Wednesday, October 31, 2012

1961 - '73 Volvo P1800

A sports car from a company not 
known for sports cars

But damn, they got this one right....

Let's face it, Volvo isn't known for building sexy cars. 

When you think Volvo, a station wagon full of rugrats making googly-eyes at you from the slow lane on the highway immediately comes to mind.

But occasionally, even a blind squirrel finds a nut. In 1957, Volvo engineer Pella Petterson (son of Swedish designer Helmer Petterson) penned the delicious P1800 prototype. 

Unfortunately, Volvo big-wigs were so desperate for an Italian-designed sports car they claimed the car was styled in Italy by Carrozzeria Pietro Frua - and denied credit to Pella until just three years ago.

Volvo asked Jensen to build the first 10,000 cars - which turned out to be a giant mistake, as Jensen is not known for their build quality. 

Volvo put a stop to that crap real quick and assembled the rest in Gothenburg.

Above is an ad from 1961 for Volvo's PV544, their biggest seller...which looks like 1940 Ford. 

You can see the stark contrast between the PV544 and the radical new P1800. 

The buying public was stunned and pleased at the same time, and sales were through the roof.

There was another bonus as well, although nobody at the time was aware that Volvo had built the most durable motor...ever.

The new four main bearing B18 engine was a 1778cc straight-4 OVH motor was an upgrade from the B16 Volvo engine. Most have dual sidedraft Zenith or Stromberg carbs, and the motor was coupled to an all-synchro Laycock overdrive Borg-Warner tranny.

And this engine has proven to be uber reliable. Several all-original B18 motors are approaching the three million mile mark right now.

Yeah, you read that right.

I personally have met several people in the P1800 million-mile club. That's about 30,000 miles for 30 years straight. 

To reach 3 million miles, though, you gotta put 100,000 miles on the clock for 3 decades.

To put that in perspective, the average driver puts about 15,000 miles a year on their car.

In 1962, the Volvo P1800 became a prominent character on a TV show called The Saint, starring Roger Moore. 

As you know, Moore got to drive a shit ton of cool cars when he played James Bond. The P1800 impressed him so much, however, he bought one for himself.

Volvo introduced fuel injection and four wheel disk brakes in 1970, and a wagon version in 1972. The sports estate wasn't very popular, though, and was discontinued the following year with 8,000 cars sold.

The 1800 begs to be customized, raced and enjoyed. Very few cars designed in the 50s are sleek and good-looking today.

The Volvo P1800 is still fresh and fun, and extremely well made, as well.

Okay, Volvo's high time you pull another P1800 out of your butt. We are waiting.

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