Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
The original PV444 was an important milestone for Volvo in many respects, it being the first Volvo in nearly 20 years to come with a four cylinder engine.
The very first iterations were powered by the B4B 1.4 litre
1,414c.c. engine developing 51b.h.p. which featured three main bearings, overhad valves
and a single downdraft carburettor. Then, with the introduction of the Amazon saloon, came the 1.6-litre unit which had a higher power output.
In 1957 the B4B engine was upgraded, having the capacity enlarged to 1.6 litres and there were two carburettors available, the single downdraft B16A and a twin side-draught B16B, which also had its compression ratio raised. And it was the twin carburettor version that would win the hearts of many motoring enthusiasts, the modifications making the PV444 almost a "sports car for the whole family to enjoy".
The upgraded engine had a claimed power output of no less than 85 b.h.p., and was fitted to the PV444 primarily for export. In a car weighing 19 cwt ready for the road with five gallons of fuel, the the performance proved to be exciting in a family saloon of this size.
The shortcomings resulting from- use of a more highly tuned engine were few. The slow running was a little rougher, warming up was rather slow even when the optionally extra radiator blind was used, and the carburettors were prone to "cough" a little when the engine was warm.
This minor problem was often remedied by adjustment of the carburettor needles.
At a mean 20.1 seconds the Volvo nearly "beat the 20" on the standing quarter mile (it achieved that in the favourable direction). The PV444 could reach 30 m.p.h. in 4.6 seconds, 60 in 15.9 seconds and 80 m.p.h. in a mean of 35 seconds.
For a car of this type to achieve a genuine 80 m.p.h. at all was creditable, but the Volvo went on quickly to a substantially higher speed, and could exceed 90 m.p.h. if the conditions were favourable.
At the time there were not very many saloon cars, even of much larger engine size, which could keep pace with the Volvo on European roads. The Volvo quality extended beyond the flexible engine, the suspension, steering and brakes all being of a very high standard - any casual driver who had the opportunity to drive the PV444 could see just how much better the engineering standards of the car were when compared to contemporary family sedans of the era. One of the PV444's best features was the way in which any harshness in the springing had been avoided while stability and freedom from roll remained impressive.
The only problem with the updated PV444 was the 10 year old design, but on the plus side the quality without compromise...
Inside the instrument cluster was a model of clarity. All instruments and minor controls were directly in front of the driver. They included radiator
blind adjustment, water thermometer, oil-pressure and fuel level gauges and an ammeter. Controls for the heater were on the left.
However good the changes were, there was one small drawback. By 1957 the PV444 design was 10 years old, the slightly dated body shape offered limited rearward vision through a window that was very shallow (even though the range of view was satisfactory), and seats which, while giving very good location for driver and front passenger, were a little hard.
Compensating factors were that the coachwork was known to be long lasting, that it was clearly put together carefully and that it would be easy to repair in the event of accidental damage.
In conjunction with the power output, the choice of all ratios in the three-speed, central change box were ideal. While its flexibility around town was arguably below average, the car would get away quickly in second from a crawl and reach a maximum of just over 60 m.p.h. in the same delightful ratio. The pulling power on hills in any gear was admirable.
While the PV444 was easy for anyone to drive, the skilled motorist got, in addition to high performance, great satisfaction for the way in which that prowess was achieved. No doubt a model for the Volvo enthusiasts only, don't be too quick to dismiss the car should you chance across it at a motor show. In their day, they offered almost unrivaled quality and much better than average performance.