During its staggeringly-long 15-year production career, the 343 gained two rear doors to become the 345, and went to acquire larger 1.7 and 2-litre engines, plus a 54bhp diesel, sporting GLT derivative, and a boot for the better-balanced saloon version.
With a welcome facelift in 1985, the 300-Series (as compact Volvo family became known) began to become an almost-acceptable (but still undesirable) car, though somewhat behind the times and out-classed compared to contemporary front-wheel-drive rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Escort III, Vauxhall Astra, Nissan Stanza, and so on.
Despite its many failings, in the best Volvo traditions, the 300-Series was built to last (although time has proven otherwise as most have long since expired), and curiously, today this ugly duckling has something of a cult following, thanks mainly to its archaic rear-wheel-drive layout.
The compact Volvo has become a popular ‘classic’ choice of with young, grungy drifters, who hoon around in their Dutch bustle-back hatches, often lowered and repainted in dark, matt colours. Quite a contrast to the old, original, orange S-reg example I was stuck behind earlier; a real low point in Volvo’s 90 years of car making. Things could, and did, only get better. Happy Birthday Volvo!