Last Call- Middle Age Edition

A half century may seem an eternity of time, but even today, 50 years on, Volvo’s P1800 remains an iconic symbol of the safety-minded brand’s more emotional side. This year represents the 50th anniversary of the P1800, and it’s just as lust-worthy today as it was all those years ago.
Image source: [Wired]

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  1. Deartháir Avatar

    I think I need a pipe like that.

  2. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    Still high on my dream garage list too, would fit nicly under same roof with a BMW 3.0 Cs and an Escort Mk1 RS

  3. B72 Avatar

    I hear they are really heavy, don't handle all that well, are underpowered, and aren't much fun to drive. Damn cool looking though.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      I drove a friend's well-cared-for 1800ES for a month in the mid-'90s. You're right – the engine is coarse, the controls and steering are heavy, it wasn't fast, the handling isn't much, the low seating position compared to the door sills was at least as bad as a current Camaro, and the whole car felt a little crude, even by 1960s standards. What a contrast to my at-the-time daily-driver CRX. I'm not enraptured with the Volvo P1800 in any form, and the coupe with its fins, tiny greenhouse, and top-heavy stance is kind of ugly to my eyes. The ES wagon looks much better. You lusting folks can have the P1800.
      Volvo fans go on and on about how the P1800 was The Saint's car. The real story was that the BBC was trying to get Jaguar to supply a free E-type for the show. Jaguar was having none of that. Volvo proved to be more cooperative, so the show got the 1800 as a booby prize.

      1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
        mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        I know you wrote something like this before, I don't know if I had the nerve to reply. You are a really sharp guy taht I really like the comments of that knows everything almost about cars, so I'm a bit intimidated to reply. I can't argue with you about the characteristics even compared to a CRX, but to me the sound is not coarse but glorious. I have a B18 in my Amazon, It's load, but not in a screechy/grindy/just loud to be loud sort of way. It's a lot like a heart/lungs/running hoof beats sort of sound to me when full out, like tap dancing when not 😉 I love it, but I can see that there's a matter of taste to it.
        One other thing is that the time has to be considered. So I've met a lot of old Volvo guys now. There's a common thread. They were all from rural IL. They hooned old cars on farms. They or someone they knew were stationed in Germany. They fell in love with BMW. There was no where to buy one in rural IL. I think it was one guy that was importing them at the time. They tried other cars, for example Datsuns, but they were not holding up well in racing, they needed to spend a lot of time and money on repairs. There were a handful of guys racing Volvos and they held-up much better and were simple to get more out of without blowing things up. For example there was a Volvo dealership near Dekalb, another near Rockford, so there were plenty of used ones to buy. Anyway that's what happened around here, so from PV to 140 they were very much liked by the people that were my friends' dads and their friends just because it was so hard to buy anything else better really.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          The biggest contrast between the CRX and the 1800ES was the lightness and smoothness of the steering, controls, and shifter on the former. The CRX worked best with a light touch – there was never any need for fighting to extract the most from it. I felt I was always struggling with the 1800 – everything seemed to have a built-in inertia that needed to be overcome.
          There's absolutely no question in my mind that older Volvos are pretty much rust-free, long-lasting, and sturdy as hell. Fine virtues for a PV, Amazon, or 140/240-type machine, but the P1800 was supposed to be a sports car and needed to offer some real fun along with the toughness. I certainly enjoyed my month with the 1800ES and it's a unique car, but "mildly sporty" isn't really enough for me to put up with the bother of ownership – there are just too many other cars that give more entertainment for the trouble.

          1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
            mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            You are right about the controls. The P1800 had a looong linkage the same gearbox that was used in the Amazon and some PVs but instead of the pudding mixer it had a little bitty shifter. It was hard to shift and imprecise in feel. Also the steering wheel was smaller and the tires wider than in a 122 and the power steering troublesome as well as the power brake booster in the ones that used girling cylinders.

          2. topdeadcentre Avatar

            Part of the problem is that the CRXs were so damn well engineered for their price point. I only got to drive one, back around 1992, bone stock manual shift, middlin' level of options.
            It handled much better than I would have guessed from the purchase price. It zoomed and threaded through highway traffic no problem, just a little whiny at high engine revs. It accelerated briskly, stopped compentently, and my friend who I was visiting installed a superb stereo.
            Every once in a while I think I need a cheap two-seater coupe, and look for an unmolested one in the ads. Hah. None left without coffee-can exhausts, lousy interiors, questionable engine mods, cut springs, etc etc.

      2. dculberson Avatar

        Their deficiencies sound like nothing that an LS1 and modern suspension couldn't fix! [Gob voice] C'mon!

        1. tonyola Avatar

          Also throw in A/C, a fiberglass body, leather seats, a six speed manual, modern instruments, air bags, good sound system….oh hell, just skip the Volvo altogether, buy this instead, and be done with it.
          <img src="; width=400>

  4. Maymar Avatar

    Middle-aged? If Irv Gordon's taught us anything about the P1800, it's that you've underestimated it.

  5. dukeisduke Avatar

    The guy in picture reminds me of Simon Templar's contemporary, John Drake (or is it Number Six?).

  6. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    What is it about dudes in suits standing next to cars in old pictures?
    Is there really any modern equivalent?

    1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

      Oh, but there could be…

  7. BGW Avatar

    Nice Price or Cavendish Pipe?

  8. Joe Btfsplk Avatar
    Joe Btfsplk

    The interesting thing about the P1800 is the solid and enduring nature of the cars construction. They are built to last in Volvo tradition…leaking fluids is not the norm, rust is not a major consideration and they seldom leave a driver stranded. They were lovely in the sixties and they are lovely now. I have cash waiting for a decent 1800E.

    1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Unfortunately they do rust, it's just that they were very well protected from rust for the time. They used this oily primer and had a thick under coating. The steel was thick too. It took a long time, but by now it's time that they are rusting in most places except CA. The front fenders in particular are a real pain. They don't unbolt and there is just a huge open area under them exposed to everything the tires kicked-up.

  9. Frode Avatar

    Personally, I prefer the taller version–the 122S 2-door. Pretty much the same running gear, easier to get in and out of, and it has a real back seat.

    1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      <img src="; width="500">
      Honestly, I agree. Here is my buddy's. I would love to get the overdrive and rear end from a P1800 in my wagon, power brakes too maybe. It's funny, one guy on CL selling two for $900 total got back to me with, "My P1800s are WAY too valuable for you to be cutting up for your wagon." They also made a 123GT with all the go fast stuff already included.

    2. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      mr. mzs zsm msz esq


  10. Stumack Avatar

    I've always thought the problem was that it looked like something from 1955-56 when it was introduced, and then stayed in production for 20+ years. It was practically and anachronism when it was new.

    1. Joe Btfsplk Avatar
      Joe Btfsplk

      I guess some folks just like to be different…

  11. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Great cars, though my abiding affection is for the ES, green over saddle leather, thank you. This car is like and early T-bird, the progenitor of the personal luxury coupe, like the Monte Carlo and Prelude. Maybe the tastiest fins ever.

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