kreb GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/18/09 4:10 p.m.

I had an absolute blast last weekend at:

Co-driving my friend's 1959 Alfa Spyder 2000. So good in fact that I'm considering getting a vintage car of my own to take part in future events with. I've got a hankering to build up a Volvo 544. Had one years ago and loved it in many ways. Now I'm not a big purist, but I do have a measure of respect for history, so I'm thinking of folowing one of three approaches.

-Authentic: shoot for something relatively accurate for a performance build up circa 1965. In this case I'd spend more money on a cleaner starting point.

-In the family updates: Find something like a 1972 1800es and put in the 4 wheel discs, stronger axle, B20 and such.

-Restomod: Rebuild around a a modern donor. - later Volvo, Miata, Bimmer et cetera. In this case I'd look for a beater so that I don't feel as bad about chopping up a classic.

In any of the scenarios, I'm going to want something that I can flog on a backroad with some confidence in the car's handling and reliability. I'd be interested in hearing this group's feedback on such a project (folly?)

VClassics New Reader
9/18/09 5:28 p.m.

I'd go somewhere between authentic and "in family" updating:

Stick with the B18 -- they are inherently smoother and rev more easily than the B20. Port the head (particularly the exhaust side), raise compression to 10:1, replace the stock "C" cam with the Volvo "D" , update the manifolds to the unified '66-'67 one that has dual down-pipes, increase exhaust system to 2" or 2-1/4" . That takes you from 90 HP to 125 or so, with a matching torque increase.

If you don't mind a little slicing and dicing on the transmission tunnel, the M41 trans with OD is a nice upgrade to the M40 4-speed.

Urethane bushings in the lower A-arms and throughout the rear. It's possible to weld in a front cross-member from a 122 or 1800 and use that front suspension, but a lot of the PV's driving character comes from its having kingpins and trunnions -- I'd keep those.

Front disc brakes are an easy conversion. I'd leave the rear as-is -- the tapered axles are no problem with the amount of power you'd have and the limited tire sizes you can fit under the fenders.

Much heavier front sway bar, and reinforce the mounting points for sure. Run as much negative camber as the adjustment allows (which isn't much). Upgrade the shocks, leave the springs stock.

And there you have a bullet-proof, fun driver that still maintains the original character of the car.

kreb GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/18/09 6:42 p.m.

In reply to VClassics:

Thanks for the valuable information! I'd think that a general tightening and lowering would do that car wonders in addition to it's inherent goodness. Does anyone upgrade the steering on these?

VClassics New Reader
9/18/09 7:36 p.m.

Trouble is, there are no aftermarket lowering springs for the 544 that I know of. Good shocks and a 1" (or so) front bar will go a long, long way towards improving handling. I could check with some racer friends to see what springs they're running, but those are likely uncomfortably stiff for street use.

Upgrade the steering how? I've never seen rack-and-pinion in a PV, although anything is possible... that spear of a solid steering column is a bit scary at that.

Making pushrod Volvos go faster is a major part of what I do for a living, and I'm happy to answer any questions and/or steer you to other resources.

editor (AT) vclassics (DOT) com


Gary Reader
9/21/09 12:11 p.m.

The PV544 model is a favoriote of mine. This one's a beauty:

kreb GRM+ Memberand Dork
2/6/10 4:27 p.m.

So I've been lurking and looking out there. Most PVs hereabouts are pretty beat. They were used kinda like an upscale VW bug in many cases and it shows. One candidate had a very nice interior, decent engine bay, and just brutal rust, which was peering out from a 10 YO restoration.

Anyway, going back to the upgrade options, I like the idea of building one as if it were made in 1970 - with discs all around, B20, fuel injection and an overdrive tranny (or 5-speed if I feel brave.) It's not really a restomod, just an updating. The long term idea is to build a daily driver that can be brought out for track days and club runs while being able to dice it up with cars like Alfa GTVs and BMW 2002s.

I ran into a 145 that had the stuff I wanted in good condition inside a rough body, selling for $750. What do you guys think of the idea of stripping out a car like that to act as the donor for a 544?

VClassics Reader
2/7/10 4:42 p.m.

None of it bolts up, but with some cutting and welding, you can graft on the whole front subframe from a 140, including suspension, steering and motor mounts. In back, you can adapt the disk brake axle to work with the existing training arms and torque rods. Track on the 140 is about one inch wider on both ends, so fender clearance may get tight depending on wheel and tire selection.

There may be a conflict between the EFI intake manifold and the hood mounts -- I haven't seen a PV with that manifold.

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