Volvo didn’t offer another coupe until 1978. Even then, it was the luxury-oriented, Bertone-styled 262C, not a sports car. While the front-wheel-drive 480 Series hatchback, introduced in 1986, had faint echoes of the 1800ES in its glass hatch, it was not until 1997 that Volvo offered another sporty coupe, the FWD C70. Appropriately enough, it was featured in the 1997 Paramount film version of The Saint, although the film was neither a critical nor a commercial success. A C70 convertible followed a year later, something Volvo had never offered in the 1800 line (although some coupes were converted privately).
In 2006, the current C70, a retractable hardtop styled by Pininfarina, was joined by the C30, a three-door hatchback whose glassy tailgate once again evokes the old 1800ES. By modern standards, neither is a sports car, although the turbocharged T5 models, with 227 hp SAE (169 kW), would naturally leave the old 1800E in the dust.
The P1800’s designer, Pelle Petterson, did not remain long in the auto industry, opting to pursue other industrial design work and his lifelong love of sailing. He has won at least five world championships as well as two Olympic medals in Star-class sailing, in 1964 and 1972; he is also a two-time America’s Cup challenger. In the eighties, he designed the very successful Maxi yacht series and now has his own leisurewear line, Pelle P.
Surviving 1800s remain popular as collector cars thanks to their unique styling, real-world comfort, and exceptional mechanical longevity. Even the Swedish-built cars are susceptible to rust and major body work can become very expensive, but the engines and running gear are extremely durable if properly maintained. The most dramatic example is undoubtedly the 1966 1800S owned by retired New York school teacher Irv Gordon, which has so far accumulated more than 2.6 million miles (4.2 million kilometers).
Volvo has had its ups and downs over the past few decades, including its acquisition by Ford in 1999 and its subsequent sale to China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in 2010. As of this writing, however, Volvo reports that it is once again operating in the black, so it’s possible that we’ll see another Volvo sports car in the coming years. Creating one as enduring as the original Volvo 1800 — in every sense of that word — will be a taller order.
The author would like to extend special thanks to Martin Alford, Tyler Brand, Murilee Martin, and Matthew Shultz for the use of their photos; Invgar Hallström for help with Swedish list prices; Graham Slope of the Gilbern Owners Club for providing information on the Invader Estate; and Volvo Cars Heritage manager Claes Rydholm for his assistance with archival images and information.
NOTES ON SOURCES
Our information on the history and development of the P1800 and its successors came from “1965 Volvo P1800 – vintage SCCA F production Race Car 200 hp For Sale,” 26 July 2011, www.carandclassic. co.uk, accessed 18 August 2011; Frederick Beste, “Italienska karosseriformgivare – ‘Macchina Italiana'” (2006, Svenska Volvo P1800 Klubben, www.volvop1800club. se/ artiklar/ italienska_karossformgivare/ italienska_karosseriformgivare.htm, accessed 17 August 2011 and “Jans Wilsgaard” (2005, Svenska Volvo P1800 Klubben, www.volvop1800club. se/jan/ hedersmedlem_2005_ en.htm, accessed 17 August 2011); David Bowers, “How He Did It,” Classics December 2001, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, R.M. Clarke, ed. (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 2006), pp. 146-151; Martin Buckley, The Encyclopedia of Classic Cars: A Celebration of the