Running Survivor: 1961 Volvo PV544

1961 Volvo 544

Safety equipment has come a long way since this 1961 Volvo 544 was built. To think, at the time, having lap belts was a big deal! Well, what you give up for safety features in this Volvo, you make up for in sheer simplicity. For only $3,500 you can take this car home from Trout Lake, Washington. There are no miles listed and no VIN is stated. However, they do claim the car has a clear title. Thank you, Steve, for the tip. You can find it here on Craigslist.

1961 Volvo 544

While the car does run and drive, the seller suggest trailering it. The car should have a 1.6 liter, inline 4 cylinder engine. In 1962 Volvo would have changed the engine to a 1.8 liter. They also would have changed the transmission from a 3-speed manual to a 4-speed manual. This car will still have a 6-volt electrical system because Volvo, again, kept using the older components until 1962.

1961 Volvo 544

Inside the car you’ll find a very primitive interior, but it does look to be complete. There is some wear and tear, the driver seat is torn and it is tough to tell what the cord wrapped around the glove box is. It is good to see that there is still a seat belt of some sort. Do you think that safety standards have helped car design?

1961 Volvo 544

That would be the most interesting topic to consider. First, I guess the topic should be is this car a good looking vehicle or not? Then one can ponder if Volvo cars in general are good looking. Those debates can be had, but as for this car, there are some parts cars available to get it back on the road in somewhat quick order. Hopefully this car will go to a good home with a person who can do the necessary work.


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  1. Sam61

    I like it…paint it Polestar blue, minilite wheels, black suede interior, tweek the motor.

    Glad Volvo followed KISS back in the day…keep it simple Swenn.

    Like 2
  2. On and On On and On Member

    Check out those HD 6 volt battery cables. Smart stuff. Looks like radiator curtain is gone, chain tube is still on radiator but chain is gone. Such a practical idea, don’t understand why more cars and trucks didn’t use it. It works, I know first hand, from on my 1964 PV544.

    Like 4
  3. RJ

    Most U.S. market B-16 544’s had the M40 4-speed transmission. The 3-speed M30 was used mostly in down-market versions not imported here, and in Duetts.

    Too bad everything I like is on the wrong end of the country – I’d jump on this one.

    Like 5
    • PatrickM

      Yeah, but this is a ’61, not a ’62, when the conversion was made. The 3 speed was the order of the day. And okay with me.

      • Doug

        One easy way to tell this was originally a B16 car is the hood hinges/supports that drop down alongside the radiator – the B18 cars had a different system entirely, using a coil spring in front of the radiator to hold the hood in the open position. The reason for that was that the B18 cars required a wider radiator ( about 5 inches wider ) to ensure proper cooling. If one were going to do performance upgrades on this car, it would be worthwhile to get a B18 car’s radiator support ( which is also the center section of the front clip ) and hood assembly, to help keep it cool. These cars only weighed about 2170 lbs new, and had very good suspension design. In the rear , it is a modified 4 link setup, with two long arms that extend under the axle, and have coil springs attached to them. There are two short rods that extend forwards from the top of the diff housing to the center of the unibody chassis, and a Panhard bar ( Track bar to NASCAR fans ) to keep the axle centered side to side. Back in the day – 1972-3, I had a B18 powered PV444, and used to have great fun running off from TR-3s on a twisty road
        not far from home. ( I did cheat a bit- I was running E-70x14s off a Mustang – quite a bit wider than the stock 165x15s ! )

  4. Lance

    They always reminded me of a 47-8 Ford that got stuck in a microwave.

    Like 3
    • PatrickM

      LOL! Yeah. My thoughts, exactly. Loved the hump back Fords and Mercury’s. And these, too.

  5. GeneB Member

    The person that wrote up this article is totally clueless on Vintage Volvos. That engine is a B18/B20 5-main bearing engine, and its running a 12 volt system, look at the battery. If a true ’61 then someone converted it, or it may be a result of reported/registered year vs. the actual car build. The worst part is the missing set of SC carburetors replaced by the Weber/Holley progressive 2 bbl carb. Many people put this aftermarket carb on these cars at around 300,000 miles as the worn rings resulted in less vacuum, which made it difficult to open the slides in the SU’s. If standard it will have the 4-speed non-overdrive transmission, as they all dd. If it runs well, it is well worth the asking price and will be snatched up in no time.

    Like 2
  6. Dave at OldSchool Restorations


    right on. That is the second gen B engine probably an 1800

    Like 1
  7. DRV

    I have a ’64 also and On and On is correct.This motor looks at least cared for as a later B18. Every part is available and new stainless complete bumper set is a thousand bucks.

  8. jerry z

    I always liked these cars next to the P1800. The body style is unique and would definitely modify the crap out of it!

  9. Richard Gugenberger

    I believe PV 544 stands for Passenger Vehicle, 5 person 4 cylinder, 4 speed . at least that’s what we were told back in the 60s at the dealer when my classmate had an 1959 PV544 , one heck of a car went over 200k back then which was almost unheard for cars of that era , most were toast at 50-60 k. He sold it when he went into the Navy ! Yes I remember that curtain that you pulled up over the radiator when it was bitter cold out ( upstate NY)

    Like 1
  10. Will Owen Member

    Identical to my first Volvo except for the color; this looks like my blue after some serious fading. The overall condition is about what mine wd look like now if it’d just been parked for forty years … It was also a 3-speed, until I found a decent 4-speed box in my favorite salvage yard. It had no seat belts at all, until my door swung open one day in the middle of an illegal U-turn in lunch hour traffic on El Camino, and I only JUST did not fall out. Seat belts were obtained that afternoon, and they improved the handling so much I wished I’d not waited so long. Now of course I’d need shoulder belts too …

    This was the car that taught me how to drive a RWD car quickly, and La Honda Road on the SF Peninsula was the classroom. Although neither my life at the time nor my conduct of it were free of blemish or blame, there was much to love and to cherish forever, and that was a big part of it. And any old humpback Volvo will give me a good rush of that.

    Like 1
  11. PatrickM

    This would make a good practical car and turn heads, too. Too bad it is on the wrong coast. Shucks! Here we go again.

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