The Volvo PV444 was the first significant post-war Volvo car and helped to establish Volvo as a major automotive manufacturer. The first version of the PV444 was rather plain with a four-horizontal bar grille, no parking lights on the front fenders, chrome trim of the hood was limited to a single horizontal bar, the windows have no chrome trim, and the windshield was split in the center by a vertical chrome bar.
A 1956 Volvo PV444
The first engine in the PV444 for the American market, the B14A, was an in-line 4-cylinder 1,400cc engine that produced 70 horsepower and 5,500 rpm. The engine had a compression ratio of 7.8:1 and had two 1-1/4 inch SU carburetors. The car weighted about 2,200 pounds and with a standard three-speed manual transmission it was capable of a top speed of around 84 mph (140 kph).
In 1956, Volvo added additional trim around the windows, turn-signals high on the center post, and tail-lights midway on the body above the rear fenders.
An Early 1957 Volvo PV444
The 1957 Volvo PV444 had a large egg-crate grille as shown on the picture above. Note the turn signals are still visible at the top of the center post.
One of the things about the PV444 is that there were a number of changes made over time with a number of series. These series are not necessarily related to years, therefore it is difficult to reference some of these design changes to specific model years as many of the changes would be mid-year changes.
Drawing Showing the PV444 Dash
The PV444 had a very pleasant interior. The Volvo PV444 was never made as a right-hand drive car, therefore I assume that only a few of these cars made it into England. Also the PV444 was never made as a four-door car.
Although some early PV444 models were imported into the USA and Canada, the official importation of the PV444 began in 1956. Many of the people in the USA saw the Volvo PV444 as a slightly smaller version of the 1946-48 Ford two-door sedan.
From 1958 Onward the PV444 Had A Smaller Egg-Crate Grille
From 1958 onward the PV444 had a smaller egg-crate style grille as shown in the above image. Note that on the car shown above that the turn signals are still shown on the center post.
The later PV444 shown below has the turn signals located in the front fenders.
Note The Location Of The Turn-Signals In The Fenders Of This PV444
Later models of the PV444 had an optional 1,580cc engine, the B16B, that was a bored-out version of the base B14A engine. The larger engine increased the horsepower from 70 to 85 horsepower. The standard transmission in the PV444 was a three-speed manual, but in 1958 a four-speed manual transmission was available as an option in the PV444. The floor-mounted shifters were a long-levered style that was commonly used in many North American trucks.
One of the rally stories that I’ve heard over the years is that many Swedish rally drivers driving a PV444 car were impaled by the steering wheel when they crashed. I don’t know if those stories are true, but consider the cross-section image of the PV444 below.
The steering box is located in front of almost every other major mechanical part. The image shows it even to be a little forward of the radiator. There is the straight steering column going from the steering box back to the steering wheel. Therefore it is not hard to image that a direct hit on the steering box would move the steering box back which would result in a backward movement of the steering wheel toward the driver.
Note The Location Of The Steering Box With The One-Piece Steering Column Back To The Steering Wheel
Volvo management never seemed to really embrace rallying or racing for the PV444, but none-the-less Volvo did enter a PV444 in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1949 and 1950. The team of Hilding Ohlsson, Martin Carstedt, and Stig Cederholm finished 12th Overall in 1950.
Volvo Entered A PV444 In The 1949 and 1950 Monte Carlo Rallies
It is my understanding the many private individuals did rally and race the Volvo PV444, but Swedish rally stories seem to be dominated by images of Saabs rather than Volvos.
Jo Bonnier Racing A PV444 At The Silverstone Track In England
In 1958 the Volvo PV444 sold for $2,170 with the 70 horsepower engine and $2,239 with the optional 85 horsepower engine in the USA.
In 1959 the PV444 was replaced by the PV544 which while very similar in body shape, the major visual change was that a full single glass curved windshield replaced the two-piece windshield of the PV444.