The Volvo PV444 may not be the most common classic car you’re likely to catch a glimpse of these days but the ’Humpback Volvo’ has oodles of charm backed up by the usual Scandinavian avant-garde vision and aero-design.
Whilst the PV444 A celebrated its world premiere six years earlier in 1944, the humble Volvo PV444 B (the type code stood for Personvagn (PV), 4 cylinders, 40 HP and 4 seats (444)) didn’t make an appearance until 1950, rolling off the production line in September 1950.
Series A was followed by B which meant the PV444 was able to break all existing Scandinavian passenger car production records. It took only five years for the 100,000th Volvo PV444 to be delivered and when the ’upgraded’ Volvo PV544 took over in 1958, there was almost double that figure worldwide.
Volvo PV444 – Self-Supporting Body
Boasting a self-supporting body with independent front suspension and a generous wheelbase of 2.60 meters, the solid construction ensured a degree of safety for all passengers which was exemplary at the time. Incidentally, this also applies to the first Swedish cult station wagon for family, leisure and business, the Volvo PV445 Duett, introduced in 1953, which scored highly as a station wagon saloon with up to two folding rear seats and an expansive, variable loading compartment.
For the first time, Volvo managed to achieved numbers that put the marque at number one in the Swedish new registration statistics.
Tatra-esk in its styling, the Volvo PV444, laid the foundations for what proved to be a global export success, which was and still is, praised for its safety innovations and durability. The closely related Volvo PV445 Duett, which is considered the pioneer of all variable station wagons with passenger car properties, was a major contributor in this automotive equation.
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Success in motorsport cemented a growing reputation for the iconic fastback as a dynamic and safe ‘family sports car’, which from 1955 took North America by storm as an important export market for Volvo. As early as 1956, Volvo was the second-largest import brand in California.
In Germany too, it was the Volvo PV444 that made the Swedish brand popular with its distinctive ‘hump-shape’ and radical new safety details. For example, innovative two-point seat belts were first offered in the Volvo PV444 and then the pioneering first three-point seat belt was introduced in the further developed Volvo PV544.
A patented lifesaver for now more than a million people, the effect of which Volvo demonstrated in a dramatic way at a safety conference in Germany in 1961: The ‘humpback Volvo’ overturned and his driver exited unscathed. The development of rear-facing child seats to protect the little ones also began in the Volvo PV544 ‘Buckel’.
Other visual safety features such as the original fixed light on the roof of the Volvo PV444 B known as the ‘cuckoo’ were short-lived but inspired sustainable solutions. This ‘cuckoo’ fixed light served as a highly visible direction indicator with a blue lamp in the middle and orange flashing indicators that showed the direction when turning.
The safety program for the Volvo PV444 also included a new, effective anti-corrosion system, which saw all Volvo PV444 B chassis and body systems drive through an immersion tank, which enabled a long-term protective phosphate layer.