KdL Automotive Volvo onderhoud voor youngtimers en klassiekers Middelbeers Brabant

History 340 & 360

The history of the Volvo 300-series starts at Daf, a Dutch truck- & car-company which was located in Eindhoven (The Netherlands). The Volvo 340 was developed by Daf and Volvo took over the Daf car factory in the 70’s, so the history of Daf is really important for the 300-series.

History of Daf

Daf was founded in 1928 by the Van Doorne brothers and was specialized in machines and repairs. In 1930 a new factory in Tuindorp (The Netherlands) was being used for producing trailers and in 1934 the Van Doorne Machinefabriek was renamed to Van Doorne’s Aanhangwagen Fabriek (DAF). DAF was also the inventor of the Trado-construction, which made it possible to transfer four-wheel trucks into six-wheel trucks (the Trado-construction was mainly used by the Dutch Army when World War II started). In 1949 DAF started producing heavy trucks.

Hub van Doorne developed the first car of Daf during World War II. He started in 1940 developing a very small car which was called the “Regenjas” (raincoat). Only one car was made (ready in 1942) and sold to a circus. Fortunately the car is now at the Daf Museum in Eindhoven.

Daf Regenjas prototype
The Daf Regenjas prototype

History of the Variomatic and Daf cars

In the 1950’s Hub van Doorne bought a Buick with Dynaflow automatic gearbox. He already had the idea for a small car but he thought a Dynaflow-alike gearbox should be available for this small car. The Dynaflow gearbox was a big and heavy gearbox which couldn’t fit in a small car, so Van Doorne had the idea a small automatic gearbox should be a big hit in the new small car. When he looked at the assembly line at the Daf factory he had a great idea: the conveyor belts should be a excellent base for a new type of gearbox! Daf started developing the new gearbox, the very first CVT transmission called Variomatic. Daf decided to develop the new small car with this new gearbox in 1953. In February 1958 Daf presented the Daf 600, which was modified in 1961 with a more powerfull engine and was renamed to Daf 750. Also the Daffodil was introduced: a more luxurious model of the 750. The facelifted models of the 750 were known as Daf 31 and Daf 32 but were still called the Daffodil. The Daffodil was replaced by the Daf 33 in 1967. All the cars mentioned above were known as the A-type cars of Daf and were designed by Dutch engineer Johan van der Brugghen.

The Daf Variomatic CVT transmission
The Daf Variomatic

Daf was producing more and more cars and needed expanding their factories to have more capacity. This could be done in Eindhoven but in Limburg (a province next to Noord-Brabant where Daf was established) the unemployment was really high due closing of the mines in the southern part of the Netherlands. If Daf should build a factory in the southern part of Limburg the government would also pay a part of the costs (by giving a subsidy). Daf decided (with support of the Dutch government) to build a new plant in Born.

Daf Daffodil
The Daffodil

The B-type cars of Daf were bigger, but still a small car. Interior space was increased and the new car were designed by the Italian designer Michelotti. The Daf 44 was the first B-type car (introduced in 1966) and the Daf 55 (1967) was the first Daf with a 4-cilinder Renault-engine. The Daf 66 was the replacer of the Daf 55 in 1972.

One of the last Daf 66, just before it became the Volvo 66
The Daf 66, soon to be renamed and modified to Volvo 66

With the takeover of Daf Personenauto’s, the car division of Daf, by Volvo in 1974 (Volvo already had a share of 33% in 1972 in Daf, and felt the need of producing smaller cars) the Daf 66 was renamed to Volvo 66 after big modifications: new emblems and bumpers and Volvo wasn’t happy with the quality of the Daf 66: bodyshells weren’t ok, and when the gas pedal was released the car almost stopped immediately because the driveline was shutdown completely by the variomatic (there was no freewheel-effect). The Swedish Motor Vehicle reported in 1971 and 1972 the Daf 55 was one of the worst quality cars on the Swedish market because the exhaust system and bodyshells were very bad. Volvo decided to fix this problems, together with a better anti-rust treatment, better interior trim, a new dashboard and better components. When all of this was done the car could meet up the Volvo-standards and was renamed to Volvo 66 which was presented in 1975.

Volvo 66
The “new” Volvo 66, which actually was a changed Daf 66

History of the Volvo 340 (Daf 77)

During the 1960’s Daf had plans to develop a larger car. Some sketches and mock-ups were made by Daf and Michelotti. There were 3 models being developed: the Daf P200, P300, P400 and P500 (one of the projects was sold to BL and has led to the Triumph Dolomite). None of them went into production at Daf but when these projects were cancelled the P900-project was started in the end of the 1960’s.

