Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Person Vagn: 1964 Volvo PV544 Sport

The "PV" in Volvo's PV444 / PV544 model designation stands for Person Vagn, or roughly passenger car, in Swedish. It's a common term and is part of Volvo Cars' corporate name in fact: Volvo Personvagnar AB. This is the oldest Volvo model commonly seen in North America, and it was quite the stalwart, debuting in 1943 and being produced all the way through 1965 after its replacement (the 122 / Amazon) was already in showroooms. For these reasons I can't help but draw parallels to the other round-backed person wagon from wartime Europe... aka the People's Car / Volks Wagen; Volkswagen's original Type 1.  Find this Volvo PV544 Sport for sale in Placentia, CA for $6,000 OBO via craigslist.

Ok, let's get the PV544 vs. VW Beetle comparisons out of the way first. Both were 2-door sedans designed pretty much during World War II (although the Volkswagen project had its origins in the mid 1930s), with the first civilian Beetles finally rolling off the reconstructed assembly line in late 1945, and the inital PV444s to be sold to the public coming a few years later in 1947. Both were streamlined barrel-back styled cars with pontoon fenders and lacked a traditional frame - Volvo's solution was a true welded monocoque / unibody, while VW went with a 2-piece body-on-pan configuration.

That's pretty much where the similarities end, other than the light weight / compact size of both. The PV was more of a middle class car whereas the VW was designed to be a conveyance that the common Menschen could afford. I've seen countless reviews likening the PV to a 3/4-scale '46 Ford, and that may be a more accurate comparison where styling and drivetrain layout are concerned.

This particular PV544 is a Sport model, from the penultimate year of production. It has the 1.8L B18D engine with twin SU carbs, same as the 1800S from the same model year. Unless you're some kind of kook Volvo collector, I'd argue that a late model PV is the best one to consider. I had a '66 1800S with this engine and can say that it ran like a sewing machine, made decent power, and gave the driver some nice sounds to listen to in the form of intake honk from the twin carb / open-element air filter setup. The B18 was a big improvement over the earlier (albeit similar) low power 4-cylinders that were nestled under the hood.

This PV looks the business, and has some cool 1980s California "Sunset" plates to boot. The seller says the car sat for 10 years prior to their ownership but has recently been given a smattering of mechanical and cosmetic work. Looks like there are still a few minor jobs left for the next owner, like sealing up some leaks and finishing off the interior. As a cool vintage driver that will be dependable and provide plenty of ice-thawing heat in the winter, I can't think of a better candidate.

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  1. I have had many cars , and my 544 is my last keeper. Most fun and economical...everything mentioned here...of any car I have had. It's a 64 exactly like this in black, and all original including points etc. the only thing not at this time is the extra center brake light in the rear window. Love it.

  2. You can tell a great car when there are decent number of really nice ones to select from, especially on the west coast.

    The later cars are the better choice as the B-18 is more robust than the B-16, an engine that was still heads and tails more reliable than its contemporaries.

    My friend has a 67' Duett that is now beautifully restored and very tastefully "hotted up" with OD, etc. He has owned the car 40 years, and now in retirement has it to enjoy.

    It is impossible to overstate the gifted attributes of the B-18. Extremely rugged, and can be made to go fast as well, and still be durable.

    Even when they get old, clacky, and smelly, they still keep running. I have run a dozen or more and except for a fiber timing gear crumbling, each kept running for as long as I could stand it.

    Tom Minch, great choice for a last keeper my friend. I have made the choice of a 66' Amazon wagon. Rust free, but in the jigsaw stage of devolution. Thanks DT for a nice write up.

  3. Tom M, the 122 wagon is the other great choice! A little more usable in the passenger and hauling aspect. A toss up for me!


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