Our Cars: 1958 Volvo PV444

Volvo PV444

I bought my first imported car, the 1958 Volvo PV444, at left, in 1964 for the princely sum of $395. As a steelworker, my father was not amused.

The PV444 was Volvo’s first unibody car. It was also the first Volvo in almost 20 years to come with a 4-cylinder engine. These first PV444s were powered by a 1.4 liter inline-four engine designated the B4B, with three main bearings, overhead valves, and a single downdraft carburetor. US models, beginning to appear in the US—mostly Texas and southern California— in early 1956, received an version called the B14A which had twin side-draft 1½-inch SU carburetors for a total of 70 hp. By the 1957 model year, engine displacement increased to 1.6 L and both single downdraft- B16A and twin side-draft carburetors B16B (the model I owned) versions were offered. Fuel economy was above average and performance particularly with the twin carburetor configuration was brisk as I can attest to with my experience with the 1958 model I owned. Remember, this was the era of the “drive it like you hate it” Volvos, befire they became luxury cars.

 Volvo PV 544 at car show

My car was one of the last PV444’s because later in 1958, the new PV544 model was phased in. Differences included a curved one-piece windshield to replace the two panes of flat glass of the 444, larger taillights, and a ribbon-type speedometer. The 444’s 3-speed manual transmission was also replaced by a 4-speed unit.

Later I would go on to own other Volvos, including a 240DL and 700 series 2.4 L turbo diesel wagons and I loved all of them in their own way. But when I look at the cars the company produces now, I don’t get the same feelings—except for the Polestar, aseptically the way cool wagon—although I am sure that they are just as safe and dependable as any Volvo ever made. And these are just a few of the reasons that some kind of Volvo is part of my search for a new car.

PS. The scan of my 1958 Volvo above was made by ScanMyPhotos from a contemporary slide shot in 1964.