Aged To Perfection: 1963 Volvo PV544

Cars are like people. Some are reliable, some are not. Some are nice, and some will try to kill you. All are interesting, many have scars, but the most fascinating ones have some miles on the clock and won’t cost an arm/leg to spend some time with. And this next car is certainly something like an old man with a white beard that you’d meet near some seaside town and talk about nuances of the weather or the local flora or woodworking or how to properly do leatherwork. He certainly wouldn’t know what social media is and he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. Find this 1963 Volvo PV544 offered for $5,500 in Oakland, CA via craigslist.

From the seller:

1963 Volvo PV544
condition: fair
cylinders: 4 cylinders
drive: rwd
fuel: gas
odometer: 32000
odometer broken
odometer rolled over
paint color: black
size: compact
title status: clean
transmission: manual
type: coupe
For sale is a 1963 Volvo PV544.

I’ve had the car since 1995 and I believe I am the fourth owner. It was my only car for many, many years and a daily driver. Together with my father (an aircraft mechanic), I’ve taken most of the drive parts and accessories (including the engine) down to the fasteners for a complete rebuild. The previous owner did some great work on the interior and seals and he also gave it a (pretty lousy) paint job. I have a LOT of spare parts and all the original stuff that was replaced (like the SU carbs). I have shop manuals for the car and a more modern manual for the new carb. There’s honestly too much to list. We’ll have to go through some boxes and I’ll show you what’s what.

The interior could use a little help but it’s in good shape overall.
1998 –
Complete overhaul of B18 engine, over-bored to 2000cc displacement, new performance cam from IPD
Rebuilt transmission
Rebuilt generator (yes, generator, not alternator)
Added electronic ignition in place of original, annoying to adjust points
Replaced headlights
Added tachometer
Added seat belts (airplane lap-belts, actually)
2009 –
Replaced original dual S.U. carburetors with single Weber carb
Modified original routing of speedometer cable to prevent breaking
2011 –
complete brake system overhaul – master cylinder and all wheel cylinders replaced with new parts
2021 –
Garaged in non-op status for many years but is now fully registered and road ready.


The paint job by the previous owner was not great and I never got around to repainting. The whole thing should really be stripped and repainted. I believe it was originally red. Don’t get me wrong – it still turns heads (in a good way) and looks great in dim light but anyone who loves this car will want to see a better paint job.

Electrical – The car runs just fine but the amp light comes on with the headlights. I would replace the generator with a later Volvo alternator which is a pretty easy swap with a bracket you can get from IPD.

horn is non-functional at present

Odometer says something like 33,000 miles which is certainly not accurate. The odometer is working now but hasn’t always… Is it 130k? 230? I have no idea. The rebuilt engine doesn’t have more than about 15 – 20k on it because the car has rarely been driven for the last decade.

Some of the chrome is in pretty good shape. Some of it is not.

On freeways, we keep it at 55 and the engine sounds really happy there around 2700 rpms. I’ve thought about adding an overdrive from a 122 and changing the rear gearing ratio to something higher but 55 mph was good enough for me.


Someone broke in many years ago and stole the ancient radio out of this thing, exposing the sloppily cut holes in the dash. It has a radio delete plate but there are some gouges in the dash chrome.

I was rear-ended in 1999 by a mid-seventies Mercury Cougar. Suffice it to say, the Cougar didn’t have a mark on it but the Volvo had her cute little round butt knocked in. The rear hatch remains usable but this rear end needs serious attention if one is hoping to get this car ship shape. This is a job for a skilled body worker.

There are various dings and some bent metal here and there… the car is nearly sixty years old.

All in all, this is a great little car. The engine and drive train are in good shape as are the brakes. It’s fun to drive and gets a lot of positive attention. It runs and sounds great and I see no reason why this engine shouldn’t push the odometer over again. If you’ve got the skills or the funds for some body work and a paint job, this should be a pretty easy restoration. I just don’t have the project time I used to have any more.

See a better way to drive something old and cool?