A rare Volvo convertible turns 60 years: the Volvo Sport
On 2 June 1954 the two-seater roadster, the Volvo Sport, and the company's first sports car, made its debut. But a low weight and reliable Volvo technology were not enough - production was shut down after just 67 had been built. Or was it 68?
The name of the new car was short and sweet - Sport - and it had a short and plump body with a big grill that looked like a turbine. The wheelbase was 20 centimetres shorter than that of the Volvo PV 444, whose mechanics it otherwise shared. Under the hood there was a 1.4 litre tuned version of the PV 444 engine, with twin carburettors and 70 horsepower. The top speed was specified as 155 km/h.
The Volvo Sport was the direct result of the many reconnaissance trips made to the USA by the company's founder and MD Assar Gabrielsson in the early 1950s. In his quest to learn as much as possible about the market before launching Volvo on the other side of the Atlantic, he met a lot of people in the car world. One company that he came into contact with was Glasspar in Montecito, California. Since 1951 they had been building hulls for boats and bodies for sports cars using the new material fibreglass.
Gabrielsson was very interested in the manufacturing process and wanted to find out how the material worked in Sweden. Furthermore, he had also noted in the USA that there was a huge interest in small, European sports cars - so Volvo ought to build one!
In 1953, Glasspar was tasked with designing a body, producing moulds, building the first prototype, and training Volvo's staff in how to design and manufacture fibreglass bodies. Back home in Gothenburg, Volvo's engineers were ordered to develop a suitable frame chassis that would fit the body.
Short development time
The project progressed at a rapid pace. By the beginning of 1954 Glasspar had delivered the first drivable prototype to Volvo, although it was still far from fully developed. For example, it lacked a canopy top and side windows that could be wound down. The prototypes faced tough criticism during internal testing. The chassis was too weak, the plastic cracked, the doors fitted poorly, and the three-speed gearbox was far from sporty.
By the time of the presentation at Torslanda Airport another two prototypes had been completed and Volvo was able to show it was serious about its sports car project. Those present were told the car would reach the market in 1955, and that a first series of 300 cars would be produced, all for export.
Straight after the first showing, Volvo undertook a demonstration tour with the three cars, visiting all Volvo dealers in Sweden.
The beginning of something new
In the spring of 1956 the first cars were delivered to customers in countries such as South Africa, Brazil, Morocco, and the USA. However, cars were also delivered to Swedish customers - the original policy that the Volvo Sport would be for export only had been reassessed. By that stage the car had been redesigned in several respects and now had a canopy top roof and windows that wound down. But the gearbox was still only three-speed.
Production and sales were slow and during the first year only 44 were built. In 1957 another 23 were built, but after the newly appointed MD Gunnar Engellau got to drive a Volvo Sport for a weekend he decided that production should cease immediately. The car did not live up to Volvo's quality requirements and the company was losing money on every car it sold.
The total number produced was 67, but later research shows that two cars were, probably accidentally, given chassis number 20. That would mean that 68 Volvo Sports were built. Surprisingly, many of the cars are still in existence - the whereabouts of around 50 are known.
Despite the failure of P1900 - as the car was known internally - Volvo still gained useful experience from the project. Shortly after the stop in production of the Volvo Sport, MD Gunnar Engellau commissioned a new sports car - made from steel. Four years later the Volvo P1800 was ready - and a significantly greater success for Volvo.
All-new Volvo XC90 launch starts today
- First look at the new luxuriously designed Volvo interior
- Full external reveal will be made in August
ROCKLEIGH, NJ (May 27, 2014) -- One of Volvo Cars’ most anticipated car launches of recent years – the all-new XC90 – officially begins today by revealing what has been a key development area: the interior of the XC90. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, people spend more and more time in their cars commuting. Consumer insights have led to the development of many of the new interior features of the car. Many of the style details first debuted in the series of three award-winning concept cars make their way to the all-new XC90 highlighting Volvo’s new design language which is inspired by the simplicity, functionality and beauty that has become the hallmark of Scandinavian design. The full external reveal will happen in August.
The original XC90 was launched in 2002 and it revolutionized the SUV segment with its combination of space, versatility and safety. It went on to become a global sales phenomenon, nowhere more so than in the U.S. where it was the company’s top-selling model for seven consecutive years from 2003-2009. Volvo Cars seeks to once again impact the perception of SUVs with the execution of the all-new XC90 where the space and interior environment, world leading safety features and environmentally advanced powertrains have been in the forefront of the development of the car.
The modern and spacious interior is the most luxurious to have been designed for a Volvo, taking its inspiration from the country of Volvo’s birth, Sweden, which has a global reputation for integrating the latest technology with design that is clean, beautiful and crafted from the finest materials.
