9:00 AM | October 7 2016

A Volvo Moment: Project 358 with a shape that lived on

A secret car is parked in a secret room for a secret viewing. Actually, it is not a car but a full scale clay model. A heavy curtain, a few ferns and some cast iron garden furniture will create an environment and a context to see the car in. One senses that it is an exclusive car.
To be a car designer is to do sketch after sketch after sketch. One must accept that far from all work results in a series-produced car.

A car not becoming a reality could be down to external factors such as changes in the global economy and trend forecasts. This was the case for the P358, designed by Jan Wilsgaard.

Jan started at Volvo in 1950 and would later become the chief designer at the company. He is behind the designs of many important models such as the Amazon, 140, 1800ES, 240, 760 and 850.

Project 358 was launched in March 1958. The car was first conceived as a large flagship model with a V8. Later the plans were changed to a straight six-cylinder engine. The P358 was intended as an executive car but could also be equipped with a partition, and sold as a taxi - a successor to the 830 series.

From several designs proposed by Wilsgaard, one was chosen to be built as a full-scale clay model. The radiator grille was large with vertical ribs and had a symbol similar to that found on Volvo cars in the mid-1930s.

The project continued for two years, but in July 1960, an internal report concluded that the market for big cars would get smaller - for that reason the project was closed down.

Nonetheless Jan Wilsgaard did not drop his design idea. In 1968 the Volvo 164 was presented with a straight six-cylinder engine and with practically the same shape at the front as the P358.

Jan Wilsgaard died aged 86 on August 6th, 2016 but his design heritage lives on. Even today  Volvo cars have a grille with vertical ribs, a ribbon across the grille and a Volvo symbol - just like the 164 model.