Motor Car from 1945 to 1975 (New York: Hermes House, 1997); “Buying Guide: Volvo 1800,” Classic Cars August 2004, reprinted in ibid, pp. 152-155; Alastair Clements, “Country casuals,” Classic & Sports Car June 2000 (Vol. 19, No. 3), pp. 140-145; Danny O’Driscoll, “Saintly Sinner (Buyers Guide: Volvo 1800),” Practical Classics January 1998, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, pp. 70-75; Joël Durand, “La P1800 en course” (2004-2005, Volvo P1800 France, p1800.jd. free.fr/ En%20course.htm, accessed 18 August 2011); “Ford OSI 20m TS Website” (no date, osi20mts. com, www.osi20mts. com, accessed 17 August 2011); Kevin Greenaway, “To ‘P’ or not to ‘P'” (no date, Volvo Adventures, www.volvoadventures. com/ 1800P.html, accessed 17 August 2011); Jan O. Högnark, “Volvo and their Sports-Cars” (no date, V1800 Reg, www.v1800reg. org/ pages/ V%201800%20HIST.pdf, accessed 17 August 2011); “Kirk’s Volvo P1800 Page” (no date, www.cabinnaise. com/ vpage/1800s.htm, accessed 4 August 2011), which is based in turn on Bill Webb, Swedish Iron, a.k.a. Volvo 1800: 1967-1973 1800 History and Restoration Guide (Bakersfield, CA: self-published, 1988), to which we did not have access for this article; Jeff Koch, “Marketplace Buyer’s Guide: 1972–1973 Volvo 1800ES: Is It a Sports Car? A GT? A Wagon?” Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car #67 (March 2011), pp. 80–85; David LaChance, “Volvo B18: Gothenburg’s overbuilt pushrod four sets the standards of durability,” Hemmings Motor News July 2007; Björn-Erik Lindh, “The story about P1800 a.k.a. ‘The Saint’s car” (no date, Svenska Volvo P1800 Klubben, www.volvop1800club. se, accessed 16 August 2011); Till Look, “Thor’s Hammer: Volvo P172” (19 August 2009, Carsablanca.de, www.carsablanca. de/ Magazin/ perlen-des-wissens/ thors-hammer-volvo-p172, accessed 28 August 2011); Karl Ludvigsen, “History of Automotive Design: Volvo Builds a Sports Car – Part I,” Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car #21 (May 2007), pp. 62-66; and “History of Automotive Design: A Swede for the Saint, Part II,” Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car #22 (June 2007), pp. 62-66; Malcolm McKay, “Saint’s alive!” Classic Car October 1996, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, pp. 76-80; Registro Pietro Frua (2008, www.pietro-frua. de/, accessed 4 August 2011); Claes Rydholm, “A true cosmopolitan turns 50: Volvo P1800 1961 – 2011” [press release], Volvo Cars, 23 May 2011, www.media.volvocars. com, accessed 14 August 2011; “Saab Designer Profile – Sergio Coggiola” (6 August 2008, Saabhistory.com, www.saabhistory. com/ 2008/ 08/06/ saab-designer-profile-sergio-coggiola/, accessed 17 August 2011); the 2007 SCCA Club Racing Media Guide, Sports Car Club of America, www.scca. org, accessed 18 August 2011; Dave Selby, “Two wings & a prayer,” Your Classic September 1993, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, pp. 66-69; William D. Siuru, Jr., “Last of the Sleek Swedes: 1972 Volvo 1800E,” Special Interest Autos #94 (August 1986), pp. 48-55; “Technical Description: Swedish Bred: British Built,” The Autocar 14 July 1961, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, pp. 10-13; Volvo Cars, “Irv Gordon aims for 3 million miles in his Volvo P1800” [press release], 20 July 2010; and “Volvo 1800 Picture Gallery,” volvo1800pictures. com, accessed 17 August 2011. Additional information came from emails to the author from Volvo’s Claes Rydholm, 22-23 and 31 August 2011, and from the Swedish Volvo P1800 Club (Svenska Volvo P1800 Klubben) website, www.volvop1800club.se, last accessed 30 August 2011.
