This guide has been written for Volvo 242 GT enthusiasts, and attempts to collate all the history, information and specifications for the Volvo 242 GT from many sources in one convenient reference point. If you feel there is any information missing or something that can be improved or corrected, please click the contact author button above, or email us directly:

The 242 GT was a special edition (sports oriented) version of the 240 series, available only in 2-door sedan in limited markets from 1978 through to 1981. It is suggested that the car was originally designed to compete with the BMW 323i, but there were plenty of other relevant competitors in this sector such as high spec versions of the Opel Commodore C, Ford Cortina and of course its home grown competitor, the Saab 99. In any event, the aim of the 242 GT was to shake off Volvo's "safe and boring" image, and to achieve that on a small budget. The 242 GT ended up being the start of greater things to come - including the GLT, GLT Turbo and the 240 Turbo Evolution. These later developments of the 242 chassis led to great success in touring car racing globally, with victory for the 240 Turbo in the 1985 European Touring Car Championship. The later success of racing bricks really did start with the 242 GT.

Throughout this guide, we have referred to "Series 1" and "Series 2" cars. This is a reference to the facelift that occurred across the 200 Series Volvos in 1979, with the most prominent change in the form of a redesigned rear end and tail lights. Further specific details of the Series 1 and 2 cars are identified in each section of this page.


The 242 GT proved a very popular special edition Volvo, and has a strong international following in the markets where it was offered. The Volvo 242 GT was first introduced and promoted to the public in late 1977, but did not officially go on sale until the Spring of 1978 in some markets. The 242 GT was built in the Torlanda plant (Gothenburg), in Sweden.

Unfortunately, precise production data has not been found. However, assuming we are interpreting the translation correctly, suggests that 5,000 units were built (but  we note that it is unclear whether that statement is a reference to the later Series II cars alone). However, even if production numbers were higher, the 242 GT is a super-minority out of the nearly 250,000 2-door 240 series cars built globally, and a very rare classic today. The following list of production information has been gathered from numerous forums and online sources which (may) give some insight into the 242 GT production figures:

  • Sweden (despite being the country of origin) only received a total of 670 242 GTs (265 units in 1978 and 405 units in 1979 according to No 242 GT was offered after 1979.
  • suggests Australia received 630 cars. This is approximately consistent with discussion on Australian Volvo forums which have frequently suggested a figure of around 600.
  • Series 2 cars were delivered to Swedish customers (as 79 model year cars) from as early as November 1978.
  • NZ is estimated to have received only 20 cars (and subsequently some Australian cars have been imported to NZ). We have spotted only a few NZ 242 GTs for sale over the last decade, so this is consistent with a very low number having been sold there.
  • 200 242 GTs (painted black) were sold in Canada from 1980. We presume this figure of 200 is on top of the standard silver Mystic Metallic 242 GTs.
  • We have not been able to find any numbers otherwise for the US and Canada. Presumably this would have been the largest market outside of Europe, and constitute several thousand cars.
  • The 242 GT was never sold in the UK. The 242 GT also does not appear in Dutch brochures in relevant years, so we presume it was also never offered in that market.
  • The 242 GT appears in German, Australian, Canadian and US brochures.


1. Exterior features: Volvo 242 GT

This section of the guide outlines the distinct exterior features and specifications of the Volvo 242 GT throughout its short production run. References to "Series 1" cars is a reference to the earlier vehicles built in 1978. A ferefernce to "Series 2" cars is a reference to the facelifted 242 GTs built from 1979 (or late 1978 according to through to the last 242 GTs of 1981.

