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History of the PV


The PV 444 was the car which created a new era for Volvo. With many unique and new characteristics it should boost up the sales and position of Volvo after World War II. That’s why the PV 444 is known as “the Peacetime car”.

History of the Volvo PV 444

During World War II Volvo had the idea to develop a car which should be smaller, more economic and has a monocoque chassis (the 444 was Volvo’s first uni-body car). This car should brighten up the future of Volvo. The need for a small car (mainly caused by World War II) were being discussed at Volvo since the late 30’s. The engineers Olle Schjolin and Carl Lindblom built a wooden mock-up of a small car with the engine in the back, This car was known as the PV40 but was not produced. A design of Helmer Petterson in 1943 was liked by the two Volvo-bosses Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larsson. They decided to built it on the spot.

Volvo PV 40 front PV40 Volvo PV40 back rear engine Volvo PV 40 PV40 prototype for the PV 444 Volvo PV 40 prototype with a eightcylinder engine in the back
Some pictures of the Volvo PV 40 prototype. A eight cilinder engine is fitted in the back of the car, so the trunk is in the front.

The name 444 means: four-seater, 4 cylinder car and 40 horsepower.

Erik Jern and Helmer Petterson discussed the possibilities for a front-wheel drive (inspired by the German DKW), because they had the feeling more car companies will use front-wheel drive (FWD) in the future. This option took a lot of time and effort. But there were doubts about the front-driven cars to be reliable (compared with rearwheel drives). It also would meant Volvo needed to produce more components in-house. There were not enough companies around with enough experience or capacity to produce the parts Volvo would need for the front-wheel drive car. At the end of 1943 Volvo deviced to use rear wheel drive for the 444.

As the PV444 is Volvo’s first unitary car, a Hanomag 1939 two-door saloon was bought to be inspired how such a small car should be built. Hanomag was very experienced in uni-body cars. The exterior design of the PV 444 was very influenced by American cars like Pontiac and Ford. The split-windows of the 444 has a important safety improvement: the screens are laminated.

Volvo PV 444 prototype as wooden scale model Volvo PV 444 wooden model front type 1 Volvo PV 444 wooden model front type 2
A wooden model as prototype for the PV444, and two types of fronts at the right (notice the logo and bars)

The B4B-engine used in the PV 444 is the first overhead engine Volvo ever used in any of its cars before. However, Volvo felt the overhead concept should be reliable. The powerplant of the 444 would be a 1414cc in-line four-cylinder unit with overhead valves and three main bearings, delivering 40hp (soon to be increased to 44bhp).

Gabrielsson_Larsson inspecting and approving the very first model of the Volvo PV 444 The first real prototype of the Volvo PV 444 PV444 in 1944
Gabrielsson and Larsson inspecting the first PV 444

Many people think the Volvo PV 444 is Volvo’s first post-war car. But it is not: the PV60 is, and after a short while the 444 was introduced. The PV60 was being developed since 1939 (the 444 has been developed since May 1943 by Volvo-engineers Helmer Pettersson and Erik Jern, and a team of 40 designers and engineers) but because Europe was in a war the cars were introduced in september 1 1944 at Volvo exhibition in Stockholm (Royal Tennis Hall). The show model didn’t have a engine under the hood. 2300 buyers sigend up for the 444, which costs SEK 4800 (which was the same price as Volvo’s first car in 1927).

Volvo PV 444 A, introduced at the end of 1946

It took about 3 years before the 444 could be produced (the PV 60 has been produced since December 1946) because there was a scarcity in raw materials (steel and rubber). In 1945 there were 2 444-prototypes produced for endurance trips (Helmer Petterson drove of the cars himself), and the engine was fitted in the show model, so there were 3 PV 444’s that could be used for testing

The production costs of the PV had risen over SEK 6000, but Volvo kept his word and sold the car for SEK 4800 to the first 2300 buyers.

The first registration of a 444 was on februari 3 1947. Volvo had to stop taking new orders for two years because 10.000 cars were already ordered and Volvo was caught up by demand.

