Alexandre Bataille took the wheel of the Volvo PV 544
Born in 1927, Volvo has built an important heritage. On the occasion of our roadtrip in Sweden, Volvo specially brought us out of its museum some treasures from its collection, including this magnificent PV544. This curvy 50s sedan from the raven black color instantly brings me back to the time of prohibition. For a moment I take myself for Al Capone! The PV 544 is a more modern version of the PV 444, Volvo’s pre-war sedan. It is distinguished by its large glass surfaces, its curves and its chrome. She is one of the last to wear a chrome swallow on her sides, the personal touch of the designer of the time.
The interior smells of old leather, oil and petrol. It is welcoming, bright and soberly designed. The two-tone red and gray seats already give indications of these Zen Scandinavian interiors that made the success of the brand. Safety is also an issue since in 1959, the PV544 launched the three-point seat belt in the front seats.
A turn of the key (similar to that of a padlock) and the 60hp inline 4 cylinder wakes up without coughing. The smell of petrol, the slow motion typical of an old car and the jealous look of my colleagues put me in the mood. The steering wheel is as thin as a gymnastic hoop. It is in reality a so-called security direction to improve the protection of the occupants.
The shifter in the shape of a javelin. It is planted in the floor seems immense. And hop, on the way! the PV544 is easy to handle, the gearbox is synchronized which already for the time is proof of modernity. The Swedish woman sets off on the test track in Gothenburg which has been privatized for us. After a first warm-up lap, I gain confidence and even achieve a peak speed of 55 km / h! The trajectories are rather easy to negotiate as long as you don't heckle it too much but what strikes you most is its comfort. You almost feel like you're driving a DS as the amortization is flexible. This experience was the highlight of our day dedicated to the brand's past with a visit to the museum.
The Volvo PV 544 in figures:
Years of production: 1958 – 1965
Volume produced: 243,990
Body: 2-door sedan
Engine: 4 cylinders in line, 60 hp at 4,500 min or 85 hp at 3,500 min.
1961: 1,778 cc; 75 hp at 4,500 min or 90 hp at 5,000 min, later increased to 95 hp
Transmission: 3- or 4-speed manual transmission, floor lever
Brakes: hydraulic drum on all wheels
Manuel Cailliot drove the Volvo Amazon
It is always moving enough for an auto reporter to get behind the wheel of an old one. Especially when you were born in the 80s, and the only cars that you have driven since your majority can only be described as "modern". And therefore, more or less, in any case more and more sanitized.
With this Amazon (a name used only in Sweden, because it was registered in other countries where it was called P121, 122S or 130 for the 2 doors), a model marketed from 1957, we are far from being in the sanitized! On the contrary, it was the era of cars without filters, without assistance, but not rough. At least not this one.
The few laps of the Volvo test circuit in Gothenburg allowed me to see this. We are already settling in super comfortable imitation leather seats for the seat. Including the rear, which is accessed, in this P130 2-door coupe version, by tilting the front seats, and where there is remarkable space.
The driver, he finds himself facing a dashboard with a delightfully old-fashioned charm, with horizontal counters, and a fiddled with zipper whose function does not appear obvious at first, all being written in Swedish … one of them is the starter, which must be pulled to start cold. A gesture forgotten today. The 1.8 4-cylinder snorts gently, and it takes just a few minutes before it is hot enough to cut the choke. It's time to buckle up on the 3-point belt, an exclusive in 1957, before shifting into first gear in a synchronized 4-speed gearbox.
And it must be recognized that the Amazon behaves (almost) like a modern. The clutch is soft and progressive, it is not easy to hold, and the reports pass without catching, as long as we break down the movement well. The deflections are enormous on the other hand. The 90 hp, if they are not lightning bolts of war, are enough to move this graceful sedan. Which turns out to be surprisingly comfortable. At least in suspension, not at the hearing level. Without filter we said, and especially not at the decibels, which are present, even at low speed.
The circuit which turns quite a bit highlights a somewhat blurry but informative direction. Unassisted, it is quite light when riding, but becomes a truck during maneuvers, my arms still remember! And my calves, them, to remember that the period braking is unassisted, and that you have to press as hard on the pedal as the braking, well what do I say, the slowdown offered by the 4 drums, is light .
