Attainable Classics: #2 – Volvo P1800

This is the second in a series about interesting cars that have not had their prices driven up so much they become trailer queens.

While Volvo is still known for it’s boxy and unbreakable 240 series from the 70s and 80s, in the late 50s, Volvo was still looking to add a sports car to their range, despite the failure of the P1900.   The Volvo P1800 shared its mechanicals with the Volvo sedans at the time, but added an eye catching coupe body shape.   This is what makes the car such a great classic today. The mechanicals are simple and robust, good build quality and an eye catching design.   The Volvo P1800 could even be used as an everyday car if properly garaged.  All cars came with a four speed manual transmission, with an overdrive an option.

The Volvo P1800 is the current record holder for the highest mileage ever on a car.

There are four core models available:

P1800: 1961-1962

These cars were actually made for Volvo by Jensen in the UK.   The original plan was to build 10,000 cars, but the contract was ended early at 6,000 cars due to quality control problems.   These cars are the rarest left and have some slight differences to the later Swedish built cars.  They command a price premium to the other cars.   I’m not sure they really deserve it.

1800S: 1963-1969

When production was moved to Sweden, the cars were renamed to P1800S, and have slight differences (e.g. wheels, slightly more power etc).   Early cars have more and nicer chrome (e.g. on the curve that goes from the back of the car through the doors) than the later cars.   An early P1800S would be my choice in the range, although all the models have a following.    The 1800S still has the great looking early dashboard (apart from the last year). the SU carburettors are simple and reliable, and the extra chrome really looks good on this model.    The early cars also have nicer bumper bars, (bullnose), that have a gap in the front – later cars have a simple straight bumper that loses some of the classic styling.


The car in the photo above is a 1800S, in the Volvo Museum.   It is a later car as it is missing the chrome on the curve in the door and the two piece bumpers.    It does have some rare and interesting options like the head rests.

1800E: 1970-1972

In 1970, the 1800 gained electronic fuel injection from Bosch, raising the power.   Some subtle styling differences on the outside of the car are not immediately noticeable, as the car had been simplified during the 1800S period. Unfortunately during the end of the 1800S production, the suburb dashboard had been replaced with a drab 70’s design that carried over to the 1800E.

1800ES: 1972-1973

The last model was a radical departure – the fastback design exchanged for a shooting brake.   These cars are more practical.  The 1800ES can be a great classic for those who need to carry more than a few overnight bags.  The extra practicality means they are not as pretty as the original coupe design.    The shooting brake cars have a bit of a cult following as they are quite different from much else on the road.


The photo above shows a 1800ES, also in the Volvo Museum, this angle showing off the shooting brake.   Unseen in this photo is the tailgate, which is made from glass, providing great visibility from the rear of the car.   Volvo re-used this concept in the 2000’s at the hight of the retro styling movement.


The Volvo P1800 Series are a great classic car due to their robust construction, great 60’s looks and easy to maintain Volvo running car.   Good examples in Australia can be had for around $25,000.    Like all 60s cars, rust can be a problem, and some trim and body parts can be hard to find, but there is a fairly good 1800 community as can be seen in this picture at the Shannons car show a few years ago.

Row of 1800


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