Vintage Survivor: 1963 Volvo PV544

Volvo (the name is Latin for “I roll”) was formed in 1915 to make automotive bearings. It was a division of an industrial bearing maker, but this arrangement lasted only a short time – so short that only a few bearings were ever made by Volvo. The effort was sidetracked by World War I. After the war, Volvo aimed to satisfy the pent-up demand for autos. Its market proposition was safety and economy, and it made its first car in 1927. By the 1940s, Volvo was working on a small new car, influenced by American design (from the early 1940s!) and utilizing a four-cylinder motor – a departure from its inline six-cylinder habit of prior years. The result was the very popular PV444. This car was Volvo’s first export to America, arriving in Long Beach California in August of 1955. The PV444 was updated with a curved windshield, padded dash, and other niceties in 1958 and named the PV544. By 1962, the PV544 was using the B18 motor, Volvo’s stout five-main bearing four-cylinder. The electrical system was also upgraded from 6V to 12V. Here on eBay is a very original 1963 Volvo PV544 for sale. The seller – this car’s second owner – wants a starting bid of $10,000, and the car is located in Tacoma, Washington. We have T.J. to thank for this tip!

For this model year, the PV544’s B18 displaced 1.8 liters and was equipped for the US with dual SU carburetors, making about 90 bhp. Its zero to sixty time was about 14 seconds, and its top speed was around 90 mph – competitive with cars like the MGB. Gas mileage was great at around 25 mpg. Unfortunately, there is no engine bay photo in this listing. The seller mentions that the car probably has about 90,000 miles, as he has a receipt for replacement of the odometer at about 50,000 miles and it reads 39,000 now. This interior shot barely shows the “thermometer” speedometer – a hallmark of this model.

The seller indicates that the body has been repaired at least in the passenger’s driver door area, and if you squint at the first photo you can see that door is a bit darker than the rest of the body. There is a nick or two from the paint here and there, but overall, the finish looks like a well-worn cotton shirt -slightly faded everywhere but so worth keeping.

The PV544 was an outstanding rally car. Here are the Singh brothers, Joginder and Jaswant, winning the 1965 East African Safari. A PV544 won the RAC rally in both 1963 and 1964, driven by Tom Trana. Not that I would strip this honey of a car and throw a bunch of rally lights on her, but knowing I could fuels my interest in this one. What do you think?


  1. alphasud Member

    Car placement in movies has been used as a tool to advertise and promote a product. We can all think about movies we have seen that inspired us to want to own or lust after. However has anyone seen a movie that featured a car that drives you away from wanting to own one or when you see the car it just brings up feelings of sadnesses?
    When I saw this car I was immediately reminded of a movie that was emotionally gut wrenching. The World According to Garp was that movie and many scenes involved this model in this color. I definitely have no desire to own a PV544 because of that movie. Can anyone relate?

    Like 1
    • RayT Member

      Actually, no. The closest I came to being influenced by a movie car was a slight desire to own a four-door Chevelle after I saw “Repo Man.” Or maybe a Falcon convertible, from the same movie.

      The only thing holding me back from this 544 is a little matter of $10K or so. I have absolutely zero turning me off from it except that. I’d prefer the “Sport” model, though.

      Like 9
      • Todd J. Member

        “Never broke into a car, never hotwired a car. Never broke into a truck. ‘I shall not cause harm to any vehicle nor the personal contents thereof, nor through inaction let the personal contents thereof come to harm’. It’s what I call the Repo Code, kid!”

        Like 2
      • 370zpp 370zpp Member

        “Repo Man.” One of the very best, on many levels.

        Like 1
      • eurovin Member

        Thanks for reminding me about that movie, bro, I really appreciate it.

    • Troy

      Nice, when this popped up in today’s email from the picture that was the first thing I thought about was that movie.

  2. Al

    I remember this car vividly. When I was 14-15, we loaded 14 of us into one of these cars. I was 6’4″. and I think I was the tall one.

    A friend of mine had one with brick Mac-Tac on the back end.

    Another friend had a Chevy 409 in it. When he peeled out the rear end popped all over the road. Traction was real bad b/c of all the weight in the front end.

    Like 2
  3. Rictor

    In the early 1980’s i inherited a very similar looking 1963 from my grandmother. I remember being surprised it had 3 point seat belts as i had never seen anyone wear them while my grandmother had it. The gal i dated at the time was in nursing school and was doing a truma rotation at the time. I remember picking her up in the volvo from work and she immediately buckled up after a rough shift. It took us a few minutes to figure out the belts as neither one of us had ever seen anything like that. I miss the car more than i miss that girl.

