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Old 09-14-2020, 06:20 PM   #1
polaris
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Default Field Find: 1963 544 Sport

A little over a month ago I was driving in my 1993 245 headed towards Reno a week of dog sitting while my brother visited Colorado. As per usual, my route to Sacramento involved back roads rather than going the most direct way via Interstate 80. Just after seeing a pair of KC-46 tankers take off from their roost at Travis AFB, I settled into the 18-mile stretch of Route 12 along the sprawling Shiloh Wind Farm in the Montezuma Hills and into Rio Vista to cross the Sacramento River (aka Sacramento River Deep Water Channel.) About two miles shy of Rio Vista see a familiar shape in a field next to the highway, the distinctive curved back of a Volvo 444/544. "When did this show up?" I wonder as two weeks before I drove this same route to assist my brother in reassembling and installing a rebuilt engine into his 1986 Vanagon.







Slowing down, the familiar red outline of a for sale sign is quite the irresistible siren song. Driving up to the car, the one-piece windshield quickly identifies it as a 544. The body work contains spaced-out horizontal holes, a tell-tale sign of missing chrome, trim and badges. Walking around the 544 does not reveal any significant body damage though occasional bubbles of rust are evident in the rockers as well as a missing passenger door handle. Looking through the glass, find the front seats have been replaced by racing seats though faded and a bit worn. All the for sale sign contains is a name, number and the ambiguous phrase of "best offer."








After taking several pictures of the 544, get back in the wagon and return to my route as I am trying to make the next CalTrans car ferry across the river just north of Rio Vista. Arrive at the landing with 3 minutes to spare (it crosses once every 20 minutes) and continue my way Northeast. 9 miles down the road catch the second car ferry to get me over to CA160. These are the only two car ferries run by the state of CA and while adding to the overall time and distance of the trip, certainly make the drive more interesting. In Sacramento I merge into the maelstrom of I-80 to make the run over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and into Reno.










A couple days later I dig up the photo of the drivers door window and call the number. Quickly I learn the owner has passed away, the daughter does not want the car and the seller is not a fan of imports. "European cars, when you let them sit to long they don't want to start or run." He then shares the owner was a "messy mechanic, if you know what I mean." While the 544 has a title there are no keys for the ignition/locks, he also states the car does not have any rust. Inquiring about the price, the seller pauses and says he would like to get $500 for the car. "If I don't sell it in the next couple weeks I'll just scrap it." Concluding the call, the 544 definitely something to think about.






On my way back to San Francisco four days later, I decide to stop and look the 544. Calling the seller I find out he is out of town and tells me to check out the car regardless. Open up the drivers door to reveal a fair amount of dust, dirt and spider webs. It is pretty much the same situation under the hood. Going under the car I see jagged, melted metal and panels riveted into the drivers side floor and quickly evaporating his no rust remarks. The passenger side is more solid and intact, it unfortunately has rust holes just outside of the transmission tunnel. The trunk is locked tight, though the gas tank looks solid from the bottom side. After about 20 minutes it is time to get back on the road, I being the process of internally weighing the pros and cons of taking on the car.












Now back at home I go through the pictures of the car and notice a few peculiar aspects of the 544. Someone has definitely done some work to upgrade and personalize the car. The steering wheel is from an older 444, the transmission tunnel has been modified with a short-shifter set up and the B18 has been upgraded with an alternator. Conversely, the front drivers seat is mounted onto a piece of wood, the hand brake is nowhere to be seen and realize the custom front bumper is actually made out of a leaf spring.






The next day the seller calls and we start to discuss the car and my interest level. Without much ado I open things up with an immediate valuation. "After inspecting the car, its worth about $200 to me due to the amount of rust in the floor pans, no keys..." At which point he stops me to state "It is what it is..." The discussion pauses, and after a little more back and forth he comes back with "How about $250?" We settle on the price and the deal is finalized. A week later the 544 towed back to San Francisco and I am able to start to dig into the car.






Last edited by polaris; 09-15-2020 at 03:36 AM.. Reason: fixing a typo
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Old 09-14-2020, 06:27 PM   #2
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Lol at the truck leaf spring front bumper.

