Icons: Volvo P1800 – Drive

Sure, it’s weird and not everyone will list the slow, expensive, and slightly weird P1800 as a masterpiece. But it looked like nothing else, and nowadays, it’s almost certainly Volvo’s most fondly remembered.

Few cars are as distinct, or have a design that puts them firmly in time. Of course, this time was extended, because the Swedish manufacturer did not have preparations for the modernization of such a specialized product. In the end, the P1800 bravely carried the flippers of the ’50s into the ’70s.

Let’s go back to the beginning. The P1800 was a follow-up to the fiberglass P1900 Roadster, which sold only 67 models.



Volvo was not deterred from unveiling its low-profile two-door coupe in Sweden at the end of 1959. The P1800 was designed by Frua in Turin (though by a Swedish employee at Frua, something Volvo hid because it wanted to claim “Italian design”).

The body was built in Scotland and then shipped to Jensen in the UK to be outfitted with mainly Swedish mechanics.

The sporty Volvo arrived in Australia in 1962, with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, but almost as steeply priced as the Jaguar E-Type. Ouch! Needless to say, the big cat was much faster and generally considered more charming.



Added to this, the quality of the swede was a bit dodgy (charging parts all over Europe and tying them together in foggy skies didn’t help), while sprinting to 100 km/h – if that’s the word – took nearly 14 seconds. . Volvo was already thinking about safety, having stripped the interior of the sharp objects, but that wasn’t a selling feature at the time, especially in sports cars.

The P1800 would probably have been impossible to sell if not for an unexpected TV role. Roger Moore has been selected for the lead role in a new series based on the Saint Novels. Its producers also thought E-Type was a better bet, especially for Moore’s lovable, rogue-around-town character Simon Templar. The problem was that they couldn’t get one in time. Instead, they paid full wages for a white P1800.

the Saint He passed through the 1960s and made international stars for the English actor with an unmoving sculpted face, the Swedish sedan with its high-belt, small side windows and huge fins.



Since 1963, the P1800 has been assembled in Sweden (the S gained at the end of its name), although for the next few years the P1800S still had a Scottish chassis and some Jensen input.

The P1800 had a second bout of fame in Oz, circa 1970, when Prime Minister John Gorton and his controversial private secretary, Ainsley Gutto, bought his copy and models.

In 1971, the 1800ES was launched, which featured a brake-style roof and rear windshield, although the tail fin type remained. The last Volvo Coupe was built in 1973.



Tony Davis

One of the country’s most read motoring journalists, Tony has a bookstore named after him, is a regular road tester and featured contributor to Drive.

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