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Road Culture

Stop me from buying a 45-year-old Volvo

The burnt orange, the Molteni sticker, the Campagnolo in curvy font – this car is pure nostalgia.

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Arcore, Italy in 1948. The nation is on the brink of post-WWII civil war. Pietro Molteni is the undisputed salumi king, his slightly greasy reach extending across Europe and beyond. His packaging is a shade of burnt orange, white background, a little graphic of his majestic factory on the front, back when factory food was the future, something to be proud of. His goal: from the northern fringes of Milan to global domination. His path to success, on a continent gripped by post-war cycling heroics of Coppi and Magni and Bartali: a cycling team. 

We know the burnt orange, it’s ingrained in the cyclist’s psyche. On the shoulders and midriff of Eddy Merckx, with a black band across his chest, white letters, all caps. MOLTENI, they read. ARCORE, just below, nodding to that tiny town in Italy’s northern industrial belt. Short of the Worlds stripes, perhaps the most iconic jersey in cycling. 

I have my eye on a 1977 Volvo. 237,000 miles (381,000 km) on the odometer; practically new. Peeling clear coat and faded blue seats, cracked dash and dim, yellow headlights choked by the years. It’s a 244, the DL specifically.

One of the first cars with a crumple zone. Did you know that? It’s why kids my age in my part of the world, turning 16 just after the millennium, all drove Volvo 240s. Heavy, slow, incredibly unlikely to kill you, and old enough, even then, to be cheap. One of my high school girlfriends had one, the estate version. Dark blue, faded to light. It wouldn’t start on the morning of our SATs and she ran to school. 

I can’t say that particular bit of nostalgia is why I want this car. It has more to do with the burnt orange, the Molteni sticker in white block letters across the roof rack, the Campagnolo in curvy font on the rear passenger door, and a feeling that driving this particular vehicle would solve some sort of puzzle inside me, which has long been missing a piece. 

Oh, I long for the purr of its four-cylinder engine, coaxed forward by a four-speed manual. Ninety-five horsepower, when new. A couple of those probably escaped the barn since. All lovely. But what I really want is to feel like I’m in the opening scene of A Sunday In Hell

To be clear, this car is actually for sale, right now. It’s on Bring a Trailer, a sort of high-end eBay for cars, a site that I regularly scroll through just to look at ’60s Porches I cannot afford, but also home to the unique and wonderful. Like this 244.

The car is a tribute, the seller says, more so than a faithful remake. It brings us back to the spirit and aesthetic of the team cars that used to follow the great Eddy (the first Remco, some say), complete with most of the correct sponsors and definitely the right colors. It was purchased in Colorado two years ago, where it had lived for decades prior.

It has an AM/FM cassette radio, where I can plug in my Derek and the Dominos and let the ’70s wash over me. “The rear bumper is misaligned, the clearcoat on the roof is peeling, and paint chips are shown in the gallery. Corrosion is present on the left C-pillar and door jamb as well as below the trunk trim,” the listing says, and I do not care about any of these things.

On the roof is another less-than-faithful remake, a repainted steel frame with the right colors but the wrong components. This would have to be fixed.

It is currently up to $4,444, with five days left and no reserve. If one of you buys it, please just let me drive it around sometime.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.