It looks like a later model motor - original motor would have had a center oil cap and a dump tube crackcase vent - this is a forward cap and a PCV valve on the intake. ANd obviously something done with the transmission - since it's not the 3 foot long stick going forward, it's some short shifter at the back.

A lot of them rottend their floorboards, even in fairly dry climates - because of the rubber floor mats. They kept most water from getting down to the metal, but whatever water got there - stayed there.

PV's are lots of fun with a few mods. They're light as can be - 2150 lbs in original condition, lighter than anything else. Pep up the motor and they're lots of fun.
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Old 09-14-2020, 06:37 PM   #3
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In terms of rust:
The 'leading indicators':
- floorboards
- sills
- rear-most section of trunk

The real danger spots
- front frame spars where steering box/idler arm attaches (the bumper mounts will have gone before that, followed by the sway bar mounts)
- brake/clutch pedal pivot area - very important structurally for the whole DS frame spar leading forward
- rear of the trans/driveshaft tunnel - all 4 rear axle control arms attach in the same small area - much rust there and the axle just... falls off.
- upper spring perches - the subframing collects muck there, rusts out, and the spring pop out into the trunk. Probably in a comical fashion. BOOOOING!!! (flop as the rear of the car falls all the way down)
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Old 09-14-2020, 09:23 PM   #4
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Quite an adventure!

What do you plan on doing with this thing?
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Old 09-15-2020, 12:36 AM   #5
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nice start. I recognize and have been to all the places in your pictures except the airplane spot. Where is that at ?
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Old 09-15-2020, 02:37 AM   #6
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Cool! Keep us updated
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Old 09-15-2020, 04:15 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnMc View Post
In terms of rust:
The 'leading indicators':
- floorboards
- sills
- rear-most section of trunk

The real danger spots
- front frame spars where steering box/idler arm attaches (the bumper mounts will have gone before that, followed by the sway bar mounts)
- brake/clutch pedal pivot area - very important structurally for the whole DS frame spar leading forward
- rear of the trans/driveshaft tunnel - all 4 rear axle control arms attach in the same small area - much rust there and the axle just... falls off.
- upper spring perches - the subframing collects muck there, rusts out, and the spring pop out into the trunk. Probably in a comical fashion. BOOOOING!!! (flop as the rear of the car falls all the way down)
Appreciate the pointers on what to look for and the red flag areas on the 544. There are a couple more "interesting" discoveries as I started to go through the car I'll be posting over the next couple of days. Haven't found a lot of 544 service manuals online, just ones in Swedish.

I didn't think about the 1963's having the center oil filler cap and the simple crank case vent. When first looking at the car on the way back to SF, I did clean off and check the ID number stamped on the engine (496802) which translates to a B18D. It might be the original engine or could be a replacement.

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Old 09-15-2020, 04:18 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by fatcatbestcat View Post
Quite an adventure!

What do you plan on doing with this thing?
Want to see what condition the engine, transmission, drive line and brakes are in. If the engine or transmission are worn out or shot then this might become a parts car so others may live. Should know soon if I will be doing a deeper dive on the car and whether I will be posted in the Wanted or For Sale section.
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Old 09-15-2020, 04:38 AM   #9
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nice start. I recognize and have been to all the places in your pictures except the airplane spot. Where is that at ?
I assume you are referring to the pictures with the EF-111 Raven. One of the days I decided to drive out to Fernley and take Route 50 East through Fallon out towards Sand Mountain. On the way back took 50 to Dayton where I then cut over into Virginia City and down the Geiger Grade to arrive into Reno from the South.

While in Fallon I stopped to check out the A-7 Corsair on a stick when coming into toown from the West. On the return trip to Dayton, stumbled up the EF-111 parked at the Silver Spring Airport. It is just sitting near the entrance to the airport. so I drove right up to it. If you look on Google maps it is parked next to building on the Northeast side of the airport property rather than at the entrance off of 50. Looked up to see why it was there and found notations of someone starting an air museum there. Apparently they have a few aircraft from a closed museum out of Battle Mountain somewhere in storage. Most of the articles are several years old so its kind of murky on what is happening.



