Project Swedish Rocket Gets Down To Business


There really is quite a lot going on in my life right now, from both an automotive and personal perspective. Some of it is good, some of it is frustrating and, just your luck, some of it involves my trusty Volvo. Before we get in to the meat of this particular update, though, we have to cover some familiar ground: fixing crap that broke.

Tuning it up and making it (more) civilized

As I mentioned previously, a general tune-up was definitely on the menu and, with tax return season in full swing, I found myself with the ability to buy it all in one convenient chunk. I am pleased to say that the 850 now sports new ignition cap, rotor, spark plug wires and spark plugs. It also has a shiny new fuel filter underneath. Though there were some adventures installing that last bit, everything is now back in one piece and running as intended.

At least, it should be. For some reason, however, I seem to have actually lost fuel mileage. Since this thing was never a fuel-sipper to begin with that concerns me. Hopefully it will be resolved by the next update.

In any case, I also decided that I would take a trip to my local scrap yard and pick the carcass of another, less-fortunate ’97 850 sedan so that I might resolve some of my car’s more irritating quirks. I didn’t score any rare finds, but I did come away with some goodies. Long story short: the passenger side visor no longer reminds the person next to me of its presence by tapping them on the head, the power antenna now goes both up and down (all the way!) and I was even able to get the fuel line bypass valve that was the source of the fuel filter “adventure” I mentioned earlier. Best of all, though, I came away with an OEM Volvo 15″ wheel that I can use as a full-size spare. This last item will make sense shortly.

The door checks are still crap, the front struts are still noisy and the passenger rear window appears to be off its track, but at least some stuff got fixed, right?

Finally, I had the car aligned. At first I tried doing it myself, but the alignment machine at my job doesn’t even work right on the Hondas it’s used for half the time. My 16-year-old Swede befuddled it to no end and, after several failed attempts to make the steering wheel level, I gave up and took it to someone with a bit more experience and better equipment.

Completing the look

Volvo 850 fog light

Before the Lamin-X film.

Although the HID lights and IPD grille look great, the car still didn’t seem complete to me when I looked at it. It took me a while, but I finally put my finger on the last piece of the puzzle: the fog lamps. One of the other guys at work had just picked up a Mitsubishi and put yellow Lamin-X film over his fog light lenses. As soon as I saw it, I knew what I was missing. Fortunately, he was in a sharing mood and, since the lamps are tiny on the Volvo, he didn’t even have to share much.

The difference is subtle, but, to me at least, dramatic. It finally looks exactly like I think it should.

Volvo 850 fog light laminex

With the Lamin-X applied

On to the challenge

Oh, bloody hell; despite my best intentions, I still managed to spend nearly 600 words talking about fixing broken stuff and making upgrades. I promise the rest of the article will be about something more interesting.

As you may recall, when I got back in to this car, I decided to give it (and me) a goal. The challenge I have in mind is, like many of my automotive endeavors, Top Gear-inspired.

Back in season 16 Jeremy raced a Jaguar XJ from the easternmost point in England to the westernmost point, on the shortest night of the year, against God himself. In the end, Clarkson beat the sun, but it was close. I found it to be one of their best mini races, both in concept and execution. I decided I would have to do something similar.

Since I live in New Jersey, though, it will have to be different in several ways. First, even at its widest points, I can easily cross the state in a couple of hours and, second, with an extensive and efficient highway system, covering all 170 miles north to south would be embarrassingly easy as well. I believe I have a solution to both problems.

Like Clarkson’s, my challenge will take place on the shortest night of the year (June 21). My goal will be to start, at sunset, from the northernmost point in the state and, over the course of the night travel first to the easternmost point, then the westernmost point before ending at the southernmost point before the sun rises again. The catch? I won’t be able to use any interstate or toll roads (now you can probably see why I wanted a full-size spare).

Volvo 850I have lined up a navigator and taken the time off from work. The Volvo is (in theory, anyway) tuned and ready. The plans are being laid out as we speak. This should be interesting.


About Chris Nelson

Chris is a writer and communicator with backgrounds in public relations, communication, political science and automotive technology. He holds an M.A. from Rowan University and a B.A. from Susquehanna University in addition to a certificate in Auto Tech from Lincoln Technical Institute.

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