Models of the PV 444

444 A: the first model of the PV 444, with a 40 horsepower engine (topspeed: 125 km/h), the engine got 44bhp after a while.
444 S: special version introduced in 1949. Dove grey with red luxurious interior, special bumpers with bumper horns,  This special version was made for buyers who were on the waiting list but had to pay more for the car. Note: the first PV 444 S is known as 444 AS, the new 444 B Special Edition has the name 444 BS, the CS is the special version of the C, etc etc.
444 B: roof-mounted indicator lights (also known as: “cuckoo”), new dashboard (instruments right in front of the driver instead of the center) and steering wheel, the ignition key and starter switch are now combined, new bumpers (ridges disappeared, made of three parts, and the license plate can be fitted on the bumper), new headlamp rings and modified wheels with new hub caps (without springs).
444 C: 15-inch wheels (instead of 16-inch wheels), 1,5 inch wider track and five holes instead of 4 holes for mounting the wheel. Smaller ventilation window.
444 D: the indicator lights are side-mounted (the fixlight was outlawed since 1953), the steering gear has been renewed, new startermotor, upgraded generator (Bosch instead of Autolite), small changes in rear axle, heater was an new option.
444 E: the heater system has been renewed and is standard. Also a price reduction and the “PV warranty”-program was introduced. The special version (S) has stainless steel hubcaps and trims strips on the wings, cigarette lighter, grab handles, vinyl and fabric upholstery and two sun visors.
444 H: (letters F & G were skipped) the windscreens are slightly larger (A-pillars are a bit smaller), the rear window is made from one piece, larger and relocated (higher up) rear lights, spare wheel container changed (standing wheel instead of a special box at the bottom of the trunk), interior lighting moved to underneath rear view mirror, better rust prevention (coated floor and inner wings).
444 K: (letters I & J were skipped) new engine (B14A) with 51 horsepower, new grille.
444 L: new engine (B16) with 60 horsepower, better insulation and soundproofing, new carburators and exhaust system, new aircleaner and oil filter, new position for indicator lights at the front, new gearbox, electrical driven windscreen wipers (instead of vacuum system), new grille with finer mesh and gold V in the middle, the indicators at the back has been combined in a new unit with the brake lights and rear lights combined, seatbelt anchor points as standard.

The fixlight indicators, aka “Cuckoo on the roof”. The fixlighs were forbidden by Swedish law in 1953.

In 1955 the first PV 444 was exported to the USA. But the mainstream export started later, in 1956. In the beginning only 11 western states were selling the PV, but it increased soon to other states.

Replacing the Volvo PV 444

To replace a successful car isn’t the easiest job in the world. In 1950 Jan Wilsgaard designed the Volvo Philip (so-called because it was settled on Filip’s Day on May 2). It was a very big car with an automatic gearbox and 3.6 litre V8 engine of cast iron which delivered 120 bhp. The car was very heavy: 1587kg so the performance was very poor. The project had been cancelled and only one Volvo Philip prototype was produced. It can be seen at the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg. The V8-engine, called the B36 AV, was fitted into boats and some Volvo trucks like the Lv420. It was the only V8-engine Volvo has ever built (until the XC90, which has a V8-engine made by Yamaha and Volvo).

Volvo Philip prototype Volvo Philip prototype
The Volvo Philip prototype, designed by Jan Wilsgaard

In 1952 Gosta Wennberg had the idea to produce a PV 444 with exclusive designed bodywork, inspired by Alfa Romeo. The car was designed by Giovanni Michelotti and build by Vignale and was ready in 1953. It was called Elisabeth by the Swedish press (paraded by Wennberg who wanted as much publicity as possible), referring to the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II that year. Volvo liked the design of the exterior but was not happy with the interior (there was no back seat). Volvo supplied the floorpan of a standard PV 444 to Vignale which they could use for a new prototype. The second prototype was finished in 1954 but didn’t match the plans Volvo had, mainly because it was too expensive. Wennberg realised the costs per car were too high (about SEK 20.000) and stopped the project. Good news for Wennberg: Wilsgaard copied many styling details to the 55 Prototype which influenced the Amazon.

Volvo Elisabeth I based on the PV 444 Volvo Elisabeth I back Volvo Elisabeth I interior with no back seat Volvo Elisabeth II which was still not good enough
The Volvo Elisabeth I prototype, and at the last photo: the Volvo Elisabeth II

Before replacing the PV 444 Volvo decided to develop the PV 444 a step forward and call it PV 544 (referring to the five seats instead of 4).

History of the Volvo PV 445 / P110

Just a short time after the PV 444 was introduced, Volvo realised the unibody construction of the PV444 meant the end for the coachbuilders to build a custom one-off body-car. Volvo developed a new separate chassismodel based on the PV 444 with some changes: the rear suspension has been changed to a leaf springs-type and double hydraulic dampers which were directly mounted to the chassis. The reason for this design was to fit the bodywork easier. This new model/chassis was called the PV 445. The first light commercial vehicles were introduced in 1949. There were some ambulances, hearses and even convertibles (drophead made by Valbo, Nordberg and Ringborg) made of the PV 445.


