24 Volvo p1800 Classic Cars, P1800 ES & Wagon – There are only a handful of things that any classic car buyer yearns to have, and Volvo P1800 happened to give a complete combination. It gave you iconicity, style, fun, durability, parts availability, and affordable price tag. In contrast to popular belief, classic car enthusiasts do not really want to drive fast cars; if they do, they would all buy new cars and not bother with even the tiniest desire to restore the old ones. Instead, they want to live the old glorious days of driving on 30 miles an hour on the seaside sprinkled with golden color of the evening; retro, classic, old-fashioned, glorious. No one blames you for thinking that owning a Volvo couldn’t be fun, but take a second glance at the P1800 and you would beg to differ.
Volvo introduced the P1800 in 1961 with the intention to compete against the rising popularity of sports car in European and North American markets. Previous attempt with P1900 went bust with only 68 units sold. Early models were fitted with 1778cc 4-cylinder B18 engine that produced 118 bhp. The B18 engine was developed from B36 V8 engine used for Volvo trucks at that time. They also had disc brakes and four-speed manual transmission. Later models saw major improvements in build quality and engine as well which resulted in safer, faster, and more durable cars.
Design works were done by Pelle Peterson, who worked at Italian design house Pietro Frua. Early models were produced in the U.K. by a company called Jensen, so Volvo P1800 arguably had the right recipe of car excellence. The idea was to offer performance cars with flair of luxury but at affordable price. It was proven right with 47,492 units sold throughout production span from 1961 to 1973. Many of them were shipped directly to Volvo dealership and sellers in the U.S. as well, which was great for American collectors today because there is little difficulty in finding the cars. Remember that this is not an exotic Italian vehicle, so it is far from impossible to get one without breaking the bank.
A small problem struck in early production years when Volvo found out that quality control in Jensen was not as good as expected. Volvo cars had been known for superior safety and build-quality since early 1940s, so it would be shameful to degrade that trademark with subpar construction. Moreover, the car was sold at a price nearly as expensive as Jaguar E Type, making it difficult for the public to get convinced.
In 1983 and after around 6,000 units had been built, Volvo ended its contract with Jensen and transferred the assembly facility to Sweden. Subsequent models were sold as P1800S (S refers to Sweden). Engine was also improved, albeit slightly, to get an increase of 8 BHP. The model received only minor revisions until 1968 when Volvo decided to use slightly bigger engine, the 1986cc 4-cylinder B20 although the top speed remained the same.
Bosch fuel injection was then introduced to replace twin carburetors for the P1800E (E stands for Einspritz (German for fuel injection) model name in 1969. From this point on, disc brakes were fitted to all wheels. Two years later, a Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic gearbox was introduced. By 1972, the coupe version was at the end of its production span as the last one came out of the factory in June that year. In total, 29,407 units were built. However, it was not the end for the series altogether because the wagon version, Volvo P1800ES, had been introduced a year earlier.
The P1800ES Volvo wagon was arguably the most interesting of the series. As the name suggests, it was not a coupe as it offered rooms for four along with their luggage, but still retained a top speed of 115 mph. In the event you are in market for the P1800, the coupe version is still the best proposition. Price is relatively affordable as well from $30,000 for one that needs work to around $50,000 for museum condition. Remember that you are not paying only for the car, but also for the fun, uniqueness, iconicity, and sentimental value.