Volvo was merely 18-years old in 1944. The event was organized to showcase what the company had built since its inception, what it was building at the time and what it was planning on building after the end of World War II. A wide array of vehicles were displayed including tanks and two brand new cars that were billed as “doves of peace”: The PV60 and the PV444.
The PV60 was developed in the second half of the 1930s but Volvo put it on the backburner when World War II broke out. Designed to replace the PV51, the PV60 took the form of a big, body-on-frame sedan that borrowed styling cues from the Terraplane sedans that Hudson briefly built in the 1930s. Auto design evolved at a remarkably quick pace in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and the PV60 already looked a little dated when it was unveiled.
Power for the PV60 initially came from a 3.7-liter straight-six engine with side valves that made 90 horsepower at 3,600 rpms. The six spun the rear wheels via a three-speed manual transmission that could be ordered with an overdrive.
PV60 production kicked off in 1946, two years after it was initially presented to the public. 3,006 examples were built by the time the model was axed in 1950. 500 of those were sold as bare chassis (called PV61) and transformed into either delivery vans or light trucks by third-party coachbuilders.
The real star of the event Volvo held in 1944 was the PV444. It was considerably more modern-looking than the aforementioned PV60 and it was much smaller than any Volvo built to date. The PV444 rode a monocoque chassis, a first for Volvo, and it was powered by a brand new 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that sent 40 horsepower to the rear wheels via a three-speed manual transmission. Drum brakes on all four corners brought the car to a stop.
2,300 people ordered a PV444 during (and shortly after) the exhibition. There was a catch, however: the car presented as a non-running prototype and the start of production was still several years away. Volvo fine-tuned the 444 for another couple of years and finally signed off on the design on February 3rd, 1947. Production kicked off the following month, and the first cars were delivered to customers shortly after.
The PV444 was a monumentally important car for Volvo because it was the first model the firm exported to the United States. The first PV444 arrived at the Los Angeles harbor on August 15th, 1955.
Volvo initially planned on building 8,000 examples of the PV444, and many doubted the company could reach that goal because the car was too small. By the time production ended in 1958, Volvo had churned out 196,005 examples of the 444. The car was replaced by the PV544, which was essentially an update of the existing design.
The PV444 spawned the PV445, Volvo’s first-ever station wagon, in 1949.