Usually when an automaker celebrates the anniversary of a vehicle or an event, it's something that is very important as it marks a significant success in the industry. However, Volvo appears to be following a different path as they are preparing to celebrate the anniversary of a flop.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Sport, a two-seater roadster that was Volvo's first sports car and, by most accounts, a failure. The story of the Sport begins in the early fifties when founder and managing director of Volvo, Assar Gabrielsson, took a number of trips to U.S. to meet with people and learn more about the marketplace before launching the brand. During his trips, Gabrielsson noted that there was a huge interest in small, European sports cars. Gabrielsson also met with people from Glasspar, a company that had begun building boat hulls and bodies for sports cars using a new material at the time, fiberglass. It was these two things that led Gabrielsson to come up with the idea of building a sports car. Thus, the Sport was born.
Work began on the Sport in 1953 with Glasspar building a body and Volvo's engineers working a chassis. Within three years, the Sport was ready for production. The model itself was a unique design with a short wheelbase and front end that looked like a turbine. Under the skin was a tuned version of the 1.4L four-cylinder from the PV 444 that made 70 horsepower.
The Sport ultimately only lasted for two years in production, churning out a total of only 67 models. Gunnar Engellau, Volvo's new managing director, made the call to end production in 1957 after spending a weekend in one and coming to the realization that the Sport didn't live up to Volvo's reputation. It also didn't help that the company was losing money on every Sport.
While it may seem a bit odd for a company to celebrate the anniversary of a flop, in the case of the Sport, there is a silver lining. Research shows that there were actually 68 Sports built, as it seems two Sport models were accidentally given the same chassis number. Out of the 67 or 68 Sports built, the whereabouts of only about 50 are known. The Sport also gave Volvo some experience in building a sports car, which ultimately lead to the creation of one of the most iconic Volvos every built, the P1800 Coupe.