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Volvo PV

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Volvo PV
Volvo
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The Volvo PV, which generically refers to two nearly identical automobile models (PV444 and PV544), boasted a production run from 1947 to 1965. While Volvo enjoyed a reputation for building fine automobiles from the beginning in 1927, most of this marquee's fans acknowledge that the defining moment determining Volvo's reputation for building solid durable cars that were a delight to drive commenced with the PV444's introduction.

During World War II's early stages, Volvo decided that a new smaller car delivering good fuel economy would assure the company's future. A raw materials shortage during the war drove home the point that an automobile should be smaller, and also complicated Volvo's ability to mass-produce the product. In 1944, when the car was finally introduced to a car hungry public, response was very positive and orders poured in from the Swedish population. It was another three years though, in 1947, before the production was made available.

Noteworthy in Volvo history is that the PV was the company's first unitary body design. It was also the first four-cylinder engined automobile from Volvo in almost 20 years. The first PV444s were endowed with a three main bearing, overhead valve, 1.4 litre engine of a stout design. Induction was courtesy of a single downdraft carburettor. This powerplant known as the B4B, was the model's mainstay until late in 1955 when a slightly updated version appeared with twin side-draft carburettors. The displacement remained the same but now was fed by a pair of British manufacture SU's carburettors — each with 1.5 inch bores. This brief engine production run was designated B14A.

By the 1957 model year, engine displacement was increased to 1.6 litres and was made available in both single downdraft (B16A) and twin side-draft carburettor (B16B) versions. Even ten years on, these engines owed much to their B4B origins and while not identical had much in common with their forebearers.

Fuel economy was quite above average (30 to 35 mpg) and performance particularly in the twin carburettor engined cars was brisk. The combination of performance and durability won over many two-seat sports car drivers, allowing them a pleasurable drive in the entire family's company if desired.

In 1958 the PV444 was winding down its production run and the PV544 was just beginning. Looking very much like what it replaced, the subtle differences between the two consisted primarily of the introduction of a curved one-piece windshield to replace the two panes of flat glass. The rear glass was slightly enlarged and the dashboard was endowed with a "modern" ribbon type speedometer. The 3-speed manual transmission used from the beginning was also supplanted by a 4-speed manual transmission.

The next important change occurred in 1962. The proven B16 engine family was retired and a new engine, initially developed for the P1800 sports car introduced the year before, was now fitted in the car. This 1.8 litre engine sported a five main-bearing crankshaft which further perpetuated the now firmly established reputation for durability enjoyed by Volvo. Again single and twin carburettor versions (B18A and B18D respectively) were offered. The U.S. market saw very few B18A cars since the United States' public demanded performance and compared to the V8 engines common there these "performance" versions still delivered excellent economy. Another significant change that parallels the advent of the B18 engine was the switch from 6-volt electrics to 12-volt electrics.

It should be mentioned that this car was also made as an estate or wagon version, that was known initially as a P445 and later as a P210. Regardless of designation, the wagons were commonly referred to as "Duetts".

The 544 enjoyed a few more years in production, including a minor trim change for its final year: 1965. Exactly 440,000 units had built during the 18-year run. The car, which had endeared itself to a majority of its owners, prompted Volvo to run self-deprecating advertisements (in late 1965 and early 1966) imploring these people to not be so angry with the company. The company wanted to remind customers that there were also other fine models with the Volvo name on them such as the Volvo 122, offered in 2, 4, and estate models as well as the Volvo P1800 (by then called Volvo 1800S) sports coupé.

Ironically, the Duett's undeniable utility allowed Volvo to continue the wagon's production throughout the 1969 model year. These were then replaced by a high-roofed version of the latest estate model known as a Volvo 145. The high-roofed version was referred to as an Express. They were not largely considered as an adequate substitute for the beloved Duett.

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