I recently went to the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg, only to find a car called Philip there. If you think it looks just like a 1951 Kaiser, you’re not alone. In fact, that’s why it never made it to America.
Volvo was all about the export markets from day one, but while they started building cars in 1927, their focus shifted towards making trucks very soon after, because that’s what Sweden and the rest of the world actually needed in the early 1930s. In 1933, three Swedish newspapermen (because that’s what you called us people in those days) shipped a Volvo PV652 across to New York from where they drove it to the World Expo in Chicago. They even went to show it to some top executives in Detroit, including people at Ford.
The iconic PV444 entered production in 1947, and Volvo brought a prototype to America straight away without any real sales intention, just to see how the Yankees liked it.
But it wasn’t before 1955 that the Swedish started selling their car in the U.S. The first trial batch of PV444 cars arrived in Los Angeles on the 15th of August, and while Volvo claims some skeptics referred to their efforts as “trying to sell refrigerators to Eskimos,” the rest is, as they say, history.
While all American PV444s got the 70 horsepower B14A engine that wasn’t available in Sweden apart from in some police cars, that beast of a four banger was still no V8. Little did the Americans know, that three years earlier, Volvo had something completely different in mind for conquering the US market.
The 1952 Philip concept car was designed by Jan Wilsgaard, the same guy who penned all Volvos up to the 850 in 1989. Not only was the Philip’s styling strongly inspired by American cars of the era with its fins at the rear, but it was also a much larger sedan with a proper 3.6 liter V8 under the hood sending a healthy 120 horses to the rear wheels.
If you’ve ever fitted an LS engine into your Amazon, say “hi” to its father.
The engine survived, but the Philip couldn’t make it. Volvo’s board found it to be a copycat, and therefore decided to cancel the project with only one running prototype built.
The cast iron Volvo B36 V8 continued its life in Volvo’s first forward control truck, the L420 Snabbe, while the Philip concept ended up in the hands of Bolinder-Munktell, the tractor maker that was bough by Volvo in 1950 and became Volvo Construction Equipment in 1995.
Today, it resides at the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg.
Photo credit: Volvo
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