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Volvo P1800 buying guide (1961-1973)

Volvo P1800 buying guide (1961-1973) Classic and Performance Car
Volvo P1800 buying guide (1961-1973) Volvo P1800 buying guide (1961-1973) Ever since it built its first car in 1927, Volvo has become renowned for safe, strong and reliable family cars such as the PV444, PV544 and Amazon. The thought of a sporty model from the Swedish company was utterly fanciful in the early 1960s, but that’s exactly what appeared when the wraps were taken off the P1800 at the 1960 Brussels motor show. While early 1800s did little to bolster Volvo’s image for well-built cars, the model did change buyers’ views on what Volvo stood for when it came to style and performance. Buy one of your own and it might just do the same for you.

It’s easy to overlook the 1800, because it’s unusual and not British, so it gets relatively little coverage in the classic press. Yet these coupés (and the estates too) are good to drive and very usable, and they’re tough too. Values have climbed in recent years so their desirability is at last being recognised. If you’re looking for a classic that you can use all year round though, few fit the bill better than this stylish Swede. Just ask Irv Gordon; he’s the chap who has covered two million miles in his, with little more than regular oil changes.

Which one to buy?

With fewer than 50,000 cars made, the 1800 is rarer than you might think – especially as many of those have now rusted away. The earlier cars with the cow-horn bumpers are especially collectible, but any 1800 is sought after, although autos don’t have such a following and it’s the coupes that everyone wants, rather than the estates.

The later the car the more power it has, but an 1800’s spec doesn’t really affect values all that much. Until 1968 the B18 engine was fitted, which means a 1780cc four-pot that originally pushed out 100bhp. From 1963 there was 108bhp on tap and post-1965 cars have an even handier 115bhp.

In 1968 the unit was bored out to become the B20, with a capacity of 1986cc, which boosted power to 118bhp, but this powerplant (the 1800S) was offered for just a year before the fuel-injected 1800E appeared. With 130bhp on tap, this is the model to go for, but there aren’t many of them around.

Performance and specs

Engine 1986cc, four-cylinder
Power 130bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 123lb ft @ 3500rpm
Top speed 112mph
0-60mph 9.6sec
Consumption 24mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual/overdrive

Common Problems

• The 1800 tends to rust badly, and with replacement panels very costly you should think twice about taking on a project. Corrosion initially takes hold in the front panels, especially around the headlamps and sidelights, front wheelarch lips and sills.

• Genuine Volvo panels need to be used for sill repairs, as they’re the only ones with the correct profile. Original panels will feature a series of vertical grooves just below the doors, while pattern parts will not. It’s also worth using a magnet to find any filler

• The front crossmember also rots. This box section is notoriously difficult to repair properly due to poor access, so pulling the engine out is the only way to get at it.

• More nasty rust spots to look out for are the steering box mountings, and front outriggers; the former is a chassis leg, making repairs a long and involved process that are vital for your safety and an MoT pass.

• Also check the fuel filler surround, floorpans and all major panels. Water in the footwells could be down to a leaking heater valve. If you are lucky, the vent at the bottom of the windscreen could be clogged up, which is an easy fix. The possibility is that the windscreen might be letting in water through an old and brittle seal. Unfortunately the only repair is to pull it out and re-fit.

• Poorly repaired accident damage is also common. The sculpted rear panels attract small car park dents, while the front end is easily damaged. Finding replacements is almost impossible, so repairs (both good and bad) are not uncommon.

• Engines are durable if the oil is changed every 6000 miles. One good way to spot a cherished car is that it will have a genuine Volvo oil filter fitted, complete with the all-important non-return valve. Cheaper pattern parts that don’t have the valve inside will starve the engine’s bearings of oil when starting from cold.

• Gearboxes are astonishingly durable, just keep an eye on the fluid level. All UK-market cars also got overdrive; if this is temperamental, it’s probably an electrical fault that’s easily cured.

• If the steering feels heavy, it suggests that the steering box has been overtightened to remove any play; the result will eventually be a damaged box when it wears, and replacement boxes are scarce.