“The most striking feature is a tablet-like touch screen control console, which forms the heart of an all-new in-car control system,” said Thomas Ingenlath, senior vice president design of Volvo Cars. This system is virtually button free – a drastic difference to that of other cars - and represents an entirely new way for drivers to control their car and access a range of Internet-based products and services.
The new XC90’s interior combines the expected luxurious materials, such as soft Nappa leather and dark flame birch wood, with unique handcrafted details, including a gear-lever made of crystal from Orrefors, the famous Swedish glass maker, and diamond-cut controls for the start/stop button and volume control.
“These details add a bit of exclusive playfulness rather than pure functionality in the otherwise pure and elegant design,” said Robin Page, Volvo Cars’ interior design director.
The all-new XC90 is the first Volvo to use the company’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which creates a far wider range of design possibilities, improves driveability and permits the inclusion of the latest safety features and connected in-car technologies, while at the same time increasing interior space. This new architecture enables the company to strengthen and reinforce its aim that by the year 2020 no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo.
“Our new interior architecture is pure and uncluttered, while still radiating the sophisticated confidence and formality that luxury SUV customers expect,” said Peter Mertens, senior vice president research and development of Volvo Cars.
New seats and more interior space
Volvo Cars already enjoys a reputation for having some of the most comfortable seats in the industry. The new XC90 enhances this with an all–new seat design that combines comfort, support and style in a beautifully crafted package. As always with Volvo Cars, the development of the seats has included the latest ergonomic advancements and insights. The interior also benefits from more interior space for passengers in both the second and third seat rows, helping to make the new XC90 a genuine seven-seater.
“The full seat core has an ergonomic shape that resembles the human spine. A multitude of adjustment possibilities makes it possible for the individual user to create an ideal seating position,” said Page.
The standard seats are available with intuitive, smooth power operation, including adjustable side bolsters, seat cushion extension, multi-directional lumbar support and vertical adjustment of the headrests. Three settings can be stored in the memory. Ventilation and massage functions are optional.
The all-new, optional Contour seat has been designed to offer excellent side support all the way from the shoulders to the thighs.
Individual second row seats and more space in the third row
The second row features three individual seats with recline adjustment. The sliding function can be used to create more legroom for the passengers in the third row – or to increase loading space if the third row seats are folded flat. An integrated child booster cushion in the center seat is optional.
The seats in the third row, which offer class-leading comfort for passengers with a height up to 5’7”, are slightly centered to offer occupants a generous theater-seat-inspired view. Additional space for the feet under the second row seats creates additional comfort and legroom. Special attention has also been given to ensure easy ingress and egress from the third row and ease of operation, making this the best third row in the segment.
The all-new Volvo XC90 includes a number of storage options for the driver and passengers. All the seats in the second and third rows can be folded individually, which creates outstanding loading flexibility. The third row seats can also be specified with power operation.
Four-zone climate system
A pleasant and fresh interior climate is a vital part of wellbeing when driving. The all-new Volvo XC90 can be specified with a four-zone climate system with individual settings for the occupants in the front seats and in the second row. A separate air-conditioning unit for the third row is optional.
More to come
The all-new XC90 story will continue to unfold over the summer. The story of the latest advancements within safety and interior air quality will be released later this summer, while the reveal of the technology highlights, including chassis and powertrains, will start in mid-July and continue throughout the summer until the exterior launch at the end of August.
“The customer and the customer experience are at the heart of everything we do at Volvo Cars. We don’t do technology for technology’s sake – everything in a Volvo is there to make our cars safer and more pleasurable to drive,” said Alain Visser, senior vice president, marketing, sales and customer service of Volvo Cars.
Volvo Cars’ European registrations up 8.4 per cent in April, growing faster than the overall market
The positive momentum of Volvo Cars’ growing sales in Europe continued in April and Volvo Cars is now growing faster than its main premium competitors in Europe. The latest report from ACEA* shows that while the overall European market was up by 4.2 per cent, Volvo Cars grew by 8.4 per cent. Sweden, UK, The Netherlands and Spain were the main drivers of growth for Volvo Cars.
“We are encouraged that our new product range with the Drive-E engines is so well received. This will allow us to continue to grow going forward”, says Alain Visser, Senior Vice President Marketing, Sales and Customer Service at Volvo Cars.
For the first four months of the year, Volvo Cars is also ahead of the market development with registrations growing by 8.8 per cent versus 7.1 per cent for the whole market.
The total number of Volvo registrations in Europe amounted to 20,840 cars in April (2013: 19,224) and for the period January-April 80,180 Volvos were registered (73,682).
A strong product offer including an entirely new engine family is boosting demand for Volvo Cars in European dealerships. The Volvo XC60 crossover is the main growth driver while also the XC70 crossover and the V60 sportswagon models are boosting customer demand. The positive developments are expected to continue as the new Drive-E engine family, offering class leading performance and fuel economy, is reaching showrooms.
*European Automobile Manufacturers' Association