  • The 242 GT was available in 2-door sedan only (no wagon or 4-door sedan was offered).
  • Unlike other models in the 240 range, the 242 GT had the majority of chrome finishes removed, with black anodised finishes in place of the chrome. Most prominently, this included door mirrors (on Series 1 cars), matte black window and door frames, tail light frames and the dress trim at the top of the C-pillar. The only chrome features remaining on the car were the door handles, the lock barrels and the frames for the side rear parker lights (which were applied in limited markets only on Series 1 cars). Those frames were eventually replaced by black frames shortly after production began.
  • The grille applied to the 242 GT was unique. The grille and headlight surround panels have a silver finish, with a thin black surround / border which continued around the outside of the headlight surrounds. This is distinct from other models in the 200 series range.
  • Two Bosch fog lights were integrated into the grille, and all 242 GTs featured single round 180mm Bosch front headlamps. In some markets, the grille mounted foglights were high beam lamps, and in other markets they were strictly fog lights (depending on regulation).
  • Red/black stripe decals were applied, and were unique to the 242 GT. The stripes were applied the full length of the side of the car, and also applied to the trunk and hood lids (following the panel creases on top of the panels). Stripes were also applied to the lower edge of the front air dam (lip spoiler) of the early cars (prior to the updated spoiler being fitted). Note, stripes differed slightly between Series 1 and Series 2 cas (see below "Series 1 and Series 2 differences")
  • Depending on the market, 242s integrated a clear lens parking light with the front side indicator. This was the case in Australia for example (while in some other markets the indicator lens was entirely amber (orange).
  • The 242 GT was available in two colours:
    • Mystic Silver Metallic (paint code #130); and
    • Black (paint code #19). This colour was only available in the Canadian market, and only applied to 200 vehicles.
  • Two alloy wheel options were availeble:
    • 20-spoke 14 inch alloy wheels, fitted with Pirelli Cinturato CN36 tyres (applied to earlier cars1978-79, both Series 1 and 2); and
    • 5-spoke 15 x 6 inch Virgo alloy wheels fitted with 195/60R15 low-profile tyres (later cars: 1979-81).
  • Two types of front chin spoiler / splitter were applied:
    • Cars built in 1978 and up to late 1979 received a spoiler that contained two rectangular air intake vents (located approximately below the inner edge of the car's headlamps). This early design followed closely the contour of the bumper bar, and had a fairly vertical plane with only a slight flare / lip to the front. 
    • Cars from late 1979 onward had a revised spoiler that was far more flared at the front (making a more distinct 'chin' at the front of the car). This later design had a large central vent made up of four rectangular vents (as opposed to the two separate smaller rectangular vents on the earlier design). The vent was slightly off-centre (extending to the front right of the car where the tow hook was located).
  • There are differences between the rear trunk lid badges. 1978 - 1978 cars cars have a smaller silver text badge reading "Volvo 242 GT", which sits on a black background that connects the letters together. Cars of 1980 - 1981 had larger text, with the "GT" letters in red. Examples of the differences are shown in the image gallery.
  • A sunroof was optional from the factory, and was a relatively popular accessory on the 242 GT.
  • Most 242 GT's black bumpers had a silver insert running through the middle (the same silver as the car's paint). However, we have sighted a large number of cars that do not have the silver insert stripe applied. Therefore, we assume that the silver insert was not always applied.
  • Some 242 GTs have wipers mounted on the headlamps.It is believed that this was only an option in some European markets.
  • Plastic Headlight covers were available as an option in most markets (the same as applied to all 200 series cars).
  • The factory glass applied has "Volvo Sunex" stamped/printed in the corner of each window. The side and rear glass was tinted as standard.
  • The last 30 Volvo 242 GTs sold in Australia were equipped with the dual headlamp front end, and thus had no fog lights in the grille.Those cars also had the Volvo 244 Turbo's rear tail lights. An example of one of those cars (repainted black) sold at a Shannons Auction for just $7,500  in Sydney during 2015 - as shown at the following link. We have also included images of another silver example in the gallery.
  • A towbar was a surprisingly common accessory on these cars. suggests that 200 of the 670 Swedish cars sold were fitted with tow bars.


Series 1 and Series 2 differences:

  • Series 1 cars had a different rear end design to later cars (which followed the standard facelift accross the 200 series range). On Series 1 cars, the end of the trunk has a distinct crease and a recessed area on the rear vertical face, and flat tail light lenses. Many series 1 cars also have red or amber parking lights on the rear mudguards. We believe ths may be a market specific feature, as there are many Series 1 examples that are not fitted with these side lamps.
  • Series 2 cars (introduced in 1979) had a revised trunk lid without the recessed edge, along with wrap around tail lamps (removing the need for the side parker lamps). The body side moulding was also revised to continue around the rear of the trunk lid (previously, it stopped on the edge of the rear guard).
  • The stripe applied to the Series 1 trunk is thinner where it wraps up over the trunk edge compared to the Series 2 cars. The Series 2 cars had a thicker stripe in that location where the stripe wraps up over the trunk lid.
  • Series 1 side mirrors were anodised black metal. Series 2 cars received updated black plastic mirrors.
  • A unique badge was applied to the rear of the front mudguard (just before the door). For Series 1 cars the badge reads "242 GT 2.1", and has black text on a silver background. For Series 2 cars it reads "242 GT 2.3", with black text on a gold background. However, review of late vehicles (1980-81) suggests that volvo may have done away with this specific badging. Three 1980 Australian vehicles we have sighted have only a "Volvo" badge in the position of the engine size badge, as do several 1980-81 US vehicles. We assume therefore that the unique GT badges were abandoned around that time.
  • Note, the US vehicles always had the 2.1l engine, and therefore would not have received the 2.3l badge as described in the previous point.
2. Interior features: Volvo 242 GT

This section of the guide details the interior features and specifications of the Volvo 242 GT.

