It’s 60 years since Volvo launched its UK range. We look back at how it won over a gen­er­a­tion of Brits

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THIS WEEK -

SWORDS The 1958 Lon­don Mo­tor Show marked the de­but of of­fi­cial Volvo im­ports into the UK, and when rac­ing driver, Mike Hawthorn, tested a 122S he thought it was ‘a sen­sa­tion of a car’.

When Jaguar spurned the chance to pro­vide The Saint with a MkX in 1962, this re­sulted in the P1800 be­com­ing a screen icon, and Hamp­shire Con­stab­u­lary’s em­ploy­ment of the Ama­zon es­tate as a traf­fic car in 1965 fur­ther raised the brand’s pro­file.

By the early 1970s, it was in­creas­ingly com­mon for buy­ers to opt for a car on the grounds of merit, not na­tional ori­gin and for­mer Wolse­ley cus­tomers be­gan to opt for 144s. The Good Life first aired in 1975, and the Lead­bet­ters’ yel­low 145 re­flected mid­dle-class au­to­mo­tive tastes of the day – ten years ear­lier Margo and Jerry might have bought a Hum­ber Hawk Es­tate, but now the Volvo was the per­fect sub­ur­ban trans­port.

The Ama­zon’s de­sign re­flected the Swedish phi­los­o­phy of ‘vack­rare vardagsvara’, which roughly trans­lates as ‘the de­sire for more beau­ti­ful ev­ery­day items’ and this ideal was re­flected in all sub­se­quent Volvos. There might be nods to some cur­rent stylis­tic tropes, but these were cars that rep­re­sented the an­tithe­sis to Detroit’s prac­tice of an­nual facelifts – smart, of­ten low-key and above the va­garies of fash­ion.

Or, as Mr. Hawthorn put it, here was a car with a fin­ish ‘as splen­did as the Mid­night Sun’.

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