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1959 Volvo PV544 for $1,000


Even though both a 122 and a 145 currently reside in my garage, I still want to find a 544. That may sound crazy because the PV544 is the most archaic of the bunch, but it was also the lightest. It was the car that accidentally launched Volvo into the motorsports scene because of its exceptional combination of handling, speed, and durability. Do a little research and you will be surprised at how many of these little cars walked away with a trophy. This one is going to need a lot of work before it will see any podium finishes, but with an asking price of just $1,000, it is tempting to shoot the seller an offer. Find it here on craigslist in San Jose, California. Thanks goes to Robert J. for the tip!


When Volvo designed the 444 (predecessor to the 544) they weren’t concerned with racing. They were more focused on building an efficient family car that could withstand the harsh Swedish winters. The resulting creation though turned out to be a formidable weapon in the hands of aggressive drivers. Some were even able to keep up with the likes of Porsche, Alfa Romeo, and MG. That statement may surprise some of you, but remember, these cars were all still running in the 1500cc class. As engine sizes grew, the 544 became less competitive, but not before it saw some major action in the late fifties and early sixties.


Volvo stayed out of the racing game until Gunnar Andersson showed up. He won some major events on his own, so the factory took notice and signed him up as the competitions manager. They started hitting the rallies hard and even entered some major road racing events such as the 12 hours of Nurburgring. It may look like a 1941 Ford, but it obviously didn’t drive like one! The project presented here is obviously going to need a lot of help before it will be able to run any vintage events though.


It was supposedly driven into storage in 1995 and has not been started since. That doesn’t worry me too much though because these engines were robust. Although not as bulletproof as the later five-bearing B18, this B16 was good enough to endure some of the world’s toughest rallies. I would be more worried about that shabby paint and baked interior. Luckily, a bunch of spares are included with the sale to help offset some of the cost. A full restoration may not make financial sense here, but you can spread out the total cost of the task by starting with a low priced, but solid project like this. Plus, after addressing all the issues here you will have a fun driver with pedigree that you can be proud of!


  1. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Wait a minute! I just looked closer at that engine and it looks like a B18 to me. If it is, that is a nice little upgrade! Can anyone verify my assumption?

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    • Neil

      Looks like it, doesn’t it? The simplest method is just to contact the seller and ask him to read you off the engine designation on the driver’s side of the block. Secondly, the mounts on the B16 and B18 are different so there would be evidence of modification to those in the engine bay.

      The oil filler is the layman’s clue for me, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to know if you can swap the rocker covers between the two engines. I don’t think it’s possible, as it was a complete redesign, but my in-depth knowledge of Volvos is of much later cars, the 850 through to the v70.

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      • Mike Z

        the big tell is the valve cover and the amount of ports on the intake manifold. The B-18 is wider but uses the same mounts, but the study they sit are closer together so you either have to modify the mounts or just swap out the crossmember from a B-18 donor car. It’s all super easy on the cars. I had a 60 with the B-16, it’s a great motor and revs and sounds great, but parts are pretty iffy and you can do so much more with B-18s and B-20s.

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      • Neil

        Thanks Mike – my daily driver is an 850R and the Volvo club I’m a member of here in the UK has sections for cars of all ages so some of it has rubbed off, but it’s always great to add another little piece of info to your arsenal!

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    • Volvo Mike

      Yes, you can tell from the valve cover

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  2. Vince Habel

    When I was in school there were a ton of these on the road.

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  3. Jerry

    Sure looks like a B18 to me. In many ways I think the B18 is a smoother engine than the B20 which I installed in my 122. I bought a ’59 444 that sat for 20 years and I had it running pretty quick. The only minor problem was a frozen clutch and the major problem was a pin holed fuel tank. These aren’t real great for a DD in today’s world vs 1960 but an upgrade to a 122 front suspension adds disc brakes and ball joints for a safer ride. Look for rust inside the trunk on the edges and beneath the latch, VP in Charleston, SC carries everything you may need, IPD doesn’t have much for a 444 or 544 anymore.

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  4. jim s

    i see more then the asking price in parts, i think. again i ask how many volvos will fit in your driveway/garage? is a 1800 in your plans? these are nice to look at and there is a ton of upgardes that can be done to them. great find.

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  5. Will

    The ad is 29 days old. I would bet this could be had even cheaper. I like it.

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    This looks to be a 1962 year model 544, they all came with the B18 engine like this one has.

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  7. Bryan Cohn

    If you ever wanted to own one of these and build it into a vintage rally/vintage racer/Sunday driver this is the perfect car for the job.

    Freshen the brakes, tune it up, do the safety upgrades for period correct early 70’s racing (6 point roll cage, fire system, proper 5 or 6 point belts, window net, modern race seat and right side head support), add a set of long wearing 180-200 tread wear tires like BFGoodrich Rivals and enjoy yourself silly.

    Bought for the asking of $1000, and using my list above, plus some paint, you’d have yourself a fun multi-purpose car for under $10,000.

    Best part is the car will be worth $10,000 or more 5 years from now after you are done having your fun. How can you go wrong with that?

    Like 1
  8. Danger Dan

    Any barn find readers want a split screen 58 pv444 with a b18 for $500 let me know.
    DD. key/title

    Like 1
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I want one Dan! Where’s it located?

      Like 0
    • Robert J

      Danger Dan. If you are in California, please let me know and contact me through Jesse. I would love to own a split screen 444. I would post pictures as it progressed too. :)

      Like 1
  9. Jeff Lavery Staff

    “Even though both a 122 and a 145 currently reside in my garage….”

    If I had a dollar for every time a sentence began with a similar line (just replace “122” and “145” with “M3” and “325is”), I’d be a rich man. ;-)

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  10. cameron

    It’s an early (’61 or older) 544 that’s been retrofitted with a B18 or B20. That’s not a B16. But because it has the early (’61 and prior) hinges and radiator, we know that the car itself (unless the front clip and hood have been replaced by older parts) did originally have a B16 engine.

    Re: the mounts. It’s easy to fit a B18 onto a B16 car’s crossmember: Simply bolt the B16 engine brackets to the B18 block – a direct fit – and install the engine as normal. No bodging required.

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  11. Ken Cruise

    My old ’62 544 was a B16 conversion to B18 (they changed mid-year). The radiator hose had to snake to the other side, and the 6v to 12v conversion was iffy. The car would short out under the dash with no warning, and you’d go nowhere. That happened to me 400 miles from home. I had to leave it, and never saw it again.

    Like 0

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