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Volvo P1800 buying guide (1961-1973)

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 cars for sale

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  • 1973 Volvo P1800ES


    -- JUST SOLD --

    • Year: 1973
    For sale
    The Classic Car Gallery
    203-256-9800 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • 1972 Volvo P1800E Sport Coupe


    (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
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