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Paradise Fire Survivor: 1957 Volvo PV445 Duett

The Camp Fire that ripped through Paradise, California, was devastating for numerous reasons. The toll on life, property, and wildlife was extensive, but cars like this 1957 Volvo PV445 Duett provide a mild silver lining to what is otherwise a tragedy. The seller purchased the Volvo from the charred remains of the house it was stored at just as it was nearing the conclusion of a multi-year restoration by the original owner’s grandson. While that’s a serious punch to the gut, the buyer is clearly a gearhead through and through, because he has painstakingly brought this Volvo back to life while preserving its incredible past. Find it here on eBay with bidding just over $4K and no reserve.

It’s hard to imagine coming to grips with not only losing a car with deep sentimental value, but losing one that was so close to being restored. The seller notes that the original owner – who purchased the Volvo brand new, his first new car purchase ever – left the Volvo in the care of his grandson who embarked on a complete restoration as a gift to his mother. This included the complete rebuild of the drivetrain, suspension, and brakes, with the installation of a reconditioned gas tank the last item on the punchlist. The grandson never got that chance, as he left for work one day and then the town of Paradise was left to smoldering rubble later that day.

The seller reached out to the family to see if the Volvo could be acquired and restored. A deal was struck, and the seller set about the painstaking task of repairing what absolutely had to be corrected and preserving anything that could safely be reused. The listing notes that two parts cars were acquired to supply the hard-to-find bits for the project, and that the larger parts of the restoration included cleaning, stripping, and rust-treating the frame, selected running gear, underside of the body, interior, and any and all pockets/cavities. These areas were then coated with oil-based rust inhibiting equipment enamel. A linseed oil treatment was applied to the body every few months to preserve the fire-scorched exterior surfaces.

Incredibly, the internal components of the engine were still mechanically-perfect, so the seller replaced all external components and then bolted it up to a replacement M40 transmission with a new clutch. Some of the glass had to be custom made (that could not have been cheap), and the seller painstakingly preserved small details like the melted glass headlight lenses. The headliner features a collection of roadmaps, photo from the restoration and the family, as well as copies of the original owner’s collection of vintage sale brochures. This is truly a labor of love, and a fascinating result showing it’s not impossible to preserve a special and/or significant car lost to a fire. One of the best stories I’ve read this year.


  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Goes to show that maybe there are a few decent people left in the world after all, and some are gearheads.
    GLWTA and everyone involved.

    Like 5
  2. Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

    Best story yet! If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you can’t read.

    Like 4
  3. Howard A Member

    Now,, now, there’s lot’s of great folks, many of which are here. As some may remember, my 1st car was a 1958 Volvo 444, That “444” emblem on the dash, I have on the light above my computer, found after going through my parents garage. Wagons were unheard of, fact is, I never knew they even made them. Anybody that takes on a “fire” vehicle, has more guts than I do. Fire usually consumes all. I’d worry about steel integrity, apparently, the fire moved on without melting it altogether. Nice story, but lot of work for something few may even care about.

    Like 5
    • Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

      Your right Howard, it’s probably a Northern California thing.

      Like 2

    Beware! Amazing plot twist.

    With the insight and determination of the seller what was a sad hopeless story is now among the living. What is remarkable is the fact he is donating the money. Should be more people like him

    Good story.

    Like 1
  5. Karl

    Wow surviver? That after the fire pic sure makes it look LOST to me? I would have thought the fire had its way with at least all exterior metal? But great wishes to the new owner!

  6. bull

    I just lost a 1967 Corvette Convertible that we owned for over 30 years to a garage fire.

    Got paid for the car and got on with life.

    At the end of the day is still just a car.

    It’s the memories made with that car that are priceless!

    Like 2
  7. Big Grouch

    A guy in Illinois hot rodded one of these, search “Oldvo” to see it. It’s wild.
    I’m shocked the heat didn’t warp every piece of sheet metal on this car.

    Like 1
    • Phlathead Phil

      It did. You just can’t see it.

      Heat warps everything, except “Warp Speed.”

      Sad tale of Paradise. I have a client that lost cars in that fire.

      Like 1
  8. Paul R.

    I bought a 1976 Mercedes 300 D from a wrecking yard. It was awaiting a paint job in a body shop when the shop caught fire.
    The car looked and ran fine, smelt of smoke though. My daughter and I spent hours cleaning the interior until the smoky odor was pretty well gone.
    The car served me well for several years, but then for no apparent reason the engine lost oil pressure and a piston rod bearing failed.
    I’ve always felt that this was probably related to heat from the fire.
    I mean , this was a Mercedes Diesel , supposed to run forever!

    Like 2
    • Chinga-Trailer

      Well it did run forever, at least until it didn’t!

    • Steve S

      Some of the Mercedes diesels from that era suffered from premature failure from improper maintenance and blown head gaskets.

  9. Malcolm Boyes

    Great story..great effort and wonderful to see..I live in Sonoma and saw a survivor pickup in similar shape that had been fixed up after our 2017 firestorm. Hats off for a great job filled with love!

    Like 1
  10. MGSteve

    I hate to be party pooper here, but I’ve also had cars destroyed in a fire . . . specifically a prized MGB. We lost our family car also . . . that was easy. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get my head around the fact that sheet metal panels, of any shape and size, are not going to be warped and twisted, etc. I was told by several knowledgeable people not to trust the engine, even if it was rebuilt. When a fire is hot enough to melt aluminum carbs and other non-ferrous parts, and leave your windshield as a small ring of molten glass, you have to question things like temper of metal, and the ability to ever, really, get panels, etc back to normal.

    Like 2

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