  4. DRV

    This is a great deal if it runs well and there is no rust. I have a ’64 and love it. Easy to keep and ride…….

    Like 2
  5. Gil Davis Tercenio

    A college buddy had one that he had put back on the road. Nice little car.

  6. Allen Member

    I had a ’60 PV544 with the B-16 engine. Even that was absolutely bulletproof and could cruise all day long at 75 mph without a whimper. It was always a blast to drive. Rumor had it that you could rev these engines out to valve-float, keep your foot in it and it would keep winding. ‘ Never tried that. Never drove a B-18 at all. That must have been alarming! One of the best cars I’ve ever owned. Perhaps second only to my ’73 164.

    Like 1
  7. Homer

    I had a 63 122S and drove it for 10 years. It was a great car, but no a/c.

  8. Russell

    I could definitely roll with this one. Almost bought 544 a year ago, but the price/rust ratio didn’t make sense. This one might if no rust and it’s very close to me. Something about 544’s and 122’s that just say “drive me”.

  9. Danny V. Johnson

    My first race car was a ’59 544. I replace to MG/Austin clone B16 with a bullet proof B18 (Marine engine). The trans and rear end never failed. One weekend I run it at the drag races. The next weekend I drove it at Riverside Int’l Raceway or Willow Springs Raceway.

    I found one for my girlfriend, latter wife. We took he’s on our honeymoon. My car died a hard death at Riverside. It save my life, after blowing a tire and rolling it several times. It ended upside down. I released my belts, fell into the headliner and broke my wrist. That was the only injury that I had.

    Although I race BMW 2002s for several years and a Triumph Spitfire, I’ve always thought of having another PV544. This one is very tempting, though. Hum?

    Like 1
  10. RMac

    My oldest sisters first car was a white 64 PV544 sport with red interior after she left home it became the house second car for everyone that was a fun car indestructible drive train but the floor rusted out my girlfriend at the time preferred riding in that car over my 65 Plymouth sport fury 440 super commando

    Like 1
  11. Bill Larson

    I bought a Volvo and loved it. Payed $2.950 new. A fun car to drive until things started to go wrong. Excessive clearance in the rear axle causing a “clunk”
    every time you hit a bump in the road or going into the garage. The transmission had an interference between the front and rear causing fluid block. The shift lever which appeared to be heavy turned out to be a hollow tube placed over a tiny rod. It came off during a down shift. The radiator curtin
    chain would loop down and short out the spark plugs. You get the idea!
    The dealer had a large book of upgrades.

  12. Andre

    Bit of history: before being called Volvo, in the 1920’s I think, they were known as Jacobz ( not too sure of the Z – or maybe it was an S) I owned a 122s B20; totally indestructable! Easy to work on, except replacing rear wheel bearings as the brake drum was on a tapered shaft, an it took a HUGE effort with a LARGE wheel puller to get it off! If I could get a new one like it today, the price would be of secondary importance!

  13. Allen Member

    Bill –

    I do recall the radiator curtain chain dropping on the spark-plugs – VERY memorable experience! The other problems you mention are totally foreign to me. Of course I only ran my PV544 about 85000 miles before selling it. Not much these days, but back in the ‘60s, it was pretty ripe for most cars. Not for a Volvo though. Mine was still really strong when I sold it. The only reason was I finished school and could afford a new car and I got the bug to buy one. No memorable mechanical problems ever!


  14. Greg

    drove one of these back in 68 on a ranch in Montana. Used for everything and was like a tank to drive. Always thought this body style would make a great hot rod for today. And, the woven straps that kept the body and frame together and springs from over extending, usually broke often.

  15. jwaltb

    I’ve had 544s and 122s. Strong and reliable cars when you get the kinks out.

  16. JCH841

    Volvo, Latin for ‘I roll’, was founded by Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larsson in 1927, with the intention of making a car that put quality and safety first. It was created as a subsidiary of ball bearing manufacturer, SKF, in Gothenburg.

    The company produced closed top and cabriolet models of their OV5 and PV4 models. Both were constructed to withstand the Swedish climate. However, car sales were slow. It was the first Volvo truck that proved to be an immediate success. It was truck sales that resulted in the Volvo’s financial success at the very beginning.

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