Our Cars: 1958 Volvo PV444

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

A personal note: I’m having surgery on my right hand today and will be in a cast for two weeks. I’ve prepared a series of posts that hopefully will run until the cast is removed. After that I’ll have a brace on my hand for several weeks, which hopefully will let me make photographs and type. Check my Instagram feed (@joefarace) for updates on how I’m doing with posts by Mary.

I bought my first imported car, the 1958 Volvo PV444 shown in the fuzzy photo below, back in 1964 for the princely sum of $395. As a steelworker and staunch union man, my father was not amused.

The PV444 was Volvo’s first unibody car. It was also the first Volvo in almost 20 years to have a four-cylinder engine. These first PV444s were powered by a 1.4 liter inline-four cylinder engine that was designated B4B and had three main bearings, overhead valves and a single downdraft carburetor.

In early 1956, the car began to appear for sale in the US, mostly in Texas and southern California. These cars received an engine called the B14A and had twin side-draft 1½-inch SU carburetors producing 70 hp. By 1957, engine displacement was increased to 1.6 liters with single downdraft carbs on the B16A and twin side-draft carburetors for the B16B (the model I owned) versions offered. Fuel economy was above average for the time and performance, particularly with the twin carburetor configuration, was brisk as I can attest to with my experience with the car I owned. Remember, this was the era of the “drive it like you hate it” Volvos, well before they became luxury cars.

My car was one of the last of the PV444’s because later in 1958, the new PV544 model, an example seen at right, was phased in. Differences in the new model included a curved one-piece windshield to replace the 444’s two panes of flat glass, larger taillights and a ribbon-type speedometer. The 444’s three-speed on-the-floor manual transmission was replaced by a four-speed unit.

Later I would go on to own other Volvo automobiles, including a 240DL wagon and a 700 series 2.4 L turbo diesel wagon 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 although I am sure that they are just as safe and dependable as any Volvo ever made.


PS. The scan of my 1958 Volvo above was made by ScanMyPhotos from a contemporary slide that was shot in 1964 with my trusty Argus C3. I’ve found that ScanMyPhotos does a great job scanning old slides and negatives. And they did their best with what was a slightly overexposed and fuzzy slide of my old Volvo. This is not a paid or sponsored endorsement, just my experience.