Volvo History 1956 - 1960

To say that the 1950's was a pivotal decade in the history of automobiles in the United States would be a massive understatement. From automatic transmissions to V8 engines to unibody construction, car innovations sped way ahead of the relative stagnation of World War II era.

Volvo, however, moved into the fast lane as it saw the US economy expand and the post-war blues finally disappear as Americans interest in fancy cars for both work and play increase along with their take-home pay. The PV444 sales were hot as Elvis' record sales and the execs back in Volvo's corporate offices were already looking past it to a sexy (yes, it could be described that way, new Volvo: The Amazon.

When 1957 rolled around, Amazons were in production and soon sitting in Volvo dealership lots leaving customers asking, "This is a Volvo?! You gotta be kidding!" This classy and elegant "Cary Grant" version of a Volvo was actually a retooled and remodeled version of the PV444.

But don't call it a PV444, the '57 P1200, its official model number, was loaded: laminated windshield, padded instrument panel top for additional safety, two-point front seat belt attachments, split chrome grille with thick edges and wide midsection, Letters "V O L V O" in gold on nose and chrome, 6V electric system, B16 A engine with 60 hp,  heater and defroster, complete tool set, jack and standing spare tire in trunk and many more features than we can name here.

And, as the Amazon entered the American car-buying culture in a love affair that continues to this day, the Volvo PV444 exited stage right, forever. Following it to the exits, was the Volvo Sport which never caught on, even though its timing was perfect, the public could not grasp a "Volvo Sportscar" (covered in our previous history series blog). It would try the sports car market, again, two years later. 

In 1958, while Volvo was presenting Princess Margrethe of Denmark with a royal blue Amazon for her 18th birthday, the PV544 (PV444's upgraded cousin) was introduced with four versions of it in the marketplace. Its revisions were extensive: a large, one-piece windscreen and a larger rear window, padded dashboard and speedometer resembling a "thermometer" with a red strip showing the speed. There were even two transmission alternatives in the North American models: the stick shift or the easy, new automatic. (Nascar even used the PV544 as a rally car at its races.)
As the wildly successful 1950's were coming to a close for Volvo as its PV544 and Amazon were firmly ensconced in American culture, the wizards in corporate didn't rest on their laurels. Front seat belts became standard equipment in all of its models and, in 1960, Volvo greatly pleased its Duett fans by introducing the greatly remodeled version with the now-famous curved windshield (just like the PV544) and a 4-speed gearbox.

Volvia, the car company's own insurance company, is created to give Volvo owners new warranties after their original warranties expire. As the decade ends and the soon-to-be turbulent 1960's begin, Volvo is selling over 80,000 units a year. The future looks bright in Volvo Land.

Check out our other Volvo history articles...
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