THE VOLVO 1800ES SPORTWAGON
The Volvo shooting brake, dubbed 1800ES, made its public debut three years after the Scimitar GTE, bowing at the 1971 London Motor Show. From the B-pillars forward, the ES was nearly identical to the 1800E coupe. Wheelbase, track width, and overall height were the same and the estate was only 1.4 inches (34 mm) longer overall thanks entirely to a repositioned rear bumper. Nonetheless, the estate conversion gave the 1800ES a surprisingly fresh look. It took close examination — or a test drive — to realize how much hadn’t changed. Naturally, the ES was more practical as well, although it was still basically a 2+2. The unchanged wheelbase meant that rear legroom still depended on the largesse of front seat occupants.
Since the 1800ES was only 65 lb (30 kg) heavier than the 1800E, the estate had similar straight-line performance. That was good news for European cars, now rated at 124 hp DIN (91 kW), but lower compression ratios had reduced all North American 1800E and 1800ES models to 112 SAE net horsepower (84 kW) and 115 lb-ft (155 N-m) of torque. While that was still better than the earlier carbureted models, the lower output dulled acceleration noticeably, particularly with the increasingly popular Borg-Warner automatic.
While critics responded well to the 1800ES’s new styling and greater practicality, many had many unkind words for its road manners. Thanks to the estate’s higher center of gravity, body lean was even more pronounced than in the coupe, to the point that the ES would actually hoist its inside front wheel in a tight turn. Some reviews also noted a disconcerting lack of directional stability along with too much axle movement, a complaint seldom levied against the coupe. We were unable to find detailed specifications for the 1800ES’s spring and damping rates, but it appears that they differed little from those of the 1800E save for addition of bigger 185/70HR-15 tires. The consistently harsh reviews suggest that the ES would have benefited from a more thorough rethinking of its suspension settings than it received.
Inevitably, the ES was more expensive than the coupe. In its home market, the 1800ES was 33,200 SEK, nearly $7,000 at the contemporary exchange rate and some 1,300 SEK (about $275) more than the 1800E coupe. In the U.S., the ES started at $5,150 POE, while U.K. cars ran to £2,651 with purchase tax, an uncomfortable £250-odd more than a Scimitar GTE. That was a lot of money in 1972, particularly considering that the estate had inherited most of the coupe’s familiar shortcomings. Nonetheless, the estate’s fresh styling quickly made it more popular than the coupe; the 1800ES outsold the 1800E by more than 60% for 1972.
Although the coupe was dropped for 1973, 1800ES sales set a new record, with production totaling more than 5,000 units. Unfortunately, it would be the design’s final fling. Volvo had been able to meet U.S. federal safety standards for 1973, but meeting the more stringent and complex standards that took effect for the 1974 model year would have required extensive structural revisions that the 1800ES’s volume didn’t justify. Production ended for good on June 27, 1973. We found several different figures for total production, but the most commonly quoted is 47,485 (including about 8,078 estates), roughly half of which went to the U.S.