Volvo PV 444 and Saab 92 – the Swedish people’s cars


Of desirable humps and great trolls

Volvo PV 444 and Saab 92 - the Swedish people's cars-people

Volvo started developing a small post-war car as early as 1942. This Volvo PV 444 (humpback volvo) dates from 1956

Source: Volvo

They made Sweden a globally successful car building nation. The lovingly known humpback volvo PV 444 and the streamlined Saab 92 sedan made history as the first Scandinavian people‘s cars.

S.ou are as Swedish as crispbread and Astrid Lindgren’s wonderful children’s world. The indestructible and unmistakably shaped Nordic people‘s vehicles: Volvo PV 444 and Saab 92 have not lost their fascination even 70 years after their introduction.

In fact, they are inclusive of all evolutionary stages up to 1980 (Saab 92-96) and 1965 (Volvo PV 444 / PV 544) models built in their home country still occasionally in everyday use. After all, an almost indestructible robustness is just as much a quality of these early post-war bestsellers as the innovative safety technology and international success in motorsport.

This mix, which was unusual at the time, made the first mass-produced models from the car manufacturer Volvo and the aircraft manufacturer Saab successful in exports. Two vehicles that were otherwise designed in completely different ways.

While the four-cylinder Volvo adapted the already survived fast baking mold from US models from the pre-war period, the futuristically designed Saab 92 combined advanced front-wheel drive with two-stroke engines based on DKW engines.

Volvo PV 444 and Saab 92 - the Swedish people's cars-volvo

In autumn 1944, the management of the aircraft manufacturer Saab decided to manufacture cars. The original Saab, the Saab 92, was built from 1947

Source: autodrom

Seventy years ago Europe was slowly getting back on its feet. The war was over and we were looking forward to a new era, embodied by Christian Dior’s “New Look” in the fashion world and avant-garde automobiles like the Saab 92 created in the wind tunnel.

At that time a sensational method of finding shapes, but at Saab (Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget) they only built aerodynamic military aircraft until then. With automobile production in a new plant in Trollhattan, Saab actually only wanted to bridge the first few post-war years with low orders.

It turned out differently, because the Saab 92 became a cult. Just like the Volvo PV 444, it fulfilled the dream of the Swedish welfare society of an affordable car for everyone. So nobody was bothered by the simple two-cylinder two-stroke engine in the Saab and its blue exhaust flag.

In 1944, Volvo presented the PV 444 as a "peace vehicle"

On the contrary, at the premiere of the Model 92, the press praised the reliable two-stroke principle in an “automobile with aircraft quality”. At the same time, the two-cylinder cleverly positioned the Saab a little below the Volvo with its 1.4-liter four-cylinder.

The omnipresent shortage of materials, which should ultimately delay the start of large-scale production of the Volks-Saab by three years, caused frustration. The procurement of the steel presses from the USA was already difficult due to the shortage of foreign exchange.

It was the same for Volvo, because the Gothenburg residents had presented their PV 444 fastback limousine as a “peace vehicle” in the summer of 1944, but the assembly lines did not start until February 1947. Waiting times, which surprisingly made the new Saab and Volvo even more desirable for customers, as the growing number of pre-orders revealed.

Volvo PV 444 and Saab 92 - the Swedish people's cars-volvo

The Americans were also back on their feet and got their own version of the Volvo PV 444, which was slightly modified for them

Source: Volvo

Meanwhile, the exchange of foreign currency demanded by the Swedish state initiated the early export of the vehicles to Western Europe, America and Asia. Markets where the idiosyncratic two-stroke troll found fans just as quickly as the humpback volvo advertised as a family athlete.

Perhaps this was also due to the technical milestones set by the Nordic conquerors. The Volvo PV 444 caused a sensation as the first model with a safety passenger cell and windshield made of laminated glass.

Both safety features were adapted by the competition, as was the facelift version of the facelift version of the facelifted three-point seat belt from 1959. Saab made the issue of safety no less important.

The Americans also liked Volvo and Saab

Here the new independent suspension and the front-wheel drive stood for active driving safety, while the massive side impact protection and the seat belts introduced in 1959 were supposed to provide protection from the serious consequences of an accident. For durability in those otherwise short-lived first post-war decades, Saab and Volvo made massive and rust-resistant sheet steel and engines for extreme mileage.

The model-political continuity of the two to three decades built fastback and streamline types, which opposed the automotive fashions, which at that time often still changed annually, went well with this. For the Swedes, gentle model maintenance measures, such as regular performance increases or more generous glazing of the bodywork, were sufficient to correspond to the zeitgeist.

Not to forget the changing type codes, the Volvo PV 444 became the PV 544 in 1958, and the Saab 92 was upgraded to the Saab 93 in 1955, before the Saab 96 was launched in 1960 and under this name for the next 20 years Production stayed.

Volvo PV 444 and Saab 92 - the Swedish people's cars-people

In 1953 the Saab 92 received its first facelift, especially visible through the enlarged rear window. The model name was changed to 92 B.

Source: autodrom

A policy of consistency appreciated by customers of both brands. Even the performance-hungry Americans fell for the amazingly fast, because light, Volvo and Saab, as otherwise only charismatic sports car brands experience.

In fact, the Volvo was even available with a sporty high-performance engine – according to advertising, the PV 444 with 85 hp offered more hp per cubic centimeter than all large-volume American power sedans.

Not to forget the suitability as a family car during the week and as a reliable racer for the weekend, which was also a Porsche, which was important in the 1950s and MG could add. That is why Volvo vigorously advertised the PV 444 as the "most important new import".

Erik Carlsson became a rally superstar in the Saab

A lot of power from microbe-like engines, that was also the secret of the success of the sporty models from Trollhattan: After the Type 93, two-stroke specialist Saab launched the GT 750 with an impressive 50 hp from 0.75 liter displacement for its US clientele. The open Saab Sonnet also set the mood for sunny California.

Volvo, on the other hand, presented the initially rather mundane PV 444 as a styled and chrome-plated California car in gleaming white paint for the glamor of Hollywood. Equipment that made the humpback a show star in Europe as well, which even won the Concours d’elegance.

In the meantime, the streamlined trolls collected effective advertising racing and rally successes against far stronger competitors. This in Monte Carlo especially under Erik Carlsson, the first rally superstar.

Volvo PV 444 and Saab 92 - the Swedish people's cars-cars

The Volvo PV 544 crowned its motorsport career with a victory in the toughest rally raid in the world, the East African Safari Rally. Production of the humpback volvo ends in October

Source: Volvo

"Mister Saab", also known as "Carlsson on the roof" because of some spectacular rollovers, was only too happy to take on the role of brand ambassador. As such, he was allowed to drive the very last Saab 96 straight to the museum in 1980.

The humpback volvo also ended its sporting career. In 1965 he outclassed all of the more modern competition at the East African Safari. Volvo then appropriately retired its first mega-seller in international advertisements: "Farewell, old friend".

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2 thoughts on “Volvo PV 444 and Saab 92 – the Swedish people’s cars”

  1. It’s a shame about Saab. I like to think back to my two Saab 900 turbo, quickly, individually and practically. Systematically destroyed by GM, however. It’s great that Volvo is very successful again, especially among the Chinese. And I’m always happy to see an Amazon, a humpback Volvo or a Snow White coffin (P 1800)


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