Before the more famous P1800 coupe, Volvo built another sports car, called the Volvo Sport. Launched on June 2, 1954, the two-seater roadster was actually the company’s first sports car.
The idea for the Volvo Sport was born after company founder Assar Gabrielsson visited the United States in the early 1950s in order to learn as much as possible about the market before launching Volvo on the other side of the Atlantic.
He learned that the Americans had a huge interest in small, European sports cars, so he decided Volvo should build one. With the help of California-based Glasspar company specialized in fiberglass bodies who built the first prototype, the Volvo Sport project began in 1954.
Featuring a short and plump body with a big grille that resembled a turbine, the Volvo Sport was based on the PV 444. The roadster’s wheelbase was 200mm (7.9 inches) shorter though, while the 1.4-liter engine was tuned to develop 70 hp thanks to the fitting of twin carburettors. Mated to a three-speed gearbox, the engine allowed the Volvo Sport to reach a top speed of 155 km/h (96 mph).
At launch, Volvo said it would build 300 units, all for export. In the spring of 1956, the first cars were delivered to customers in countries such as South Africa, Brazil, Morocco, and the USA.
However, Volvo sold the Sport in Sweden after reassessing the original policy about selling it exclusively overseas. During the first year of production, Volvo only built 44 units, with a further 23 vehicles rolling off the assembly line in 1957. The Volvo Sport’s career ended abruptly that year, when the company’s new managing director Gunnar Engellau decided the car was below Volvo’s standards of quality and was not profitable.
Despite that, there are around 50 units still in existence. The P1900 project, as the Volvo Sport was internally named, wasn’t in vain though: shortly after the axing of the roadster, Volvo began work on the legendary P1800 sports car.
By Dan Mihalascu