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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

THE 1957 VOLVO PV544

THE 1957 VOLVO PV544

My best friend through high school and college was Charlie  “Chuck” “Winky” “Winkinstein” “Ditmus” “Asshead” Widmer.  In 1964, the summer after high school graduation, Charlie bought a 1957 Volvo fastback.

The Volvo was beat up, but it was powerful.  It was a three speed stick on the floor and had a giant steering wheel.  The upholstery was torn and the passenger door tended to pop open when the car made a right turn at a high speed.

(Never mind the facts Chuck; I’m pretty sure I’ve got the punch line right.)

Charlie paid $170 for that car.  It was his first car.  He loved that car.

The Volvo could beat just about any other car off the line…until it had to be shifted from first to second.  Sometimes going into second gear was an adventure in grinding; still it was fast and it was loud, two really endearing qualities in an eighteen-year- old’s car.

The Volvo made it through that summer, winning countless 25 yard drag races from stop lights until second gear.  Women were attracted to the hum of the engine and the thunder of the beat up muffler.  I know they were attracted because they would smile and point at us as we idled at a red light and “Asshead” rev’d the engine.  Somehow, attracted as they were, we never managed a successful pickup.

At the end of August, Charlie put the Volvo up for sale.  He was not able to take the car to college…no he was allowed to take it to college; he did not think it would make the four hour drive to Massachusetts.

Listed at $200, the first potential buyer was very interested.  To seal the deal, Charlie took the prospect for a test drive.  He extoled the car’s virtues: Headlights worked, brakes worked, and the engine was powerful.  He even managed to time the gear correctly and slipped it from first gear to second without a grind. 

The buyer was almost hooked when

Here is the point of this whole story. 

The buyer was almost hooked when while idling at a stop sign, smoke started to filter out of the hood.  Charlie jumped out of the car, flung open the hood and stared wild-eyed at flames coming from his precious powerful engine.  He pulled off his shirt and slammed it on the flames furiously until the fire went out.

The buyer was no longer enthusiastic about this chick magnet of a car.  Charlie, ever the salesman turned to the buyer, smoke still rising from the engine, the smell of burning oil wafting through the air, and said…wait for it…

“Gee, it’s never done that before!”

The Volvo and its now solid blob of metal which used to be an engine was towed to the junkyard.   Charlie even got $25 for the car. 

For a net cost of $145 we got a summer of winning drag races and admiring glances from hot young women. 

That Volvo was maybe the best car ever.


  1. Yeah! He got his money's worth, and his friends still have the memories.

  2. That car was a source of precious memories that will never fade.

  3. Nothing really matters as long as the punch line is right.

  4. Great story Cranky. I would love to have a vintage old car like that, or maybe one of those odd looking early Saab's that made such strong rally cars. ;)