History

My father, also Anthony (Tony) Scarola, (aka The Top Banana) purchased a 1958 Volvo PV 444 in the mid 1970's from a lady in St. Petersburg, Florida for around $50 from what I was told. It was not running – transmission problems. I was about five or six at the time. Knowing Dad, I doubt he actually paid cash for the car but most likely bartered his services instead. He was an extreme handy man. Born in the early 20’s in New York, Dad served in the U.S. Marine Corps, Fourth Marine Division. He was in the transportation field and was stationed in Iwo Jima during WWII. He had a “thing” for transportation and enjoyed cars and trucks very much. He used to drive an ice truck with his father. He had numerous Volvos over the years, as well as various other cars and trucks to include a bullet-nosed Studebaker, an International, Fords, and Chevys, cars, trucks and vans. He had many jobs after serving in the military too, all dealing with transportation; he drove a hearse for a funeral home, he drove for Greyhound Bus Company and also drove city busses in San Francisco, CA.

Dad retired from Northern Propane Gas Company (aka NORGAS, later acquired by Ferrellgas.) During his employment there he drove a Mack 18-wheeler delivery truck (compassionately known as “the gas bomb”) all over the state of Florida. Being compassionate about vehicles and propane, I remember him converting one of his Ford trucks to a propane/gas hybrid. I can remember riding in the back of the truck on long trips up to NJ to visit family. I used to sit close to the propane tank to keep cool. Ah the good old days!

The 444 sat alone on the right side of our small two-car detached garage for almost 20 years as I was growing up. My stepmother used to say, it was "always in the way.” The car seemed to be in disarray with parts everywhere - but "very well-organized" according to Dad – he actually had most all of the missing pieces and surprisingly knew where everything was!

I learned a lot about the 444 (and cars in general) as I played ALL over it for ten or twelve years. I was always fascinated by the uniqueness of the car as compared to newer cars of the day; the big steering wheel, large solid doors, long gear shift, split windshield, huge trunk, chrome strips and knobs here and there… It really was a “cool” car and also very fun to “drive,” if only in my mind. Ah the trips I used to take!

I was the youngest of five children. Dad always said the Volvo was going to be "my car" when I grew up. From what I learned in later years, it was also secretly promised to each of my three older sisters too! He really was a good old man and a great father, even if we were fifty years apart. Dad used to spend hours tinkering and restoring the Old Lady a little at a time. He eventually rebuilt the engine & transmission and at one point after I left home in the early ‘90’s, I am told he actually got her running and pulled out of the garage if only for a short time.

Dad was a frugal man – most likely instructed by the depression era. As one example, the driver’s side rear floor pan had rusted out leaving a large serrated hole. Dad later “repaired” this by using a 35 MPH street sign, bent and riveted into place. He “found” the sign during one of his many excursions through the back alleys on his way home from work. He knew good, strong, inexpensive sheet metal when he saw it! I’ve since removed the sign and it now hangs, still bent to shape, in my garage. It is a great conversation piece to say the least.

Unfortunately dad passed away in 1994 at 71 years young from cancer. God rest his soul. Sadly he never did get to complete the restoration.

After Dad passed, my stepmother Judy sold the old house and gave the Volvo to my cousin Joe in New Jersey. This was the best choice and a perfect match as Joe is a masterful auto-restorer and mechanic, among his many other skills. And besides, he had a garage with space! I cannot thank my stepmother enough for making this wise decision.

In late 1993 I left Florida and joined the Army (active duty,) trained in Ft. Eustis, VA, as UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter engineer, and was stationed in Hawaii. I met my first wife while in training at Ft. Eustis, VA, she moved to Hawaii with me during my service, and then we moved to Virginia (where her family resides) after leaving the Army in December 1995. I had since forgotten about the Volvo.

Joe kept the car for about eleven years. He purchased and replaced many parts and had others reworked. He put a lot of time and money into it. The body, which was originally California White (#42) then painted blue/green at some point by Dad by hand or spray can, was stripped down to bare metal by Joe and treated with white rust inhibitor to keep it from rusting. He also made sure the engine was manually turned over throughout the years to prevent seizure. I cannot thank my cousin Joe enough for accepting and keeping the Volvo safe, away from the elements and away from the crusher!

We had our first child Nicholas in July, 2003. Our second, Giuliana, followed in December, 2004.

My cousin Joe called in September, 2005 and asked if I wanted my Volvo back. Although I already had my hands quite full with the family and work, I was very surprised and delighted. Joe needed to clear up some garage space due to his expanding family and he had too many other projects going on. What was I to do? This was my Father’s car – it was a part of him and now part of the family. I nervously accepted and remember thinking "what the heck am I doing?" I’ve never restored a car! How will I do this? Where would I get the funds? Where would I find the time? Luckily my wife is very understanding. She was also pretty excited about getting the car after seeing pictures and hearing the story.

I am a computer network engineer and now manager of three for a hometown bank. I too, like Dad, am pretty handy, mechanically inclined, project-minded, and can fix just about anything once I see how it works. I enjoy working with tools and learned a lot from Dad – watching and listening. With my computer experience, I know how to find information if and when necessary. But without the Internet and all the resources and amazing Volvo people I have met throughout the world, however, I highly doubt I would have ever been able to take on this restoration project.

My first car was an orange 1980-something 245 Volvo wagon. Dad bought it for me while I was away at Army Basic Training, during the summer of 1989, before returning as a senior to high school. I was so excited because I no longer had to drive my little yellow Honda Enduro motorcycle (with matching yellow helmet) to school!
I owned a few other cars over the years to include a ‘70-something MG, an ‘82 Chrystler LeBaron convertible, a ‘74 VW Bug, ‘79 VW Super Beetle, a late ‘70’s VW Bus, an ’80-something Subaru GL hatchback, and now four BMWs to include an ’00 328Ci, ’99 323i, ’98 E36 M3 and an ’02 E46 M3.
With each car I’ve always purchased a service manual and attempted to repair the problems myself if I had the proper tools. Anything more than that, I would bring to a local garage to handle but I always tried to understand the problem in depth beforehand. With this experience and my growing love for cars, I believe I made the right choice and could definitely handle restoring is Volvo.
Joe shipped the Volvo to Virginia and I received her on a Tuesday night, October 11th, 2005. He even helped split the cost of shipping! She came along with a few boxes of parts and a complete photocopied service manual. What more could I ask for?
During the first few days after taking delivery, I started looking over the Volvo to find any visual issues. Here are my notes from the initial review:

The engine and transmission were rebuilt from what I was told. The carbs might need rebuilding as well but the engine looks good. There is some minor welding work needed on the front side members - where the tube connects to the front bumper (both sides seem cracked at the bottom). Some of the seams on the bottom, right side, need to be straightened. The right rear fender well is rusting and needs replacing or metal work as well as the spare tire well. The bottom floor pans - definitely the forward, possibly the rear, will need to be replaced due to some rusting. One of the engine mounts and the central tranny mount (the round one at the bottom) need replacing. The rubber suspension seals will need replacing. The master brake cylinder looks pretty rusty, possibly can get a rework kit for that? Brake lines, fuel lines (in the engine compartment, connecting to the carbs) need replacing. Water hoses, etc.

The engine has "B16" stamped on the left side. There is also a plate on the right side of the car on the firewall with numbers: P-44408-1958, 187797 (on the next line), 42, 42, and 17-139 (on the last line). There is also another plate on the left side firewall with "No. 187848". Not sure why this number is different from the ID number. [Update: I learned why these numbers are different, due to the ID and chassis number.]

And that is where my Volvo 444 restoration story begins.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the site!

Tony

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