How a 1965 Volvo PV544 Sport with just 4.5 miles that never left the dealer managed to survive five decades.
Photography by Mark J. McCourt, courtesy Ron Morehead Jr.
Lincoln Morehead, Sr., established Morehead Auto Sales in 1946 and took on a Volvo franchise in the late 1950s. Mr. Morehead added the Honda lineup in 1974, and sold both marques out of his famous windmill building in Middlehope, NY, until giving up the Volvo franchise in 1998. They now specialize in Honda.
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For various reasons, Mr. Morehead ended up hanging on to three brand-new, end-of-run Volvo models that the family would keep for decades. Longtime readers of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car will remember their 1981 Bertone Coupé, a 36-mile car whose full leather seats were still wearing the plastic wrappings installed at the factory for shipment.
This car was sold overseas in 2007, and most recently appeared on the Volvo Cars Heritage stand as part of a special Bertone Volvo display at the 2015 Techno Classica Essen classic car event in Germany. It’s currently owned by a Dutch Volvo specialist, and shows 62 miles on the odometer.
Also sold in 2007 was an 80-mile 1967 122S wagon, which the family held onto after repaired shipping damage rendered it unsellable. This car was soon purchased by Automobile magazine columnist Jamie Kitman – his parents bought an identical model new in 1966 – and he’s put more than 4,000 miles on it since.
The last original, never-sold Volvo is now in the process of being recommissioned.
I remember Mr. Morehead and his son Ronnie telling me about this 1965 PV544, while I was photographing the Bertone in 2006. It had been traded to them by another Volvo dealer, and would be the last PV that the dealership had in stock. In the mid-late 1960s, the car’s 20-year-old design (dating back to the PV444, first shown in 1944!) and price (close to that of the larger and more sophisticated 122) made it a tough sell. This car sat in the showroom until 1968, when Mr. Morehead filled its trunk with spare trim parts and the remaining 544 showroom display paraphernalia, and tucked it away in his home garage, under blankets.
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The 544 would remain in the home garage, sharing space with Mr. Morehead’s daily drivers, up to last month, when Ronnie and his sons Ron Jr. and Lincoln pulled it out and got it running again.
Years ago, this car incurred some damage in the form of shattered rear glass when a burglar broke into the family house via a garage window directly above the back of this car; a genuine replacement window was purchased at that time, but wasn’t installed until just after these photos were taken.
This garage storage meant the car’s undercarriage and engine bay were exposed to the moisture brought in by the daily drivers, so there’s some surface corrosion on the original components’ surfaces. Still, it’s refreshing to see exactly how these cars were when new and untouched, and this example is very likely the most original, lowest-mileage -4.5 miles!- example outside of the final PV544 that lives in the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg.
(Yes, that’s the oil filter this car left the factory with in 1965. And yes, the miles are genuine!)
It was delightful to watch this car start instantly at the twist of the key, and after adjusting the choke, to hear its perfectly smooth idle. Ron Jr. drove the car next door from the showroom in which it once sat so I could take these photos, and he said this will probably be as far as the car goes under its own power, for some time, in consideration of the 50-year-old Firestone tires.
The Morehead family is considering its options for the “NOS” PV544, and has mentioned the possibility of ultimately finding the car a new home, once it’s fully sorted.