Year of Volvo 343

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The Volvo 300 series was a rear wheel drive automobile sold as both a hatchback and (later) a conventional saloon from 1976-1991. It was launched in The Netherlands shortly after Volvo acquired a major stake in the passenger car division of DAF in 1973. The series consisted of the Volvo 340 (initially badged as the 343/ 345) and the Volvo 360 4 door saloon. The design of the series came from de Vries (internal designer)

The 300 series was unusual in having the gearbox mounted over the rear axle (which was of the De Dion tube type), with the 360 having the driveshaft enclosed in a "torque tube". The rear-mounted gearbox helped with weight distribution and handling but resulted in an unusually large transmission tunnel, especially by comparison with then-contemporary front wheel drive competitors such as the Mk. III Ford Escort and the Volkswagen Golf.

Overall, the 300 series was considered heavy and unrewarding to drive but reliable and safe by the standards of its day. However, early 360GLT versions were well regarded by more enthusiastic drivers, with the unusual gearbox location ensuring good weight distribution and unusually good balance and traction.

After building a series of compact cars, DAF sought a partner to bring its new larger model, codenamed P900 and intended to become the DAF 77, to market in 1970. Several manufacturers were approached, including Audi, BMW, and Volvo. Volvo was not originally interested due to the cost, but they were later persuaded by DAF's access to Renault engines. This helped Volvo expand its model line-up without the large expenditures associated with developing a new model. Building cars in the Netherlands also helped the Swedish Volvo to access the markets of the EEC, of which Sweden was then not yet a member.

Volvo purchased a one-third share in DAF in 1973, increasing to a three-quarters stake in 1975; the DAF company's name was changed to Volvo Car BV that year. Free of its passenger car division, DAF's commercial vehicle division, DAF Trucks, still operates today.

The Volvo 343 was introduced in 1976. DAF had already begun development of this car as a replacement for the Volvo (previously DAF) 66. It was fitted with a 1.4 litre Renault engine in the front and DAF's radical Variomatic continuously variable transmission unusually mounted in the rear, helping weight distribution. The car didn't sell well with this transmission on the "shifthappy" European market, and sales only really started to take off when a manual transmission from the 200 series was made available in 1979. A five-door model, the 345, was added in 1980. In around 1980 also larger wrap around bumpers were introduced. 1981 saw the addition of an additional engine option, the 2.0 litre B19A unit, again from the Volvo 240, only available with the manual gearbox. These models were designated the DLS and GLS, whilst the 1.4 litre engine was only available in L, DL and GL form. A more streamlined bonnet, grille and front lamp arrangement and slightly different fenders signalled a facelift in 1982, which also gave the car a new dashboard and revised interior.

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