Some cars just get better with age and the Volvo P1800 is one of them.
This year is the 60th anniversary of the launch of the stylish coupe. popularised by the 1960s TV show The Saint, starring Roger Moore.
One of these cars owns the record for the highest mileage, privately owned vehicle driven by the original owner — with more than 5.23 million kilometres on the clock.
Produced from 1961 to 1973, thr P1800 was a followup to the fibreglass bodied Volvo Sport from 1956.
Presented a new sports car, just a few years after the previous attempt with the glass fibre bodied Volvo Sport.
This new sports car had Italian-influenced styling by young Swede Pelle Petterson and production began in 1961.
As Volvo did not have the capacity to build the car itself, production during the first years was contracted to the UK.
Pressed Steel in Scotland made the bodies and final assembly took place at Jensen Motors Ltd. in West Bromwich.
In 1963, the assembly was transferred to Gothenburg, the P prefix taken away from the model designation and an S suffix was added.
Body production was also eventually transferred to Olofström in Sweden in connection with the 1800E in 1969.
The Volvo P1800 was based on the floor pan of the Volvo 121/122S, but it had a shorter wheel base.
The car also had an entirely new 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine, which initially developed 74kW and later 80, 86 and 89kW; the classic Volvo B18 engine.
Over the years, the car was developed primarily by the introduction of new engine alternatives.
In the autumn of 1968, a 2.0-litre engine, the B20, with an output of 88kW was introduced.
It was followed in 1969 by a version with fuel injection and an even higher output.
In the autumn of 1971, a new version of the 1800 model was presented, the 1800 ES.
It had a newly designed rear end compared with the previous versions of the 1800.
The roofline was extended and the car had a profile that was more reminiscent of an estate, a sports wagon.
The 1800ES had increased luggage capacity to provide extra space for golfing or hunting equipment, for example.
The new version was produced for two model years, 1972 and 1973.
In 1972, both versions, the E and ES, were produced in parallel, but only the 1800 ES was produced in 1973.
When the last cars were built in 1973 and production ended, this was due to increasingly rigorous safety requirements in the USA in particular.
These would quite simply have been too expensive to comply with.
By the way, the Volvo wasn’t the producer’s first choice for Moore who played the dashing spy, cum-playboy Simon Templar.
The makers wanted a Ferrari, or E-Type Jag or something equally sexy, but couldn’t come up with one at the right price.
Legend has it Volvo found out about their predicament and immediately offered its new P1800 sports coupe, which they gladly accepted.
The rest as they say is history.
Model: P1800 (1800 S, 1800 E, 1800 ES)
Produced: 39,414 of which 5,078 were 1800 ES
Body: Coupe 2-seater, 2 + 2 seater (ES)
Engine: 4-cylinder, in-line, overhead valves, 1778 cc, 84.14 x 80 mm, 74kW at 5500 rpm, increased in 1968 to 80kW at 5800 rpm. A 2.0-litre, 1986 cc ( 88.9 x 80 mm), carburettor version appeared in 1968, followed by a fuel-injection version in 1969, 89kW.
Transmission: 4-speed manual, 4-speed manual with overdrive or 3-speed automatic, all with a floor-mounted gear lever.
Brakes: Hydraulic, discs at front and drums at rear, later models had discs for all wheels.
Dimensions: Overall length 4350mm, wheelbase 2450mm.
CHECKOUT: Cool blue P1800 flashback to the Sixties
CHECKOUT: Showtime for The Saint’s show car