STELLARTON - The last Volvo made in Canada has found its way to the Museum of Industry.
The 1999 Volvo S70 will soon take its place on the floor beside the 1963 B-18 Volvo Sedan, which was the first Volvo manufactured in Canada.
“This is the last one assembled here and at the time this was made workers knew the plant was closing so several of them signed their names on spots on the car,” said Debra MacNabb, director of the Museum of Industry.
The Volvo Canada plant, located in Bayers Lake, closed in December 1998 and the company gave the 1999 S70 to the IWK Grace Hospital for a fundraising raffle.
Jean Romkey of Dartmouth won the car and drove it up until a month ago.
“Eighteen years ago, I brought a ticket for $100 at the children’s hospital,” Romkey said. “I said I really needed a second car because my dad was older and needed to get around. I saw on television an advertisement for it so I phoned up and gave my Mastercard number over phone and they drew it end of May.”
She said the Volvo came with a year’s supply of gas and a car telephone.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “I drove my parents around in it until they were 90.”
She had visited the Museum of Industry over the years and knew that the Volvo’s final resting place would be in Stellarton.
“I don’t think anyone including my family believed me,” she said, adding she decided it was time to fulfil her dream of seeing it at the museum after she and her husband discussed downsizing their lives by moving into a condominium and possibly purchasing an electric car.
MacNabb said she has had her eye on this vehicle since the plant closed, but she never thought it would actually come to the museum after it was raffled off in the lottery.
“So for us, we have the first and the last Volvo presence in Nova Scotia,” she said. “When I knew they were closing I wanted to get the last one, but you never know when is a good time to ask that question.”
McNabb said the museum had a good relationship with the Volvo plant in Bayers Lake because when it first received the 1963 Volvo, it worked with the plant staff to restore the car.
The original Nova Scotia Volvo factory was set up in an old former sugar refinery on the Dartmouth waterfront; four years later it moved to a larger facility in Halifax and then, decades later, to a state-of-the-art plant at Bayers Lake Industrial Park, Halifax. The new factory had the capacity to produce 8,000 cars a year and employed 200 workers. Parts from Sweden were shipped to Halifax via container ship. The cars were transported to markets in the U.S. and Canada. The plant closed in 1998 due to Volvo's excess manufacturing capacity internationally.
According to Volvo, the exterior of the S70 showed softer styling than its predecessor, but still carried a strong Volvo identity. Inside the car, the dashboard was new as was most of the interior. In the area of safety a number of improvements were made.
“It has the leather seats and sunroof and it had a phone,” she said.
MacNabb said the first and last Volvo’s will be placed in the same area so people can compare the two vehicles and see the advances made in the auto industry.
The Volvo plant opened with much fanfare in 1963 because it was the first to be located here outside of Sweden. It was a victory for Industrial Estates Limited (IEL), a provincial crown corporation set up in 1958 to attract more manufacturing businesses to Nova Scotia. The first president of IEL was Frank Sobey who proved instrumental in attracting new companies to the province throughout the 1960s.
Volvo was seeking greater access to the North American market and with the attractive incentives offered by IEL, Nova Scotia presented an offer too good to refuse. They were given a deal that allowed them to bring in the parts duty free.