Space-age EV Alphard-looking Volvo EM90 meets its practical past, the Volvo PV 445 Duett
CY Foong · Nov 17, 2023 03:30 PM
Perhaps two different thoughts come to mind when mentioning Volvo to someone, safety or wagons. Though Volvo announced that it would begin discontinuing station wagons in favour of crossovers and SUVs, during the launch of its first MPV, the Volvo EM90, the Swedes brought out a historic model.
If someone were to publish a story on Volvo’s association with the station wagon, its origins would surely tie back to the Volvo PV 445 Duett. It was based on the PV 444/544, a car that saved Volvo in the post-war era.
While the PV sedan was built on a unibody platform, the Duett sat on a ladder frame chassis. Though this was heavily criticised, Volvo’s first station wagon was designed more for commercial use than a family car.
3 body styles were offered for the Duett – a station wagon, a panel van, and a rolling chassis platform with a bare rear. Volvo intended the Duett to be a dual-usage vehicle, a delivery vehicle during the weekdays and a family car for the weekends.
The Duett was a simple station wagon with only 3 doors but its title as the father of Volvo wagons wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for a lot filled with unsold units. In 1952, Volvo had 1,500 unsold delivery chassis of the 445 parked outside the factory and this annoyed Volvo’s then-president, Assar Gabrielsson.
The Volvo 445 was a rolling chassis mainly sold to coachbuilders to convert into trucks, vans, and other commercial vehicles. So rather than cutting losses, Gabrielsson decided that the company should build its own van instead and within 15 months, the first Duett was delivered to its first customer, the boss himself.
The Duett would eventually gain a fanbase, even more than the modern 444/544 sedans. Its design was quintessential for the 1950s but its wagon shape proved to be endearing more than 60 years later.
It was practical and being built on a ladder-frame chassis meant it was a proper workhorse with some still serving their owners till today. The Duett would continue its production until 1969 as the last ladder-frame Volvo car with over 100,000 units built in total.
The Duett started a long line of Volvo station wagons that would be as synonymous with the brand as much as its innovations in safety. However, in an era where SUVs and crossovers are more profitable, those days have wound down significantly.
The Volvo EM90 isn’t exactly a true Volvo model as it is a rebadged Zeekr 009 but the practicality that made the Duett and other Volvo wagons fan favourites will live on.