Swedish Wagon: 1958 Volvo Duett PV445

A Volvo what? It’s a new one on me, I have never encountered a Volvo Duett. OK, so the front looks like a Volvo, and there is some resemblance via the side styling but it’s the story around this unusual Volvo that really makes it interesting.  Located in Laurel, Montana is this 1958 Volvo Duett PV445 and it is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $2,500, one bid tendered.

The Duett was produced by Volvo between 1953 and 1969 and was based on the Volvo PV sedan. But unlike the PV, the Duett used a full perimeter frame in place of a unibody architecture. The thought here is that the frame would provide greater rigidity to a vehicle destined for commercial service.

The seller of this Volvo has it listed as a “Duette 455” but it is believed that what he means is a Duett PV445 which is one of the two Duett models that were produced. This Duett was “put together” by the seller twenty years ago for use as a sporting goods display. Regarding this Volvo’s exterior appearance, the seller states, “it had woody type panels that covered door handles so sporting goods could not be stolen.they are available also…” I’m not sure what applied wood paneling as to do with security, as locking the doors would seem to suffice too.  Anyway, if you want a mashup of the Swedish Chef meets a Country Squire, here’s your ticket. He also advises that there is rust in the floorboards but they are “doable”. Doable? I guess that means they can be repaired. The exterior, overall, is in fair shape but there are only two images included, three if you add the sideways one of the roof, so it’s hard to get a good reading on the entire package. I imagine the “THIS WAY” decal in the rear side window was a direction to the sporting goods store and not a reminder of which way the car is supposed to move…

For power, there is a 1.8 liter, in-line, four-cylinder engine. The seller states, “had engine/trans removed so as no oil could leak…engine complete and turns over, might run, but I never heard it, comes with b 18 engine that I heard run 8 ish years ago..”. I don’t understand the rationale for the removal. I’d go with the thought that while the motor is not seized, it will probably need quite a bit of work to be returned to operating status.

One bright spot is the seat upholstery. The seller advises that “seats and headliner done 20 years ago” and from what can be seen, the front seats anyway, look quite nice. That said, the door cards are missing and there is the floor issue referenced earlier. The instrument panel is very retro in a ’50s European car sort of way. It is showing some effects from its 60+ years of age but it is still very presentable as-is. Without an operating engine, there is no way to know if the gauges function, however. The radio, in particular, is an attention-getter for its minimalist look.

There are two days to go in the bidding and there is only one bid tendered, so no one is knocking down the door to acquire this one-time sporting goods display. The seller does mention that he has many boxes of parts so maybe a restoration was in mind that later fell out of favor. Hard to say. What to do with this unusual Volvo? No ideas here, just a null set, what do you recommend?

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  1. Connecticut Mark

    Could have put a towel under engine if worried about leaking instead of pulling entire motor.

    Like 3
    • Pat

      If the car was displayed inside a store, many states require all fluids be removed. That might have been the case.

      Like 3
      • Bill McCoskey

        Pat, you’ve likely answered the question about the drive line removal. I’ve supplied several vintage vehicles for display in commercial stores, like a 1951 Studebaker sedan [it was a rough car with a damaged roof] we made it look nice but cut it down into a convertible for a now long gone restaurant called “Studebakers”. We made the car’s interior space into a booth for 4 people.

        To meet the fire department requirements, the vehicle could not have ANY volatile fluids, so we removed the entire drive line [removed the ring & pinion assembly & cleaned out the rear axle], along with suspension*, gas tank, fuel & brake lines, and all hydraulic brake cylinders.

        *To stabilize the body for people to get in & out without the car moving, we removed the front springs & inserted steel pipes welded in place. With the rear leaf springs still in place, we added similar upright pipes to connect the rear axle with the frame.

        Sadly, the car was only there for a short time before the restaurant chain went belly-up, & the car was sent to a local scrapyard, so a lot of good Studebaker parts were crushed.

        Like 1
      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        I loved Studebakers restaurant when it was open! They attempted one here in Tennessee but I don’t recall if it ever got off the ground. A restaurant in downtown Nashville used to have an British taxi and double decker bus you could sit in while dining. Don’t recall the name of that place…maybe Sherlock Holmes Pub?

  2. SMS

    One of my favorite cars. I fell in love with these when a friend of mine dropped by. We both had Matchless G80 bikes. He had his in the back of his Duette. Just had to roll back the handlebars and wheel it right in.

    The gearing was low and i think the top speed was 50 mph. Sound deadening was minimal seats were not much more than beach chairs, but with the wood in the back and the great lines teamed with the versatility I love these.

    The spare tire slot, similar in location to a TR3 is where these often rust.

    If things were different and I had the time i would buy and restore this.

