View Single Post
Old 02-10-2010, 06:12 PM
Ferrer's Avatar
Ferrer Ferrer is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 33,266
Send a message via MSN to Ferrer
Restrained streamlining

The Volvo PV36 was equipped with the latest six cylinder engine version, the EC of 3.67 litres capacity and with just over 80 horsepower. It sat below a bonnet which was integrated with the front where the headlamps were faired in, surrounding a traditional but nicely stylized Volvo radiator grille which followed the shape of the front rather than standing on its own like on other Volvos. The front wings were still almost separate and if the headlamps had been placed on top of them, rather than being blended into the front, the streamline ambitions would hardly have been noticed.

It is in fact the position and look of the headlamps that really make this car what it is, and remind the observer of the Chrysler Airflow. But calling the Carioca a copy cat would be wrong. The differences are too big and too many between these cars. And regarding the Hupmobile, there is virtually no resemblance at all.

The front bumpers of the Volvo and the Hupmobile have been said to be identical. Far from it. Indeed, both are V-shaped but the one on the Volvo is not so pronounced while the Hupmobile one has a sharper angle and follows the wing shape in a more elaborated way. The bumpers may, however, have been made by the same supplier but to different specifications. The Chrysler/De Soto bumper is completely different. Nothing there at all.
Volvo PV36 had both front and rear doors hinged to the B-pillar, like the Hupmobile, whereas the doors of the Chrysler and the De Soto were hinged the opposite way around: front door to A-pillar and rear door to C-pillar with the B-pillar used for locking both doors. Like the Airflow, the PV36 also had rear wheel spats with a small chromium decor. These decors, admittedly, are virtually identical at a quick glance. Maybe Örnberg saw it on the Airflow in 1934, was inspired and hurried to order something similar, or bought it from the shelf from the same supplier as Chrysler.

The rear end of the Volvo body was sloping with a split rear-window, and a built-in luggage compartment (the first on a Volvo) with the spare-wheel on the outside of the lid in its own steel casing. This was also roughly how the other streamline cars looked, but their luggage compartments could not be opened from the outside like the Volvo's.

The car of tomorrow - and yesterday

The designation PV36 had nothing in common with the logical numbering used on the other Volvo models. Instead it was thought to evoke a feeling that "the car of the future has arrived already today", in other words the 36 already in 1935. If those responsible for this had given it another thought, they would have discovered how quickly this thought about the future could be reversed into the opposite. The last PV36s were only sold in September 1938.

Of course all this new thinking could not come cheap. The price for the PV36 at the time of its introduction was SEK 8,500 - 1,000 more than the De Soto Airflow and 1,000 less than the more exclusive Chrysler - which disqualified most car buyers straight away. Secondly, the high price in conjunction with the looks of the car scared off the potential Volvo buyers who could afford a Volvo but also wanted a Volvo to look like one. Other Volvo models at the time were priced between SEK 5,000 and 6,000. For the same price as the PV36, you could buy an American Packard 120 straight-eight or a six cylinder German Wanderer W50, the mini Horch. Beautiful luxury cars both of them. No wonder sales of the PV36 were slow. The following year the price was considerably lowered.

Why Carioca?

But why is the car called the Carioca, like the dance? It is actually not called Carioca but PV36. Carioca is only a nickname but it has persistently clung to the car during all these years and is maybe more known and used than the actual correct designation.

The swinging Carioca was danced for the first time in the Hollywood motion picture "Flying down to Rio" from 1933 by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, in their first movie appearance together. It is a very passionate dance from Central America where the foreheads of the dancing couple must touch now and then during the dance.

Carioca is also the official nickname for a native Rio citizen. Because of the fact that Volvo's export to Brazil started very early, already in 1933, one can suppose that the name Carioca was used as a flirt with the Brazilian market in the sense that it would associate to the people of Rio rather than the dance. Some Cariocas did finally end up in Brazil.

Gustaf Larson, one of the Volvo founders, drove one - it still exists in private hands in worn but original condition - and the Swedish police force bought eighteen patrol cars. Most PV36 customers were, however, according to the delivery book people who could afford a pricey car, people like company executives, industrialists, businessmen, lawyers, doctors etc.

As for special commissions, not much happened. Only one single car with a convertible body, made by the Nordberg Coachbuilding Co in Stockholm, was built on the PV36 chassis and commissioned by a wealthy businessman. The car had a two-door body, painted in a two-tone colour scheme, where most of the original details had been kept except for the roof. It would have been most interesting to have seen the price-tag of this car at the time. Like many other high-class and exclusive cars in Sweden during these years it had a short life and was unfortunately scrapped after some years only.

It may be interesting to know that fewer than 25 examples of the PV36 exist today, most of them in Sweden and in varying conditions.

Costly experiences

Just like the Hupp Motor Co and Chrysler Corporation, AB Volvo in Sweden also had to accept the sad fact that cars like these did not really have a market in the mid-1930s.They were twenty years ahead of their time with their streamlined and unconventional bodies. Car customers - and Volvo customers in particular - wanted conventional styling in harmony with the times, small visual changes.

It the autumn of 1938 the last PV36 Carioca was sold. By then, the Volvo PV51 and PV52 had already been on the market for two years, founding the basis for all other Volvos to enter the market during the rest of the 1930s. Viewed from behind, these cars showed resemblance to the PV36 but they featured the traditional Volvo front; separate headlights and an upright radiator grille leaned slightly backwards. Meanwhile, the Olofström press plant had developed new tools and solved the problems with large one-piece pressings; these cars had all-steel bodies.

A common fact for all these cars is that they were built in relatively small numbers since sales never really took off. They were expensive adventures for the companies with regards to tooling and production equipment and at the same time very interesting from a technical and historical point of view.
Let us also once and for all on the 75th anniversary of the PV36 determine and agree that it is not a copy of the Chrysler Airflow. The Adler Autobahn which arrived in 1937, on the other hand, is more or less a miniature Airflow. The same front, the same profile, only slightly smaller.

Volvo is neither a copy of the Airflow, nor the Hupmobile Aerodynamic. When Örnberg left for Sweden in 1931, there were no models or tools to look at. What could he have seen and where? On the other hand, it is a well-known fact that great minds think alike, and quite often at the same time. For instance, messrs Daimler and Benz built their respective cars only 100 km away from each other, knowing nothing of each others existence and they never actually met.

No, cast no shadows on Ivan Örnberg. In order to find a copy cat in the Volvo history, we have to blame Helmer MasOlle and go back to 1927. The Volvo ÖV4 looks exactly like the 1924 Hupmobile Touring! But that is another story!
Lack of charisma can be fatal.
Visca Catalunya!
Reply With Quote