1971 Volvo P1800
Year of manufacture1971
Exterior brand colourGold
Interior brand colourBlack
Planned in Sweden, designed in Italy, unveiled at the Brussels motor-show, built in Britain and a huge success in the USA. The Volvo P1800 is perhaps Volvo's most internationally renowned model ever, and the one that arouses most emotions. The P1800 is a two-door, front-engine, rear-drive sports car manufactured and marketed by Volvo Cars as a coupé (1961-73) and later as a shooting-brake (1972-73).
The P1800 was never intended to be a mass-produced car. It was and still is a niche product, the top of the model range, yet at the same time viable enough to be within the reach of ordinary people who wanted a car that looked like Italian exotica but with the ethos of a Volvo.
The thinking behind the P1800 was that it should be an Italian design, given their reputation for style. However, the favoured final design was actually conceived by the Swedish son of the man behind the project who, fresh from an industrial design degree from New York's Pratt Institute, was working for the Italian designers Frua. His father managed to arrange for his son's design to be considered in the final five contenders and that was the one that everyone picked. The President of Volvo president in particular liked it since he had very definite views about wanting an Italian-designed car. Volvo insisted for a long time it was an Italian design by Frua and only officially credited the young Swedish designer in 2009 for conceiving what many consider one of the world's most distinctive sports coupés.
The prototype was presented to Karmann, with the hope that the firm would be able to take on the tooling and building of the P1800. They were ready to build it, but Karmann's most important customer, Volkswagen VAG, forbade Karmann to take on the job. They feared that the P1800 would compete with the sales of their own cars, and threatened to cancel all their contracts with Karmann if they took on this car.
This setback almost caused the project to be abandoned. It began to appear that Volvo might never produce the P1800. However, after a press release surfaced with a photo of the car, Volvo renewed its efforts and it was presented to the public for the first time at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1960.
Volvo eventually turned to Jensen Motors, whose production lines were under-utilised, and they agreed a contract for 10,000 cars. Another UK firm Pressed Steel Ltd. was in turn sub-contracted by Jensen to create the uni-body shells, which were then taken by rail to be assembled at Jensen in West Bromwich. In September 1960, the first production P1800 (for the 1961 model year) left Jensen for an eager public. Production got under way but it was beset with problems and Volvo eventually transferred production home to Sweden.
During the coupé's long life, no radical changes were made to the successful exterior lines. Only details such as the grill, trim mouldings, wheels and colours differentiate the various model years.
For 1970 numerous changes arrived with the fuel-injected 1800 E, which had the B20E engine with Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection, a revised camshaft, and produced 130bhp without sacrificing fuel economy. Now with the power to match its style, the 1800 E had a top speed of around 120 mph and could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds. In addition, the 1970 model was the first 1800 with four-wheel disc brakes.
The car presented here is a UK RHD 1971 P1800 E and is a very special example indeed. Purchased new by hotelier George Archibald T Brown on 23rd February 1971 from The Bedford Garage (Simca & Volvo Dealers) in Exeter, it was then sold to our vendor in 1990. He has owned the car ever since, for some 26 years, and to say it has been his pride & joy is a real understatement. Being just the second owner of this 45 year old car, he has systematically restored and maintained it during his long and devoted ownership. The car has done 53,323 documented miles.
The car has never been denied anything, and following its most recent period of restoration during the last 4 years, it was worthy of a six page spread in Classics Monthly (August 2015 issue 232) and featured on the cover of the club magazine. As you'd expect, all this work is meticulously documented, photographed and recorded.
The car comes with a fully re-built blue-printed engine, a re-built gearbox with overdrive, new clutch, refurbished/balanced prop-shaft & differential, completely new running gear, wheel bearings, shock-absorbers, springs, suspension linkage arms, new fuel injection and braking systems and new exhaust. Where parts were worn, some were fully professionally refurbished whilst others were replaced with new original Volvo components sourced from CVI Automotive (Sweden) and Brookhouse Volvo (UK).
It is thought to be the last UK car in its originally specified gold colour (having benefited from a very good quality full respray in recent years). The black interior has been sympathetically renewed and complements the gold paint perfectly.
With only 60, P1800 E models registered with the DVLA (of which 25 of which are declared SORN), this a rare car - even more so in this outstanding condition.
The history that will be supplied with the car will include the original owners' handbook and sales brochure, some service history from its early years and a letter of provenance from The Bedford Garage. There is also a hand-written letter from Vicki Butler-Henderson praising the car, a Certificate of Valuation from The Volvo Enthusiasts Club, a series of old MoT Certificates and tax discs plus many invoices and photographs documenting the restoration process. All photographs will be supplied on a memory stick and presented in the file.
This is an opportunity to purchase probably the best P1800 E in the UK, with cars of this quality rarely coming out of long-term ownership.