  • All seats were trimmed with black velour cloth (corduroy style), with a vinyl orange/red stripe applied running through the centre of the seat. The seats also had red piping trim around the boarder. This trim was applied to both the front and rear seats.
  • The black-red theme continued on the door cards and dashboard. The front door cards were finished in black vinyl, with a velour cloth insert (the same as the seat trim) and the same vinyl orange/red stripe ran the length of the front door. The red stripe continued part way onto the rear quarter trim cards (but did not continue the full length of the card).
  • Most cars received a continuation of the orange/red stripe across the waistline of the dashboard, linking with the door card stripes. However, from our observation not all cars received this stripe. In particular, we have sighted several cars from NZ and Australia that have not had this applied. (Here are several links to examples of cars without the stripe applied to the dashboard: 242 GT 1, 242 GT 2 and 242 GT 3. Also, there are advertisements (one from Australia in particular) where no stripe has been applied. See the documentation section of this guide below for images.
  • A black roof lining, carpets and door aperture trims were applied to all 242 GTs.
  • Two types of leather padded 14-inch steering wheel were applied to the 242 GT:
    • Early wheel: The centre pad on this wheel had a bright red verticle rectangular "GT" badge in the centre. Each of the 4-spokes were integrated with the centre pad by a  "dogleg" shaped mould which connected the top and bottom spokes on each side. This wheel was fitted to most early cars (the time of cutoff is uncertain, but presumably some time in 1979 or 1980). See the image in the gallery labeled "Early Wheel".
    • Later wheel: The rim and spokes on this wheel were very different to the early wheel, and overall it was less sporty than the earlier wheel in its appearance. The centre pad on this wheel had a large square badge area with a horizontal rectagle "GT" badge in the centre. The background of the GT badge was white, and the text was red, with a black underline (consistent with the exterior trim theme). The Centre pad had two verticle horn buttons, which integrated with the lower spokes of the wheel, which connected to the rim very vertically. See the image in the gallery labeled "Later Wheel".
  • A fog lamp button was mounted next to the rear demist button on the centre dash.
  • Early model cars (up to but excluding the 1980 cars), did not have a tub area to accommodate a full size spare wheel. Instead, a special inflatable spare wheel (space saver) was fitted, which was limited to 80 km/h). The spare wheel was normally stored without air on the left side of the luggage compartment and in the event of a puncture, the tyre was filled with air using a small 12 Volt compressor that came with every 242 GT. This original design was intended of course to save space in the luggage compartment, and the tyre fitted to the space saver was of a low profile. From some point in 1980, a larger wheel storage tub was integrated with the trunk floor, and a full size, wheel and tyre was included. The fitting of a space saver and full size wheel from 1980, although referred to in factory documents, is an assumption we have made from our research.The spare wheel in the trunk is a standard steel rim - not an alloy, and from observation was generally painted black or silver.
  • Early cars and later cars had different instrument clusters.
    • Early dashboard: Based on our observations, the vast majority of cars had a dashboard that contained (from left to right) a speedometer, a centrally mounted RPM timer, followed by the temperature and fuel level gauges. This dashboard was further recessed into the dash compared with the later design noted below. Refet to the image in the gallery labeled "Early instruments".
    • Later vehicles: (Several sighted from the 1980 yearconward), had a dashboard panel that was slightly closer to the driver. It read (from left to right) Oil pressure, temperature, RPM, Speedometer, fuel and amperage. See the image in the gallery labeled "Later Instruments" for ease of reference.
  • The 242 GT was fitted with electric windows and air conditioning in all markets.
  • A sunroof was a very common option on the 242 GT, and in some brochures it is noted as a standard feature.
3. Mechanical specs and evolution: Volvo 242 GT

In this section of the guide, we outline the mechanical and performance specifications of the Volvo 242 GT. This is split into two main sections, reflecting the changeover (in most markets) from the 2.1L to the 2.3L engine, as there were several significant differences between them. Please contact us if you have any further information you think could benefit this section of the guide.


Engine and driveline:

Early 242 GTs (and so far as we know, all US models) had the B21 series engine, being either the B21E or B21F. US exported cars were equipped with the lambda probe and catalytic converter B21F engine, and our understanding is that the US market never received the later B23 (2.3L) engine (which resulted in reduced power specifications). The specifications of the B21 engine are as follows:

  • Bore and stroke: 92.0mm x 8.00mm
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Capacity: 2,127cc
  • Claimed Power: 90kw / 120 hp @ 5,500 RPM (US cars were 101hp @ 5,200 RPM)
  • Claimed Torque: 170NM @ 3,500 RPM (US cars: 111lb-ft @ 2,500 RPM).
  • Compression Ratio: 9.3:1
  • Aspiration: Bosch K-Jetronic electronic fuel injection
  • Power to weight: 42.31


All cars were fitted with the M46 4-speed manual transmission, which had hydraulic overdrive. Gear ratio's are as follows:

First 3.71
Second 2.16
Third 1.37
Fourth 1.00
Fourth overdrive 0.80
Final drive ratio (diff ratio) 3.91


  • Fuel consumption: Between 8.1 and 9.6 km/litre (22.9 - 27.1 mpg)
  • Standing 400m: 18.6 seconds
  • 0-110km/kr: 16.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 170 km/hr


  • Suspension:
    • Firmer "DeCarbon" gas shock absorbers were fitted to the rear of the car. Standard oil shock absorbers were fitted to the front. 
    • Front: Independent McPherson Struts with 21mm anti roll bar. All springs were at least 30% stiffer than the standard DL/GL/GLE 200 series cars.
    • Rear: Live axle with trailing arms with coil springs and panhard rod (the same as the DL/GL/GLE 200 series cars). and several articles suggest the series 1 GT was fitted with a 21mm anti roll bar at the rear (which later increased to 23mm for 1979). suggests that the rear roll bar on early cars was 25mm, and that in the US market it was 18mm). If anyone can confirm these differences, please get in touch.
    • 5mm thick reinforcement plates mounted to the front shock strut towers.
  • Wheels and tyres: 5.5JX14 fitted with 185/70HRX14 Pirelli Cinturato CN36 tyres. No full size spare was provided (instead, a deflated space saver was applied).
  • Steering: Rack and pinion (power steering as standard)
  • Brakes: Front: 263mm ventilated discs. Rear: 281mm solid discs.

Dimensions and weight:

  • Wheelbase: 2,640mm
  • Front track: 1,400mm
  • Rear track: 1,350mm
  • Length: 4,900mm
  • Width: 1,710mm
  • Height: 1,440mm
  • Ground clearance: 140mm
  • Kerb weight: 1,360kg
  • Fuel tank capacity: 60L


Later 242 GTs (from 1979) in most markets outside of the US were fitted with the more powerful B23 engine, with the following specifications (most of which were taken from from the Driveline Magazine, 1979)..

Engine and driveline:

  • Bore and stroke: 96.0 x 80.0 mm
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Capacity: 2,316cc
  • Claimed Power: Bosch fuel injection
  • Claimed Torque: 10.0:1
  • Compression Ratio: 104kw @ 5,750 RPM (some sources claim 105kw)
  • Aspiration: 191 NM @ 4,500 RPM
  • Power to weight: 13.1kg/kw
  • Specific power output: 44.9kw/litre


  • Fuel consumption: 12.9l/100km
  • Standing 400m: 17 seconds
  • 0-100km/kr: 11.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 180km/hr
  • Braking from 100km/hr: 41m

Transmission and driveline:

All cars were fitted with the M46 4-speed manual transmission, which had hydraulic overdrive. Gear ratio's are as follows:

First 3.71
Second 2.16
Third 1.37
Fourth 1.00
Fourth overdrive 0.80
Final drive ratio 3.73

Note, it is documented among enthusiasts that some of the Australian delivered 242 GTs were converted to an automatic transmission by a local volvo engineering company, but all were originally 4-speed manual cars as per the M46 specifications above.


  • Suspension:
    • Gas filled high pressure shock absorbers were fitted all round
    • Front: Independent McPherson Struts with 21mm anti roll bar. The front springs were 30% stiffer than the standard DL/GL/GLE 200 series cars.
    • Rear: Live axle with trailing arms with coil springs and panhard rod (the same as the DL/GL/GLE 200 series cars). However, the GT was fitted with a 23mm anti roll bar in the 1979 year, but went to a 21mm bar for the 1980/81 years.
  • Wheels: 5.5JX14 20 spoke light alloy wheels fitted with Pirelli 185/70HRX14 or 5 spoke Virgo light alloy wheels witted with 195/60HR15 Pirelli tyres.
  • Steering: Rack and pinion (power steering as standard).
  • Brakes: Front: 263mm ventilated discs. Rear: 281mm solid discs.

