Volvo 343

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Volvo 343

Volvo 343

Volvo 343

1975 - 1991
1.4 Litre
115 bhp / 85 kW
DAF Variomatic
Top Speed:
Number Built:
1 star
Volvo 343
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


The Volvo 343 was introduced in 1975. DAF had already begun development of this car as a replacement for the Volvo (previously DAF) 66. It was fitted with a 1.4 litre Renault engine in the front and DAF's radical Variomatic continuously variable transmission unusually mounted in the rear, helping weight distribution. To add to the appeal of the car, Volvo adapted the M45 manual transmission from the 200 series to fit in place of the CVT, and was sold alongside the CVT models from 1979.

The 343 was produced at the DAF plant in Born, Holland. It incorporated all the usual Volvo safety concepts in body design, but based it all on mechanicals which were of notably more advanced specification than usually expected of the Swedish manufacturer. The result was a car which not only boasted an unusually high preoccupation with safety, but a mechanical layout which was the equal of the more sophisticated designs from Europe.

The body was an aerodynamically-styled three door hatchback of unitary construction with progressive crumple rates at front and rear, side impact protection barriers in the doors and roll-over strengthened built into the side pillars and roof. The bumpers were also of energy-absorbing design. Aerodynamics played a major part in the shaping of the body; the 343 was given a subtle wedge-shape profile and a specially designed rear deck which kept the back window free of road grime. Volvo claimed its objective with the 343 was to create a vehicle with modern and timeless lines, keeping in step with the trends towards total design efficiency.

The 343 had an overall length of 4205 mm (166') and a wheelbase of 2395 mm (94'). The hatchback was hinged above the rear window and the back seat folded down to give a large cargo area. The front doors opened to an angle of 70° to provide easy entry and exit. The front-hinged bonnet also opened to 70° to facilitate service work and, in order to simplify repair and reduce cost after minor collisions, the front sections and side plates were bolted to the body. The progressive-collapse characteristics were provided by pre-determined 'fold' areas in the panels.

A Total Approach To Safety

Interior design also demonstrated the total approach to safety, with a collapsible steering column and inertia-reel safety belts in both front and rear. The fascia panel was made of energy-absorbing materia1, with instrument and control location based on ergonomic studies. Indicators, headlight dip switch and horn were all controlled by steering column stalks while less frequently used controls were located on a console beside the gear selector. Heating and ventilation was thermostatically controlled, with a continuously variable fan and air extractor vents which had one-way flap valves to prevent drafts and exhaust gases from entering the car.

The 343 was designed, according to Volvo, to seat five people in comfort, making efficient use of its compact size and matching the then latest European standards in versatility. But it is in the mechanical department that the 343 departed from increasingly popular trends where front wheel drive and laterally located engines were becoming the norm, instead sticking with a front-engine, rear wheel drive layout. Power was courtesy of a 1.4 litre version of the pushrod Renault 12 engine, bored out from 73mm to 76mm to achieve the extra capacity and producing 51.5 kw at 5500 rpm. With a stroke measuring 77mm, it was an almost-square configuration.

But it was in the way the 343 transferred the power to the road that set it apart from the rest. Here the technological collaboration between DAF and Volvo was most apparent. The 'Gearbox' was the DAF Variomatic-unit, located at the back to drive the rear wheels via a transaxle. The rear suspension, rather than being a simple, semi-trailing link independent layout, followed the vastly more expensive and sophisticated route of the de Dion system. Combined with the strut-type front suspension, all this gave the 343 a mechanical layout which compared with the Milan-bred Alfetta.

Volvo claimed the engine gave the car a top speed of around 145km/h and an acceleration figure from 0-80 km-h of 10.5 seconds. The belt-driven Variomatic gearbox underwent some changes to eliminate some of the shortcomings of the earlier version. It utilized an electrically-operated clutch which disengaged as soon as the selector lever was touched . The clutch was also connected to the choke so that with the engine running during warm-up under 2000 rpm, the 'creeping' effect was eliminated and it was easier to shift between forward and reverse ratios.

A five-door model, the 345, was added in 1980, and soon after its launch larger wrap around bumpers were introduced. 1981 saw the addition of an additional engine option, the Volvo designed B19, only available with the manual transmission. A revised bonnet, grille and front lamp arrangement and slightly different wings signalled a facelift in 1981, which also gave the car a new dashboard and revised interior.

The third digit designating the number of doors was dropped from model designations in 1983. The 360 arrived that year with two 2.0 litre engine choices, the 92 bhp (69 kW) B19A and the 115 bhp (86 kW) B19E, also from Volvo. This 2-litre 360 model was available in five-door and three-door hatchback form, with four-door saloon models added in 1984.

In 1985 there was yet another facelift. Amongst other small changes, (optionally body coloured) wrap-around bumpers with the indicator repeaters attached to them were fitted. Instrumentation changed from Smiths units to VDO. The older Volvo redblock engines in the 360 were upgraded to the low friction B200 unit. Capacities and outputs remained much the same. The carburettor version was designated B200K and the Bosch LE-Jet fuel injected version is known as the B200E.

From 1987 on, incremental improvements in features and emissions control were made. Production of the 300 series ended in 1991, despite the fact it was supposedly replaced by the Volvo 440 in 1987. A famous advertisement for the 300 series in the late 1980s saw a crash test dummy "come alive", and drive a 340 out of a second floor factory window, nose-diving into the concrete ground. With a weight ratio of around 50-50, Volvo claimed the 343 was endowed with excellent, balanced handling. Wheels were 5Jx13 shod with either 155SR 13 or 175-70 SR 13 tyres. The last ever car of the Volvo 300 series (a white Volvo 340) rolled off the production line on 13 March 1991.
Volvo 343

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Also See:

Volvo 343 Brochure
The History of Volvo (USA Edition)
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