My words, thoughts and photos from a Swedish perspective

The 1967 Volvo 210 story

I wrote this entry about Volvo 210 (sold as Volvo Duett here in Sweden) and got a comment from David Shamlian in the USA, who is happy enough to own one. To make it short, I asked if he would write his story about his car and attach some photos of it that I could post in my blog and I was delighted when he accepted so thanks a million.

Now over to David:

My first car after High School was a 1970 Volvo 164.  I was working as a chef for a year before college.   I  remember my coworkers confused expressions when they first saw it. My boss couldn’t understand why a 19 year old wouldn’t want an American muscle car.  I loved the 164.  One of its best features was the ability to unbolt the front leather passenger seat and turn it backwards.  It created a loveseat in the front and a lounge in the back.

Two years later when I was walking to class on campus at the University of Delaware I saw the 1967 Volvo 210 with a “for sale” sign in the window for $1300 dollars.  I was instantly smitten.  It was the coolest surf wagon that I had ever seen.  I called and found out that it belonged to a plumber who was selling it to buy his son a (crappy) Chevy Chevette. My only concerns were how I would adjust to less power and no air conditioning.  After a spirited test drive with the synchonized 4 on the floor and tinkering with the vent windows I was sold. My girlfriend was not…
My next challenge was how to quickly sell my beloved (but betrayed) 164 and pony up the asking price.  I wandered into one of my dorm mates room next door and confided in a sophomore named Wes. I was going to ask him to help me put sales notices up around campus.  To my utter shock he put down his drink and picked up his checkbook and wrote
me a check for $2000.  He said he was going to buy it for his mom.  I waited for a day for him to sober up and ask me for the check back, but never another word was said.  I had a friend drive me to pick up the car and went through the paper work.  It was originally purchased and imported by a doctor who traded it in to a dealer (who spray painted all
the gray mats blue).  That is where the plumber bought it.
To celebrate my new sweet ride I took the 210 out to the Jersey sand pits and thrashed it through woods and over the dunes. That summer in between semesters I had a bondo/sheet metal fest with the floors and wheel wells and fitted it with curtains and a mattress.
I followed my twin brother’s Volvo 240 wagon cross country to California traversing the Mohave desert at night. The muffler fell off in Flagstaff but I waited til Santa Barbara to remuffle its roar. The 210 was revving high at 65 mph but didn’t complain.  The 150 mile range of the 9 gallon gas tank facilitated meeting many pump jockeys.  Many of whom wanted to buy the car to make it a hot rod.  We split up in California.  I headed south to San Diego and then back West over the mountains to Tucson here my girlfriend (now wife) was going to nursing school.  I remember thinking that if I put my arm out of the window it would cool off.  Instead it burned like a blow torch.  We headed south into Mexico with no particular destination and ended up at the Baha sound.
This was as deserted a beach as it gets. No civilization.  I waded into the hot baywater and picked up what I thought was a long piece of plastic wrapping in front of me. The tenticles of a Man- O-War feel like 10,000 volts as it wraps around your arm and stings you.  My arms were already paralysed as I staggered up the beach to the Volvo and collapsed in the back. Slowly the paralysis crept from my neck down to my waist. The glands under my arms felt as big as basket balls. When my lungs started to fail I was philosophically thinking about how there was no better place to die than with my angel in the back of my Duett.  The only thing that kept me from drifting off was that I knew my angel didn’t know how to drive a stick.  12 hours later I started getting movement back and I knew we would be getting back on the road.  Stopping for gas in a small village I gave the man $20 for $5 worth of gas.  Of course he pretended not to understand that change was due, but at that point I just blew him a kiss and headed for the border.  I kissed the ground on the American side of Nogales.
For the 4 day drive back to New Jersey I  had enough money for gas and a big jar of peanut butter. The Duette was a comfy nest with the curtains and mattress at rest stops. As I was pulling into the driveway at my destination my rear shockmount broke.  It is uncanny how this car always got me home.
Once before, the diaphram in the  Zenith Stomberg broke as I was drifting into the driveway after a long trip.  Another time as I was making a 12 hour drive from Maine to New Jersey my fuel pump failed near Providence Rhode Island.  I drifted off the exit and had just enough momentum to make it to a car repair shop. To my surprise I was greeted by an old friend from RISD who now ran a repair service for Swedish cars.  He had me on my way in a couple of hours.  In the ensuing years I had 4 fender benders on solid ice.
There was also a hit-and-run when I was parked. The final straw was being rear ended on an oil soaked road by a van. Although there was never any injuries I knew in 1989 it was time to retire the Duett from daily service and have her restored properly. The owner of Fosters Auto Restoration thought I was nuts to put 10k into a car that was worth only 5k restored. I also had the engine rebuilt with IPD parts and a Weber carb this headers installed.  The interior was next and a sway bar added.
A few hours ago I took her out of the garage and thrashed around a bit. She runs great and never fails to get a few thumbs up.  The restoration is 20 years old now.  I would really like to get a frame off restoration now.  I can hear the restorer saying now ” Why do you want to put 30k into a car that is worth only about 15k tops?”.
David Shamlian
PS. Ironically 32 years later I am  museum designer with a heavy emphasis on private car collections.

19 responses

  1. Pingback: Gas Station Information

  2. Pingback: » The 1967 Volvo 210 story « Staffan's English Blog

  3. Great story about the coolest car. Mine is NEARLY ready to hit the road. More pics and stories to come when it does, hopefully not about dying in the back! Nursing a broken collar bone is bad enough this summer.

