Sunday 12 October 2014
The Volvo 300 Series is a rear wheel drive automobile sold as both a hatchback and (later) a conventional saloon from 1976 to 1991. It was launched in the Netherlands shortly after Volvo acquired a major stake in the passenger car division of DAF in 1973. The series consisted of the Volvo 340 (initially badged as the 343/345) and the later Volvo 360.
The 300 series was unusual in having the gearbox mounted over the rear axle (which was of the De Dion tube type), with the 2 liter models having the driveshaft enclosed in a "torque tube". The rear-mounted gearbox helped with weight distribution but resulted in an unusually large transmission tunnel, especially by comparison with then-contemporary front wheel drive competitors such as the Mk. III Ford Escort and the Opel Kadett E/Mk. II Vauxhall Astra.
Overall, the 300 series was considered heavy and unrewarding to drive but reliable and safe by the standards of its day. However, early 360GLT versions were well regarded by more enthusiastic drivers, with the unusual gearbox location ensuring good weight distribution and unusually good balance and traction.
The Volvo 343 was introduced in 1975. DAF had already begun development of this car as a replacement for the Volvo (previously DAF) 66. It was fitted with a 1.4 litre Renault engine in the front and DAF's radical Variomatic continuously variable transmission unusually mounted in the rear, helping weight distribution. To add to the appeal of the car, Volvo adapted the M45 manual transmission from the 200 series to fit in place of the CVT, and was sold alongside the CVT models from 1979. A five-door model, the 345, was added in 1980. In around 1980 also larger wrap around bumpers were introduced. 1981 saw the addition of an additional engine option, the Volvo designed B19, only available with the manual transmission. A revised bonnet, grille and front lamp arrangement and slightly different wings signalled a facelift in 1981, which also gave the car a new dashboard and revised interior.
It was one of the first hatchbacks of this size to be produced in Europe, following the trend set by the original Volkswagen Golf in 1974.
The third digit designating the number of doors was dropped from model designations in 1983. The 360 arrived that year with two 2.0 litre engine choices, the 92 bhp (69 kW) B19A and the 115 bhp (86 kW) B19E, also from Volvo. This 2-litre 360 model was available in five-door and three-door hatchback form, with four-door saloon models added in 1984.
In around 1985 a further facelift was introduced. Amongst other small changes, (optionally body coloured) wrap-around bumpers with the indicator repeaters attached to them were fitted. Instrumentation changed from Smiths units to VDO. The older Volvo redblock engines in the 360 were upgraded to the low friction B200 unit. Capacities and outputs remained much the same. The carburettor version was designated B200K and the Bosch LE-Jet fuel injected version is known as the B200E.
From 1987 on, incremental improvements in features and emissions control were made. Production of the 300 series ended in 1991, despite the fact it was supposedly replaced by the Volvo 440 in 1987.
A famous advertisement for the 300 series in the late 1980s saw a crash test dummy "come alive", and drive a 340 out of a second floor factory window, nose-diving into the concrete ground.
The last ever car of the Volvo 300 series (a white Volvo 340) rolled off the production line on 13 March 1991, three years after the launch of the 400 Series model which was designed as its replacement.
- engine: 4 cylinders
- capacity: 1470 cc
- horsepower: 65 HP
- gearbox: 5+1
- top speed: 150 km/h