    Like 1
  3. scott m

    When I was 14 my sister had the fast back coupe and promised it to me, another heart break in life lol. Still want one, and the Duett would be even better

    Like 1
  4. Beyfon

    Time to be a bit of an anorak here. First, it is not a PV445 – the Duett is a P445. Even that home made chassis tag says so! Also, the Duett is not really based on the PV even though they share the front end design- it all started with Volvo making a small truck chassis for coach builders to put bodies on. Pick ups, work vans, ambulances… Even convertibles were built on this chassis. Some coach builders displayed nice station wagons and Volvo caught on to the idea and eventually launched the Duett with their in-house body. The B16 engine in one of the pictures should be the original for this car, the B18 came later but will still fit.

    Like 3

    Because of this and a cookie my alfa lost the name Duetto. I can see how someone could confuse this for an Italian sports car.
    Anyway I actually think it would look good parked beside my Duetto.

  6. Mark Davi

    I like this old pile of bolts. I’d only seen one before — years ago, parked and forgotten in an old garage — and I admired that machine. The passage of years has not lessened my esteem for this cool-looking old Volvo.

  7. Car Nut Tacoma

    Awesome story! Sweet looking car. I’ve heard of the Volvo Duett, but for some reason they were never sold in the USA. At least I’ve never seen any.

  8. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Looks like they ran out of red paint and attempted a mural of some sort? Or the beginning of airbrushed “woody” sides?

  9. Bill L McCoskey

    My dad bought one new in 1959, from Manhattan Motors in Bethesda, MD. The company sold almost all the major European car companies, except for Mercedes Benz, they were sold thru Studebaker Packard until 1966.

    The only problem we had with that little wagon was the rear doors tended to pop open if pushed hard from the inside. One time I was riding in the back with several other Boy Scouts on the way to a Scout meeting. One of the boys sitting on the back load floor leaned against the back door as dad pulled out into traffic. The doors popped out and the boy fell out onto the pavement.

    Remember those old green Bell Telephone repair trucks? We were lucky one of those was heading the other direction on the road, and as the driver passed us he saw the boy fall out, so he pulled his truck to the left and blocked traffic, jumped out and grabbed the boy. He didn’t even have a cut or skin scrape for us other scouts to practice our scouting skills!

    Dad kept the Volvo Duette until 1963, trading it in on a Peugeot 403 familiale with the 3 rows of seats, the center ones folding like a limousine. In 1969 he traded that in on a new Porsche 912 with a 5-speed gearbox! [And I had obtained my driver’s license about the same time!]

    Like 4
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      My last MG Midget project had a chrome metal “Manhattan Motors” dealer tag on the back. I presumed it was from New York but makes sense that something purchased in the DC Metro area would end up in southwest Virginia.

      Like 1
  10. GeneB

    I’ve had a couple of these, and have a 1961 project car for sale myself.
    and Jim O, I’ll wager that the B18, if not stuck, will require almost nothing to bring back to life, carbs being the exception.
    VolvoJim, will you try to get this over to Whidbey Island??

  11. Dave at OldSchool Restorations North Alabama

    If you haven’t noticed, restored 445/545’s bring pretty good money
    @Beyon that is not a homeade Tag….it is original for 1958, but the black anodizing is worn off. It is the same tag as my 445 VIN 44508 Chassis 5251
    @SMS Top speed exceeds 70 with the 3 main bearing B16 and 90mph with the 5 bearing B18

    • SMS

      You may be right about the top speed. At the time I had a ‘67 220. It was supposed to have a top speed of 90 with the B18 and I never took it over 65.

      While the advertised too speed of the GS80’s we rode was 80 and we rarely went over 45.

      Something comfortable about putting along in or on old machinery.

  12. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Somewhere in my photo albums of long-forgotten cars from my newspaper route, I have a photo of one of these with cream roof over chocolate brown body. The name of a local florist emblazoned along the beltline below the windows. At the time, (1974, Alexandria Virginia) I just thought it was a cool looking old car.

    Like 1
  13. Bill McCoskey

    Little_ Cars,
    As it sounds like you live in No Va, did you perhaps know Howard M of Falls Church, who owned various vintage European cars, especially rare Lancias? If so, I wanted to let you know he passed away recently.

    Like 1
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      No longer live in NOVA, Bill. Moved to Tennessee in 1986 and haven’t been back since my mother passed in 2008. I don’t recognize the name, but thanks for thinking of me. Growing up I followed my dad’s lead and learned all I could about ‘Murican cars of all vintages. The only “fureign” cars we owned growing up were a Simca, Vauxhall, BMW and Peugeots.

