Many people are surprised to learn the first Volvo convertible was also the first Volvo car. Debuting in 1927, the Volvo ÖV4’s nomenclature is directly reflective of the car’s configuration. In Swedish, the phrase Öppen Vagn 4 cylindrar means, “open carriage four cylinders” in English. Which is exactly what that car was—a convertible powered by a four-cylinder engine.
And yes, we too, see the irony of a company based in a country with a Scandinavian climate making its initial automotive offering a convertible. Perhaps not coincidentally, the first one they attempted to drive off of the production line went backwards too. Its rear axle’s differential gear had been installed incorrectly.
Nevertheless, that first Volvo saw 995 copies produced for a total run of 996 cars between 1927 and 1929. The closed Volvo PV4 model supplemented the ÖV4 at the end of 1928, going into the 1929 model year. In the 1930’s, a number of coachbuilders did convertibles on Volvo chassis, but the company’s next official foray into open cars didn’t come until 1956.
That year, the company produced the P1900 roadster, which was also known as the Volvo Sport. The fiberglass bodied two-seat roadster came about after Volvo’s founder, Assar Gabrielsson, saw the Chevrolet Corvette and decided to offer something like it for the Swedish marketplace. Sadly, quality problems limited production to but 68 units between 1956 and 1957—when the project was shuttered.
As Volvo’s reputation for safety propagated, it was thought there was no room for a convertible in the company’s lineup as there was no way to protect passengers in the event of a rollover accident. Some 40 years passed before Volvo offered another open car.
The 1997 Volvo C70 Convertible came about thanks to the development of the Volvo Roll-Over Protection System (essentially an automatic roll over bar), and boron steel reinforcement for the windshield frame. These factors, along with advancements in airbag technology gave the company’s management team the confidence the car could indeed meet Volvo’s high standards for safety.
Based upon the Volvo C70 Coupe introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1996, that first C70 Convertible was intended primarily for the American market. However, it soon caught on in other countries with temperate climates. The first generation C70 Convertible ran from 1997 to 2006, when it was supplanted by the second generation of the car—fitted with a retractable folding hardtop. That model ran until 2013. The last Volvo C70 was produced in June of 2013, the vehicle did not return for the 2014 model year.