The 10 Best Old Volvo Cars of All Time

Volvo may be known for safety, but with cars like the Amazon and the P1900, Volvo has also produced some of the coolest old cars.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
From the rally-built PV444/PV544 to the uber-stylish P130 Amazon, Volvo has produced some of the greatest—and safest—cars in automotive history.
isn’t necessarily known for speed and sportiness as much as they’re known for safety. Founded in Sweden in 1927, Volvo was the first automaker to make safety the key pillar of its success. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t built some of the most iconic, and stylish, models of all time. 
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What makes an old car great? 

There’s a big difference between a classic car and an old car, but if it’s not all about the age, what makes an old car great?
When it comes to a Volvo, it’s easy to consider safety first, but, as we all know, some of us are more than willing to suffer a bit for style. That’s why we’re looking not only at Volvo’s hallmark safety chops but also style, innovation, and just overall popularity to determine which models make the top-ten list of best old Volvos of all time.

10. Volvo PV444 / PV544 (1947-1966)

Let’s be honest, the PV isn’t much to look at. Designed during the raw materials shortage of WWII, Volvo was focused on offering the public a smaller car with better fuel economy, which is exactly what the PV444/544 offered. Known for being rugged and dependable, it wasn’t long before the PV earned a place on the rally scene.
Gunnar Andersson won the 1958 European rally championship driving a four-passenger PV444 motivated by a 51 PS 1.4L inline-four-cylinder B4B engine—Volvo’s first unibody car and the first to be powered by a four-cylinder engine in nearly two decades. Andersson followed up this win by taking the Gran Premio de Argentina in 1960 driving a five-passenger PV544. The 544 was slightly larger than the 444 and paired its four-cylinder engine with a four-speed transmission, but was otherwise identical to Andersson’s earlier rally PV.
By 1965, the PV was looking pretty dated, but it still held on in rally circles with a win at the East African Safari Rallye in 1965 with Joginder Singh behind the wheel. Singh’s 544 featured Volvo’s new 1.8L inline-four-cylinder B18 engine. Despite its being a pushrod design, the B18 is not only powerful—capable of revving up to 6,500 rpm—but also exceptionally dependable and durable.
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9. Volvo Amazon (P130) (1956)

Known as the P130 in The States, Volvo’s Amazon is one of the most iconic old Volvo models of all time. Whether you chose the two-door coupe or the more practical station wagon, the Amazon (P130), introduced in 1956, was the first production car ever to include safety belts as a standard feature on all trims.
But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to drive. Original specs for the Amazon (P130) included Volvo’s new inline-four-cylinder B16 engine, 3-speed manual transmission, and rear-wheel drive. The Amazon Sport, unveiled later in the 1956 model year, was capable of producing over 120-hp.

8. Volvo Sport P1900 (1956-1957)

If it’s possible for a car to win an award for being simultaneously one of the best and worst models built by a single manufacturer, the Volvo Sport P1900 would take the prize. Volvo’s then-president and founder, Assar Gabrielsson, got the idea for the car after seeing the
Chevrolet Corvette
—unfortunately, he refused to listen to recommendations that he alter the car’s frame to better support its fiberglass/reinforced polyester body, resulting in a poor quality build that Volvo’s new president, Gunnar Engellau said felt like it was going to fall apart as he drove it. He canceled production after one weekend of driving the roadster, and only 68 were ever built.
This is why we could classify the Sport P1900 as Volvo’s worst old model car. Now let’s talk about what makes it one of the best.
Despite its shoddy build, the P1900 is an incomparably sexy, sporty convertible. The low-slung roadster used the PV444’s 1414 cc B16 engine with a dual carburetor that Volvo would adopt for the PV444’s introduction to the US market. It’s not much, but looks can go a long way when it comes to making an old car a classic.

7. Volvo 122S (Amazon) (1958)

Introduced in 1958, the 122S was a performance model of Volvo’s Amazon. Continuing the trend started by the Amazon Sport in 1956, the 122S featured the now-standard three-point safety belts to protect drivers and passengers in the sporty coupe. Even when chasing performance, the marque remained on-brand with safety.
Along with better suspension and brakes than the standard 122, the 122S also came equipped with the dual carburetor version of Volvo’s B18 engine for an added power boost.

