't have an exact tracking number, just a name of the vessel it was on to be able to track. Here it is being not-hijacked by pirates!

    Steady as she goes...

    The vessel itself went from Europe, through the Suez Canal, across to Singapore, then to Hong Kong, then mainland china which is where that vessel ended its Journey. After looking through some more docs to find the container it was on, I found out which vessel it was loaded into next, and I tracked it down the west coast of Australia down to Perth:

    Found ya!

    As it grew closer, the anticipation kept building and I started exchanging phone calls and emails back and forth to the people I'd need to coordinate pickup from on our end. It was at about this time I realised how much I'd be up for and my heart sank a little. I knew it wasn't going to be super-cheap but I wasn't prepared for the final cost.

    Coming into the Bay!

    All I can say is, if you're going to bring a pallet of stuff in, make sure it's worth while.

    This wasn't the final cost and didn't include the cost of shipping from the UK either. Woo! 😅

    Because they were used car parts, I got a mandatory quarantine check. Also because the company didn't want to bring them in as personal effects (which apparently attracts a more in-depth quarantine check), I got stung for GST on items at the amount I insured them for (500 GBP). Shot myself in the foot there.

    Normally I wouldn't post up something like those costs, but I think it's valuable for people who consider the idea of importing an M90. There's people like ClassicSwede that I think have shipped M90s to people overseas, and of course there's local people who sell them too, but considering what people ask locally, I still think it was worth it to bring in the engine, two boxes and a bunch of spares. As well as the engine, it was a fun trip too :)

  • edited June 19

    June 2019 - Pallet Arrival

    With much anticipation, after about a week after landing, the company that did the rest of the stuff after landing for me sent me an email on a Friday asking for payment and said to pick it on Monday as holding charges come into effect from Tuesday.

    You'd better believe I was packed and ready first thing Monday morning to come down and pick it up. So I packed my hi-vis, leapt in the 850 and headed straight there to arrive shortly after they opened.

    After filling out some paperwork, I got directed to the back of the warehouse and picked up a familiar package:

    I was grinning from ear to ear when the forklift came out with it. I was so happy it made it. Forklift bloke was a master of setting it in the trailer too. Once it was all strapped down, we're ready to head home!

    Whiteblock pulling redblock!

    I held off purchasing any parts for the build in case this all fell through somehow. Now I could start planning for things like flywheel, clutch, etc. Now to find out which one of the two B230's to use.

  • edited June 22

    21-07-2019 - Stripping it down

    In the pile of parts from buying the shell, from the spare engine and from what came over from the UK, I had some parts to work with, but others needed to be purchased. The clutch, for example, wasn't brought over because the Dual-Mass flywheel that was fitted to the UK engine would not be used, because they're terrible. A new flywheel and clutch setup would be sourced and used instead. Also, I didn't want to bring over the UK clutch as a backup because they're a consumable and I didn't want to risk bringing over asbestos because of quarantine rules. Seriously unlikely that it was, but I'm not reusing the clutch so why bring it over.. The plan was always to get upgraded items.

    Stripping down the '98 FK engine first. Was hoping this would be "the one"

    As I stripped down both engines I had, it became very obvious very quickly that one of them was in better shape than the other, if only judging from external factors. The UK engine had definitely had a harder life. The parts I was pulling off the FK were all genuine volvo parts, so I'd say that the guy in hull probably took it to the local dealer to get serviced or perhaps the local garages just don't cheap out as much as places here. However...

    Mmmm tasty

    UK Engine water pump. Water sitting probably ... for a while.

    Either way, the corrosion in the head was significant and things like the water pump gasket seal took a lot of scraping with a razor before I could get it off. On the flipside, the australian engine was easy to pull apart, with most items coming away like they'd only seen perhaps 20,000km. Both water pumps were genuine and I'll keep them aside as emergency spares, but I had a new SKF pump to use.

    I started by pulling all of the exhaust studs off, since I always like to replace these because you never know how long the old ones have been on there and could snap at any moment. In all likelihood, that'll be when you're just finishing off the build by putting the hot side back on the engine.

    Potato cam activate! Sorry for the shoddy pic.

    If I use the '91 FT, I plan to swap over to the FK ancillary bracket to mount the AC compressor, as the Australian one used rubber mounts which are prone to failing. For the remaining 3x rubber mounts that the Alternator is attached with, they will be swapped out either for poly mounts or (more likely), aluminium mounts from Yoshifab.

    My internal desire to at least attempt to do things right the first time tends to end up blowing out the time a project takes to complete, but hopefully I'll be able to get it on the road this summer to cruise with. That would be nice.

    Narrator in 2020: But he didn't get it on the road by summer...

  • jamesincJames @jamesinc Oz Volvo Ice Fortress

    IMO it's worthwhile to strip the head down and have a shop hot-tank it and skim the deck. It will also tell you if/how much corrosion is around the coolant passages. I've cracked a lot of redblocks open and I've never seen a head with no corrosion.


  • A valid point. Not knowing much about that kinda stuff, would you hot-tank it with the valvetrain in place or would you ideally strip everything out and reinstall it after cleaning? There was next to no visible corrosion on the earlier engine in the places there were on the UK engine, which after cleaning off that white stuff around the thermostat hole showed significant pitting around the edge, to the point where I worried it wouldn't seal.

