Retired industrial mechanic and an auto mechanic
1965 Volvo 544 Sport
This story starts just over 48 years ago when I purchased my 1965 Volvo 544 Sport to replace the ’62 544 I destroyed in a Christmas Day crash at an icy, unmarked T-junction in Durham Region.
Truth is, that car’s shoulder harnesses saved my life. The steering column came back 18 inches, touching my chest, and my passenger friend received a badly cut lip when his knee hit his chin. But we were alive!
After the dust — or snow, in this case — settled, I looked for another 544. I was all into the Volvo thing as I watched my older brother, Wayne, constantly repair his Mini Cooper while his friends beat the living crap out of the Volvo.
The car popped up for sale in Toronto’s Jane and Lawrence area for $480. It had 65,000 miles, and other than the faded red paint, it was in good mechanical and body condition. The deal was made, and after a $150 certification requiring new kingpin bushings, the car was on the road. It was my daily driver and weekend warrior.
I got involved in motorsport and was doing Canadian Automobile Sport Club sanctioned driving skill tests, and then slaloms, all over Southern Ontario. I had to join a CASC affiliated club, and I chose the Oshawa Motor Sport Club. I am still a member today.
My 544 earned the nickname Ol’ Hawg because of its shabby appearance. Following an accident, I had to re-shell it due to extensive damage and managed to do it within a week, enabling me to attend a slalom in Chatham the next weekend. The grainy 1973 photo shows me driving my repaired Volvo at the Chatham MOT facility.
The Ol’ Hawg was assembled in Halifax, N.S. Its ‘Sport’ designation meant it had twin carbs on the B18 engine, bumper overriders, and tip-out rear side windows.
Through the ’70s and early ’80s, it served as daily transportation and as a track car. I have owned 93 Volvos, some as drivers and some for parts, but the 544 just stayed on.
Then came marriage to my beautiful wife, Anne, and our kids, Cameron and Caitlin, so the 544 took a back seat for a couple of decades. Before coming off the road, it was fitted with a B20 Volvo motor, and I installed 4.88 rear-end gears to enhance performance and added front disc brakes salvaged from a Volvo P1800.
Early in the new millennium, Anne and I decided to put it back on the road, and a bare-shell restoration and base-clear paint job was undertaken. The Ol’ Hawg hit the road in 2007 and has been used every summer since. It now has a B18 engine again and leather seats from a 140 Series Volvo, which also provided round gauges for the custom dash cluster I made.
Although the 544 appears modified, no body modification was done. I simply eliminated a lot of chrome, including bumpers, to give it a smoother look and enhance its natural design curves. This year, I plan to add an overdrive transmission to boost the cruising ability a bit.
My Volvo has close to 400,000 miles at this point. Not perfect, but it’s a great driver that can go anywhere, anytime. This vehicle has been far better to me than I have to it, and will be with me for a long time to come.
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