Tuesday, October 25, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1964 Volvo PV544

Flickr has proven itself to be a valuable resource for locating interesting cars. Often, going in search of one (or several) vehicles results in finding none of the ones I planned for, yet finding something entirely different. In this case, my search for an early-'60s Pontiac yielded instead an early-'60s Volvo, more specifically a circa-1964 Volvo PV544 (and eagle-eyed readers will notice that it took two visits to get all the pictures for this feature).

American cars are almost too easy to write about, simply because American cars tend to change significantly enough every model year to easily tell apart. European and Japanese cars aren't quite so elementary, and some companies, such as Volkswagen and Volvo, capitalized on their seemingly unchanging design and marketing strategy. The PV544 was built for 8 years without significant bodyshell changes, and that model was based on the PV444 which dated back to 1943! Volvo believed in building sturdy cars that offered substance over style, vehicles built for Scandinavian winters and terrible roads. These cars also had some success in rallying, a tradition that carries on to this day with some owners. Developments were made mostly under the skin, with improvements made to the engine, lights, electrical system, wheels, and other components over the course of the production run.

This car, featuring 544 D wheels (identifiable by their smooth body-color rims and red hubcap centers) and lacking "B18" badges on the grille and trunk lid, is likely to be a 1964 model. The badges, indicating the 'B18' 1.8 liter 4-cylinder engine, were removed in 1964, probably as a cost-cutting measure. Silver-painted, slotted steel wheels were introduced around the same time and are often fitted on earlier cars. This similarity of models means that many parts are compatible with other model years. Other identifying details which would help pin down the exact year of manufacture are on the inside, a place I didn't nose around. The license plate is also of no help, as it's a 1970s-issue combination.
In all, the body is in good shape (unsurprising, as these are tough cars) and it looks to be well cared-for. It's probably a good alternative for someone looking for classic 1940s styling in a car twenty years newer, or perhaps a person looking for a vintage economy car with character - and who doesn't want a Beetle.

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