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Weathered California 1963 Volvo 544 With B20 Upgrade

Here’s an intriguing opportunity to own a classic Volvo that’s already had a desirable upgrade from B18 (1.8-liter) to B20 (two liters) spec. It’s not a huge power improvement, but there’s an extra kick. The best news is that this 1963 Volvo 544 Sport, although definitely battered, is a no-rust California car. It’s here on Facebook Marketplace in Los Angeles with an appealing price, $3,500.

The mileage is listed at 50,000, which could actually be a lot more. On the other hand, I bought an actual 50,000-mile 122S four-door with the same engine (for $500!) and it went another 300,000 miles.

There’s no question that this car needs work. This is a bit enigmatic: “Engine starts but carbs are off the car because I needed to rebuild them. Put the carbs back and this will be a great driver car.” So are the carbs rebuilt now?

We’re told the car “needs interior work,” but with no inside photos it’s hard to say exactly what that work will entail. I would guess, having owned a bunch of these old Volvos: seat upholstery, dash recover, door cards. None of it is horribly expensive. The instrumentation and the window winders tend to be robust.

Other work is there to be seen: The (minimal) chrome is there but needs refurbishment (dig the cool rear bumper protector), and the original blue paint is so worn it could have been gray. All the rubber parts are going to be perished, what with outdoor storage in Los Angeles. New tires are a given. But my guess is that the engine, dirty as it is, might squeak by without a rebuild. They’re legendarily tough.

Let’s skip the jokes about the 544 looking like a 1941 Ford. It does look like a 1941 Ford, no doubt. Volvo was still tentative, and looking longingly at the American market at this point in its development. The stillborn 1900 convertible (with a fiberglass body!) was squarely aimed at the U.S. The car on offer benefits from the 1961 upgrade, when the B18 was installed and the car upgraded to 12 volts. The 544s are all two-door fastbacks, and 243,990 were built. The 1.8-liter engine produced 75 horsepower, which was upgraded to 95 later. The B20 produced 100 horsepower. Initially, three-speed manuals were offered, but this one is likely a four-speed on the floor. The disc brakes from 122s will fit on this car.

Some history: The PV544 was introduced as the successor to the similarly styled PV444 in August of 1958. The 444 dated to 1944, so you can see where that early Ford influence came from. The 544 innovations were gradualist: A curved windshield with an enlarged rear window, a new padded dash with a ribbon speedometer (that carried over to the 122S), a bigger back seat. The ’65 544 weighed only 2,050 pounds, so the zero to 60 time of 12.2 seconds is not too bad. The price in 1965 was $2,330, and 96,150 were produced in what turned out to be a very good year. Of course, the 122S looks vastly more modern and has worn well, but even it was outdated styling-wise when it was introduced in 1958 (same year as the 544; they co-existed for a while). The 544, tough as old boots, was very successful as a rally car in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. This example, though a bit rough, appears to have good bones. Your thoughts?


  1. RoughDiamond Member

    If I lived close enough to go see this and trailer it home. I don’t see the battered part just very weathered and well used as it should be. I think the right Volvo enthusiast is going to get a good deal here. Looks like they may possibly be clearing out some other vehicles too.

    Like 3
  2. RoughDiamond Member

    Hey Jesse and Josh, how about adding an “edit” option to the Early Access feature so those of us who make grammatical mistakes can correct them.

    Like 4
    • Howard A Member

      Good luck, I’ve been asking that for years,,that and my irritating “Log In” after every early access.

      Like 2
  3. Frank M

    My first car was a 61 PV544. Paid $200 for it in 1973. Would love to get another one but they are not very common in the midwest.

    Like 1
  4. DRV

    These are fun to restore. They are satisfying and easy. It looks like the first B18 motors but could be a B20 dressed like one.
    No rust is a big bonus here!

    Like 3
  5. Howard A Member

    Can’t let a “Buckelvolvo” ( hunchback) go by and not comment. My 1st car was a ’58, PV444, perhaps one of the last 444’s. I killed it, or tried, regardless. Most of these were driven by hippies, I’ll admit to nothing, btw, mostly because, they were cheap, and dependable and just looked like something a hippie would drive. Mine, I got from a junkyard for $50 bucks in 1972, all it needed was a coil. Yeah, I found out, changing a simple coil wasn’t so simple. Volvo used a shielded cable for a hot lead, to prevent theft, I read, that took a sawsall with a diamond blade to cut. It was a fun car, drove the wheels off it, and it never failed. THIS,,,was a good car.

    Like 2
    • Howard A Member

      There’s more, they used a cartridge oil filter, and a metal housing and an O ring, typical of cartridge types. The 1st oil change, I didn’t get the oil ring seated( or used an old one, stupid kid) filled it with oil, and off I went, leaving a trail of oil out the drive and down the street. My brother, took off after me, following the trail, when I noticed the oil pressure dropped, I pulled over, and saw the trail, and my brother coming up behind me.
      Then the time, the original 3 speed was a bit tired, and parts cars could be had for almost nothing, I got a no motor ’62 “Sport” with a 4 speed for nothing, but the input shaft was too long. Old diamond blade hacksaw took care of that ( took a while, ever try to cut a transmission shaft?) and never lock-tited the bolts, and the tranny almost fell out. I don’t think the back brakes ever did work, it required a drum puller that I didn’t have,( hey Jesse?) just took it easy, and the 12v battery in the back seat, for the must have 8 track,, yeah,, my 1st car. When cleaning out my parents house, I found an “444” script( worth millions) that I took off the original trunk lid. It’s fastened to the light over my computer as a constant reminder.

      Like 2
  6. Troy

    I was a teenager the first time I seen one of these for sale I thought to myself oh cool what kind of 40’s car is that? Then I walked up to it and seen it was a Volvo and walked away disappointed

    • David Laker Member

      You could not have “seen” it.

  7. Lance

    Why do these Volvos remind me of 48 Fords?

    Like 1
  8. Greg Millard

    Great cars – class bests of reliability, performane and value – and they sound terrific too. Willingly accept the Laycock de Normanville OD and aftermarket AC kits make summer travel more comfortable.

  9. Greg Millard

    One sold on BAT yesterday for $26k

  10. Jim mills

    I drove mine to the races at Watkins Glen and had it in college in 1970 I had the coolest car in town plus made through all Buffalo winters

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      Actually, the 544 had quite a racing history in itself. The weight distribution was right and the motors could take a ton of modification. I’ve heard of B20’s putting out over 220 hp, and had a broad powerband, like 3-8,000, and their somewhat sleek shape made them hard to catch.

  11. Jerome Zel

    My first car was 1960 red Pv 544 great car had split manifold and beat 3 speed corvair at drag strip because I had the 4:speed.

  12. DRV

    I forgot I found my ’64 on here! That was in 2010. I’m still driving it with just a new radiator , liquids, brake master, grease, tune up, and tires.
    I want to get to some details inside but it’s still in great shape and no rust .

    Like 1

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