1978 Volvo 264
6-cyl. 2664cc/125hp FI
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Volvo introduced the 200 series cars to the United States in 1975 beginning with the 240 series, which was an evolution of the older 140 series. The 260 series was introduced late in 1975 as a 1976 model year line of executive cars. The 260 series replaced the older 160 series.
In Volvo nomenclature of the day, the first digit of the car’s designation indicated series and the second digit indicated the number of cylinders. The final digit (2, 4, or 5) indicated a two-door coupe, four-door sedan, or five-door wagon. A Volvo 264 was therefore a 200-series, six-cylinder, four-door sedan. Two trim levels were available: DL and GL. DL trim levels featured cloth upholstery, manual roll-up windows, and basic interior features and trim. The GL was the premium trim level, and featured leather seats, power windows, a sunroof, and upgraded paint and exterior trim.
The Volvo 264 line was moderately expensive for its day, with the DL model starting at $6,595 in 1976, and the GL model starting at $9,895. By comparison, the premium BMW 530i retailed at $10,590.
The Volvo 264 was an important model for Volvo because it came with the Swedish automaker’s first modern aluminum overhead cam V-6 engine. The new B27 plant displaced 2.7 liters (163 cubic inches) and created 125 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque courtesy of Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection. The standard transmission for the 264 was a four-speed manual with electric overdrive, with an optional three-speed automatic. A five-speed manual was also available on GL models.
The B27 engines are known to have weak oiling systems, and the cams are especially vulnerable to low oil levels and blockages. This was a persistent problem in part because Volvo owners were used to bulletproof engines that did not require much maintenance. Thus, many early 260 series cars met early ends. Nevertheless, 1976 was the best year for the 264, with 25,267 cars sold in the United States.
The initial design configuration of U.S.-bound Volvo 264 models changed very little over the next several years. 1977 models featured an oxygen sensor (called Lambda) on all models, and 49-state models received catalytic convertors. California models had been fitted with cats since 1975, but received an upgraded unit for 1977. Power mirrors were added in 1978, and light body trim updates came in 1979.
In 1980, Volvo increased the gasoline V-6 engine’s displacement to 2.8 liters, and it made 130 hp and 153 lb-ft of torque, but the engines suffered from the same oiling difficulties as the 2.7-liter predecessor. The 260 series could also be purchased in Canada with a 2.4-liter D24 inline six-cylinder diesel engine rated at 78 hp and 102 lb-ft of torque, but not in the United States due to emissions. A few 264s were also fitted with the four-cylinder B21 2.1-liter engine at 96 hp and 121 lb-ft of torque.
Collectors shouldn’t assume the usual Volvo mechanical ruggedness and reliability with the 264 and be sure to look for well-kept examples and have a thorough mechanical inspection keeping an eye out camshaft wear. Higher-end GL models are desirable for leather upholstery, but DL models will have fewer problems with old power accessories.