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Volvo Company History

Published: 24th Mar 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


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Collaboration between Assar Gabrielsson, Gustav Larson, Henry Westerberg, Helmer Mas-Olle and the Swedish bearing manufacturer SKF resulted in the first Volvo car, the first production version of which was completed in 1927. Incidentally, the name Volvo comes from Latin, meaning ‘I roll’ (the name had previously been owned by SKF, but unused).

Open (OV4) and closed (PV4) versions of the new, 1.9-litre Volvo were made during the late 1920s, then a six-cylinder PV650, based on the PV4. The series evolved through the 1930s, with the engine capacity growing through the years. In addition to cars, the company (as today) produced commercial vehicles, also taxis, in large numbers.

Production of vehicles continued through the War years, but the first post-War Volvo was the PV60 (also sold in chassis form as the PV61). Over 3500 were built.

Particularly significant was the new PV444, development of which had started during the War, and the model was sold from 1947 (please also see our separate section detailing this car and the subsequent PV544).

This tough, dependable newcomer was a very successful vehicle, and helped spread the word about Volvo to lucrative export markets, including the United States.

The PV800 Series taxis, built between 1950 and 1958, were seven/eight-seaters, powered by an in-line, 3.7-litre six cylinder side-valve engine. Over 6200 were produced.

Based on the PV444 was the fascinating but commercially unsuccessful PV1900 two seater sports car of 1956. This attractive car featured glass fibre bodywork, mounted on a tubular frame. It was propelled by an uprated (70bhp) version of the PV444 engine (from 1957 the higher powered variant was installed in PV444s destined for America). Sadly fewer than 70 PV1900s were built.

The Volvo 121 of 1956 was another highly important vehicle for the company. The newcomer was powered by the same proven family of engines. Although the car has always been universally known as the Amazon, officially Volvo could not use this name outside of Sweden, since ostensibly the name was already registered to a German motorcycle manufacturer.

With styling by the Italian concerns of Ghia and Frua, the strikingly styled P1800 coupe was introduced in 1961. Under the bonnet was an Amazon-derived engine. The bodywork was initially produced in the U.K. (please also see our separate section on this model), but from 1963 they were fully built in Sweden.

The iconic 144 saloon arrived in ‘66, and estate (145) versions were to become one of the most e ffective load carrying cars ever produced. Models which evolved from the 140 Series cars and which have continued the Volvo tradition for providing effective large load carriers, include the 240/260 Series, the 740/760 Series, and the 940/960 models.

Smaller cars were not ignored however, with the compact Volvo 66GL arriving in 1975 (as a result of the Swede’s take over of Dutch car maker DAF, and with the 340/360, then the 440/460 models carrying on until the late 1990s.

In recent years Volvo models have featured increasingly bold styling, and front-wheel drive has become the norm. The competent 850 range made its debut in 1992.Attractive S40 (saloon) and V40 (estate) models arrived in 1996, as did new executive models, the S70 (saloon), V70 (estate) and C70 (coupe), adding further interest and variety to the once staid Volvo product line.

Although in recent years the Volvo company has come under the Ford umbrella, thankfully the models emerging from Volvo have managed to retain their own, separate high quality image and individuality.

Many buyers seeking tough, reliable and stylish transport have found precisely what they are looking for in Volvo’s diverse product line-up.

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