My Stylish Midlife Crisis – 1973 Volvo P1800

The Car: 1973 Volvo 1800ES
owner: John Barber, Toronto

the story: So you’re planning a midlife crisis. Don’t be shy: It’s totally natural. Marriage, children, work is a difficult conflict on the hoe. You can’t help but see how the row narrows ominously into a rut, and how the rut curves straight down to its last underground stop.

There may be no escape, but there is no shame in trying. Take my advice: it’s essential!

The only problem is how do you do it. A midlife crisis must be implemented in style. It must also be carefully planned to minimize the inevitable damage it will cause to finances and personal relationships. For this reason alone, sexual adventures are not recommended.

But stunt cars are a proven alternative. And no classic car still rolls better than the Volvo P1800 to evoke this wonderful illusion of rejuvenated youth and freedom – in a totally responsible and affordable way.

My friends and colleagues were skeptical when they first saw me strut around town with Sea Green popsie—’73 1800 ES—as my marriage and my prom career collapsed, as if on cue, at the height of my midlife.

“What’s up with that, anyway?” Someone asked, genuinely puzzled and a little worried.

“I don’t know,” I replied surprised, because I didn’t think much when I emptied the account to buy a 40-year-old car I didn’t need. “All I know is that whenever I shake behind the wheel and turn the switch, I feel a wave of pure pleasure.”

he understood.

Another mocked. “Money pit,” he said. But he was wrong.

Despite appearances, this car isn’t just a race car. It’s a Volvo—originally built to lure audiences in North America to showrooms full of affordable sedans, but it’s still a Volvo. The legendary Irv Gordon without a fixed title has driven his 66 P1800 over three million miles, earning it a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s most durable car.

Derided in its days as a “moderate Ferrari,” the P1800 has outlived all the shiny, fragile girls it once tried to compete with. It’s hot, boisterous and eccentric in urban stop-and-go – just like any decent classic car has no power, heavy clutch and engine in your lap – but it sings and turns addictively on the open road. I wouldn’t hesitate to drive my car cross country tomorrow.

My greatest ownership drama happened when Phil Bishop of Pickering Euro Service told me I needed a new windshield. Money Pit Yawn: Where on Earth can I find a funky little windshield for a European sports car that has been out of production for over 40 years?

“Let’s try a Volvo,” Phil suggested. Ten days later, a shiny new windshield arrived at Pickering. Cost to me (installed): $400.

That was also pure fun.

So take my advice: If what you really need is a surrogate mistress, nothing beats the P1800 – a spirited, but careless work horse that doesn’t care about Brigitte Bardot’s body. It is the ultimate sexual fantasy. Maybe that’s a little shameful, but no one gets hurt.

And when things change, when the crisis passes, and you no longer need the illusions that have kept you so well in your time of need? It’s time to sell!

Welcome to Kijiji, my dear. It was a great trip. There are younger men out there who need you more now.

John Barber is a Toronto writer. Follow him on Twitter @annegonian

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