6. Volvo P1800 (1961-1972)

Developed as a sports car to compete in US and European markets, Volvo’s P1800 became a classic the moment Sir Roger Moore slid behind the wheel in his iconic role as Simon Templar in the ‘60s British television series, The Saint
Sir Moore’s Volvo was actually a P1800S, as the P1800 was discontinued after only 6000 models were produced with poor quality. Production was moved to Volvo’s Lundby Plant in Gothenburg, and the S was added. 
The P1800S featured the same inline-four-cylinder B18 engine with dual SU carburetors as the original P1800s, but it was tuned for an additional 8-hp for the potential to churn out a total of 108 horses. Later models would continue to fine-tune the engine up to 115-hp with a top speed of 109 mph before the engine was replaced with a 2.0L B20B in 1969 with the potential for 118-hp.
In addition to TV fame, the P1800S is famous for being the world’s highest mileage car. Irving Gordon holds the Guinness World Record for highest mileage on a personal car with over 3,000,000 miles on his 1966 P1800S. While this, alone, is quite a record, Gordon notes his original clutch lasted 450,000 miles as compared to the average clutch lifespan of about 50,000 to 100,000 miles.
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5. Volvo P1800ES (1972-1974)

Introduced in 1972, the P1800ES was the last P1800 variant built by Volvo. The 1800ES may not have the celebrity status of the 1800S, but its unique looks ensure it will always have a place in any top-ten list of Volvo’s coolest old models.
What makes the 1800ES so iconic is its unique “shooting brake” body. It’s essentially a wagon, but the all-glass hatch and B20F engine capable of developing over 125 horsepower made it brilliantly futuristic for the time. Only around 8000 of these 1800ESs were made during its two-year run, making it one of Volvo’s rarer models, but, like its 1800S cousin, those that remain are near indestructible.

4. Volvo 140 Series (1967-1974)

With the 140 series, Volvo introduced a new system of 3-digit nomenclature that would simplify things for buyers going forward—the first digit indicated the series, the second the number of cylinders, and the third the number of doors. The 140 series featured a 2- or 4-door sedan (142 and 144) and a 5-door wagon (145). But what truly makes the 140 series unique is its radical departure from previous models with a decidedly minimalist exterior that would become a mainstay through the 1990s.
With its shift in style came a recommitment to safety in the 140 series, but this didn’t mean Volvo had to sacrifice performance. While it featured the same four-cylinder engine as the Amazon, tuning kits were available for the 142’s B18 and B20 engines that cranked output up to 190-hp.

3. Volvo 240 Series (1975-1993)

For the 1975 model year, the 140 series evolved into the 240 series that would give the automotive world more than 2.8 million units over the next 19 years. While it features the same boxy, minimalist styling of its earlier cousin, this is the series with which most people associate the Volvo brand.
In addition to sheer proliferation, the 240 series is famous for its durability and adaptability, but still offers that sporty edge in GT and Turbo trims that keep it from being mistakenly labeled “boring.” Though not terribly sporty, a particularly compelling new engine option for the 240 lineup was a choice of two
diesel engines that have famously been converted to run on pure vegetable oil! 

2. Volvo 245 GLT Turbo (1982-1985)

In 1981, Volvo replaced the GT offering in the 240 series with the Turbo, available with added GLT luxury equipment options. Initially a trim offered only on 242 and 244 models, Volvo added the option to the 245 in 1982 leading to one of the first super-luxe—and super-sporty—wagons. People looking for a family hauler no longer had to settle for sluggish powertrains with the GLT Turbo’s turbocharged 4-cylinder with 760T intercooler
Not only was the 245 Turbo wagon capable of making up to 155 horsepower with a top speed surpassing 120-mph but it also featured one of the first blacked-out appearance packages and stock 15-inch Virgo alloy wheels. Though they didn’t realize it at the time (since chrome trims were much more popular than the black trim) drivers of the world’s fastest estate were well ahead of the curve for style!

1. Volvo 242 Turbo Group A Racer (240 Turbo Evolution) (1983)

Perhaps one of the most controversial cars in Group A racing history, Volvo’s 242 Turbo Evolution is both compelling and extremely rare on today’s market. Only 500 were built to satisfy production requirements for FIA Group A racing, and all were shipped to the US with a larger turbocharger and other performance modifications in the trunk. 270 had their mods added at Long Beach and the rest were retrofitted at Volvo’s Penta facility in the Chesapeake Bay. 
With Group A homologation satisfied, 499 “Evos” were stripped of their racing equipment and sold as standard road cars while one was returned, fully-equipped, to Sweden to compete in the European Touring Car Championship. Though less aerodynamic, quite a bit heavier, and less agile than many of its competitors, the 242 Turbo Group A Racer was lightning-fast in a straight line and its turbocharged 2.1L four-cylinder was capable of developing nearly 350 horses

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