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One-of-None, Coachbuilt 1972 Volvo “165” Heads to Auction

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Images by Fredrik Nyblad

Volvo lovers will soon have the opportunity to purchase a classic model that doesn’t exist, at least according to the Swedish automaker’s production records.

Visit a Volvo showroom today and you’ll find plenty of powerful, luxurious, factory-built family haulers in the form of the V-series and Cross Country wagons, and XC-series SUVs. But look back 40-plus years, and you’ll find this Swedish automaker’s early wagons were purely utilitarian, from the 1950s Duett through the 1974 145. Volvo didn’t offer a leather-lined six-cylinder station wagon until its Peugeot-Renault-Volvo “PRV” V-6 engine-powered 265 debuted for 1976.

So what is this Cypress Green station wagon, with the impressively long hood and tall grille? It’s a special five-door version of the B30 straight-six-powered 164, Volvo’s flagship sedan from 1968 to 1975. And it was not a product of the Gothenburg plant in 1972, as we see it today.

This car is a literal blending of a 164 sedan and 145 wagon, and it was built at the request of an engineer working in Volvo’s Special Vehicles Department. That engineer, Sture Levin, had coordinated with the Malmö-based coachbuilder, Heinel Karosserifabrik, in 1970, to build a prototype ambulance based on the 164. Shortly thereafter, Volvo’s Australian subsidiary reportedly created a passenger-car “165” by combining the front end and drivetrain of a CKD (complete knocked-down kit) 164, with the body of a CKD 145. Levin commissioned this car, his own 165, in 1972, working with coachbuilder Yngve Nilssons Karosserifabrik in Laholm.

This particular 165 was a complex build that involved more than slapping a fuel-injected 164E engine, four-speed manual with electric overdrive-transmission, and surrounding front clip, onto a 145. It received features like a Golde sliding steel sunroof, an item never offered on the 145;  a fuel filler cap that was recessed behind a flap, a development the standard body wouldn’t receive until the 1974 model year; a BMW-sourced interior remote control for the driver’s side exterior mirror; comprehensive Jaeger sports instrumentation from the Volvo Competition catalog; rare-in-Sweden air conditioning; and a US market-style luggage rack.

The build itself cost about 25,000 SEK in 1972, a substantial amount considering a new 164 cost 33,000 SEK. This luxury wagon was publicized when it was new, appearing Volvo’s customer magazine, Ratten, as well as making the news section of Road & Track. While it may have helped to inspire the 265, and numerous copy-cat 165s built around the world, it basically remained a one-off. When Klassiker magazine journalist Fredrik Nyblad tracked the ex-Levin 165 down in 2008, it was in derelict condition, having sat in a barn since 1991.

Starting in 2010, Klassiker readers followed the two-year, bare shell restoration through a popular series of stories in this classic-car magazine, as well as through Nyblad’s video reports. This 165 has become quite famous in its home country, having inspired both the bilingual book, Volvo 165: the Dream of a Luxury Station Wagon, and a detailed 1:43-scale model.

After nearly eight years of owning this unique Volvo wagon, Nyblad has elected to sell it through Bilweb Auctions, the Swedish auction house that rose to international prominence with its record-setting 2017 sale of the Kjell Olsson classic Volvo collection. The 165 will be displayed at the firm’s new showroom in Agnesberg from mid-April through May 5, when it will cross the block, with reserve.

As Volvo’s current station wagon offerings edge ever-further upmarket, Sture Levin’s 46-year-old creation has greater relevance, even if only as a conceptual starting point. Sign up with the auction house to follow the action.