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Performance Specialists Since 1963

Customer Spotlight - Carlos Heiligman

2014-08-12 - Carlos Heiligman

My 1973 Volvo 144

by Carlos Heiligman

As to my involvement with Volvos, this is the first and only one I ever owned. When I was growing up in Mexico, many of my relatives had Volvos, and I really liked the car, especially the Volvo PV444. Actually, my cousin owned a PV444, and as teenagers we used to travel all over the country in that car on some of the roughest roads imaginable. My father told me that if I graduated from college (which I did in 1973) he would give me some money to buy my dream car. I briefly considered some other European cars, but quickly turned to Volvo, as explained in the story.

My 144 has been on the cover of Hemmings Motor News and was also featured in Richard Lentinello’s book, “It’s Only Original Once.”


I’ve been buying parts from ipd for years. Since my car was the “first modern Volvo” in terms of shape and engine design, I really needed a reliable parts supplier from the very beginning, and ipd fit the bill perfectly. I found you always provided a great variety of high quality parts, from belts and filters to ignition parts. The customer service is consistently excellent, too.

Since my car is all original, it’s kind of an oddity. Many people who owned Volvos of that era either ran them too hard or didn’t have the skills or patience to service them properly. I always had a natural ability to work on cars, and during my stint as a mechanic in the U.S. Air Force, I picked up many skills and techniques that really worked well on my Volvo 144.

The Life of a Volvo 144 4-Door Sedan

My life story had a stressful beginning in Europe in 1973. As a Volvo 144, I knew I came from a distinguished line of Swedish stock, but I was quite confused to learn I was assembled in Ghent, Belgium. My engine came from England, and my brakes and electrical systems originated in Germany and France. “Multi-national” and “outsourcing” were not yet in my vocabulary, and it just didn’t feel right.

I was only a few weeks old when I left Belgium for Baltimore, Maryland. I eventually ended up in a showroom in Greensboro, North Carolina, surrounded by two very unfriendly Volvos. The red 142 on my left kept reminding me that I lacked “style and speed,” while the white 2-door 144 on my right ridiculed my “dowdy-looking” four doors and “boring dark green” exterior. Before long, the 142 roared out of the showroom with a fledgling fashion model, while the 2-door headed for California with a recent Political Science graduate.

I was convinced the snide comments about me were true until Carlos, a very affable engineer, walked in the showroom. It was love at first sight. He saw all my positive attributes and even loved my “cypress green” paint. He made no mention of my lack of power steering and evidently ignored those nasty rumors about my ignition system, clutch, and fuel injection. He bought me on the spot for $4465.

Once Carlos and I teamed up, my luck really changed for the better. He drove me throughout the United States and Mexico, and especially in Texas and New England. From the very beginning, he always garaged me indoors and changed my oil changed every 1500 miles. I am washed and waxed regularly and never endured the public embarrassment of an automatic car wash. He even puts me at the far end of parking lots and garages to spare me from painful dings and dents from other careless divers.

I’m sorry to say, I let him down twice: first, in southeast Texas, when I couldn’t stand the excessive humidity and kept stalling out; and second, in Massachusetts, when my weight combined with my rear wheel drive just wouldn’t allow me to navigate inclines during an ice storm. He solved the first problem by acquiring new, high-quality parts from ipd, adding new grounds to my fuel injection system, re-soldering all injector connections, and eventually installing a state-of-the-art ignition system. Carlos never once mentioned my inability to navigate steep hills in the winter, and to my delight and relief, he always kept me garaged from November to April.

When I was about 15 years old, he started to exhibit me at car shows in the “original and unrestored” class. We were both really surprised when we started to win, especially since I had not been happy when he covered me in those prickly seat covers he bought in England. More recently, he removed the seat covers to show off my beautiful upholstery, and we now earn prizes in fancy “concours” events, both in the United States and Canada.

Carlos and I have been together now for almost 41 years and it’s been an immensely enjoyable partnership for us both. As he always reminds me, “the best miles still lie ahead.”

We love featuring some of the great Volvo stories that come across our desk. We plan on doing this on a regular basis so if you have a project car, helpful tech tip or other cool Volvo related story, share it with us and we’ll likely feature you in a future customer spotlight.