Road test data came from “AMS Road Test: Volvo 1800S,” Australian Motor Sport October 1964, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, pp. 62-64; “A Pleasing Anglo-Swedish Sports Coupé – The Volvo P1800,” Motor Sport September 1962, reprinted in ibid, pp. 46-47, 88-89; “Autocar Road Test No. 1884: Volvo P.1800,” The Autocar 20 July 1962, reprinted in ibid, pp. 38-42; “Autocar Road Test 2088: Volvo 1800S,” The Autocar 15 July 1966, reprinted in ibid, pp. 106-111; John Christy, “Road Test 26-61: Volvo P-1800,” Sports Car Graphic November 1961, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, pp. 20-23; Eric Dahlquist, “The Eleven Year Plan,” Motor Trend Vol. 22, No. 5 (May 1970), pp. 44-46, 113; “Giant Test: BMW 2000 Touring, Volvo 1800ES, Scimitar GTE,” CAR December 1972, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, pp. 200-205; Bill Hartford, “One-of-a-kind car: Volvo’s Sportswagon,” Popular Mechanics Vol. 138, No. 4 (October 1972), pp. 40-44; Rob Luck, “Volvo P1800E: Dial 999 999,” Wheels, March 1971, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, pp. 167-171; Bob McVay, “Volvo 122-S and P-1800S,” Motor Trend Vol. 14, No. 10 (October 1963), reprinted in ibid, pp. 48-55; “Road Research Report: Volvo P 1800,” Car and Driver Vol. 7, No. 3 (September 1961), pp. 32-37, 58; “Road Test 28/63: Volvo P-1800 S: Now it’s all Swedish…” Sports Car Graphic December 1963, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, pp. 56-59; “Road Test No. 29/62: Volvo P1800 with overdrive: A 2/4 seater of Swedish design, built in Britain,” The Motor 1 August 1962, reprinted in ibid, pp. 34-37; “Road Test No. 34/70: Volvo 1800E: Motorway Express,” The Motor 9 August 1970, reprinted in ibid, pp. 137-142; “Road Test: Volvo 1800,” Road & Track August 1966, reprinted in ibid, pp. 112-115; “Road Test: Volvo 1800ES,” The Motor 4 March 1972, reprinted in ibid, pp. 184-189; “RT/Test Report: The Ultimate Sportwagon,” Road Test May 1972, reprinted in ibid, pp. 190-195; “Sports Car Road Test: Volvo 1800S,” Cars & Car Conversions November 1966, reprinted in ibid, pp. 116-117; Leicester Symons, “Volvo 1800E Coupe,” Car South Africa September 1970, reprinted in ibid, p. 143; Paul Van Valkenburgh, “The Eleven Year Car,” Sports Car Graphic February 1970, reprinted in ibid, pp. 128-131; “Volvo 1800E,” Road & Track Vol. 21, No. 6 (February 1970), pp. 80-82; “Volvo 1800ES,” Autocar 8 December 1971, reprinted in Volvo 1800 Ultimate Portfolio, pp. 174-175; “Volvo 1800ES Sportwagon,” Car and Driver Vol. 18, No. 7 (January 1972), reprinted in ibid, pp. 176-180; “Volvo 1800/ES: A bold expression of the sportwagon theme,” Track & Traffic June 1972, reprinted in ibid, pp. 196-199; “Volvo 1800ES: A successful conversion from dated GT to genuine sportwagon,” Road & Track Vol. 23, No. 7 (March 1972), reprinted in ibid, pp. 181-183; “Volvo P1800S,” Road Test February 1969, reprinted in ibid, pp. 124-127; “Volvo’s sports car for 1973 is a grand touring station wagon!” Road Test February 1973, reprinted in ibid, pp. 206-207; Paul Weissler, “Service Test: Volvo 1800E Sports Coupe,” Popular Imported Cars September 1971, reprinted in ibid, pp. 172-173, 180; Joseph H. Wherry, “Volvo 1800E Road Test,” World Car Guide October 1970, reprinted in ibid, pp. 161-163; and Stephen Wilder, “Volvo with V-V-Voom!” Hot Rod December 1964, reprinted in ibid, pp. 90-93 and 101.
Information on the Volvo P1900 Sport came from Nick Czap, “Unrequited Longing for the 67th Volvo Sport,” New York Times 19 February 2010, www.nytimes. com, accessed 26 August 2011; Geoffrey Hacker, “Glasspar (Bill Tritt) Designed Fiberglass Volvo Sport – The Volvo P1900” (31 March 2010, Forgotten Fiberglass, www.forgottenfiberglass. com/?p=3134, accessed 26 August 2011); Todd Lassa, “1957 Volvo P1900/Sport: Ox-y-mo-ron (n., s.) e.g., ‘a Swedish sports car’ (yes, they really did build them),” Motor Trend March 2006, www.motortrend. com, accessed 4 August 2011; and Karl Ludvigsen, “History of Automotive Design: Volvo’s Plastic Fantastic,” Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car #13 (September 2006), pp. 80-85.
