Jan Wilsgaard, born in 1930 in Brooklyn, New York, was the Chief Designer at Volvo Cars from 1950-1990, having studied at Gothenburg School of Applied Arts (today HDK) before joining Volvo when co-founder Assar Gabrielsson still headed the company. Wilsgaard was followed at Volvo by the noted designer Peter Horbury.
As Chief Designer, Wilsgaard designed all Volvo's projects during his tenure, with few exceptions (e.g., the Volvo P1900 Sport and P1800 Coupe). One of Wilsgaard's first jobs was to design better rear windows for the PV Duett Van, a prophetic project, given that Wilsgaard went on to design the estate versions of the company's Amazon, 145, 760 and 850 Series — during a period which saw Volvo become closely associated with the station wagon / estate body type.
In addition to designing the Amazon, and 144, Wilsgaard also designed the highly regarded Volvo 164, as well as his successful estate adaptation, the 1800ES, of the company's P1800 Coupe . According to Simon Lamarre, chief studio designer, "the 1800ES has become one of the icons for Volvo," inspiring the design of the Volvo C30.
When he designed the Volvo 140 Series, Wilsgaard employed a credo, "simple is beautiful". The design symbolized the car's robust, restrained quality — but later came to represent a lack of creativity or daring. Regarding the enormous success the Volvo 240 series in Sweden, Wilsgaard is said to have remarked "It might be due to the fact that the car is a little square and sluggish, just like the Swedes themselves."
Wilsgaard lives today in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Volvo cars styled by Jan Wilsgaard: