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This 1983 Volvo 242 Has a Supercharged Small-Block Heart

A homecooked family-hauling box with massive amounts of hidden flavor.

Micah WrightWriterDarren MartinPhotographer

Ever watch the Netflix show Ugly Delicious starring foul-mouthed food mogul David Chang? It's a TV series that explores homegrown culinary staples from around the world and delves into their mainstream emergence. Whether you've seen the show or not, the Volvo seen here is the automotive equivalent of an "ugly delicious" dish: a vehicle with lowly beginnings and an equally humble appearance, but that packs more heat and flavor than a fat plate of Nashville hot chicken.

By taking a vehicle that epitomizes '80s Yuppie frumpiness and family safety and giving it the acceleration, braking, and handling one might expect from a true sports car—courtesy of a supercharged LS V-8 swap and myriad chassis upgrades—owner Sean Fogli has crafted one of the greatest sleepers of our time. With beige and brown as its two primary colors and a stock-looking tan interior adding further covertness, this Volvo 242 makes people look twice every time its owner takes it out.

Aside from the paint in the engine bay, some upholstery work, and a few one-off bits, all work on this Volvo was done by its owner in his garage. That means all the fabricating, wiring, plumbing, welding, converting, swapping, assembling, and finishing work was all performed by one guy. Sean tells us he was inspired by aspects of the hot-rod scene, which he then blended with import, drift-car, and European flavors. Tracing his style of "cooking" all the way back to his childhood, Sean tells us he got the build bug from his old man, who was always knee-deep in some sort of '50s Chevy project. What started with watching his dad turn wrenches eventually turned into a part-time gig fixing cars at a local hot-rod shop—an act of necessity when Sean realized he couldn't afford to pay someone else to do his custom work.

Like many such car enthusiasts with the skill, he got into fabrication early on, and the self-taught gearhead discovered he had a knack for wiring and troubleshooting, along with TIG-welding, plumbing, and painting. As Sean's automotive repertoire evolved, installing stereos and water-cooled Volkswagen builds quickly turned into Fox-Body Mustangs and made-from-scratch tubular framed buggies.

The transition over to modding Volvos came about five years back, when Sean found himself wrapping up a '68 Ford F100 pickup build. It was complete with custom paint, a Coyote swap, and a textbook hot-rod upgrade—and the realization he had just built something that was too nice to drive hit him like an anvil. So he swore off show cars, ushering in Swedish street-sleeper extremism in its stead.

While early Volvo "test batches" proved fruitful, this two-door 242 is easily Sean's best dish yet. Like a faded relic, the 242 came into Sean's life scorched by the California sun and unable to move under its own power. With the car itself obtained, swapping out the front end for an early-model nose quickly became the first order of business, with a setup featuring Volvo's iconic round headlamps and sloping grille replacing the quad rectangular headlight layout originally fitted.

After pulling the front fenders a full 1.8 inches outward to accommodate his matte brown CCW wheels, Sean turned toward the task of tackling the rear quarters. This required significant amounts of work, since the only way to make the squared 18x10 three-piece wheel setup fit was to flare the wheel wells by adding metal above each tire. But with the flaring blended into the existing bodywork, the rest of the car's panels remained stock.

With the stretched corners complete, extensive steps were taken to help the 242 handle, with Sean engineering his own adjustable rear suspension based off the factory Volvo setup, which consists of a parallel four-link layout mounted to the body. Moves such as these required Sean to fabricate his own lower links, which sit alongside inboard-mounted RideTech coil-overs. By mounting the suspension directly to the bottom of the rear-axle housing, Sean says he was able to achieve both upper and lower link adjustability.

While these suspension and sheetmetal mods required massive amounts of man-hours, Sean says the installation of the supercharged Chevy V-8 was a cinch, as was the fitment of the T56 six-speed manual drivetrain along with various other mechanical augmentations. Since aftermarket support for such a swap remains minuscule at most, Sean's determination to stuff the affordable 6.0L into a Swede is applaudable.

