By on August 9, 2021

1964 Volvo PV544 in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen I’m searching car graveyards for interesting examples of automotive history, discarded rear-wheel-drive Volvos from the Swedish Brick era (roughly 1967 through 1998) have been easy enough to find over the last decade. Yes, 140s, 200s, 700s, 900s— I’ve been able to document each type. Even the pre-brick Amazon isn’t so hard to find in the big American UWrenchIt yards. But the Amazon’s ancestor, the PV444/544, that’s a rare Junkyard Find, even though Americans could buy the PV544 through 1966.

In 2016, I found this gutted basket-case of a PV544 at a Denver yard back when I was grabbing car-parts-boombox bits at the All You Can Carry Sale. There wasn’t much left of it, though I yanked some door-latch hardware for a friend’s LZ9-swapped PV544 race car and some switches for future junkyard boomboxes. At the time, this car just seemed too wretched and stripped to be worth photographing for this series, so I let it go to The Crusher without getting more than a couple of quick snaps. Then, last year, I found and documented a reasonably complete 1959 PV544 Sport.

1964 Volvo PV544 in California junkyard, engine compartment - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThat had been it for my junkyard PV544 documentation efforts (though I have managed to shoot a junked 1930s PV802… in the woods of northern Sweden), so when I found this ’64 PV544 Sport in a Silicon Valley boneyard in June, I decided to break out my camera despite the lack of an engine.

1964 Volvo PV544 in California junkyard, emblem - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThat engine would have been the hot-rod B18, a pushrod four-banger that first appeared in 1961. In 1964, the B18 made 90 optimistic gross horses. The early 140s also got B18s, prior to the advent of the bored-out B20.

1964 Volvo PV544 in California junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe interior was mostly gone as well, suggesting either a discarded parts car or a junkyard inmate picked clean by voracious parts shoppers. The San Francisco Bay Area is a real hotbed of old-Volvo activity, so the word about this car would have spread quickly once it showed up on the radar.

1964 Volvo PV544 in California junkyard, emblem - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI think all PV544s sold in the United States were the once-exclusive Sport models by the middle 1960s, but further research may be needed.

1964 Volvo PV544 in California junkyard, LH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe fenders, doors, and glass looked to be worth rescuing, and maybe someone has done so by now.

So classy, so romantic! Note that the 544s in these ads are driving on the left, this being prior to Högertrafikomläggningen.

The PV444 was designed while World War II was still underway, and it had a modern-for-the-time overhead-valve engine and unibody construction.

For links to 2,100+ additional Junkyard Finds, be sure to visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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14 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1964 Volvo PV544 Sport...”

  • avatar

    Inside a garage in Muncie, IN there is/once was a hotrod PV544 of sublime beauty. Rattle-canned paint, chopped roof, and a little redtop motor with an enormous turbo bolted on. I was there to buy a project V12 XJS, unfortunately.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    This is a great find. I cannot remember the last time I saw one of these on the road.

  • avatar

    These were great cars. I’ve owned number of Volvos, but never one of these–nor have I even driven one. Another addition to the ever-expanding bucket list.

  • avatar

    My first car was a used 1960 544. A travelling salesman’s car with a broken odometer, used for the Kingston, Ontario to Toronto territory. Over 100,000 miles admitted but didn’t burn oil. Tough old bird but slow as hell to accelerate, unfortunately. Although it would eventually wind out to 100 mph on the speedo.

    My best friend at college was given a new ’63 544 Sport by his doting parents, and we entered a few rallies and did well. His 90 hp B18 managed to keep up with MGBs, and his best 1/4 mile time was 17.97 sec, which meant no 283 Powerglide-equipped Chevy was going to keep up with it — a Malibu would do about 18.2 seconds in those days. Local Junior Elminator was always one of three 544’s and they usually ran about 17.7 secs in the quarter. We can laugh at those times today, but in those times the old Volvo seemed pretty darn perky. Funny though, 95 mph was all the B18 gave — it didn’t rev out like the B16.

    My ’60 with the B16B engine was two seconds slower in the quarter, just over 20. Its 85 hp was a number pulled out of some Swede’s imagination compared to the 90 hp B!8. Unfortunately, I believed the published figure or would have waited a year to get a newer car. Still, I sold the car in September 1969 before embarking for graduate studies in London UK. Four years later, on a trip back home, I went to fetch my younger brother from university at the end of his term. Damn me if my old beast wasn’t parked in his residence parking lot! Ahem, my home-patched rusty rocker panel was the giveaway. A likely-looking guy came out and started it up and drove away. I’d rather have been driving that than the Pinto I was in, I can tell you. 544’s were pleasant cockroaches to conduct in their day.

    A nice Dutch chap has a perfect white 544 here in Halifax NS, and drives it around all summer. Every time I espy it, memories flood back. They look as weirdly odd now as they did in their day, but by golly, they were honest rugged builds. And not a cart leaf spring anywhere in the suspension, coils all round. A gearshift lever over a foot long didn’t stop those old Volvos from having fast smooth shifts. You just rammed that lever around and never a complaint from the syncros or the clutch. Tough.

    When the 144 came out in 1967, my friend and I snagged a test drive. Talk about pure stodge and no fun. That was the end of my new Volvo fixation, and there’s been no reason I can find in the over fifty years since to change my mind. Looked at three old 544’s over the years with an eye to purchase, but always decided the memories were better than the used-up reality. Or more likely, wasn’t really enamored with the way they seemed to drive by the middle to late ’80s. Vintage. Times move on and all that and you get used to better.

    Since I was incredibly unimpressed by another friend’s brand new 244 in 1976, and found the 144 a dreary slug in 1967, the thought occurs that those people who kept Bricks going for decades were chasing a dream unworthy of the name. Basically vintage motoring but with very nice seats. A ’77 full size GM B body made all then current Volvos obsolete to my way of thinking. A far better car, those B-bodies, but equipped with lousy seats in usual Caprice guise. Metal frame – meet rear of bum. I guess you can’t have everything.

  • avatar

    What somehow hits me most about this car is how old it looks. I can imagine being in the 80s when this is 20 years old and it must have appeared ancient, whereas today a car from 2001 doesn’t look as different from today’s vehicles.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Needs a few bumper stickers referencing cannabis use; just saying.

  • avatar

    For some reason, people think these models, and even the brick models, are good winter cars. Maybe in frigid Sweden, but in the slush and freezing rain zones, they’re no different from any RWD car.

    I had a brick model as a rental and had to get back to the airport in RI in a storm that began as snow and changed to freezing rain. The short route to the freeway included a hill 3 blocks long, and
    it couldn’t make it.

    I had to go 2 miles out of my way to avoid the hill. Fortunately, the freeways were clear all the way to the airport. When I turned the car in, the attendant commented on how good a Volvo must be in that weather! I didn’t bother to correct her.

    • 0 avatar

      BTW did this year of this model still have part of the clutch linkage passing through the left front fender well? A friend in RI had an older year of this body style, and kept a prospecter’s hammer in the car to chip off the slush that packed around the linkage and then froze.

  • avatar

    Those commercials are a real time capsule. I like the “blinkers” and the boogie-woogie Dixie.

  • avatar

    In search of unsprung bootlid.

  • avatar
    Steve S.

    Would you believe, an early rock and roll song about a ’59 Volvo PV?

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