12:30 PM | February 27 2017

A Volvo Moment: Johan Teodor Fingal – a key figure in Volvo’s childhood

It is a normal working day for Johan Teodor Fingal – apart from the obvious distraction of a photographer next to him. The setting is ‘Nordkulan’ on Hisingen in Gothenburg, Volvo’s first factory that received its nickname back when it was Nordiska Kullagerfabriken and made bearings (or kullager in Swedish).
Fingal appears to be practically alone in the factory. Only one other employee – wearing a hat – can be seen in the picture. A gantry can be seen mounted to the roof which is used for moving bodies.
Fingal had previously worked at SKF, where he had started in 1912 and advanced from the role of filer to foreman. When Volvo’s operations launched, he became one of the company’s first employees.

Johan Fingal’s significance as a pioneer within Volvo cannot be underestimated, yet he is best known as being responsible for the first technical fault on a Volvo.

On Maundy Thursday, 14 April 1927, the very first assembled Volvo ÖV4 was due to roll out of Nordkulan. Work had been going on all night in the workshop, and the final parts had arrived on the train from Stockholm the evening before. There is much to indicate that both Volvo founders, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson, were on the scene to witness the big moment.

When the car was meant to be driven out of the factory under its own steam, it reversed instead of driving forwards. Gustaf Larson is said to have told Johan Fingal: ‘Fingal has put the cart before the horse!’

The issue occurred when the fitter asked Fingal which way the crown wheel on the rear axle should be fitted and received the response that it did not matter. After ten minutes, the crown wheel was correctly oriented, but the story lives on 90 years later. No big thing was made of the mishap at the time, and Johan Fingal advanced from foreman to head of the inspection department. It is likely to be in that role that Fingal is seen here adjusting a gearbox.
A moment in Volvo's history.