THREE MILESTONES ON THE ROAD TO THE UNCOMPROMISING

Over the years, premium estates have become the most important segment for Volvo Car Corporation. Over the past ten years, from 1989 to 1998, Volvo accounted on average for 33 per cent of all sales of large estates in Europe – more than any other manufacturer.

In the USA, the corresponding figure between 1990 and 1998 for Volvo Cars was 23 per cent (1998: 50 per cent). In Japan it was 18 per cent. In the light of Volvo Cars’ share of the world market – 1 per cent – this clearly demonstrates the important of the estate segment.

In the early 1950s, nobody could have guessed that Volvo’s estates would be so successful. On the contrary, the chassis that Volvo was manufacturing and selling to other body-making companies as a basis for vans and light pick-ups was not doing particularly well. In the spring of 1952, Volvo had 1,500 unsold chassis.

“We must get rid of them. We must build a van of our own,” said Assar Gabrielsson – one of Volvo’s founders. And so the decision was made.

A budget of SEK 1 million was set aside for the development work and the time frame to completion was set to one year. The result was a car with the same basic shape, wheelbase, track, engine and transmission as the PV444 saloon, but with a separate frame which made superstructures possible and a heavy-duty rear suspension.

On the 4 July 1953 the very first Volvo PV445 was delivered to Gabrielsson.

PV445 was the official name of the car. But hardly anybody called it that. Instead, it became known as the “Duett”. The nickname referred to the fact that the car was two in one; a flexible, van during working hours and a spacious, comfortable passenger car during leisure time.

The Volvo Duett was a great success. And Assar Gabrielsson’s short-term business solution – aimed at selling 1,500 chassis – became the start of Volvo’s successful estate history instead.

The Volvo PV 445 Duett was manufactured between 1953 and 1969 in a total of 90,000 units.

Volvo P220 – the Amazon Estate (1962-1969)
Volvo P220 represented the Volvo Car Corporation’s first step towards a five-door saloon. The car, with its modern construction and unibody design, was launched at the 1962 Stockholm Motor Show.

The Amazon Estate was a true estate car rather than a van. It had the saloon styling, which had been carefully retained and transferred to the estate version. This was characterised by a very large cargo area without sacrificing interior dimensions.

Volvo 145 (1967-1974)
The Volvo 145 represented yet another step towards the five-door estate with saloon comfort. Technically, the saloon and the estate were identical, apart from the reinforced rear shock absorbers on the estate.

Compared with the Duett and the Amazon, the 145 handled a slightly smaller payload, an indication that it was more of a five-door saloon than a pure load carrier. On the other hand, the useful volume was enormous. Between 1967 and 1974, the Volvo Car Corporation produced 270,000 units of the Volvo 145.

Volvo 245 (1974-1993)
It was perfectly logical for the Volvo 140 to be succeeded in 1974 by the Volvo 240. The estate version bore the designation 245 and was launched at the same time as the saloon.

But even more interesting was the Volvo 265, Volvo’s first luxury estate – which came in 1975. This car included more luxury features than many saloons at the time and it gave Volvo’s estate range a new and exciting dimension that has been further developed over the years.

In the early 1980s, the Volvo Car Corporation became the largest manufacturer of estates in Europe in its market segment.

To underline its leading position, Volvo launched the world’s first mass-manufactured estate with a turbocharged petrol engine in 1981. The Volvo Car Corporation’s first “sports estate” heralded the disappearance of the distinction between saloon and estate in terms of driving characteristics and comfort.

Between 1974 and 1993, the Volvo Car Corporation produced 1,000,000 units of the Volvo 245/265.

Volvo 740/760, 940/960 Estate and V90 (1985-1998)
A further stride forward in the estate car concept was taken in 1985 with the introduction of a five-door version of the Volvo 740/760, which radiated total harmony and well-thought-out design solutions. The Volvo 740/760 was designed as an estate car from the very start, and then converted into a saloon.

This estate focused more than its predecessors had done on contemporary lifestyle and leisure. The rear seat was split one-third of the way along to allow the load capacity to be used to the full. The entire cargo area was carpet-lined and a great deal of effort had gone into road-noise insulation.

When it was launched in 1985, the Volvo 740 Turbo estate was the only estate on the market that could reach 100 kph from standstill in 8.5 seconds, turn around in 9.9 metres, tow 1,800 kg and swallow 2.12 cubic metres of cargo – while offering luxury car comfort at the same time.

With the Volvo 740, the Volvo Car Corporation set a new standard for the modern estate concept by erasing the distinction between four and five-door cars once and for all.

Between 1985 and 1998, 675,000 estate cars were produced.

Volvo 850 (1993-1996)
With the introduction of the Volvo 850 Estate in February 1993, the estate concept took on yet another dimension in terms of passenger safety and comfort, driving characteristics and styling.

The Volvo 850 was a different kind of estate, with its daring tail-lamp arrangement and a rear compartment that few, if any, other estates on the market could equal in terms of safety, smartness and versatility.

With the Volvo 850, the Volvo Car Corporation proved on the racing track that there is no contradiction between a family car and true driving pleasure. The Volvo 850 estate created racing history by being the first estate car ever – and Volvo’s first car entry ever – in the prestigious BTCC, the British Touring Car Championship.

Accordingly, the Volvo 850 estate became the standard in the business and the model followed the evolution of the Volvo 850 into new areas of performance, traction and excitement with the T-5, the T-5R, the R, the All Wheel Drive and the TDI.

Volvo V40 1995-
In the midst of the Volvo 850 estate evolution, a new and exciting car saw the light of the day at the Bologna Motor Show in 1995. The Volvo V40, the second model in the new compact series, became the first Volvo to carry the designation of V for versatility.

Slightly smaller than its sibling, the Volvo V40 is just as much fun to drive, just as comfortable and versatile and is perhaps also the safest car in its market segment.

Volvo V70 1996-
In November 1996, the next logical step ensued in the process of refinement when the Volvo Car Corporation introduced the Volvo V70 on the basis of the Volvo 850 estate. Modified both under the skin and on the outside, the new generation of Volvo estates continued to attract customers all over the world, thanks to the high levels of occupant protection, outstanding versatility, sophisticated handling and the wide range of variants and options.

The new estate
When the new generation of Volvo estates enter the market now, they will be even more safe, practical, comfortable and exciting to drive. The evolution of Volvo estate cars is a continuous process, a constant striving for perfection in a type of car that the Volvo Car Corporation has made very much its own.