Rare And Beautiful: 1953 Volvo PV444

My guess is that this will go quickly. It’s a very rare 1953 Volvo 444, the first postwar model to arrive in the U.S., and it’s available here on craigslist in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota for a very reasonable $4,600.

The vendor is an enthusiast who knows what he’s doing with early Volvos. This one is in better than passable condition, with some minor rust in the floors and chassis. It’s not running, but turns over and probably could be made to go vroom-vroom with little trouble. If the original 44-horsepower B14 motor and three-speed tranny combo isn’t “hot” enough, the owner has a post-1968 B20 and four-speed transmission that will bolt right in.

For buyers who want to stay original, an owner sometime in the past chose to “modernize” the car with a later, one-piece rear glass and taillights from a similarly styled 544 (see photo above). But correct items—probably very hard to find—come with the car. The windows are in an old-style metal surround that will have to be welded in place and repainted. The two-piece rear windows are very cool looking, and valuable in these cars as they are in early Beetles.

The condition reflects the stated “decades of indoor storage”. It’s quite tidy and suggests a restoration some years ago. It was likely repainted, reupholstered and a new headliner installed. The dashboard is all there but slightly dingy—maybe it would clean up well. All the trim is there, reflecting 1940s American styling. The correct air cleaner is in place, the early die-cast grille, and the very cool light-up semaphore turn signals. Glass-bowl fuel filter? Check. The original gray floor mats could stand to be replaced—if you could find them.

Though the ad doesn’t say, this is a Euro-market car. The 444 wasn’t imported into the U.S. until 1955 when the first few arrived in Los Angeles. American-market cars got a special 70-horsepower B14A “sport” engine that wasn’t available in Europe.

The 444 stands for four seats, four cylinders, and a big 40 horsepower. It was Volvo’s second postwar automobile (after the PV 60), and dubbed the “Peacetime Car.” It was also the company’s first unit-body construction. There were discussions about using the front-wheel drive, but it was finally decided that it might not be reliable.

The first 444 registered was in 1947. Postwar demand was good, and by 1949 the company had to stop taking orders for a while (10,000 were on the books, and the factory couldn’t keep up).  The 444A was the first to get the 40-horsepower engine, with 77 mph possible. It was highway-capable in the U.S., and they began to trickle in ’55.

The 444 wasn’t replaced with the 544 until 1958. The new model (with a modest styling upgrade) offered 60 horsepower from its B16, a one-piece front and rear windshield, room for five from the larger back seat, and seat belt mounts.

“This is a rare opportunity to get a correctly restored early 444 back on the road,” the vendor says. “It is a piece of history that should be preserved”. Do you want to be part of that preservation, at the price you’d normally pay for a basket case?

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Comments

  1. HadTwo

    It’s not running, but turns over and probably could be made to go vroom-vroom

    Danger Will Robinson!

    Like 1
  2. Bob C.

    The World According to Garp. Anyone remember that movie?

    Like 5
  3. Fred W

    Most here could have it running in a half day, if extended storage is the only reason it’s not running. Love these cars and if I had the garage room would be all over it!

    Like 2
  4. Slomoogee

    Wow! For a Volvo lover this is a mega deal. Put the B20 and 4speed in it, add overdrive, convert to 12 volts, alternator and cruise. Oh and sell the rear window, taillights, and radiator blind, have money for your project.

    Like 2
  5. DRV

    The rear window change is the only bummer for me. The rubber floor is available as I have a new set waiting to install right now. I wouldn’t bother with the motor and put in a B18 or B20 as they are cheap and easy to find, rebuild, and install. There was some stainless trim on these, but not as much as later models.
    This is a great early Volvo to have..

    Like 1
  6. Greg Millard

    A wonderful project if I just weren’t so long in the tooth – whoever takes it home ..I wish you happy days ahead.

  7. Bob C.

    Capable of 77 mph? So what’s with the 150 mph speedometer?

    • Tom V

      I’m guessing that’s in kilometres.

      Like 5
  8. Solosolo Member

    Hardly a “correctly restored” 444 if the original rear window has been removed and replaced with a 544 window.

    Like 1
    • Ron Jordan

      How long has it been in storage? It seems to have current CA plate.

  9. Brett Weare

    I have a late 444 and I’m hardly an expert on these but I suspect this car has been rebodied with the ’53 bolt on parts swapped onto a later car with the rear window clip being saved before the original carcass was sent to scrap. Look it over carefully if you care about authenticity

  10. Howard A Member

    I too think it was silly to do the back window, at least they kept the “trafficators”. Quick correction, the B16, I read, came out in ’57, my ’58, 444 had a B16. This engine, I believe is a B4B and was updated to 44 hp in 1950. After cleaning out my parents garage, I found the original 444 trunk script and have it proudly displayed on the light above my computer as a reminder of my 1st car.

    Like 2
  11. Boothguy

    Not sure why my previous comment was deleted but dollars to donuts this is a later body with some 53 parts bolted on and the extra early parts came off the same junk car as the rear window clip was cut out of and maybe the title as well

    • Stanley

      I was thinking the same thing. My brothers wife had a brand new 59 (because it had them new fangled seat belts)when they started dating and i was 10. She had a bad wreck in her old car and was terrified to drive. she always wore her seatbelt in that car and would make whoever was in the passenger seat belt ip as well. I hated that she was often tasked with collecting me from school. I noticed right away this 1953 car had belts that only became available in 1959.

      Like 1

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