Remember the luxo Volvo 164?

The idea of designing a larger, more exclusive model had existed for a long time.

In the late 1950s, a big luxurious Volvo with a V8 engine and a powerful, vertical grille was planned.

But this project never got off the ground when a survey indicated compact cars were the future — especially in the United States.

The launch of the 140 series in 1966 however, precipitated the idea of putting a straight-six-cylinder engine in the 140 body instead.

By doing this Volvo reasoned it would deliver the combination of prestige and compact size that they were absolutely certain people needed.

Chief designer Jan Wilsgaard kept the chassis of the 140 series and used the front from the 1950s 358 project, extending the chassis 10cm from the windscreen forward to accommodate the newly developed straight-six engine.

This was designated B30, had a 3.0-litre capacity and developed 108kW thanks to twin Zenith-Stromberg carburettors.

The fittings were considerably more lavish than those of the 140 series, with thick woollen fabric on the seats, textile floor mats and a rear seat designed for two people — with a drop-down armrest in the centre.

After the first year of production, the 164 added leather upholstery as standard, headrests and integrated halogen-type auxiliary lights.

In the US, it was offered with electric windows, an electric sunroof, air conditioning and tinted windows.

US magazine Car and Driver tested the Volvo 164 in its July, 1969 issue.

“The Volvo people are looking to steal buyers from Buick, Oldsmobile and Mercedes showrooms, and they are doing just that. Volvo’s new customers are professional types – doctors, lawyers, dentists . . .  people who can afford something different.”

The Volvo 164 underwent continuous development throughout its life, with the addition of features such as electronic fuel injection from 1972.

Despite calls for a six-cylinder Volvo wagon, including a prototype that was constructed in Melbourne in 1972 a 164 wagon was never offered.

The last 164 was produced in 1975 and all the cars built in that year were exported to the US.

By then its successor, the 264, had already gone into production.

The prototype for the Volvo 262C luxury coupé, built in Italy, was based on a 164.

Coachbuilder Coggiola converted it to a two-door coupé that looked more or less the same as the production model — apart from the fact that it kept its 164 front.


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Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.
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