1974 Volvo 244: Review

“No mashed Swedes!” Archie Vicar on the Volvo 244 saloon.

Image: autoevolution

Auto Motorist, September 1974, pages 23-29. Photos by Ian Cambridgeshire. Owing to unexplained fermentation affecting processing of the original images, stock photography has been used. [Editor’s note: This transcript was first uploaded to DTW on 2 November 2013.]

The Swedish like eating tinned rotten fish. It’s an acquired taste, I am told by those with experience in such things. One is advised to open the tin can under water so as to contain the noxious aromas that would otherwise emanate. And one is also advised to drink plenty of schnapps to kill the taste. That’s really the only part of the whole palaver I can really see my way to agreeing with. I mention all of this by way of an introduction to Sweden’s other acquired taste, their Volvos.

And they have a new one on the way, the 244. It’s in the spirit of fellowship between our two great nations that I use the word new, of course. The 244 is, in fact, a very slightly rounder version of the venerable 144, a car that has appealed to sandal-wearing feminists and bearded communists ever since King Edward the Fifth reigned over this Sceptred Isle. It comes in six versions, all of them the same: DL, LD, D, L and GL. That’s Swedish socialism for you!

Herring, herring and Sild

We travelled with SAS to Stockholm one sunny morning in June only to arrive in the midst of typical Swedish summer weather: rain and fog obscuring the retreating snows of May. Volvo’s press wallah, Gunner Jenssen, greeted us at the airport and took us in a taxi to our hotel where a long presentation took place over breakfast of herring, herring and sild with some schnapps to warm us up. The main points to interest motorists will be that the Swedes are pursuing their obsession with safety even further. I’d say the best way to ensure one’s safety in a car is to avoid getting in one in the first place. The Swedes’ view is to accept that if one must be in a car then make sure the car as is as joyless as possible.

Hiding to nothing

Image: autopaper

They’re on a hiding to nothing with this safety lark, in my view. It’s one thing to improve such things as brakes but these safety-belts are a nuisance. I can’t imagine ladies wanting to crease their blouses by using such contraptions. And they are fiddly to deploy, especially if one has been raising one’s elbow. The other worry is that once these things are fitted it’s only a matter of time before some fussy politician-type insists we all wear them. I digress. You won’t catch me wearing them.

Giddy Speed

For all its talk about safety Volvo needs to do something about the annoying buzzing that sounded continuously throughout the test. There was a flashing red light on the dashboard indicating some fault, but I never found out what it referred to. Engine oil pressure and water temperature stayed normal, even as we reached the giddy speed of 58 miles per hour which is all that is possible on Sweden’s amazingly winding but boring roads.

We set off into a warren of Swedish slip-roads, roundabouts and industrial estates which make up the bulk of Stockholm. The rest is forest. Much thought has gone into the seating inside the 244 which features a novel device for varying the support to the lower back. It was while fiddling with this that I managed to drive the car over a grassy mound in the middle of another roundabout lost in Stockholm’s thick fog. Nobody seems to live in Sweden so there was no one around to crash into. Thus, I survived this mishap unscathed. Once I’d pulled some leaves out of the grille there was no sign of my adventure.

1974 Volvo 240
Image: media.volvocars.com

The good news is that the 244 changes direction. One simply rotates the ungainly rubber-coated steering wheel and after a spell the view out the front window gradually swivels. Rack and pinion technology has been used here in some form. The engine is the B20A four-pot device based on an original drawing by Thomas Stephenson. It struggles to pull the 244 from rest which, I suppose, would be another safety innovation of sorts. Volvo aren’t short of steel and so the 240 is made with the thickest variety this side of a Clyde shipyard. Even the ashtray looked capable of withstanding a bomb attack so should the worst happen, and you do have a prang, you need not worry for the safety of your cigarette ash.

Immense Blue Bottles

I didn’t notice any difference between driving over official road surfaces or the unmetalled sections of our forest stages. The ride was uniformly bad. This might be a kind of compliment to the method of suspension deployed in the 244. We drove for 190 lumpy miles through dark forests north of Stockholm and stopped at some traffic lights to have lunch of tinned fish. Yes, that tinned fish. Our tame photographer opened the tin, releasing a smell akin to raw sewage on a hot day in the Punjab.