• The Suspension is tough, with just one major weakness - the top wishbone bushes. Replacing them is easy and cheap, which is just as well given the high wear rate.

• Later fuel-injected 1800s have stronger dual-circuit brakes. Makes sure the ATE servo is in good health and the system should last well. Replacement units are not being manufactured and spares are thin on the ground, so you’ll have to get used to not having any servo assistance. Earlier cars feature a reliable Girling servo, and although this item can’t be replaced either, there is the option of a Lockheed item.

• Interior trim is hard to source but generally durable, although dashboards crack, with repairs impossible and replacements extinct. All 1800s had leather seats, so look out for cracked leather and split seams.

• A dynamo was fitted right up to 1966; after that an alternator was specified. There are a lot of Lucas components, which suffer from corroded contacts, while the Bosch parts are much less troublesome. All external electrical parts are Lucas while everything underneath is Bosch. Most electrical issues can be traced to a problematic fusebox, on the nearside inner wing.

Model history

1960: The P1800 coupé debuts at the Brussels auto show.
1961: The first cars are delivered, built by Jensen and featuring a 1780cc (B18) engine.
1963: Volvo transfers assembly to Sweden. The car becomes known as the 1800S (for Sweden) and power jumps from 100bhp to 108bhp.
1968: There’s now a 1986cc (B20) engine and dual-circuit brakes.
1969: The 1800E arrives with all-round disc brakes and Bosch fuel injection (E for Einspritz, German for fuel injection).
1971: A three-speed Borg-Warner automatic gearbox becomes available for the first time. Also, the 1800ES arrives. It’s a sports estate mechanically identical to the 1800E.
1972: The final 1800 coupé is made (the 39,407th example).
1973: The last 1800ES is built.

Key clubs and websites

• www.classicvolvo.com
• www.volvo-classics.com
• http://volvo1800pictures.com
• www.p1800.com

Words: Richard Dredge
Volvo P1800 buying guide (1961-1973) Volvo P1800 buying guide (1961-1973)
Last updated: 30th Jun 2015
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Volvo P1800
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  • Volvo P1800 Jensen Coupe 1962

    POA POA

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volvo P1800 Jensen Coupe 1962 fully restored in 2017 This is a 1962 early Volvo P1800 Jensen with chassisnumber 1723. This series is better known as ‘cowhorn’. Only 6000 werd produced. This Volvo is really completely magnificent restored in 2017. The Volvo has the original paint colour ‘Dark Grey’(71) with completely new chrome and the original rare wheel covers. Magnificent as well is the fully new interior with burgundy red leather with black leather details. The interior also has a beautiful aluminium dashboard. Full photo report of the restoration of this unique Volvo is present. This is an unique opportunity for the fans of the Volvo P1800 Jensen. Car has USA title and document importduties for every EU country are paid by us. Documentation is complete for registration in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importduties. We can help with transport. Trading in, buying and consignment possible

    • Year: 1962
    For sale
    POA POA
    E&R Classic Cars
    +31 416 751393 View contact number
  • 1972 VOLVO P1800E COUPE

    $59,500(£0) $59,500(£0)

    --Light Blue Metallic with Black interior, 8,000 original miles, 2.0 liter 4 cylinder with a 4-Speed Manual Transmission with overdrive. Volvo wanted to build a sports car as far back as the mid-1950s. Volvo turned to Jensen Motors, whose production lines were under-utilized. By late 1960, the P1800 was born. Throughout the 1960s, Volvo produced over 40,000 P1800’s including all variants. Variants included a P1800S model when the production was moved to Volvo's Lundby Plant in Gothenburg, an upgraded engine in 1970 known as the P1800E and the P1800ES, which was a two-door station wagon or “shooting-brake.” Significant upgrades to the P1800 were made in 1970 for the P1800E. These included the B20E engine with Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection and a revised camshaft. The P1800 now produced 130bhp and had four-wheel disc brakes. Previously owned by two extremely well-known East Coast collectors, this 1972 Volvo P1800E has been extremely well-cared for and is stunning in every way. With only 8,000 original miles, this P1800E drives as close to as new as one can get. It has been cared for while in each collection, regardless of use. P1800’s are rarely found in this originality and conditi

