The Volvo PV36, perhaps better known as the Carioca, is an exciting chapter in the Volvo’s history. The Volvo PV36, which arrived in the spring of 1935, was a creation Ivan Örnberg, a headstrong and versatile engineer who came to Volvo in 1931 from the Hupp Motor Co in Detroit, makers of Hupmobile. Without the interference of either Assar Gabrielsson or Gustaf Larson, the usually very engaged and interested founders of Volvo, Örnberg ran the PV36 project from start to finish.
The Volvo PV36 was equipped with the latest six cylinder engine version, with the capacity of 3.67 litres and with just over 80 horsepower. It sat below a bonnet which was integrated with the front. The headlamps were faired in, surrounding a traditional but nicely stylized Volvo radiator grille which followed the shape of the front rather than standing on its own like on other Volvos. The front wings were still almost separate and if the headlamps had been placed on top of them, rather than being blended into the front, the streamline ambitions would hardly have been noticed.
All this new thinking did not come cheap. The price for the PV36 at the time of its introduction was SEK 8,500. The high price in conjunction with the looks of the car scared off the potential Volvo buyers who could afford a Volvo but also wanted a Volvo to look like one. Other Volvo models at the time were priced between SEK 5,000 and 6,000. For the same price as the PV36, you could buy an American Packard 120 straight-eight or a six cylinder German Wanderer W50, the mini Horch. Beautiful luxury cars both of them. No wonder sales of the PV36 were slow. The following year the price was considerably lowered. Volvo had to accept the sad fact that cars like these did not really have a market in the mid-1930s. Customers, and Volvo customers in particular wanted conventional styling in harmony with the times, small visual changes. It the autumn of 1938 the last PV36 Carioca was sold.
The designation PV36 had nothing in common with the logical numbering used on the other Volvo models. Instead it was thought to evoke a feeling that the car of the future has arrived already today, in other words the 36 already in 1935. The PV36 is also called the Carioca, like the dance. Carioca is only a nickname but it has persistently clung to the car and is maybe more known and used than the actual correct designation.
The swinging Carioca was danced for the first time in the Hollywood motion picture “Flying down to Rio” from 1933 by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, in their first movie appearance together. It is a very passionate dance from Central America where the foreheads of the dancing couple must touch now and then during the dance. Carioca is also the official nickname for a native Rio citizen. Because of the fact that Volvo’s export to Brazil started very early, already in 1933, one can suppose that the name Carioca was used as a flirt with the Brazilian market in the sense that it would associate to the people of Rio rather than the dance. Some Cariocas did finally end up in Brazil.