Daf P300

Daf P500

Daf P500 with elements that were used in the Daf 77 and Volvo 343
Some sketches of the Daf P300 and P500, some elements were used in the P900


The P900 should be a new midsize car which should share some components with the yet to be introduced Daf 66. The new car also should have the variomatic transmission.

The first sketches of the P900 were presented in January 1970, containing several saloon, hatchback, coupé and estate-models. In 1971 four scale models were produced, designed by Michelotti, Bertone and De Vries. The models were identified as A, B, C and D. The employees of Daf choose the D-model (designed by John de Vries) as best design and after a windtunnel-test (where the D-model performed much better) the other designs were dropped.

Daf P900 first prototype

One of the first P900-prototypes

Daf P900 77 sketch
A sketch of the P900 by John de Vries

Due the oil crisis and economical crisis Daf needed a partner to produce the car. Several manufacturers were contacted for developing the P900 together. Daf talked to Ford, General Motors and Peugeot but they were not interested. Volkswagen was interested but they saw the P900 as a entry-level Audi. Also Chrysler liked the idea for a joint-venture but BMW showed serious interest. BMW had plans for building the BMW 2002 Touring in Born and even began making some modifications at the P900-design (like moving the transmission, change the engine etc). But some of the board members of Daf didn’t want to work with BMW (in the meantime BMW said they couldn’t produce the engine Daf wanted for the P900) and wanted to contact Volvo again (Volvo was also contacted but thought a joint-venture was too expensive).

Daf P900 Volvo 343 prototype

Daf P900 prototype
The Daf P900 prototype, designed by John de Vries

Renault had some good news in 1972: the 1.1 litre and 1.3 litre engines which was fitted in the Daf 66 could be upgraded to a 1.4 litre engine, just the engine Daf was looking for! Volvo was now really interested in Daf because Volvo didn’t need to develop a new smaller engine for a smaller car. In September 1972 it was announced Volvo should take a 33% share in Daf Car B.V. starting from 1973 (the share should be increased to 75% in 1975).

Daf 77 Daf P900 Volvo 343 prototype clay model Daf Museum
The clay scale model of the Daf P900-car (Daf 77) in the Daf Museum in Eindhoven

Daf 77 prototype at the Daf Museum
The front of the scale model. This car should become the Daf 77 but became the Volvo 343

Daf itself had some doubts about the P900: the design of John de Vries was good, but there were some doubts about the size (should it be bigger or shorter), the model (saloon, hatchback or estate), a external designer etc etc. Daf asked Trevor Fiore to come up with some ideas and designs for the P900 car. Fiore presented a modern sporty model. When this design was finished Volvo took the share in Daf and were asked what their thoughts were of the project. Jan Wilsgaard (chief designer of Volvo) had to choose between the design of De Vries or the design of Fiore. Wilsgaard wasn’t really happy with both designs because both of them should be modified a lot. But he choose the design of De Vries, which should have some details of the Fiore-design. Wilsgaard wanted to change more things but the project was far advanced so there was no room for big changes (except bigger bumpers, a new grille and some minor modifications). Daf also choose for the De Vries-design (its design was more timeless and gave better results in the windtunnel) and wanted to call the car the Daf 77 but because Volvo increased their share in 1975 (and also renamed the Daf 66 to Volvo 66) the new car was named the Volvo 343: the thirth Volvo-series developed since the Amazon, with 4 cilinders and 3 doors. The Volvo 343 was equipped with a 4-cilinder Renault 1.397cc (1.4 litre 70bhp, called the B14) engine and Variomatic transmission (CVT). The performance wasn’t great but a bigger engine couldn’t be fit under the hood.

The Daf 77 prototype, which became the Volvo 340
The Daf 77 prototype

The Volvo 343 (designed by John de Vries, not Michelotti or Fiore) was presented to the press on February 19 1976 in Gothenburg (Sweden) and presented to the public at the Geneva Autosalon in March 1976. At the beginning the design of the car (especially the back of the car) wasn’t very popular but soon other manufacturers like Ford (Escort) and Alfa Romeo (the Alfa 33) adopted this design.

Volvo 343 340 300-series hatchback notchback
The Volvo 343, the first model of the 300-series

The first years the car wasn’t really succesful: the press and public wanted also a manual gearbox (instead of the noisy automatic CVT gearbox) and a better performing engine. But the car had also a very poor quality which couldn’t meet up the Volvo standards. The heating system was bad, the rear seat wasn’t good, the car was noisy and the cold start was terrible, dashboard problems, most cars had leakage problems and of course the poor performance. It is said the car went too early on sale and needed another year of development.