General information on Volvo’s history came from Mike Covello, Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-2002, Second Edition (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2001); “Decades of driving progress,” Volvo Trucks Global history pages, www.volvotrucks. com, accessed 15 August 2011; “Ford sells Volvo to Geely: Devolving Volvo: For both buyer and seller, the deal is worth the risks,” The Economist 28 March 2010, www.economist. com, accessed 15 August 2011; Assar Gabrielsson, “The Thirty-Year History of Volvo,” originally published in Transbladet 1959, reprinted at the Volvo Owners Club website, www.volvoclub. org.uk, accessed 29 August 2011; Paul Grimshaw, “Chronology of Volvo Engine Development” (2003, The Volvo Performance Handbook/The Gothenburg Bible, archived at web.archive. org/web/20060116020013/ www3.bc.sympatico. ca/ Volvo_Books/ engine2.html, accessed 15 August 2011); Jan Norbye, “Sweden’s Conservative Giant,” Car and Driver Vol. 9, No. 11 (May 1964), pp. 83-88; David Pierson, “Automobiles: Ford sells Volvo to China’s Geely auto group for $1.8 billion,” Los Angeles Times 29 March 2010, latimes. com, accessed 15 August 2011; “Road Test: Volvo 122S,” Car and Driver Vol. 7, No. 10 (April 1962), pp. 54-55; Bertel Schmitt, “Scary Chinese Experiment Proves: Swedish Cars Can Make Money” (19 August 2011, TheTruthAboutCars.com, www.thetruthaboutcars. com, accessed 19 August 2011); Ulrika Stahre, “Så blev hon en bil: Ulrika Stahre hyllar en 50-åring” (9 May 2006, Aftonbladet, www.aftonbladet. se, accessed 18 August 2011); “Volvo B36 V8 info” (no date, Andersson Racing, www.anderssonracing. com/ b36.htm, accessed 16 August 2011); Volvo Cars, “Volvo’s biggest car news from 1968 turns 40 – the Volvo 164” [press release], 25 June 2008; “Volvo’s three-point safety belt turns 50” [press release], 12 August 2009; Volvo Group, “The Volvo history,” www.volvogroup. com, accessed 26 August 2011; Mark Wan, “Volvo C30” (5 October 2006, AutoZine.org, www.autozine.org/ Archive/ Volvo/ new/ C30.html, accessed 19 August 2011); and the Wikipedia® entries for the Volvo ÖV4 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volvo_%C3%96V_4, accessed 29 August 2011); Amazon (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volvo_Amazon, accessed 18 August 2011); C30 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volvo_C30, accessed 19 August 2011) and Volvo engines (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Volvo_engines, accessed 15 August 2011).
Additional biographical data on Pelle Petterson came from Pascal de Belder, “Pelle Petterson” (no date, P1800 Passion, p1800passion. blogspot.com, accessed 17 August 2011); Pelle Petterson’s official website, www.pellepetterson. com, accessed 17 August 2011; and “Pelle Petterson” (no date, Sailboat Data, sailboatdata. com, accessed 17 August 2011).
Information on the television exploits of Simon Templar came from Dan Bodenheimer’s Saint Club website, www.saint. org, last accessed 23 August 2011); M.S. Curtis, “The Saint and his Volvo 1800” (1996, Volvo Owners Club, www.volvoclub. org.uk/saint.shtml, accessed 23 August 2011); the Internet Movie Database page for The Saint (TV Series 1962-1969), www.imdb. com, accessed 18 August 2011; and Sir Roger Moore and Gareth Owen, My Word Is My Bond: A Memoir (New York: Harper Collins, 2008). Confirmation that the producers originally wanted a Jaguar Mk. X, not an E-type, came from an email to the author from a Saint fan (who asked not to be named) who has discussed the matter with Sir Roger, series producer Bob Baker, and production manager Johnny Goodman, who was the one who actually placed the call to Jaguar. Artist’s conceptions of the Hirondel, incidentally, can be found in “A Tribute to one of the greatest cars in all fiction: Simon Templar’s Hirondel,” Automobile Quarterly Vol. 10, No. 1 (First Quarter 1972), pp. 4-17.
