50 years ago today, on August 17 1966, Volvo introduced the 144 model. The 144 would become Volvo’s first one–million unit seller, an accomplishment it attained in eight years.
The product of a project dubbed P660, the 140 series had a chassis nearly identical to that of the Amazon and the PV544 which it replaced. It was however significantly longer in order to accommodate 5 passengers, and it featured an assortment of new safety features.
The concept of the series’ numerical name was based on the first digit representing the model, the second digit the number of cylinders, and the third digit the number of doors.
Three models of the 140 series were produced – the 144 in 1966, the 142 in 1967 and the 145 Estate in 1968. These models followed neatly within Volvo’s long tradition of manufacturing family cars. 1969 then saw the introduction of the 164 model, which featured an elongated chassis and a longer front hood to accommodate a 6-cylinder engine. It was followed a year later by the 145 Express, a version of the 145 modified to include a more elevated roof.
Two of the key elements of the 140 series were its Scandinavian design marked by simple and clean lines, and active and passive safety features such as crumple zones in front and back, a roll cage and 4-wheel disc brakes. The 140 series pioneered other safety features as well, including integrated headrests, retractable seat belts and seat belt reminders. 50 years on this focus on safety through innovation and technological advancement remains central to Volvo values and a defining element of the success of its brand.
By the time Volvo pulled the plug on production of the 140 at summer’s end in 1974, replacing it with the 240 series, a total of 1,251,371 units of the car had been assembled. In addition to being the carmaker’s first million-selling vehicle, the 140 series also allowed Volvo to become a worldwide car manufacturer, most notably in North America.