    • Year: 1972
    • Mileage: 8000 mi
    For sale
    $59,500(£0) $59,500(£0)
  • Volvo P1800 ES '73

    €24,950(£0) €24,950(£0)

    (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) The project of a Volvo sportscar was started in 1957 because Volvo wanted a sports car, despite the fact that their previous attempt, the P1900, had been a disaster, with only 68 cars sold. The man behind the project was an engineering consultant to Volvo, Helmer Pettersson, who in the 1940s was responsible for the Volvo PV444. The design work was done by Helmer's son Pelle Pettersson, who worked at Pietro Frua at that time. Volvo insisted it was an Italian design by Frua and only officially recognized that Pelle Pettersson designed it in 2009. The Italian Carrozzeria Pietro Frua design firm (then a recently acquired subsidiary of Ghia) built the first three prototypes, designated: P958-X1, P958-X2 and P958-X3. In December 1957 Helmer Petterson drove X1, (the first hand-built P1800 prototype) to Osnabrück, West Germany, headquarters of Karmann. Petterson hoped that Karmann would be able to take on the tooling and building of the P1800. Karmann's engineers had already been preparing working drawings from the wooden styling buck at Frua. Petterson and Volvo chief engineer Thor Berthelius met there, tested the car and discussed the construction

    • Year: 1973
    For sale
    €24,950(£0) €24,950(£0)
  • Volvo P1800ES Station 1973

    POA POA

    *** THIS CAR HAS BEEN SOLD *** Please contact us if you were interested in this car. Our inventory is constantly changing and we will have similar examples of this model becoming available soon. ----------------------------- Volvo P1800 ES Automatic 1973 in very good condition 1973 Volvo P1800ES. The car has become new green paint in 2010 (46.650 miles) and that is why this car is in a very excellent condition. The chrome, brown leather interior etc are in a very beautiful condition also. The car has the 2.0 ltr injection engine and automatic gearbox. The engine was revised in 2006 (39.369 miles) and the gearbox in 2008 (43.550 miles). Invoices are available. In november 2014 the car has had maintenance service. So a really beautiful car for those who love this version, in which was invested a lot. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1973
    For sale
    POA POA
  • 1964 Volvo P1800 S Coupe

    $69,500(£0) $69,500(£0)