Data on the Jaguar Mark X came from Martin Buckley, Jaguar: Fifty Years of Speed and Style (Haynes Classic Makes) (Sparkford, Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 1998); Chris Canning, “The Mark X: One Big and Rare Saloon!” (26 July 2002, Jaguar Clubs of North America, www.jcna. com, accessed 18 August 2011); Richard Heseltine, “Arch Rivals,” Classic & Sports Car Vol. 19, No. 3 (June 2000), pp. 164-169; “Road Research Report: Jaguar Mark X,” Car and Driver Vol. 7, No. 11 (May 1962), pp. 64-68; and “Technical Report: Jaguar Mark X,” Car and Driver Vol. 7, No. 10 (April 1962), pp. 39-41.
Additional data on the Reliant Scimitar GT and GTE came from David Poole’s Sporting Reliants site (www.sporting-reliants. com, accessed 23 August 2011), “Autotest: Reliant Scimitar GTE automatic (2,994 c.c.),” Autocar 2 April 1970, pp. 16-20; “Autotest: Reliant Scimitar GTE automatic: The first high performance estate,” Autocar 17 January 1981, pp. 20-25; “Giant Test: Reliant Scimitar GTE v. Triumph Stag,” CAR October 1970, pp. 42-47; “Giant Test: Scimitar GTE, Triumph Stag, Opel Commodore GS,” CAR September 1973, pp. 48-52, 57-59, 99; and “Giant Test: Triumph Stag, Reliant Scimitar GTE, Datsun 260Z,” CAR November 1974, pp. 61-68. Data on the Gilbern Invader and Invader Estate came from the Wikipedia entry for Gilbern, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbern, accessed 19 August 2011; “Gilbern Invader” (no date, Retro Car Icons, www.retrocaricons. com, accessed 19 August 2011); the Gilbern Owners Club Ltd. website (gilbern.co.uk/, accessed 23 August 2011); and emails to the author from Graham Slope, Gilbern Owners Club Ltd. Estate Historian, 27-28 August 2011.
Other details came from “Cars 1963 American Classic Award: New Car Classic,” Cars, April 1963, reprinted in Falcon Performance Portfolio 1960-1970, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1998), pp. 62-68; “EFTA through the years,” European Free Trade Association official site (www.efta. int, accessed 25 August 2011); the CIA World Fact Book (www.cia. gov/ library/ publications/ the-world-factbook/, last accessed 22 August 2011); the Productioncars.com Book of Automobile Production and Sales Figures, 1945-2005 (N.p.: 2006); the golf page of Visit Sweden, the official Swedish tourism site (www.visitsweden. com, accessed 25 August 2011), and the Wikipedia entries for Princess Anne (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne,_Princess_Royal, accessed 18 August 2011), Princess Birgitta (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_ Birgitta_of_Sweden, accessed 28 August 2011), and Star sailboats (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_%28 sailboat%29, accessed 18 August 2011).
Some exchange rate data for the dollar, the British pound, and the Swedish kronor came from Lawrence H. Officer, “Exchange Rates Between the United States Dollar and Forty-one Currencies” (2011, Measuring Worth, http://www.measuringworth.org/exchangeglobal/, used with permission). Exchange rate values cited in the text represent the approximate equivalency of U.S., British, and Swedish currency at the time, not contemporary U.S. or UK suggested retail prices, which are listed separately. Please note that all exchange rate equivalencies cited in the text are approximate and are provided solely for illustration and general reference. This is an automotive history, not a treatise on currency trading or the value of money, and nothing in this article should be taken as financial advice of any kind!
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