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Published 12:00 AM, July 2 2015
Summer 1965 – half a century ago – the first car was driven off the line at the Volvo plant in Ghent. A few months later, on 3 November, the plant was officially inaugurated. After decided in the early sixties to begin producing cars in Belgium, Swedish carmaker Volvo started in 1964 to build passenger cars in Alsemberg, where it also built trucks in a factory building belonging to former importer SBMA. Meanwhile, construction work began in Ghent, where the port too was in full expansion.
The first Ghent-built Volvo came off the line on 28 June 1965. A signboard was made reading "First car from Volvo Europe”, there was a small stage with a microphone, and the first managing director, Lars Malmros, gave a speech. His actual words are lost in the mists of history. Fortunately someone was there with a pocket camera to record the event. The pictures are not perfect, but give a good image of the time - the workers stood around the car and were treated to a beer.
The plant was officially inaugurated on 3 November 1965 in the presence of Prince Bertil of Sweden. In that first year, Volvo built 5,551 cars in Ghent and Alsemberg. In 2014, 264,200 Volvos were driven off the assembly line in Ghent. In the meantime, Volvo has built more than 5.5 million cars in Ghent. It has also been decided to build the next generation of compact Volvos in Ghent - in order to add an additional model to the range.
On Monday 29 June two Volvos built in 1965 and 'Made in Ghent' with consecutive chassis numbers were reunited at the factory – a unique event 50 years on. Both cars are still in excellent condition. Having two consecutive two chassis numbers means that they stood together on the assembly line in Ghent in 1965.
With the help of the Volvo Classic Club Belgium we have reunited these two Volvos after half a century in their birthplace, one behind the other on the assembly line.