      • Bill McCoskey

        That’s too bad you never had the opportunity to meet Dr Howard Moon. In addition to collecting obscure cars like coachbuilt Lancias, a Dino, 1939 BMW 327 convertible coupe, 1940 Ford business coupe, and many more, he retired as one of the chiefs at the CIA, was still teaching political science at one of those famous Boston universities, and was a walking encyclopedia on vintage automobiles & transportation topics. At the age of 81, he was still driving a Saab 900 or BMW Bavaria as daily drivers.

        He wrote the book on how the Soviets stole the plans for the Concorde SST to make one of their own;
        “The Soviet SST: The Technopolitics of the Tupolev-144”
        Moon, Howard
        ISBN 10: 051756601XISBN 13: 9780517566015

        In the book, he writes about the US government, in connection with a famous manufacturer of chewing gum, “leaking” the formula for the new Concorde SST tire rubber compound. This kept the Soviet engineers from succeeding for many years, in making their own high speed tires that could handle the requirements of take-off & landing of the SST. For gearheads who also track world politics, it’s a great read.

        Howard will be missed by many disparate groups, especially the car people in the Washington, DC area. RIP.

        Like 1
      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        Dr Moon sounds fascinating. Maybe if he attended the many local shows my Dad would have been attracted to his 40 Ford and spoken with him. Our ritual was to attend as many car shows within a few hours of Alexandria as we could. Back then, most were on grassy fields with lots of space for me to perfect my photographic “skills.” Mt Airy, Rockville, Laurel. Gunston Hall, Culpeper, Manassas, Hershey, Carlisle were part of my education from 1969 until around 1986. My father was an army man, stationed at Fort Myer with ties to the Pentagon, military funerals and regular concerts for presidents during inaugural events.

      • Bill McCoskey


        I’m sure we have crossed paths before, or at least you’ve seen some of my cars at shows like Rockville, Mt. Airy, Laurel, and more. I used to bring various post war Packards, my 1955 Imperial limo, numerous Rolls-Royce & Bentley motorcars, my Blue Tatra T-603, etc.

        Like 1
  14. Rich

    Know a guy in WI with 15 of these! One of them was his first car.

  15. Phlathead Phil

    If Volvo had a brain in their head they would start remaking these cars in both electric and petrol 4×4 versions. What awesome styling!!! Just retro the front and rear bumpers add all the GPS/NAV systems and you have a HUGE hit with outlanders and off grid-ers!

    Imagine that one!!!

    Like 2
    • Bill McCoskey

      Phlathead Phil,

      Yannow, I think you’ve got a very valid concept there, that if done right, would have an excellent sales record! Let’s hope Volvo sales & styling execs read this post!

      Like 1
      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        Couldn’t be any better or worse than the modern reworking of old style cues of the HHR from Chevy or the PT Cruiser from Chrysler. Volvo would probably do it better, especially the 4wd versions.

      • Bill McCoskey

        I think the problem for Volvo is that a majority of Americans today wouldn’t recognize what the new version represents. I think it would go over very well in the rest of the developed world, but Volvo USA might have to show the USA public what the original looked like in their advertising.

        Like 1
  16. Doug

    I wish I was in a position to add this sweet chariot to my collection of drivers, but I’m in the middle of doing a 444 Resto-mod . When “done” ( they almost never are ! ) it will have the appearance of a 41-48 “fat fender” circa mid- late 60’s after being taken over by a younger driver. Underneath, a full front cross member, with coil-overs, rack & pinion, & disc brakes. 3.4 Camaro V6 with 4L60E, driving a narrowed 96 Ford 8.8 with factory discs from an Exploder, & 31 spline Dutchman axles. American Torqthrust Ds in the rear, and I’m looking for something close in appearance for the front, but with more offset to bring the outer edge of the tires in closer to the fender opening. I know Mazda had some front drivers with the 5 on 4.5 bolt pattern- maybe something for the early Ford Probe collaboration.

    Anyone who is wanting to restore / refurbish a vintage Volvo can find almost anything you will need here-


    No relationship other than VERY satisfied customer.

    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      There must be a ton of you out there, Doug. As I’ve seen a lot of these Volvos made to look like fat fendered Fords but never a wagon. A quick trip over to “the Google” and I found this machine. Shows the good, the bad, and the ugly side of modifying the wagon. Good luck on your project!

      Like 1
  17. chrlsful

    “fat fendered fords”? well this 1 all ways reminded me of the ’48 forward plymouth suburban.
    I like ’em best and that’s even w/being the self described “wagon guy” (30, 40 yrs now).
    Too bad it’s apart. Just put it together, keep a motor there and ship it…

    Like 1
  18. Doug

    Instrument cluster info – The Instrument cluster in the PV444 ( at least the later ones- not sure about pre-’57 ) Looks very much like a scaled down version of a 1940 Packard instrument cluster.

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