Evolution of the Volvo: from ÖV4 to the V60

From the roaring 1920s to the plug-in 2010s, we take you on stylish, safe and Swedish ride through car history

Joal Ryan
1 of 30 Volvo Cars

In the beginning...

Sturdy, stylish, safe and Swedish: It's tempting to tell the story of Volvo Cars entirely in S's, but we think it's better to show you 30 models that help show how far the automaker has come, from 1927 to today. 

First up: The four-cylinder, open ÖV4, also known as the Jakob, the very first assembly-line Volvo.  

2 of 30 Mike Fanous/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Up in your grill

The Volvo PV4, which also dates back to 1927, was Volvo's first sedan.  

3 of 30 Volvo Cars

Car of steel

In the 1930s, this is what passed for streamlined. The all-steel Volvo PV36, or Carioca as it was known, boasted six cylinders to go along with its six seats. Only 500 were produced.  

4 of 30 Volvo Cars

No lightweight

In 1936, the 3,300-pound Volvo PV51 sedan was considered the "first 'smaller' Volvo car," according to the company. 

5 of 30 Volvo Cars

Beginnings, endings

The Volvo PV60 was Volvo's first post-World War II car, and, per the automaker, its last six-cylinder passenger car with a side-valve engine.   

6 of 30 Simon Hamelius/Volvo Cars


In the mid-1950s, the two-door, four-cylinder Volvo PV444, introduced in Europe in 1944, became the first Volvo to be exported to the US. 

7 of 30 Volvo Cars

Greener pastures

In 1949, the top was down in Europe on a "few beautiful coupe [and] convertible cars," as Volvo described the comely variations of its PV445.   

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Wagon wheels

The popular Volvo Duett, which was produced from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, was originally based on the PV445. 

9 of 30 Mike Fanous/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Rare sport

Volvo went sporty, literally and design-wise, with the Volvo Sport P1900. The automaker says production problems cut short the P1900's run; fewer than 70 of the two-seat, four-cylinder convertibles were produced from 1956-1957.

10 of 30 Auto Bild Syndication/ullstein bild/Getty Images

Amazon strong

According to the automaker, the Volvo Amazon, or P121, as it was known outside of Sweden, was its first car to feature pontoon styling. A popular car, the Amazon was produced from 1956-1967. 

11 of 30 Volvo Cars

Buckle up

Volvo's game-changing, three-point safety belt -- an innovation it would share with the rest of the auto industry -- made its debut in the 1959 Volvo PV544.  

12 of 30 National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Sainted model

The sports-car success Volvo vied for with the Sport P1900 arrived with the P1800. Originally produced in England in 1961, the stylish two-seater tooled around for more than a decade; its 1800S iteration, pictured, costarred on TV's "The Saint" with Roger Moore.  

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Boom box

The Volvo 240-series, introduced in 1974, was a sturdy square. The 244 model alone -- the DL version is pictured -- put nearly 1.5 million cars on the road over a nearly 20-year production run.  

14 of 30 Volvo Cars

Night moves

The Volvo 66, introduced in 1975, was a Swedish compact by way of the Netherlands' DAF Car BV, specifically, the Giovanni Michelotti-designed DAF 66. Volvo purchased a stake in DAF in 1972.  

15 of 30 Volvo Cars

Italian flavor

It's easy to distinguish the four-seat Volvo 262C coupe from the sea of 240- and 260-series cars from the 1970s and 1980s. It's the 1977-1981 stunner that was built by Italy's Bertone design house.  

16 of 30 Volvo Cars

Dutch design

The Volvo 343 was a three-door hatchback that represented the first all-new design from the Volvo-DAF pact. The 300-series plugged along from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. 

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Turning point

Volvo calls the 760 GLE, launched in 1982, the "car that saved the Volvo Car Corporation." The ride, which merged fuel efficiency with luxury, became its much-needed new hit for the new decade    

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Captivating coupe

The Volvo 780 coupe, introduced in 1985, featured a design by Bertone.   

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Lighting the way

Pop-up headlights popped up for the first time on a Volvo on the Volvo 480 ES, first sold in 1986. Per the automaker, the model also represented its first front-wheel-drive car with a transverse engine. The model was never sold in the US.

20 of 30 Volvo Cars

Into the '90s

The 1990s saw the Volvo 700-series wind down and the 900-series gear up. The Volvo 940 added the three-point safety belt and headrest to the rear middle seat.    

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Big impact

Airbags began bolstering Volvo's already-strong safety reputation in the early 1990s. In 1994, the Volvo 850 became the first car to offer side-impact airbags. 

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Fast, furious

The compact, fuel-efficient Volvo S40 made its impact in Europe, and on the racing circuit, starting in the mid-1990s. It arrived in the United States in 2000. 

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Movie star

Developed by Volvo and Britain's Tom Walkinshaw Racing, the five-cylinder Volvo C70 coupe was unveiled in 1996. It went on to follow in the P1800's tracks by appearing in the 1997 big-screen Saint movie starring Val Kilmer.  

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Turning the corner

First introduced in 1996, the standard, front-wheel-drive Volvo V70 softened the corners of the 850. 

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New world

By 2003, Volvo Cars had become a subsidiary of Ford, and the second-generation Volvo V70 was renamed the XC70. By the time the V70/XC70 reached its third-generation version, Volvo had become a subsidiary of China's Geely.  

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The top-selling Volvo XC90, launched in 2002, was Volvo's first SUV. The model was reinvented and redesigned in 2016. The result, Edmunds said, "put] Volvo right back in the game." 

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Some sedan

In 1997, the original Volvo S90 was introduced as the replacement for the Volvo 960. It was retired in 1998. For the 2017 model year, the S90 was relaunched and reinvented in a big way. We called the sedan the "ultimate in understated luxury."  

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Good baby

The crossover Volvo XC60, which as a line dates back to the late 2000s, is another model that has turned heads with recent updates. We called the 2018 version "a baby XC90, and we're just fine with that."  

29 of 30 Volvo Cars

A star is born

Introduced in 2017 as Volvo's first compact SUV, and produced from the automaker's all-new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), the Volvo XC40 was named 2018's European Car of the Year.  

30 of 30 Volvo Cars

Charged up

Production of the all-weather, 2019 Volvo V60 is due to ramp up this summer. For the first time, diesel versions will not be available. But not to worry: Two hybrid versions will be "your new lustworthy plug-in wagon," we've predicted.  

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