Give me some Sugga: A Volvo Military Vehicle's Curious History

"It looks like a tank."

How many times have you heard someone use that term when looking at an older model Volvo? (It was this blog author's first thought when I saw a 1982 Volvo DL Wagon many years ago.) 

Volvo's boxy style and heavy body elicit those kinds of remarks. Most of us Volvo owners take the "tank" remark as a compliment.

However, when people saw this Volvo (pictured) they would say: "It looks like a sow (female pig)."

That may not exactly be a compliment but how true it is! But, the Sugga's evolution to "pigdom" took a few years as Volvo found many profitable ways to use its versatile body style to turn transporting passengers to hotels to running patients to hospitals to moving officers in battle.   

The Volvo Sugga wasn't always known as "the sow". In fact, when it was first created it was designed to be a taxicab. Volvo's PV800 series was introduced in 1938 with a new style chassis and the standard side-valve engine from previous lines.

From 1938 to 1958, the PV800 navigated the city streets of Sweden and the United States transporting millions of passengers and riders and taxi drivers could not have asked for a better-designed cab, either. The first versions provided seven seats and even had two folding spare seats in the passenger compartment so this "mini-bus" could transport a large number of riders at one time, thus increasing it's efficiency and profit-making potential.

You didn't even have to take your hat off, as the roof was tall enough for gentlemen's hats to be worn while in the cab, unmolested like they were by the low roofs of the past. This gigantic car was also allowed for comfortable seating and floor space for passengers while making tons of money for taxi drivers and their employers. What's not to like?

Soon, word got out about the PV800's unique style and passenger capacity and it soon morphed from taxi cab to ambulance. Volvo's PV802's foray into carrying injured persons and emergency medical staff began in the 1940's. It didn't call for any fancy engineering either: just fold the seats on the right side and insert stretcher. Pretty soon, Volvo ambulances were a common sight in many hospital emergency room parking lots.

While these versions of the Volvo PV800 line were popular it took the aftermath of a World War to place this Volvo into the cult status that it presently enjoys. The Swedish Army needed a sturdy staff car to carry officers and for radio communications and it found it in the Volvo PV800 Sugga. Its "good looks" were the product of being a hybrid of the taxi cab body shell and the 4-wheel-drive truck chassis. It's 3.6 liter engine wasn't exactly a blow-torch at 90 horsepower but its endurance was legendary.

The Sugga, which is Swedish for "sow" for rather obvious reasons, built such a loyalty among both the military and the public, that it served the Swedes well into the 1990's before it was finally, and sadly, retired. Only 700 of the Classic Suggas were manufactured between 1954 and 1957.  It set the standard for military staff cars. 

Today, the Volvo Sugga owners cling to their trucks like white on rice. Those Suggas that you do find for sale go upwards of $50,000 or more. One Sugga website (and our favorite) is Photos of a recent Sugga restoration are fascinating.

Suggas are not just for car shows or museums, either. One energy drink company, Red Bull, even has a Sugga for its billboard car. That's rather appropriate, don't you think?  

Sure, its body type looks like a pig, but that only endears it to the scores of Volvo Sugga owners and fans more than sixty years after its debut.

Go ahead, call it a "pig". Volvo Sugga fans call it "love".

Read more about historical Volvos on our blog!
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