Most of the problems were solved within a year, but the high rear seat couldn’t be changed because the Variomatic took a lot of space. New rubbers were used to solve the leaking problems, the dashboard was slightly changed and new rubbers and components were used at the transmission. Also the seats were improved and had a deeper type of cushions and a better backrest. The 343 was much better and quieter than before! One year later (August 1978, MY1979) the manual gearbox was available (the same gearbox as the 240-series had: the M45 four-speed gearbox) and the sales were increasing.

In 1979 the Volvo 345 was introduced, a five-door version of the 340-series. It became available since ModelYear 1980. A commercial van (called the 340 Van) was also introduced in 1982, with blinded rear windows. A four-door saloon was introduced in 1983. The diesel-engine (1.6 litre, also made by Renault) was introduced in 1984 and the 1.7 litre engine of Renault was available one year later (only with a manual gearbox).

The Volvo 345 Van, a estate car for commercial use

The Volvo 345 Van

The 300-series was not only produced in Born (The Netherlands) but also in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) since 1985. Because importing cars at such long distances was a problem and there were some import regulations Volvo decided to open a small factory in Kuala Lumper where the cars has been sent as kits (called the “Completely Knocked Down” parts) and should be put together in Malaysia. The 300-series were sold in Europe, Australia, some Asian countries, but not in the USA.

Volvo 360 assembled in a Malaysia plant 
A Volvo 360 assembled in the Malaysian plant

In some countries (like The Netherlands) the 360 is very popular for racing and rallysport. At Zandvoort (the Netherlands) the Volvo 360 Geen Modena (“Not a Ferrari Modena”) Cup is a big competition with only Volvo 360’s. In Britain the 360 can be seen in the rallycross-scene and all over the world the Volvo 360 is used in drifting competitions.

Production of the 340 ended in 1991, but some overstock-models were sold in 1992.


History of the Volvo 360

In 1983 Volvo introduced the Volvo 360. They had find out a way to fit a B19-engine in the small motor compartment of the 300-series. The spare wheel was put in the trunk instead of under the hood. The 360 didn’t match the names Volvo was using for his cars but it indicated it was a different car than the 340. However: there are some 300-series with a B19-engine sold as a 340 in the Netherlands. The 360 was available with a B19A (carburator) or B19E (fuel injection) engine. The powerful engine was a real turn-on at the pretty light car. The performance was excellent and the car was very luxurious. In 1985 the B19-engines were replaced by the B200-engines (B200K and B200 with Bosch LE-Jetronic system). The 360 was very popular in race- and rallysport and even has its own 360-Cup in the Netherlands at the Zandvoort Circuit.

Volvo 340 sedan saloon GLS at the Born factory
A Volvo 360 GLS sedan at Born (The Netherlands)


The Volvo Tundra by Bertone

At the Geneva Autosalon in 1979 Italian coachbuilder Bertone presented a new concept car based on the Volvo 343: the Bertone Tundra. The car was recognisable as a Volvo (pretty boxy). But the slim pillars, lot of glass (Bertone had a big passion for light) and the offset grille at the front wasn’t liked by everyone. The rear of the Tundra coupé was shorter than the 343 because the leaf springs were replaced by normal coil springs so the car could be 18cm (7 inch) shorter. At the interior a digital dashboard was installed.

Volvo Bertone Tundra prototype profile Volvo Bertone Tundra prototype front Volvo Bertone Tundra prototype rear
The Volvo Tundra concept car, designed by Bertone

Volvo rejected the Tundra-concept and Bertone went to Citroën with the Tundra-design. He sold the design to Citroën and the Tundra was modified by Marcello Gandini (from Bertone) to the Citroën BX which was introduced in 1982.

Digital dashboard of the Volvo Bertone Tundra prototype
The digital dashboard of the Bertone Tundra. When all systems of the car were good the light color of the dash is green, if something is wrong the color went to white or red (depending of the errors)


The Volvo XD-1, the world record diesel

Carl-Magnus Skogh, a former Volvo Rally-driver had the idea to break the world land speed record of a diesel-equipped car. Skogh had the idea to use a Volvo 343 for this, which should be made much lighter. The engine should be a diesel just below 2 litre. The Volkswagen D20 (which was going to be introduced in the 240-series for some markets like Finland instead of the D24 diesel engine) was fitted into a 343 with a glassfibre body. Thanks to the plastic body and ditching unneccesary parts the car was about 200kg lighter than the normal 343. A Garrett turbocharger was fitted to the D20-engine (now delivering 140bhp) and the 900kg 343 (named the XD-1) was ready for his record attempt.

The Volvo XD-1 diesel world record car of Skogh

In Autumn 1978 at the Landvetter Airport (just between the flight-takeoffs for planes going to Stockholm and Copenhagen) the attempt of Skogh took place. During tests he was able to crack 232kph, but when the official attempt took the place the conditions weren’t very good. It was rainy and cold but Skogh was able to achieve 211kph. It was enough to clinch the old record of 206kph.