    In 1960s Sweden, Volvo was well-established as a manufacturer of rugged, dependable cars with solid sporting credentials. But their slightly stodgy and austere appearance meant they were unfairly dismissed as quirky and eccentric, particularly among American buyers. But for those in the know, the PV444 and PV544 saloons were quite entertaining to drive and the Volvo four-cylinder engine was virtually bomb-proof and capable of making big power when tuned. In an effort to improve its sporting image, Volvo introduced the P1900 sports car, a fiberglass bodied machine with a tuned “B14” engine that produced 70 horsepower. Unfortunately, it did not live up to Volvo’s usual standard of quality and only 68 examples found buyers. Thankfully, Volvo did not give up at the first attempt and they quickly returned to the drawing board, commissioning a new car based on a shortened Amazon chassis with an all-new steel body. Several Italian design firms were courted to style the car, with the winning proposal penned at Carrozzeria Pietro Frua by a 24 year old Swede named Pelle Petterson, the son of a Volvo Exec who, rather conveniently, just happened to be on an internship at the Italian design firm. Frua constructed the first prototypes, and once the final design was approved, the next problem became where to build it. Volvo’s assembly plants were already at maximum capacity with other cars, so after consulting with several coachbuilding firms such as Karmann and Drauz, Volvo eventually struck a deal with Pressed Steel Company of West Bromwich, England to manufacture the major body components and Jensen Motors Limited to handle the final assembly. Soon, though, Volvo cited quality control problems with Pressed Steel, as well as the rising cost of shipping cars and parts back and forth from Sweden, so production of the P1800 S (for Sverige, or Sweden) came home Sweden to ensure more consistent quality. Volvo had a sensation on their hands which was only enhanced when a white P1800 became the chosen steed of Simon Templar, the fictional character played by Roger Moore in “The Saint”, a British television program about a dashing criminal/playboy who steals from the baddies to line his own pockets. From that moment forth, the Volvo P1800 has earned its place as a cultural icon for a great many men and women of a certain age. Exemplary in nearly every way, this 1964 Volvo P1800 S is one of the finest we have had the pleasure to offer. Built after August of 1963, this VD-series Swedish-built car has been restored to the original trim tag in the classic shade of Pearl White (Volvo code 79-1) over a red cockpit and is a beautiful example of this iconic sports car, in the colors and spec as preferred by Mr. Simon Templar himself. A full, professional restoration has been lavished upon it, and it presents in superlative condition throughout. The white paintwork is outstanding, laid down on absolutely straight panels with excellent body fit. Chrome plating is to show-quality standards and the steel wheels wear correct style original hubcaps with trim rings and properly sized rubber for just the right stance. It is a beautifully presented car, with fine detailing and presentation. In the stylish 2+2 cockpit, red upholstery (Volvo Code 307-265, per the trim tag) offsets the white paintwork beautifully, and is in very fine order. The material on the seats is excellent, showing little in the way of use. Likewise, two tone door panels are excellent and the dash is fitted with the beautiful, signature blue-faced instruments and a period correct Blaupunkt AM/FM radio. Other pleasing touches include the original steering wheel and a pair of factory original shoulder belts – Volvo has always been about safety, after all. The boot is lined in red carpeting per original, and a rare Volvo-branded cover adorns the spare tire. The engine bay is exquisitely detailed, with Volvo’s robust B18 engine presenting in show-quality condition. Paint finishes are correct on the block, head and ancillaries, the twin S.U. Carburetors have been beautifully polished and correct hoses, fittings and hardware are found throughout. The engine is mated to a four-speed manual box with electric overdrive for effortless cruising. The P1800 S is a wonderful, slightly off-beat 60s sports car that returns surprisingly good performance and handling. This example is no exception; the high-quality restoration translates into a car that drives and feels delightfully solid and planted with that signature Swedish robustness. Desirable and highly collectible, this stylish Volvo P1800 S is surely one of the finest of its kind on offer today.

    For sale
    $69,500(£0) $69,500(£0)
  • 1973 Volvo P1800 ES

    £22,995 £22,995

    SPK 480M was first registered on the 1st August 1973 and is finished in Sea Green with Tan leather upholstery with automatic transmission. This is the first Volvo P1800 Estate we have had in over fifteen years and they are becoming increasingly rare in RHD format. Little over 8000 P1800 Estates were produced and roughly a quarter of these were made for the UK market. According to club sources, around 1000 original UK cars have survived making this such a rare find. This particular example had just one owner from 1987 to 2016 and still retains its original registration mark. The car comes with a significant amount of history with photographs of restoration work and over £12,000 worth of receipts. In recent years the Volvo has been treated to a full re-paint and back in 2003 had a major body restoration carried out by Classic Restorations Ltd in Alyth. This included fitting brand new front wings and the cutting out of corrosion and fabricating in new metal work. The car was clearly very original at this stage and required a major body rebuild. More recently in 2015 the P1800 has been treated to new front and rear brake calipers, new brake hoses, handbrake cable, handbrake shoes, new

    • Year: 1973
    For sale
    £22,995 £22,995
  • 1972 Volvo P1800E Sport Coupe

    POA POA

    (SOLD) This very original 1972 P1800E is finished in crisp white paint over a black interior with tan carpets. Driven sparingly, the Volvo presents as an attractive car that is ready for driving. The paint and bodywork are attractive and tidy, and the exterior trim is complete and in good condition. The stylish interior features black upholstery, original instruments, along with a AM/FM/cassette stereo. Mechanically, the p1800E features Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection and the four-speed overdrive manual transmission’s performance is brisk, as the B20 produces plenty of torque. The P1800E is a wonderful driver’s car that is easy to drive and full of the classic styling that collectors and enthusiasts look for - making this Volvo an excellent choice for the new classic car collector and enthusiast.

    • Year: 1972
    For sale
    POA POA