Image: Classiccarcatalogue

Within minutes the car was filled with a swarm of blue bottles of such lush greasy blackness and immense size as to inspire fear and horror. It was as if there was a dead elk in the passenger seat and not a 12 oz tin of fish. There was no choice to but to leave the car as we simply could not drive with the cabin thronging with these disgusting insects.

All in all, the Volvo 244 seems to be the very embodiment of the Swede’s collective aversion to risk, a car with every entertainment ironed out and no opportunity missed to remove any possibility of motoring pleasure, other than the mildest feeling of contentment derived from driving something able to withstand a 58-mph impact. In fact, I would contend that the main point of the car is to make that rotten fish seem like a pleasant alternative to driving this stolid, solid slab of Swedish steel.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

17 thoughts on “1974 Volvo 244: Review”

  1. This article is absolute Tosh
    Whoever wrote it I believe his name may have been Richard Harriet did not understand the car that he was privileged enough to be reviewing.
    the Volvo 200 series was one of the best cars of It’s Time Powerful luxurious ultimately reliable with a ride that was only rivalled by Mercedes in that segment.
    it set new standards in car safety and became world-renowned for saving possibly tens of thousands of lives including my own.
    I find it astonishing that the reviewer didn’t even comprehend what the red light on the dashboard was telling him it was telling him that his life was at risk if he did not wear his seatbelt had he of clunk clicked the red light on the audible buzzing sound would have gone off and he would have been much safer on his journey.
    you could also fit half the house in the back of the estate version the Volvo 245 , they also had a turning circle that could be compared with a London cab.
    These Volvo were way ahead of their time extremely well Thought Out with a lot of foresight and more than anything the highest respect for preserving human life over profit and cache.
    Well done Volvo the 200 series has now become a legend.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Factually, you are quite correct about the Volvo 200-series. My dad had a late model and it was, without a doubt, the best car he had out of the ten I am aware of (Rover, Triumph, Mercedes, another two Volvos etc). The article is supposedly a transcription of a period review by legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar and I invite you to have a read of the others which will put Archie Vicar’s style and attitude in context.

  2. This is undoubtedly some of the best of Vicars’ writing. Most enjoyable on a Saturday morning.

  3. Archie Vicar’s finest moment?
    Sadly, remembering my father’s old 940, I agree with Archie in some aspects…

  4. Amusing. But I hope he was not representative of the level of the British motoring press at the time.

  5. “Much thought has gone into the large screen commanding virtually every function in the car previously commanded entirely satisfactorily by buttons and sliders. It was while fiddling with this, trying to raise the interior temperature by 1 degree, that I managed to change radio stations 14 times (13 of which played Abba songs), enjoy the full volume the rather elaborate speaker system had to offer and drive the car over a grassy mound in the middle of another roundabout lost in Stockholm’s thick fog. Nobody seems to live in Sweden so there was no one around to crash into. Thus, I survived this mishap unscathed. Once I’d pulled some leaves out of the grille and spent three hours consulting the manual there was no sign of my adventure and the temperature was set.”

    1. Archie Vicar has not passed away at all and apparently still describes the everyday madness of automotive life.

  6. I suspect Mr Benjamin may be somewhere on the spectrum and not quite grasped the nature of the Archie Vicar article.
    No harm done and overall as ever most entertaining read and equally so the readers comments.
    Never give up

  7. Now I’m convinced that the 240 in which I once took a virtual hay wagon ride had shot dampers as the ride wasn’t “uniformly bad”, there was nothing consistent about it, in fact.

  8. I can’t help but wonder how much more positive Mr. Vicar’s review of the Volvo would have been had he been offered a nice dish of köttbullar (aka Ikea meatballs😀) instead of rotten fish (what’s the point of canning it if it’s already spoiled?). Great fun to read, as always!

  9. Mr. Vicar was in top form this missive. His back handed swipes at Sweden reminded me of the newspaper stories in the US press during the 80s and 90s, apropos of nothing, that detailed the great ills of the Swedish socialist state. The various maladies didn’t sound all that bad to me but maybe it helped to keep the average reader toeing the capitalist line.

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