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Sunday, June 11, 2017

THE 1957 VOLVO PV544

THE 1957 VOLVO PV544

This cranky re-run is from June 2012

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…well in truth, 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. I think all in all it was a great car! Years later you are still remembering that special summer with it; that speaks volumes I do believe!


  2. I'm guessing the smooth (finally) gear change caused the engine melt down.

  3. There's something about an old car, or banger as we called them, that new and fancy models don't have. My first car was falling to bits when I acquired it, nevertheless I loved it.

  4. Gee...a little fire and a melted engine turned him off? Loser! I still like a powerful engine and a loud, throaty exhaust. Some things just never lose their appeal.

  5. I have witnessed car deals similar to that.

  6. I'd love to have an old Volvo, although my choice would be a P1800. It sounds like he had a good summer with that old tub. :)

  7. Works fine until he wants to sell it. That fire would have left me beside myself.

    Great story about a great memory.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  8. Hey, for a little over a buck and a half a day, you had a super time. If you were a good guy and split the cost, a little more than 80 cents a day. Money well spent.

  9. Interesting how we animate our early cars as if they had actual personalities.

  10. Mine was a 1946 Plymouth Coupe. It was chick magnet....though I'm not sure a woman every rode in that car :)

  11. There's always that one car, isn't there? Great story.

  12. The things you guys do to get a girl's attention...just like a kid who acts up in school, it doesn't even matter if the attention is good or bad.

  13. You have some great stories Joe. It's nice to step back into a seemingly, more carefree time. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Funny how we appreciate different things in a car once adulthood, having kids, and responsibilities enter the picture... ;-)


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