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Old 09-15-2020, 09:00 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polaris View Post
I didn't think about the 1963's having the center oil filler cap and the simple crank case vent. When first looking at the car on the way back to SF, I did clean off and check the ID number stamped on the engine (496802) which translates to a B18D. It might be the original engine or could be a replacement.
The breather box simply wouldn't fit on the 1963 motor's block. The simple up-then-down-and-back metal early breather tube uses a smaller hole in the block.


I've owned two different 1963's (122 sedan, the PV) and they both had that style breather /\ /\ /\

On the other hand, that engine number certainly does point to it being an early B18, likely original to the car. Maybe it was a 'late 1963' production? I think they started using the oil seperators in 1964. But model years weren't particularly a thing back then.

You can tell it's a lower compression engine just by looking at that pick - how thick the cylinder head's 'apron' is on that side where it reaches over to cover the lifter gallery. That and the cam is the main difference between the B18B (100 hp) and the B18D (90 hp), along with a different carb needle. Since the PV was lighter than the P1800 - they wanted to make sure their cheapest car wasn't faster than their most expensive sports car, so they stuck a tractor cam in it.

The B18A motors had even less HP, but they didn't import those to the US. I think they had a single downdraft carb on them, and a cam with even more tractor baked into it.

FWIW my PV has/had even more rust than that - the sills were totally shot at some point and rather poorly patched by the previous owner prior to them parking it for 17 years in a carport. When doing that, the body shop flattened out the sills - to mine no longer has that little curved swell/lip at the bottom. And no jacking points.
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Old 09-15-2020, 09:01 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polaris View Post
I didn't think about the 1963's having the center oil filler cap and the simple crank case vent. When first looking at the car on the way back to SF, I did clean off and check the ID number stamped on the engine (496802) which translates to a B18D. It might be the original engine or could be a replacement.
Valve covers interchange across all B18 and B20 engines, so it's possible to fit a later 'front fill' cover onto an early B18. After all this time, that's not an indicator of whether or not the engine is original.

Re: the breather: there are teardrop shaped breathers that fit the smaller [B18] hole. Also not a firm indicator of the year of the engine.

That number, though: THAT's the key.

Cool find, great story!
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Old 09-15-2020, 10:03 PM   #12
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I'd be curious about the trans. Is it an OD, or just a later remote-shift M40?
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Old 09-15-2020, 10:14 PM   #13
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Old 09-15-2020, 11:51 PM   #14
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This is a listing I have on the different engine types a part of the paperwork when I picked up a 1969 1800S a couple years ago. The PO's husband was a mechanic at Royal Motors (SF) in the late 60s.
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File Type: jpg B18 type.jpg (157.2 KB, 276 views)
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Old 09-16-2020, 01:17 AM   #15
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[QUOTE=polaris;6113408]I assume you are referring to the pictures with the EF-111 Raven. One of the days I decided to drive out to Fernley and take Route 50 East through Fallon out towards Sand Mountain. On the way back took 50 to Dayton where I then cut over into Virginia City and down the Geiger Grade to arrive into Reno from the South.

While in Fallon I stopped to check out the A-7 Corsair on a stick when coming into toown from the West. On the return trip to Dayton, stumbled up the EF-111 parked at the Silver Spring Airport. It is just sitting near the entrance to the airport. so I drove right up to it. If you look on Google maps it is parked next to building on the Northeast side of the airport property rather than at the entrance off of 50. Looked up to see why it was there and found notations of someone starting an air museum there. Apparently they have a few aircraft from a closed museum out of Battle Mountain somewhere in storage. Most of the articles are several years old so its kind of murky on what is happening.



I think I saw a couple of F111 or A7s a few years ago flying low over the desert near Ely/Ruth on hwy 6 on the way to Great Basin NP

Last edited by 59volvo; 09-16-2020 at 01:27 AM..
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Old 09-16-2020, 02:14 AM   #16
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The first item of business is taking a pressure washer to the engine compartment to flush out all of the detritus contained within. The washer does short work on that as well as start to take off some of the solidified layers of grease and grime on the engine, carbs and intake manifold. After drying out, slide under the car to identify what type of transmission is there. Find a standard M-40 installed, thought there was a chance it could be the M-41 overdrive type, but alas not this time.