Skogh and his Volvo XD-1 diesel world record car, with VW D20 engine
That’s what you get when you want a light car: no doors! Skogh doing a Houdini-act to get into the Volvo XD-1

The Volkswagen D20 engine fitted into the Volvo XD-1 The dashboard of the Volvo 343 XD-1 diesel record car of Skogh Attempting to clinch the record at Landvetter Airport in a Volvo XD-1 diesel
The D20 diesel by Volkswagen, the interior and the attempt


Models of the Volvo 300-series

The 343, 345, 340 and 360 had some modifications during the years.  A modelyear starts in August and indicates the next year. So a car produced in September 1982 has modelyear 1983, but also a car produced in April 1983 has modelyear 1983.

  • 1976: introduction of the Volvo 343.
  • 1977: introduction of the Volvo 343 Special (a jubileum edition with tinted glass, metallic paint, black dashboard, GT-striping).
  • 1978: side trims, black mirrors and door handles (instead of chrome), black dashboard (instead of brown), push buttons at dashboard replaced by rotary knobs, improved heating system (and new ventilation holes at dashboard), new seats and headrests, new rubbers and speeding control for CVT (variomatic) to reduce noise and improve low-speed comfort, improved rubbers and sealings. Introduction of the 343 Black Beauty, a special limited version with black paint, red striping, red interior, GT-wheels and sports steering wheel.
  • 1979: introducion of M45 manual gearbox, new dashboard, new mirrors, new wheels, relocation of licence plate at front to the bumper, introduction of GL, headlight wipers as option available. Bertone presented his Volvo Tundra concept car and introduction of the Volvo 345 (a five-door hatchback) in Summer 1979.
  • 1980: Volvo 343 Blue Special available (special blue paint, special striping and chrome wheel trims).
  • 1981: introduction of the B19-engine. The cars with a 2 litre engine are equipped with a DLS/GLS-emblem. New bumpers (plastic). 340 V.I.P. available as limited version (from end 1980 to beginning of 1981).
  • 1982: new front, headlights, indicators, grille, hood, modified front bumper and front fenders. New seats for GL and GLS. Introduction of the 1.4 Winner (a budget 340, positioned below the L-series). M47 5-speed gearbox available as option. Introduction of the 345 GLS Blue Line (with M47 5-speed gearbox, B19-engine, pluche upholstery, metallic blue paint). Introduction of the Volvo 345 Van (a commercial break, mainly developed for the Dutch postal services).
  • 1983: new dashboard and interior modifications, new indication of the models: 343 and 345 renamed to 340, GLS and DLS renamed to 360 (GLS is used for indicating the more luxurious cars). Introduction of the 360 GLT and B19E fuel injected engine. Fog lights are available as option (standard for the 360 GLT). Introduction of the four-door saloon, new carburator and electronic ignition for B14-engine, new mirrors and side windows, new out- & inlet manifold.
  • 1984: introduction of the 340 DL Special and GL Special,
  • 1985: introduction of the 1,6 litre diesel-engine (by Renault),  B200-engines replaces the B19-engines, introduction of the 1,7 litre engine (by Renault). One key for ignition, doors and bonnet. New wheels for 360, new interior light for 360, new upholstery and fabrics, new steering wheel, introduction of 360 GLS Special, new isolation and rubbers, new type of engine support rubbers, new safety belt mountings.
  • 1986: new bumpers with new side indicators, new grille, new bonnet with bigger (glued) rear window, new rear spoiler for 360 GLT, modified brake system and suspension (with stabilizers for 360). New brake booster and brake pads. Modified fuel system with automatic valve which reduces fuel consumption, 360 GL replaces 360 GLS.
  • 1987: introduction of B200F with cathalyst converter and B200EA (with PulsAir-system and EGR). 360 GLE replaced by 360 GLT. New colors and upholstery. Holder for cards in sun visor, lighting for belt holders.
  • 1988: introducion of Blackline (1,7 litre and black paint), Redline (1,7 litre and red paint) and Blue Line (1,4 litre and blue paint) special models with rev counter, striping and central locking. Production of the 300-series reaches 1 million cars and for the biggest export market (the United Kingdom) the 340 Millionaire is introduced, a 1.7 litre car with all the options of the 360. B200K dissappears.
  • 1989: final year for 360. 340 only available as 340, Special, GL and GL Special (as 3- or 5-door hatchback). Four-door saloon dissappears.
  • 1990: no modifications due end of life in 1991. Most cars are equipped with the variomatic transmission (the 400-series were not available with a CVT).
  • 1991: production of the 340 ends at March 13 1991 (a white 5-door 340). Some cars were sold in 1992 but were standing at the dealer waiting for its buyers.

© Volvotips 2011


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