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A little history. But just a little!

What we know today as AB Volvo started in the mid 1920s as the brainchild of Assar Gabrielsen (1891-1962) & Gustaf Larson (1887-1968). Gabrielsen, the business man, worked for a number of years with Svenska Kullagerfabriken (SKF) of Göthenborg, the manufacturer of ballbearings, while Larson, an engineer, worked for G.A. Lindquist and Company in Stockholm. They had met as young men but in August 1924 they found common interest in the development of a rugged vehicle for use on the then poor roads of Sweden. Design work commenced in September 1925 with Henry Westerberg being a major force and they started to design and produce experimental cars. From the earliest days, they demanded quality in their product and designed components in such a way that could be used on many different models. The very first model, an open vehicle, was produced in June 1926.

In that month also, Gabrielsen approached SKF to interest them in his plans to manufacture and later that year SKF approved the production of 1,000 vehicles for delivery in early 1927, 500 open and 500 closed vehicles. The association with SKF was fortuitous. SKF supported the fledgling company financially in its early years, provided them with factory space and even gave the founders the name "Volvo". SKF felt that the word "volvo" (I roll) was singularly appropriate for a ball bearing company (how true) and had reserved the name by way of an inactive subsidiary company named of course, AB Volvo! The first automobile off the production line was the four cylinder ÖV4, nicknamed "Jacob", on April 14, 1927. It was, again, an open vehicle which proved not to be particularly practical in the harsh climate of Sweden. The PV4 followed, a closed or saloon vehicle built on the chassis of the ÖV4. The very early years saw very few cars manufactured and financial losses. 764 PV4's were manufactured between 1927 and 1929, I learn. In 1927. along came the LV40, a commercial lorry or truck. The first month that produced a profit was August, 1929. PV means "personvagn", meaning private car while LV means "lastvagn" meaning essentially a commercial vehicle. ÖV or "öppenvagn" means an open vehicle.

I was interested to read that when the big moment came and the very first ÖV4 came off the production line, Hilmer Johanssen, who had the honour to be the first to drive it, started the motor, engaged the clutch and gear and to his great astonishment the vehicle ran backwards! The gears had been installed incorrectly - a problem very soon fixed however.

In the summer of 1929, Volvo produced the first six cylinder saloon the PV651 and in 1931 produced the LV66/70 a bigger and more powerful commercial vehicle. In 1935 they took over Pentaverken, manufacturers of the Penta marine engine, but for many years prior, engine suppliers to AB Volvo. In 1944 came the PV444. Volvo was truly on its way! The rest, as they say, is history.

And to go with the above a little early photographic history. As you already know, the founders of AB Volvo were Assar Gabrielsen & Gustaf Larson. Here they both are, Assar Gabrielsen & Gustaf Larson, left and right, from a bas-relief that hangs in their honour in the main entrance hall of the main office building in Torslanda, Sweden. Along the top we have an image of the 'Jacob', Gustaf Larson driving the 'Jacob', & the PV4. Below is a delightful image of a 1924 roadgrader, made by Munktells, which soon became part of the Volvo group. And inset, the PV4 in colour & a very early lorry or truck. Most of these are thumbnails of images that come from a 1975 book simply entitled 'Volvo' written by Gladys Nicol. No longer in print, so far as I know. But quite rare & valuable today! I saw it available via the WWW in a range of U.S. $18 to $25 in late Aug. 2002. The two small images? I will try to track down where those came from as I do not recall their source as I write this paragraph.

And now just one of the Volvo innovations over the years.

I suspect that most of us, all said and done, would like to be able to say that they have 'contributed' something to mankind during their lifetime. And surely there can be no greater contribution that being able to say that your work has saved millions of lives. Such is true for Nils Ivar Bohlins, (1920-2002) who died on Sep. 21, 2002 at age 82 in Ramfall, Sweden. He was the inventor of the three-point seat belt.

I learn that seat belts did not exist until Nash Motors introduced them in 1949. Their design was essentially just a lap belt and, innovative as it was, it still permitted head, spinal and other injuries to continue to be commonplace. Enter Nils Bohlins, who had developed ejection seats for Saab, the Swedish aircraft maker, before joining Volvo as a safety engineer in 1958. A diagonal belt was no improvement. In a collision, the occupant's body slipped downward & under the safety belt, which then often caught the occupant's head, resulting in neck injuries and worse. Nils work resulted in the three-point design, first introduced by Volvo in 1959 and now standard equipment in most automobiles. The basic design has been modestly improved by others over the years, but we should be for ever grateful for Nil's brilliant efforts. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates three-point seat belts reduce the risk of deaths in car crashes by at least 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent.

Some contribution!

Nils received numerous awards for his work, and was elected to the International Safety and Health Hall of Fame and the Automotive Hall of Fame. And in 1995 he received a medal from the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. He was to have been honoured by the National Inventors Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Akron, Ohio, on the day he died.

The big image was taken in 1959. And the others rather later of course. A distinguished looking gentleman, it seems to me!

To the 'Lake' applet image pages Volvo S70 & Volvo C70 ....

Back to page 11 ~ & to Volvo data pages 1, 2 & 3.