With the launch of the 144, Volvo adopted a new and logical numbering system. The second figure denoted the number of cylinders and the third and last the number of doors. Although first announced in August 1966, production did not get underway until 1967. The new 144 was available with a choice of engines – the B18A delivering 85hp at 5000rpm and the B18B rated at 115hp at 6000rpm. The A was fitted with a Zenith Stromberg horizontal carburettor, while twin SU units were used on the B type. The version with the more powerful engine was designated the 144S.
The front suspension incorporated wishbones mounted in rubber bushes with the wheel spindles supported by ball joints. The steering was of the cam and roller type and the turning circle (9.25 metres) was smaller than that of its predecessor. At the rear the live axle was now supported by two longitudinal suspension arms with twin torque struts. The axle was retained laterally by a Panhard rod.
In terms of safety, the new car was a step ahead of most of its competitors. It was equipped with disc brakes on all four wheels (a rarity at the time except in much more expensive cars). An unusual feature the Volvo designers added to the brakes was a small individual handbrake drum in each wheel to overcome the usual problem of poor handbrake operation on disc brake cars. However, the major advance was the introduction of the sophisticated dual-circuit braking system, which was unique to Volvo and far ahead of competitive systems.
The steering column was divided to prevent it from being thrust backwards into the car in the event of a head-on collision and the steering wheel itself was of a collapsible safety type. The three-point safety belts featured a locking system in which a metal tab was gently engaged in a slotted element, while the body was of an extremely strong construction incorporating energy-absorbent sections at the front and rear.
With seats providing a simpler means of adjusting the backrest and lumbar support, as well as with headrest mountings, together with an extremely efficient heater system and excellent cabin ventilation the driver’s comfort was assured and passengers were not overlooked either. A special ventilation system provided heating at floor level in both the front and rear.
The instrument panel used in the cars was more than a little old-fashioned. This was probably most accentuated in the DL and GL versions in which it was finished in imitation wood and featured the big, ugly new panel over the gearbox.
The body was simple in design and not of a particularly distinctive appearance. Many jesters suggested that owners were as boring as the car looked and were relegated to the cardigan set. In spite of the Volvo jokes the design was kept on for a number of years with later models being merely updates of this styling.