Volvo’s reputation was built on the backs of its stout, reliable and robust automobiles. It was the distinctly American-inspired PV444/544 that helped the company establish its foothold in the North American marketplace. In the early days of selling cars in the US, Volvo customers were a very small but loyal group of eccentrics who knew their cars to be something special. Enthusiastic drivers soon discovered the Volvo B-series engine could be highly tuned and these big lumbering Volvos could be seen giving Porsches, MGs and Healeys some unlikely heat in SCCA competition.
Company bosses in Sweden were very aware of their reputation and wanted to capitalize on it with a proper sports car. They envisioned a “halo” model that would attract attention to show rooms and help sell regular sedans. Their first attempt, the fiberglass P1900, was a failure with just 68 built, but Volvo did not give up and quickly commissioned a new car, based on a shortened Amazon chassis with an all new steel body. Several Italian coachbuilders were courted; while Volvo’s in-house team also worked up a proposal. The resulting car was largely a Swedish design, albeit tweaked by Frua of Turin who also built the first prototypes. Once the P1800 hit the showrooms, it proved to be an immediate success. The styling was truly a standout, and the proven 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine produced a healthy 118 horsepower.
Over the next twelve years, Volvo continually refined the P1800, adding fuel injection and increasing the engine size among other tweaks. In 1972, a unique and sporty 2-door wagon variant was introduced – known as the 1800 ES. Only in production for two model years, (1972 and ’73), the 1800 ES was surely one of the most stylish utility cars ever conceived. The frameless glass hatch was the highlight of the design, one that would inspire the 480 and C30 models decades later. The ES retained the sporting appeal of the standard 1800 S, but beautifully integrated the wagon bodywork, allowing for a surprising amount of practical storage, particularly with the rear seats folded. Just over 8,000 were produced in the car’s two year run, making the wagons among the rarest of the 1800s.
This 1972 1800 ES is a wonderful ex-California car; a stand-out example of this rare and unique Swedish sports wagon. Given Volvo’s legendary longevity, most 1800s of this type were driven hard for years and left in tired, worn-out condition. This car is a rare exception as it has received sympathetic restoration work as needed, with careful attention paid to preserving its originality. The bodywork is beautifully straight, and the paintwork in correct original Light Blue Metallic (Code 111) is exceptional; restored to a standard far and above what these cars typically see. Reflections are straight and the gloss is deep, with just a few slight signs of use visible upon close inspection. Likewise, the bright exterior trim and chrome bumpers are straight, shiny and clean, having been mostly restored and replated at the time of the repaint. Fitment of the body is excellent and it sits proudly on factory correct sport steel wheels with trim rings and black wall radial tires.
The interior presents in fine condition, with black seats and interior panels offset by pretty blue carpeting. Original-type black upholstery is excellent in the front and rear, showing only light signs of use. The dash top, which is prone to cracks on these cars, has been replaced and presents in excellent order. The rest of the dash and switchgear are excellent and only an AM/FM cassette stereo deviates from the standard specification. An owner’s manual, original accessory catalog, quick reference guide and dealer directory are included in the original wallet.
This 1800ES is equipped with the desirable four-speed manual with electric overdrive. Also, the B20 engine is Bosch fuel-injected which delivers smooth performance and legendary reliability. Thanks to recent servicing, it runs and drives beautifully, and with its exceptional cosmetics, this uniquely stylish Volvo is ready for many more miles of motoring enjoyment.