Volvos in Motor Racing


January, 2005

Mike Stacey of Targa Motors in North Vancouver noticed a Volvo PV 544 vintage race car advertised for sale on the website of the VARAC (Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada). Mike is an enthusiastic and skilled vintage racer and is usually seen racing his superfast formula V. He was intrigued by the advertisement of what sounded like quite a sorted race car. It turned out that the car was owned, developed and successfully raced on the east coast until about 1992, by a mechanical engineer named Klaus Schonfeld.

Mission Raceway Park
Vintage Race Weekend
A follow-up article from the vintage races, May 28 - 29 2005, can be found here.

Mike Stacey is a Porche guy, so he wisely enlisted the services of a VCBC club member Peter Valkenburg to help assess the car. They found it, and a mountain of spare parts, in the underground parking lot of an apartment complex in Vancouver. After a careful examination they found it to be a very "trick" race car. Negotiations ensued and Mike bought the racer and cleverly convinced Peter to take it all apart and reassemble it to race ready condition. The only important missing component was the engine. Apparently it had "grenaded" in the cars last race, and that was probably what started its long storage. An engine is no problem for Mike, because his partner at Targa is Chris Naylor, a very skilled mechanic who specializes in Porches, and drives Volvos and can build a mean engine. That's just what he is doing for the PV racer and a transmission too. Klaus moved to Malaysia some 9 years ago and put the car on its trailer and left it with his son in Vancouver. Apparently he has decided to stay in Malaysia and that's why the car was put up for sale.

At Mike's suggestion I fed the name Klaus Schonfeld to a Google search on the internet and up came Vclassics Interactive High Performance site with an excellent series of articles titled Vintage Volvo Performance by John Parker who is a noted Vintage Volvo Racer and Race car constructor. About half way through the article, damned if there isn't a picture of Mike and Peter's new car, a shiny black PV 544, fittingly numbered "54" (where are you?). Along with the picture is the following text: "In 1991, Klaus Schonfeld's 544 won the group race at Watkins Glen for all pre-'62 sports cars and sports sedans -- one Volvo against more than a dozen Porsche 356s!"

Peter Valkenburg recently gave me a guided tour of the slightly battle-scarred black racer. It looked mean enough perched on jack stands in Peter's garage and the more I looked, the better it got. The front suspension is vastly strengthened and has a unique adjustable front sway bar. Strangely it was still using front drums instead of the common conversion to 122S discs. The underbody is seam welded and modified to accept an overdrive. The differential has been modified by welding Mustang axle tubes to the Volvo differential and Mustang halfshafts, welded spider gears, bigger Ford bearings and Ford drums. This modification is necessary to avoid the inherent axle breakage and wheel-falling-off problem of the original Spicer tapered shaft variety (in racing conditions). Also lurking back there is another very unique adjustable sway bar and strengthened suspension components and fuel cell. The interior has a full roll cage and race seat as well as fire suppression system and it is decorated with the dash plaques of many races from racetracks like Watkins Glen, Mid Ohio, Brands Hatch, Mosport, and Road America.

In order to learn more about the car Peter has been able to contact Klaus Schonfeld in Malaysia via email and reports that Klaus is very happy that the car will continue to race and has provided some background to its design. Apparently Klaus designed the rear axle modification that is more commonly attributed to John Parker on the East Coast of the US. The front drum brakes would have been discs but they were not allowed in vintage racing at the time of the cars race construction, besides which he enjoyed beating cars that had the advantage of 4 disc brakes. In Malaysia, Klaus enjoys vintage motorcycles and is still auto racing, this time a Kia.

Peter is rapidly disassembling the car and every component is being checked for condition, and rebuilt or replaced or crack tested as required put the car in safe racing condition. The differential has been inspected by Ian Wood at Rear Ends Only and he judges it a very nice piece of work. At this rate the car maybe ready for racing this coming spring. Look out for a mean black 544 at Mission in May. It should have the potential to be very competitive. Maybe Gil Stuart will have his red 444 on the course and Leigh Anderson his orange 122 and Joe Contreiras his black 1800. This would be good.

Best of luck to Peter and Mike on this very worthy project.