2 x c303 + volvo emblem 1974 - Wechsel zur deutschen Sprache

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What is a Volvo C303 ?


By the reputation Volvo holds as a producer of save and relieable cars and trucks it is not surprising that Volvo delivers to the swedish army, too. Being neutral Sweden had an open border to the Eastern Block across the Baltic Sea. Despite the orientation towards the NATO Sweden always stayed independend and based on limited resources preferably efficient forces were aspired.

This in mind in the 70s the type series C3 was developed as an multi purpose all terrain vehicle.

Sebastians C303 in Schweden


Volvo delivered light all terrain vehicles to the swedish army for a long time, for example the legendary TP21 "Sugga". In the 60s for the military the type series 903 was developed, wich later became the civil version C202. From all the series 903 Volvo produced more than 12.000 up to the 70s. This class of vehicles was nicknamed "Valp", that means "puppy" - not grown up. A subtile hint that this car was a little too smal for the proposed needs. Exact data you can get at www.4x4.ms/mil/

These cars didn't have a limited slip differential and simple rigid axles, in terrain they liked to tip over. But the construction as an forward controll - steering and pedals in front of the first axle - produced a lot of usable space in spite of the compact measurement. Very much later the production was sold to Hungary, where it may be running still with little modifications.

The principle of an all terrain forward conrolled lorry seemed to be very favoured in Europe. From 1967 on Sweden intended to build a capable enhanced type series. 1971 in austria the production of the Pinzgauer started, an enlarged type of a forward control in different versions, from 1972 on the brittish industry tried to develop something adaequate with the landrover 101, which was built from 1975 on, but only 2669 pieces.

Franks C304 in Schweden


The designer Nils Magnus Hartelius could adapt some of his work from the C202 to the development of the C303. Keeping the wheels nearly at the same size the car got 12 cm wider and at least 35 cm longer. The use of portal axles like on the german Unimog and later on the Pinzgauer made the ground clearance at least 9 cm higher. The gearing in the hubs of the portal axles allowed to transfer more torque and power through transmission elemets of virtually smaller size. The track more wide should reduce the tendency of tipping over.

The stable and torsion free ladder frame with the engine positioned behind the front axle persisted, a new element was the vacuum technology. Both axles had a limited slip differential, wich could be switched on and off by vacuuum servos. Two additional servos powered the new brake system with two circuits. The axles were simple rigid axles with leaf springs as before. The comfort was improved by softer tyres, the normal pressure was now 1,7 Bar instead of 2,4 Bar. The partial interior trim of the more silent cabin made drivers coming from a C202 believe to enter a limousine.

There was space for one person more - now 7 - and - the car provided still more free load space. The load capacity grew from 650 kg to more than 1000 kg. Therefore the engine had to grow, too. Instead the first planned four cylinder 1,8 liter engine from the "Valp" the C303 got slightly modified the same six cylinder 3 liter engine as it was built into the luxury Volvo limousine type 164. Power and torque increased adaequate to the load capacity, the fuel consumpion of high octane fuel did also.

Greg David mit dem TGB1111 in Hollister, Ca.TGB1111 in Hollister, Ca.


Volvo as well as the swedish army had the intention to get a vehicle to serve a wide range of different purposes. The lightweight lorry of the type series C3 should be usefull for patrol or timber control, as ambulance, for the fire brigade or as a small truck for construction sites. The army looked for a command and radio cab in different sizes, ambulances, troop carriers and small trucks for transportation. And on the edge a fast jeep.

At first there was the fourwheeler with hardtop and canvas, thereby two different layouts for the seating in the back. The hardtops had a civil career at fire brigades and at the energy provider Vattenvall, they were also available in a longer version as a sixwheeler C304.

Further development required the seperation of the drivers cabin. Instead a grid between the cab and the back there was a solid steel plate inserted to close the cabin. Behind the cabin only the ladder frame was left. There upon a wider load carrier or a closed hut i.e. for an ambulance could be fitted.

C306 sixwheeler with box

These possibilities for different plattforms were given for the sixwheeler, too. Additional the sixwheeler as well as the fourwheeler was built with a longer wheelbase. All versions had all wheel drive to switch on and off.

The opposite extrem to the small trucks was the tank hunter. A fourwheeler was cut off below of the windows, the frame of the front windows and the roll cage bar with a canvas were to fold down. With an anti tank gun mounted on top the four soldiers on board were advised to hide in difficoult terrain to fight against soviet tanks. Ok, smaller, lighter, faster and more capable in terrain is nearly impossible.

Depending on length and load capacity the different series had three different gearings in the hubs of the portal axles to transfer the needed power. The short fourwheeler C303 had "fast", the long fourwheeler and the short sixwheeler C304 "medium" and the long sixwheeler C306 "slow" axles. Therefore the heavy vehicles got 5speed gearboxes later.

A version with 4 axles and a experiment with amphibic capacity never left the prototype status. The C303 with right hand steering was not ordered by the british army, they preferred landrover. All together from 1974 to 1984 there were 8718 pieces produced.

Trial vehicle of Johan Jans van Bockrijck, front view
Trial vehicle of Johan Jans van Bockrijck, back end


With the end of the cold war and the disruption of the Soviet Union the swedish army lost an enemy and was advised to shrink. A lot of C30X have been delivered to some baltic states. Every year some dozens go from the storage to auctions or are sold to private users somehow. Some start a new career in the trial sport scene.

This possibility to get military material was a nice option for mercenary soldiers. May be 2004 a danish middleman bought a whole bunch of C30X and these are now - armed again - in use on different war and terror scenes in the third world. The vehicles are just as good. The swedish people were not amused....

A reaction from the swedish politics may be, to dismantle whole storages of well maintained C30X directly to scrap. For us fans of oldtimers and offroaders this is a horror scenario, too. Couldn't they give these cars free to serve for spare parts?

donation cars

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