The most popular conversion was made by Gripkarosser, who build a estate with a rear seat. In 1952 Volvo realised that the PV 445 Estate-versions were quit popular and Volvo started to develop a own Estate (mainly because coachbuilders couldn’t keep up with the demands). In 1953 the Duett was introduced, designed by Erik Skoog (who started on May 2 1952 designing the Duett). With the name “Duett” Volvo refers to the versatility of the car: in the weekend a family/leisure car and during the week a commercial car for work. The car has two side doors and two van-style doors at the back. The rear seat could be folded down to create a large space. The doors at the back and the floor had varnished wood fitted to make cargo slide easier in and out and protect the doors against dents and damage. The rest of the interior was almost the same as the PV444.

Volvo PV445 Commercial van custom-made Volvo PV 445 custom build estate wagon
Two coachbuilded PV 445’s: a commercial van and a custom wagon USA-style

The PV 445 / P110 Duett was available in the following models:
– a van with no side windows (445 DS)
– a van with small side windows and rear seat (445 DH)
– an estate with fullsize side windows and rear seat (445 PH)


Volvo PV 445 pick-up truck
A USA-style pick-up truck. Volvo made two prototypes but the pick-up never entered production. The only way to get a PV 445 pick-up was to buy a rolling chassis and get a coachbuilder buy a pick-up body upon it.

The early types Duetts were painted in two-tone colors: the section around the windows was painted beige while the rest of the car was painted red, blue or gray. The reason for this paint-design was to make the car look less tall. Later the two-tone colors disappeared (only the roof was painted in a other color) and the late types were painted in just one color.

The PV 445 / P110 Duett was in production till 1959 and did not get the new dashboard, windscreen and gearbox which the normal PV got in 1958 (when the PV 544 was introduced).

The 445 Duett was superseded by the P210 Duett in 1960.

History of the Volvo PV 544

In 1958 the PV 544 was introduced (although the Volvo Amazon, which was introduced in 1956, should supersede the PV444). The most important differences with the PV444 are: the windscreen is made of one piece, new (also padded) dashboard (with horizontal speedometer) and interior, new steering wheel, new tail lights, redesigned steering box, larger rear window, and of course: room for 5 persons instead of 4 (hence the name 544). The extra space was created by a wider back seat. There were also seatbelt mounts available at the back (seatbelt mounts in the front were already available in the PV 444).

The first version of the PV 544 is the Standard. It had a 60bhp B16 engine with M30 3-speed gearbox and only available in black. Volvo made the other version also available at the introduction, which were the Special I (better equipment and interior upholstery), the Special II (same as Special I but available in more color choices and has a M40 four-speed gearbox) and the PV Sport (only for export) which also had a trip recorder, front seatbelts and a B16B-engine which delivers 85bhp. With all the colors and upholsteries available there were more than 100 combinations possible for the PV 544!

Models of the PV 544

544 A: the first model of the PV544 (with windshield made of one piece).
544 B: new gearbox, new upholstery interior, more colors, thinner front seats (to provide more space for the passengers in the back seat)
544 C: B18 engine, modifications in front suspension, 12-volt electrical system (12V), renewed interior and exterior trim, asymmetrical headlights, front indicators slightly moved to the outer sides, slightly modified grille (with B18-logo), modified instrument panel (until 180km/h and green lighting).
544 D: better rust-prevention, more colors, same hub caps as the Amazon, oil-treatment for some rust-susceptible holes.
544 E: green panel lightning, new roof-lining, new tires from factory (6.00 rounder sides).
544 F: smaller hubcaps, new wheels, new logo’s/emblems on the boot, new headlining (perforated).
544 G: The PV Sport engine delivers 95 bhp instead of 90.

The PV 544 has been produced till 1965.

History of the Volvo P210 / Duett

Although the PV 544 was introduced in 1958 and had many modifications compared with the PV444, the P110 was in production until 1959. In 1960 the P210 was introduced, with the same modifications as the PV 544: a curved one-piece windscreen, new dashboard with soft padded top and new horizontal speedometer, new fuel tank and new interior upholstery. The P210 was only available as Van (two-seater commercial break) and Estate (Duett, a 5-seater with rear seat which can be fold down).

Volvo P210 Duett 1960 B16 from Sweden
One of the first 1960 Volvo Duett P210 with B16 and 6-volt system which I drove myself to the Road & Traffic Services in the Netherlands (RDW)

Changes and modifications on the Volvo PV 445 / Duett

The P210 did not have many modifications during the years: in 1962 the B18-engine was fitted, including the 12V electrical system. There were also some minor modifications in gearbox (4-speed introduced in 1960 at the P210), upholstery, interior, rear lights (1958) and exhaust system. Other modifications are the same as the “normal” PV.

The P210 Duett has been produced untill 1969.

© Volvotips 2011

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