Looking to maintain a balance between extreme street machine and unassuming weekend warrior, Sean began looking toward both performance and period-correct upgrades to complement his Volvo's newfound powerplant. On the race end, this meant installing a Racepak digital readout in place of the factory Volvo cluster, upgrading to Schroth ASM four-point harnesses, and fabbing up a roll bar that attaches to the rear unibody frame rails for added rigidity.

With Sean's OCD approach to fit, finish, and function turned up to 11, the gravy-colored coupe proceeded to receive more interior work than any other build in his portfolio. Sporting vintage Recaro seats, modified door panels with pocket and speaker deletes, and a functional rear bench with custom-stitched tube holes for the cage to pass through, this 242's interior is a sight to behold.

Sean tells us his final goal is to get as close to 650 horsepower at the wheels as possible, and then add fatter fenders and 315-series tires all around. Despite looks that border on being labeled as bland by the untrained eye, the supercharged American muscle tucked under its hood means Sean's sharp-handling 242 is anything but ordinary. Its execution resonates with all types of enthusiasts—kind of like a hearty, homemade meal made from scratch and served hot with numerous sides. It's delicious.

1983 Volvo 242
OWNER Sean Fogli
HOMETOWN Portland, OR
OCCUPATION HVAC contractor
INSTAGRAM @hackster1
POWER 500 whp
ENGINE 6.0L GM Generation IV LS engine swap with CTS-V supercharger; LSA injectors; LS9 fuel rails; Hooker cast manifolds; Mighty Mouse catch can; STS Machining motor mounts; custom 2.5-inch to 3-inch stainless mandrel-bent TIG-welded exhaust; Holley in-tank fuel pump retrofitted to fit in factory tank; shaved radiator panel and engine bay; wire tuck
DRIVETRAIN Rebuilt F-body T56 with carbon synchros; two-piece driveline; ACT clutch; Truetrac helical limited-slip differential with narrowed 31 splines on 8.8-inch rear differential
ENGINE MANAGEMENT Jolt Systems wiring harness; GM E38 ECU; Racepak IQ3S digital dash; AEM wideband
FOOTWORK & CHASSIS JRZ RSOne front coilovers with Eibach springs; Kaplhenke roll-steer correction steering arms with Ackerman adjustment; Kaplhenke adjustable caster/camber plates, modified strut tower bar; STS Machining custom Delrin lower control arm bushings; 25mm drop sway bar; polyurethane bushings; custom rear four-link suspension with adjustable Panhard bar; RideTech rear coilovers with Eibach springs
BRAKES OEM 2004 V60R front calipers; STS Machining adapter brackets; Spec 37 two-piece 13-inch front rotors; stainless lines; Wilwood 13-inch big bearing disc kit modified to fit Ford Explorer rear housing and ends, pads; internal e-brake
WHEELS & TIRES 18x10 CCW Classic wheels with matte black barrels and matte metallic brown centers; 275/35R18 Bridgestone RE71R tires
EXTERIOR Early-style flathood conversion with round headlight grille; OEM five-panel taillights; modified rear quarters with outer wheel tubs completely removed and pushed out 1.5 inches to match custom wheelwells; front fenders rolled and pulled 1.75 inches; resprayed OEM beige paint
INTERIOR DOM .120 tube four-point 1.75-inch rollbar; Recaro vintage seats; reupholstered rear seats; door panels modified to delete factory map pockets and speakers; all door cards and seats reupholstered with brown leather; Sparco steering wheel; NRG hub adapter; Schroth ASM four-point seatbelts; machined aluminum dash insert to replace factory analog gauges; new carpet; OEM black dash; adjustable TIG-welded aluminum pedals; STS Machining cable-to-hydro clutch pedal conversion
THANKS My incredibly supportive wife, Kristi, for putting up with all the long days in the shop, and for supporting this ridiculous hobby of mine; Scott and Taylor Becker of STS Machining for all the one-off work and advice; 503 Motoring of Portland for being my tire guys; Tanner Woelber; Asher Carson Miller; Scott Schoenfelder; Andrew Wiencken; Brian Mills; Evan Gremillion; Pat Dickman; anyone else who helped me out with my many projects