Like them or not, you can’t deny that Volvo makes the most reliable cars on the planet. There are thousands of 30+ year old Volvos on the road today, most of them having exceeded the half a million kilometer mark at least. When it comes to safety and durability, Volvo’s stellar reputation is unmatched. However, there are probably a couple of things which you didn’t know about this Swedish manufacturer. We’ve gathered some of the best unknown facts about Volvo and decided to present them to you in this educational yet entertaining article.
Volvo is “I ROLL” in Latin
Assar Gabrielsson and Gustav Larson, the company founders, started Volvo as a separate company in the Swedish SKF ball-bearing manufacturer, but it will be another 12 years before they start building cars. Given the fact that the company traces its origins to a ball-bearing manufacturer, the Latin translation to “I roll” suddenly makes a lot more sense. No one knows why or how they chose the name, but it’s there and we’re glad it exists.
The Logo isn’t a Male Gender Symbol
Although lots of people think it’s actually the male gender logo symbol, Volvo’s pointing circle sign is an ancient chemical symbol for iron. Every Volvo has worn the pointing circle along a diagonal line to the right, but the very roots of the symbol go back way longer than just Volvo. They go as far back as Ancient Rome in fact. To Romans, the symbol represented Mars, the god of warfare himself. Iron was an essential element at the time, so the symbol quickly became a representation of the chemical element. And that’s the reasoning behind it really. When you think of iron you think of durability, strength, etc. Everything Volvo stands for.
The First Volvo Had a Name
And it was Jacob. That’s right, the Oppen Vagn 4, or OV4 for short was nicknamed Jacob. Well one of the first ten prototypes was. The OV4 was Volvo’s first ever venture into the car manufacturing world. Despite the fact it had a good-looking body with a sturdy wooden frame and sheet metal body, the open-top wasn’t really suited to Swedish climate.
The first Volvo went backwards
Literally. The engineers and mechanics at Volvo somehow messed up and put the car together wrong. The end result was that when the chief engineer Eric Carlberg went to put the car in first and show it off to the waiting public, it started rolling backwards rather than forwards. The problem was fixed within a day and the first OV4 was released to the public the following day with positive feedback.
The first foreign car maker in North America
Volvo was actually the first company to open shop in North America (that wasn’t domestic of course). The cold climate of Canada with lots of snow and ice called for a car which could deal with the conditions. Given the fact that the only other place in the world where it’s colder and snowier than Canada is Sweden, Volvo decided to open up a factory and start building cars in Nova Scotia, Canada. To further make their business easier, the government offered them attractive tax incentives. The factory opened its doors in 1958 and didn’t close shop until 1998, some 40 years later. Now that’s an achievement.
Innovating Safety Standards
Conventional lap belts used in most cars were more likely to kill you rather than protect you in the event of a crash. Volvo’s main engineer, Nils Bohlin, who at one point designed aircraft ejector seats, recognized the issue and decided to do something about it. He toyed around with various seatbelt ideas for a while and eventually came up with the three-point seatbelt we know and use even today. The very first Volvo to use the invention was the PV544 introduced in 1959. It was proven to be so effective that just a few years later it became mandatory in all vehicles. It’s estimated that the three-point seatbelt has saved over a million lives since its creation. Hats off to Volvo.
A Volvo 240 was the Safety Benchmark
Before the mid-1970s, car safety requirements were a joke. They were medieval compared to the laws and regulations we have today. Without any kind of a reference point as to what’s good, there was no way for governments to test new vehicles. Then the Volvo 240 came along, and it proved to be such a “tank” that the National Highway and Transit Safety Administration (NHTSA) bought multiple cars to test upcoming safety standards and set the benchmark.
The record for the highest mileage
A Volvo P1800 from 1966 driven by Irv Gordon from Long Island, New York, has over three million miles on its clock. In case you were wondering, no, it hasn’t been locked up in a museum or in a storage facility. Irv still uses it to this very day and is keen to see where the next couple of years will take him. He hopes that the car will continue to rack up the miles even after he’s long gone. To give you a reference as to how much distance that is, here’s some food for thought: if you combined the total mileage covered by all six Apollo moon landing missions, you still won’t have 3 million miles.