Thursday, April 23, 2015

The First Boxy Volvos

For decades, Volvos were noted for their boxy styling.  The so-called "three-box" look  was common from the 1960s into the '80s when cars became rounder due to aerodynamic considerations.  (Three-box =  two boxes end-to-end for the lower body and another atop those for the passenger cabin; alternately, a central box with smaller front and rear hood and trunk boxes.)

Volvo's boxy look first appeared for the 1967 model year with the introduction of the 140 series.  In 1968 I bought a new Volvo 142 while I was a starving graduate student at Penn.  Two grad school buddies also bought 1968 Volvos -- one a 142, another the older 122 series model.  We each experienced mechanical problems.  One friend's 142 came close to catching fire on one occasion, and my other friend's 122 had to have its engine either rebuilt or replaced (I forget which).  My car suffered from a faulty Bosch distributor, small beer compared to the others' problems.

I could afford a new Volvo in those days because they were far less posh than today's versions.  For example, instead of floor carpeting, my car came with rubber floor matting.  Air conditioning was either not standard or unavailable, so I didn't have that.  My car didn't have an automatic transmission, instead having a long, long gear shift lever sprouting from the floor.  Nor were there all the emissions and safety gizmos mandated for today's cars.

Volvo 140 series car featured uncluttered, simple shaping that didn't look heavy thanks to their tall greenhouse area.  Unspectacular, and (aside from a problem noted below) pleasantly styled.


This is a Volvo 142, the "2" signifying that it is the two-door version of the 140 series.  Mine had a yellowish-cream paint job.

The four-door 144.  My mother owned one of these, also in that yellowish-cream color.  Note that the  now-traditional Volvo angled slash bar on the grille is not present.  It was found on 1930s Volvos and reappeared on the 1968 model 164.

The 140s had simple, nearly ornamentation-free styling.  The grille is a one-piece version of the design used on the 122-series Volvos from the 1950s.  Perhaps having something to do with the rear door, the belt line and related fenestration, 144s seem curiously awkward compared to 142s.

Rear 3/4 view showing the clean styling and, again, the awkwardness in the area of the B-pillar.  Yes, those are rubber mud guards aft of the wheel openings front and rear.

Nice publicity photo.  Very mid-1960s.

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