Coming out of the car after this pleasant experience, I focus on the modern style for the time of this coupe. Round lights, curved wings and bonnet, chrome everywhere (bumpers, headlights, window frames), this is not ugly at all, and very inspired by American models of the time, but also by the .. Peugeot 403! This Amazon has a name in tune with its aesthetics: pretty!
And if jamsis I will not see myself driving 3,000 m of our Swedish road trip, a longer road trip at the wheel would not have displeased me.
Volvo Amazon in figures:
Variants: P131 / P132 (SPORT) / P123 GT
Years of production: 1961-1970
Volume produced: 359,917
Body: 2-door sedan
Engine: 4 cylinders in line with overhead valves; 1,778 cc, 75 hp at 4,500 rpm or 90 hp at 5,000 rpm, 95 hp in 1964 and 115 hp in 1966 – 1968: 1,986 cc, 90 hp at 4,800 rpm, 118 hp at 5,800 rpm
Transmission: 3 or 4-speed manual transmission with overdrive and floor-mounted gearshift lever – 3-speed automatic transmission with selector lever on the steering column
Brakes: hydraulic drum on all wheels; S version with front disc brakes. In 1964, disc brakes on all wheels
Dimensions: total length 4.45 m, wheelbase 2.6 m
Pierre Desjardins drove the Volvo P 1800
Sitting behind the wheel of a Volvo P1800 is no trivial experience. Admittedly, it is probably one of the most beautiful cars in the history of the brand out of the factories of Gothenburg, the fruit of an unexpected collaboration between Pelle Petterson, Swedish designer with success of… boats, and Pietro Frua, working then for, sorry, the Italian coachbuilder Ghia. But it is above all the official car of the Saint, a mythical British series produced from 1962 to 1969 in which the main character, Simon Templar, is embodied by the charismatic Roger Moore, a few years before he acquired his final status as world star in the costume of the most famous secret agent in the world, James Bond, in 1972.
It is therefore aboard a Swedish car influenced by the Italian style and rendered by an English series that this French journalist, myself, has just taken place feverishly for a few laps of the Volvo test circuit. This P1800S from 1968, lovingly restored and maintained by the brand, houses under its long hood a 4 cylinder in-line B18 of 1,778 cm3 powered by two double body SU carburetors and sending 115 horsepower to the rear wheels. No time to rave about longer, the car-traveling having already started on the track.
Once the 3-point belt (yes, already) attached, I wake up the mechanics a quarter turn of the key. Clutch depressed, passage of the first allowing in a gesture to note a precision and a locking which has nothing to envy to a modern, we release the pedal on the left by feeding the one on the right and off we go. The giant steering wheel recalls the nautical origins of the style of the model as well as the precision of the direction and the roll but the engine shows itself on the other hand of an astonishing liveliness once in the laps, with always this gearbox which is a treat to manipulate. Once you have arrived a few centimeters from the rear bumper of the XC90, carrying a photographer and cameramen, it is time to put in one last pedal. The one in the middle. And which seems to connect absolutely nothing over 95% of its course, which just leaves time for a few drops of sweat to appear on my forehead.
Once I have become familiar with the machine, the tension gradually gives way to pleasure, the smell of fiftieth leather mixes with petrol and hot oil vapors and the engine purrs through its carbs . One would even have sworn to have heard the first notes of the credits of the Saint when taking the pit lane.
The Volvo P 1800 in figures:
Years of production: 1961 – 1972
Volume produced: 39,414
Case: 2-seat coupe
Engine: 4 cylinders in line with overhead valves; 1,778 cc; 84.14 x 80 mm; 100 hp at 5,500 rpm increased in 1968 to 108 hp at 5,800 rpm. A 2.0-liter carburetor version appeared in 1968, followed in 1969 by a 120-hp injection version.
Transmission: 4-speed manual or 4-speed manual or 3-speed manual, all with gearshift lever on the floor
Brakes: hydraulic, front disc and rear drum; later models had disc brakes on all wheels
Dimensions: total length 4.40 m, wheelbase 2.45 m
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