    When the time comes to rebuild the FK block (as I mention briefly in this next post I have lined up ;)) I'll try to find a decent machine shop that can help me through the process. I'll either get a new head for it or if it's worth repairing, do that instead. In order to just get the car on the road, I wanted to try to get the best set up with the parts I had, without cracking things open too much. Down the line I'll slowly build up an engine for the long-term.

    July 2019 - Do you even compress bro

    I started stripping down both engines with the intention of compression testing both in order to find out which one was a better starting point for the build. The idea would be to use one of the engines as-is, without a rebuild to shorten the build time, hoping that at least one of them is in good enough condition to continue.

    I rigged up the battery out of my 850, some battery cables and a starter after mucking around with some shithouse jumper cables that couldn't start an RC car. It looked something like this:

    The results of the compression test were:

    UK 1998 B230FK Engine:

    Cyl 1 - 137

    Cyl 2 - 144

    Cyl 3 - 142

    Cyl 4 - 129

    AU 1991 B230FT Engine:

    Cyl 1 - 141

    Cyl 2 - 142

    Cyl 3 - 146

    Cyl 4 - 142

    I should note here that when I did this, it was literally the first time I'd comp tested an engine before, and I don't think I had the throttle wide open. Might've skewed the results somewhat. Oh well...

    At this point the AU engine I picked up looks like it's in better condition with more consistent pressure across all cylinders. I'd be lying if I didn't have my reservations as I know the engine has has a headgasket and head skim in the past from it being warped from an overheating event, but it may just be worth the chance.

    With this in mind, I can start planning and cleaning up the Australian (henceforth referred to as the FT) engine to prepare it for use. That means sorting through all the parts I have to find the better versions of things like exhaust manifold, cleaning up the water pump surface and replacing all the seals I intend to.

    There's a (very minor) issue though. By this point, I'd already ordered some parts and one of them was a timing belt. I originally thought the later engine was going to be a better choice so I bought a belt to suit that engine. In 1993 they changed the belt from a a square-tooth to a round tooth, so I plan to take off all the timing gear from the 1998 engine and move the cam, intermediate and crank gearing to the 1991 engine. That way I can use the belt I have and enjoy the quieter operation in provides.

    It also means I need to get intimate with working with timing on an engine, something I haven't needed to do before thanks to working only on timing chain engines... but hey, nothing that a Haynes manual and and internet connection can't help with, right?

    Ultimately, depending on how things go, I might rebuild the FK engine as it will definitely have oil squirters, whereas the '91 doesn't.

  • jamesincJames @jamesinc Oz Volvo Ice Fortress

    A valid point. Not knowing much about that kinda stuff, would you hot-tank it with the valvetrain in place or would you ideally strip everything out and reinstall it after cleaning?

    I think you'd have to tear it down. I would really recommend doing the light head refresh while the engine is out. That would involve tearing the head down, getting it cleaned, replacing the valve stem seals, reassembling, lapping the valve seats, checking and adjusting the valve clearances. A machine shop would also be able to check the valve guides and replace as necessary. Same for the freeze plugs in the head.

    It's not essential, but it is a lot of peace of mind, especially the valve stem seals, especially in boosted applications.

  • The oil squirters aren't required, majority of engines don't use them, even modified ones with high rpm (big boost and HP) applications. But since you already have them you might as well use them

  • Good to know! They get talked about as being this magical must-have feature for redblocks (at least it seems that way), but I figured the more important thing was that both blocks were 13mm rod blocks, so I'm glad I didn't put that much weight behind having oil squirters for the first iteration of this car. Without getting to ahead of myself, it's going to retain factory management and run a reasonable boost level - not aiming for huge numbers here. Just hopefully reliable, and a bit fun ;)

  • Your FK engine block is more desirable for strength - the later the date of block manufacture, the stronger it is said to be.

    If your FT block has dimples on oil gallery on the hot side per stealthfi's pic below, it is a L block that's likely been pre-drilled for squiters. So there may be bolts in place of the squirters. If there's a 'K' cast on the block on the cold side, it won't be pre-drilled.

    Squirters just help with cooling the piston a bit more than usual, which cannot but help to improve the longevity of turbocharged engines.

    Does your FK engine from the UK have a 530 or 531 head?

  • The FT Block has definitely got the dimples, and it's stamped with a D under the exhast-side where the engine mount goes. When I had the sump off I didn't check if it had been pre-drilled with bolts in there. The only thing cast on the cold side is the Volvo logo and the number '13' on the lower portion next to the PCV drain tube.

    The UK engine has a 530 head, which given the condition being as poor as it seems without inspecting thoroughly, means I might try to source a 531 head for it down the road. That is unless there's something special about the later heads that makes it worth using, which I doubt :D I'll likely keep it 8v rather than going twincam partly because simplicity for me and I wonder if I can even keep the factory manual clutch master as-is. Would be pretty toight in there ;)

  • If your FT engine had a square-toothed timing belt, it most likely did not have had the oil jets fitted.

    I was curious about the type of head they put on the last models of FK engine. It seems they put 530s on the turbo engines even late in the game. Turbo 530s have the advantage of being fitted with sodium filled intake valves, which aid cooling a bit. Unmodified 531s flow a little bit better than standard 530s, but a 531 is the better basis for modification.

    IIRC there were RHD versions of manual 16V 740s in the UK, so if so, the clutch master cylinder should fit. From what I recall, the clutch hydraulics are fed from the brake reservoir.

    Forget to write earlier how much I'm enjoying reading your build story; please continue.

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