by Frank Koh
Here’s a very special Polistil Volvo 164E 1/25 scale model from my teenage years. It was acquired at, of all places, a hobby shop in the John F. Kennedy International Airport. It proved to be a foreboding of great things to come: my undying love for Volvo automobiles.
In the sixties and seventies, many of the more prominent international airport departure terminals had hobby shops that carried some of the best models in the market. On a trip with my family from New York to Manila in 1976, I found this 1/25 scale Volvo in the hobby shop (yes!) at the Northwest Airlines departure area of JFK International Airport. It was “Love At First Sight”, and thankfully my grandfather gladly bought it for me. I fondly remember how careful I was to avoid damaging it, considering I had to forcibly stuff it into my already overloaded (with countless other model cars!) carry-on baggage.
Then when I wasn’t busy stuffing my face with airline food, I would peek into my travel bag and admire the Volvo for the duration of the very long flight. For a mid seventies model car, it was packed with so many innovative features. The trunk and hood opened, and so did ALL FOUR DOORS! The detail and realism of the Polistil Volvo were exceptional. An accurate miniature rendition of the Volvo inline six, the “battering ram” impact-absorbing bumpers, the detailed undercarriage, windshield wipers that were separate pieces and those crisply-molded steel-belted radial tires mounted on life-like steel rims with authentic Volvo hubcaps!
Polistil made this model in Italy in the 1970’s and did a great job overall. However, durability and safety considerations plus manufacturing constraints of that time dictated that the door window frames on the Polistil Volvo 164E be a tad thicker than they should, but this was a small price to pay for achieving an accurate opening door which included the window frame, just like on the real car. Well, those nicely cast road wheels with Volvo hubcaps more than made up for that minor concession.
While this Polistil Volvo of the mid seventies was not the first diecast model car that featured four opening doors, it was one of the few, if not the first of its kind in this large scale where the rear doors could be opened while the front doors remained closed. Other such models which had four opening doors required that the front doors be opened before the rear ones could likewise be opened. This brilliance of engineering made it easier for the “imaginary miniature rear seat passenger” to board the car and alight from it without the “assistance” of the driver or front passenger!
Everything opened on the 164E. What is not seen in the pictures is that the front seats actually recline, just like on the real car. When this model was released in the mid seventies, the flagship Volvo 164 series was about to be replaced as the top model in the line by the Volvo 264 sedan and 265 station wagon that was powered by a 2.7 liter V6 engine shared by Volvo, Peugeot and Renault. This Polistil model of the 164E therefore features what could probably be the last miniature replica of the 164 series 3.0 liter inline six engine, the exclusive product of Volvo engineering and design.
The all-diecast metal chassis has exceptional details. And the intricate tread design of those radial tires comes to life in this photo. Another world-beating design feature was the use of ultra-thin, ultra-rigid thin axles that effectively resulted in low-friction “speed wheels”, similar to those used in Hot Wheels and Matchbox Superfast models of the era.
This model was an auspicious introduction to a life-long love affair with the Volvo marque. For that reason, this Italian-made Polistil classic remains one of my favorite Volvo model cars.
We welcome your comments and questions. Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page or email the Editors at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.