The next round of work is focused around trying to start the engine. Inspect the SU carbs and begin by cleaning out the fuel bowls which have a fair amount of gunk and residue lining the bottom. Between squirts of brake cleaner, use a bladed screwdriver and paper towels to extract out all of the deposits. Slightly surprised the dampeners are still filled with oil and move as expected. Replace the old fuel line (vacuum hose wrapped in electrical tape and secured with bailing wire) between the carbs with fresh 1/4" hose.














One of the items I noticed when initially inspecting the 544 was the fuse panel and the small 25 amp fuse being bridged with aluminum foil. With a screwdriver and needle-nose vice grips, the fuse holder was altered to accept a normal sized fuse. What is left of the ignition switch is removed from the dash which is also held into place with bailing wire. It is kind of amazing all of the places I am finding bailing wire in the 544. The lock tumbler is completely missing from the assembly so I need order a new ignition switch. The old armored cable coil/ignition wiring will get replaced out with a stand-alone coil and new wiring.








At the same time begin to clean out the interior of the car and want to get into the trunk. Removed the passenger seat (only held in by a single bolt) to get access to the rear seat. Pop out the rear seat sections, and a bit to surprised to find them two-toned red and orange vinyl. Once those are removed there is access into the trunk through a sizable hole. Hoping to find treasure, the trunk yields mostly ordinary items. Two five gallon gas cans (one partially filled), two tire irons, and plastic tool box containing several screwdrivers and assorted pliers & adjustable wrenches. The one unexpected find is the 1800E/ES center transmission console/storage box, most likely to go with the short-shifter set up. The one true surprise is finding a come-along secured to the rear shock mount and connected to the rear bumper to hold it in place. Wedging myself through the opening the fasteners for the lock/handle plate are removed along with the mounts for the locking arms on either side of the trunk. Once the mounts are taken off, the arms fall free and the trunk opens freely. The missing door handle is found but my hopes for finding the outside trim and badges are dashed as those are not anywhere in the trunk. One other upside, there is a sizeable length of bailing wire in the trunk.







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Old 09-16-2020, 02:22 AM   #17
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Awsome! Keep it up
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Old 09-16-2020, 11:02 AM   #18
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interesting
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Old 09-16-2020, 11:22 AM   #19
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Is that hand winch/comealong keeping the rear bumper attached?

Theat very rear most section of the trunk is very prone to rusting on PVs because of the way the trunk lid is held open by a locking left sinde hinge. The worst is when people think its a hinge and push it down, but also just the weight of the trunk over time - bends the lid so that side sits out from the body a little. Then rain goes past the seal and into that back lower section of the trunk, where it sits under the rubber mat and eats away at the metal.
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Old 09-16-2020, 02:35 PM   #20
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Old 09-16-2020, 03:01 PM   #21
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Also has a 444 steering wheel swap. I did that on mine as well - it's a much nicer looking 'vintage' wheel vs. the 544's more plasticky looking wheel.



Possibly less safe, but the steering column is a bigger issue than the steering wheel.
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Old 09-17-2020, 12:22 AM   #22
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Nice adventure. I think this period of exploration may be the best part of acquiring an old car.


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Is that hand winch/comealong keeping the rear bumper attached?
Could be worse, I guess. The come-along could be holding the shock mount in place...
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Old 09-17-2020, 07:13 AM   #23
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Good luck with waking up this old bone!
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Old 09-17-2020, 08:36 AM   #24
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Could be worse, I guess. The come-along could be holding the shock mount in place...
Bumper mounts (front and rear) are early casualties of rust on a PV.

The rear bumper, especially with the US market overrider bar, is so bulky. Makes the rear of the car look clunky. I got a rear bumper from some 1930's (???) car and narrowed it by about a foot for mine.

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Old 09-17-2020, 09:29 AM   #25
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I'm already liking the direction of this thread. I hope the car is saved! Great buy either way.
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