We were thoroughly taken by a buttercup yellow Volvo 142 the other day. This is the big box that proved Volvo wasn’t mired in the look of the ’40s as suggested by the pre-war Ford-styled humpbacked PV544, or, for that matter, the look of the the ’50s, as seen in the ’52 Ford-replica 122S.
The 140’s look came from Jan Wilsgaard, Volvo’s in-house chief designer whose motto was “simple is beautiful.” No argument. This one is a ’73 that would be supplanted by the refreshed 240 for the ’75 model year. Mudflaps on all four wheels? Check! Shaped like a brick? Check! This is a real Volvo with stand-up styling, rear wheel drive and a resolute attitude. European luxury without the luxury!
This close-up of the far from flashy ‘142’ badge speaks volumes. An American car of this era would have four-inch-high script on its flanks, a spoiler on the trunk lid and, possibly, opera lamps on the c-pillars. It’s no wonder that these often doubled for Soviet sedans in any number of low-budget Cold War spy thrillers.
Despite the dowdy stance, the 142 (and four-door 144 and station wagon 145) was quite modern for its era. Bosch fuel injection was introduced in ’71 and Volvo built on its reputation for safety with three-point shoulder belts, front and rear.
Basic yet refined transportation was the caused served by the 140 series. It was the most contemporary Volvo of the company’s first 40 years and far less derivative of American styling than its predecessors. Thought to be bland in its day, its straightforwardness makes it a stand out in this day of flowing, organic and look-alike car design.
We couldn’t resist including a photo of an apparently leaky P1800ES which shares most of its mechanical components with the 140. It’s swoopy look made Volvo showrooms of the time to be studies in contrast. It is, however, a kind of station wagon so there’s that Volvo practicality once again.
The 122S was the predecessor of the 140. It had an inviting roundness to it and presented perhaps as pleasingly plump but certainly not on an Anita Ekberg scale.
Volvo’s reputation for safety was well-deserved but the company may have, ahem, “burnished” it somewhat with this commercial depicting a literal stack of 140s, the bottommost of which resists being crushed under the cumulative weight of six cars.
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