Dimensions and weight:

  • Wheelbase: 2,640mm
  • Front track: 1,400mm
  • Rear track: 1,350mm
  • Length: 4,900mm
  • Width: 1,710mm
  • Height: 1,440mm
  • Ground clearance: 140mm
  • Kerb weight: 1,360kg
  • Fuel tank capacity: 60L
4. Literature and documentation: Volvo 242 GT

Attached is a small collection of articles, excerpts and documentation found on the internet, covering the specifications and old reviews of the Volvo 242 GT. If you have any original material which you think would be of use to this section, please contact the author of this article.

Classic Register discloses that it does not own any intellectual property rights with respect to the attached images of documentation, and is providing this information for historical and educational purposes only, for fellow enthusiasts.

5. VIN / chassis number: Volvo 242 GT

242 GT vehicle data plate - VIN / Chassis number:

An aluminium vehicle data plate is fitted (with 4 rivets) to the inner right mudguard (under the hood, on the outer side of the front right shock tower). The VIN / Chassis number is embossed on the data plate in the top left (next to it is the text "Chassi Nr"). The chassis number / VIN for the 242 GT in most markets is 12 characters long, and is presented in the following format:

2428 M 1 1##### 

The 242 GT VIN / chassis number is broken down as follows:

SECTION 1 - BODY TYPE: 2428 M 1 1#####

The "242" identifies that the car is a 240 series Volvo, with 2 doors.

SECTION 2 - ENGINE TYPE: 2428 M 1 1#####

The "8" following the 242 reflects the B23 (2.3) engine. In very early cars, and all north american market cars, the code is either "44" or "45", being the B21E and B21F 2.1l engines respectively.

SECTION 3 - BUILD YEAR: 2428 M 1 1#####

The "M" (the 5th digit in the code) represents the year the car was built (L = 1978; M = 1979; A = 1980; B = 1981).


The code "1" confirms the 242 GT was built in the Torlanda (Gothenburg) plant in Sweden.

SECTION 5 - UNIQUE VIN/CHASSIS #: 2428 M 1 1#####

This is the chassis/VIN number unique to the individual vehicle.

North American VIN codes:

The USA and Canadadian cars had the same 12 characters / structure as all other markets, but their VIN was preceded by the letters "VC" .

Eg. VC 2428 M 1 1#####

The VIN on US 242 GT is not only embossed on the data plate (as described above), it is also printed on top of the driver side dashboard (visible through the front windscreen). We have included an example for reference in the image gallery.

Australian compliance plate:

Australian market cars also had their own compliance data plate (confirming the various Australian standards that cars met). This plate is riveted (with two rivers) to the front of the left shock tower (under the hood). An example of an Australian compliance plate applied to a 242 GT is shown in the image gallery.


6. Engine number and engine characteristics - Volvo 242 GT

Engine head

The engine head was cast aluminium (unpainted), with a silver rocker cover.


All engine blocks were painted a bright red. We have not been able to determine the precise original paint colour code applied, but forum discussion suggests that "Penta Red" by Duraplus (product number 827501) is a possible close match. Alternatively, others have suggested that "Duplicolour ceramic brake paint" is a close match and a quality solution, and there are several close engine paint solutions available from Ford and Chev. There is also a POR-15 Red which many recommend as a durable option.

Engine number

The Volvo 242 GT's engine had the engine number stamped into the front left top edge of the cylinder block (directly below the foremost cylinder's inlet port).

The engine number applied was 11 digits long, beginnig with "4". There does not appear to be any particular link between an engine number and a vehicle's chassis number, so it's not possible to precisely ascertain whether a car retains its original engine.

Details of engine numbers have been difficult to confirm. If any enthusiasts have further information, please contact us. 

7. References: Volvo 242 GT


Below is a list of reference sources that we have relied on for the production of this information guide.






This site has provided the following:

a. Official Volvo 200 series brochures from 1979 and 1980

b. Official German Volvo 242 GT Brochure

c. Official Australian Volvo 242 GT Brochure

6. Car and Driver Magazine December 1977

7. Motor Trend Magazine December 1981

8. Wheels Magazine (Australia) Road Test 1979

9. Wheels Magazine (Australia) 1979 242 GT v Saab 99 Turbo