On 17 August 1966, the Volvo 144 was presented in the midst of an ongoing manhunt. With this new model series, Volvo could develop into a considerably bigger car maker. In eight years, no fewer than 1.25 million cars were produced – creating Volvo’s first million seller.
Almost four hundred journalists were in attendance at the Lorensberg function rooms in central Gothenburg on 17 August 1966. The new Volvo 144 was to be presented, unveiled by raising a dividing wall behind which three pre-series models of the new Swedish car were waiting. Rumours about Volvo’s new model had been circulating for several years and what the press now finally got to see was an austere and modern vehicle. Parallel to the unveiling in Gothenburg, the new model was also revealed in Oslo, Copenhagen and Helsinki.
The cars used at the press show in Gothenburg had been lifted into the premises the evening before by crane, hidden in large wooden crates. Naturally, the entire procedure was supposed to be as discreet as possible, but this proved difficult since a major manhunt was underway to catch two police killers. A nationwide alert had been issued and as the wooden crates were being lifted into the function rooms, the police received a tip-off that both fugitives may have been in the audience at the adjacent cinema, which had to be evacuated.
Back in June 1960, Volvo’s management – with CEO Gunnar Engellau at the helm – made the final decision on the basic directive for the new car. The P660, as the project was designated, was to be larger than the Amazon, but of the same weight and price class. It was to fulfil strict safety requirements and comfortably carry four or five people. Moreover, the car was to have the same wheelbase as its predecessors, the PV 544 and the Amazon. Unlike when the Amazon was developed, several different chassis versions were planned from the start.
With the 140 series, Volvo introduced a naming scheme in which the first digit designated the model series, the second digit the number of cylinders and the third digit the number of doors.