    24/07/2010 at 17:20

  4. Staffan H

    Geraint Davies: Hi and welcome to my blog! It would be great if you would like to share some photos and stories about your Volvo when it’s back on the road again. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    25/07/2010 at 01:38

  5. Great story and car.

    06/08/2010 at 23:21

  6. Staffan H

    SDSheetMeal: Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    11/08/2010 at 10:30

  7. Robert Beall

    Great story.I have a 1958 445 duett that is in the late stages of a frame off restoration. I am converting it from 6 volt to 12 and changing the b16 to a b18. Front disk brake assemblie from an amazon have repaced the front drums. etc I have never driven it .

    15/04/2011 at 03:19

  8. Staffan H

    Robert Beall: Although Volvo’s B18 engine is one of the best ever built, the B16 takes me back to my childhood. My grandmother had an Amazon from 1959 and it had a B16B engine. I still remember its sewing machine tickning sound. I hope you get a chance to drive your restored Duett soon. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    16/04/2011 at 22:09

  9. Simon McGrath

    I think I’ve just bought this car? It’s on it’s way to Australia soon. If it could talk.

    29/08/2012 at 23:17

  10. David Shamlian

    Hi Simone. You didn’t buy this car. I still have it. Curious to see pics of the car you bought. My boss wants to buy my car and take it back home to Australia one day.

    David Shamlian

    02/09/2012 at 06:24

  11. Simon mcgrath

    Hi David. Google “bring a trailer Volvo Duett” and you’ll see my car. It sure looks like yours. Follow the link to eBay to see all the photos.
    Nice story
    Many thanks.

    02/09/2012 at 08:43

  12. Nick Hurd

    I bought a ‘new’ 1967 210 in 1988 from Bob Reynolds in Augusta,Maine after looking fo a used one to use as my station car in Westchester County NY. Reynolds had saved it and although he thought it would be his dealership’s signature shop car, his wife had apparently commandeered it for her own use. It served as our second and then third car for the ensuing years until I decided to leave it in the basement of a summer home we built on Southport Island in Maine. Each spring she would start up after a few cranks but the brakes wouuld need to be worked out because they’d rust up during the winter. We’d drive it around but it had become a death trap and the cancer was rampant.

    In 2004 I brought it to Alan Auto in Portland to have him work on the brakes and address some rot on the front end. The project got out of control and he had it for three years. No one should ever know how much I spent but the car is part of my soul and I couldn’t let it slip away ( my boys pointed out I could have bought a used Aston Martin for what I spent but any show off could have made that choice. When I got it back on 2007, I brought her to the national conclave in Ipswich, MA, thinking I could win a best in show. Unfortunately the prize went to the woman who hosted the event and I quickly realized it was more a popularity contest than a truly judged event. Nevertheless, my consulation is that I sleep well knowing it is without question one of the finest examples of a Duette in the world.

    Now retired, I made the decision to not have an expensive museum piece in my heated garage but my old friend became a ‘driver’ again – though she only turns over about 1000 miles a year at the most. I have some more contemporary German toys in the garage but the 210 is like an extension of my mind and body when I take it out for a drive.

    Two years ago I exhibited her at the Owls Head Transportation Museun fall show. Who did I bump into after all these years but Bob Reynolds – the fellow who sold it to me. He, too, is retired but it was clear his wife wanted him to swap his immaculate 356 cabriolet for the blue 210 that he sold out from under her more than 40 years earlier.

    Alan Auto’s website has a through documentation of the restoration. Make sure you see the extra section that shows the first part of the project. The employee, Hans, who did all the work has since passed away but I often thank him while driving the car- he kept my link with many long trips wit port a cribs an goofy dogs all alive.

    Hope you enjoy yours as much as we have enjoyed ours.

    24/02/2013 at 10:42

  13. Thanks for the beautifully written story. Did you ever google “Bring a Trailer” to look for the sister car to yours?
    Ironically my car arrives in Fremantle port Western Australia tomorrow. It was restored by a man known as Garland.
    Cheers Simon

    24/02/2013 at 11:17

  14. David Shamlian

    Hi Simon. Yes I did check out the site. Are cars are pretty much siblings. Probably pretty
    close serial numbers. I have dealer books with exploded views of every part if you ever have any questions. Hope you are having a blast with your indestructible machine.

    David Shamlian

    02/09/2013 at 18:39

  15. Simon McGrath


    Stay well, Sent from my iPhone by Simon McGrath 0418 918678 Buying or selling, I’d love to help you.

    02/09/2013 at 21:08

  16. …curtains and wood paneling…reminds me a lot of my first car…a ’67 122 station wagon…great story…and a fabulous mustache!…you clearly are a man of exquisite taste (if you saw me today, you know why I say that)…keep her running!…I’ll help…Cheers from Connecticut!

    14/04/2015 at 00:00

  17. John Yeranosian

    Shamlian? You must be Armenian like me. I have a 1958 Volvo 445 that I am restoring now/. You and I must be the only two Armenians who ever had a Duett.

    25/05/2015 at 03:23

  18. Simon McGrath


    Stay well, Sent from my iPhone by Simon McGrath 0418 918678 Buying or selling, I’d love to help you.

    25/05/2015 at 11:28

  19. David Shamlian

    Hi Simone. Are you and your Duett still in Australia? I just did my yearly check in on linked in and I think I just connected with you. I just had the 210 out yesterday. Still has
    decent torque with the IPD Weber set-up after I finally got the right jetting.

    27/05/2015 at 04:25

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