In 1960s Sweden, Volvo was well-established as a manufacturer of rugged, dependable cars with solid sporting credentials. But their slightly stodgy and austere appearance meant they were unfairly dismissed as quirky and eccentric, particularly among American buyers. But for those in the know, the PV444 and PV544 saloons were quite entertaining to drive and the Volvo four-cylinder engine was virtually bomb-proof and capable of making big power when tuned. In an effort to improve its sporting image, Volvo introduced the P1900 sports car, a fiberglass bodied machine with a tuned “B14” engine that produced 70 horsepower. Unfortunately, it did not live up to Volvo’s usual standard of quality and only 68 examples found buyers.
Thankfully, Volvo did not give up at the first attempt and they quickly returned to the drawing board, commissioning a new car based on a shortened Amazon chassis with an all-new steel body. Several Italian design firms were courted to style the car, with the winning proposal penned at Carrozzeria Pietro Frua by a 24 year old Swede named Pelle Petterson, the son of a Volvo Exec who, rather conveniently, just happened to be on an internship at the Italian design firm. Frua constructed the first prototypes, and once the final design was approved, the next problem became where to build it. Volvo’s assembly plants were already at maximum capacity with other cars, so after consulting with several coachbuilding firms such as Karmann and Drauz, Volvo eventually struck a deal with Pressed Steel Company of West Bromwich, England to manufacture the major body components and Jensen Motors Limited to handle the final assembly. Soon, though, Volvo cited quality control problems with Pressed Steel, as well as the rising cost of shipping cars and parts back and forth from Sweden, so production of the P1800 S (for Sverige, or Sweden) came home Sweden to ensure more consistent quality. Volvo had a sensation on their hands which was only enhanced when a white P1800 became the chosen steed of Simon Templar, the fictional character played by Roger Moore in “The Saint”, a British television program about a dashing criminal/playboy who steals from the baddies to line his own pockets. From that moment forth, the Volvo P1800 has earned its place as a cultural icon for a great many men and women of a certain age.
Exemplary in nearly every way, this 1964 Volvo P1800 S is one of the finest we have had the pleasure to offer. Built after August of 1963, this VD-series Swedish-built car has been restored to the original trim tag in the classic shade of Pearl White (Volvo code 79-1) over a red cockpit and is a beautiful example of this iconic sports car, in the colors and spec as preferred by Mr. Simon Templar himself. A full, professional restoration has been lavished upon it, and it presents in superlative condition throughout. The white paintwork is outstanding, laid down on absolutely straight panels with excellent body fit. Chrome plating is to show-quality standards and the steel wheels wear correct style original hubcaps with trim rings and properly sized rubber for just the right stance. It is a beautifully presented car, with fine detailing and presentation.
In the stylish 2+2 cockpit, red upholstery (Volvo Code 307-265, per the trim tag) offsets the white paintwork beautifully, and is in very fine order. The material on the seats is excellent, showing little in the way of use. Likewise, two tone door panels are excellent and the dash is fitted with the beautiful, signature blue-faced instruments and a period correct Blaupunkt AM/FM radio. Other pleasing touches include the original steering wheel and a pair of factory original shoulder belts – Volvo has always been about safety, after all. The boot is lined in red carpeting per original, and a rare Volvo-branded cover adorns the spare tire.
The engine bay is exquisitely detailed, with Volvo’s robust B18 engine presenting in show-quality condition. Paint finishes are correct on the block, head and ancillaries, the twin S.U. Carburetors have been beautifully polished and correct hoses, fittings and hardware are found throughout. The engine is mated to a four-speed manual box with electric overdrive for effortless cruising. The P1800 S is a wonderful, slightly off-beat 60s sports car that returns surprisingly good performance and handling. This example is no exception; the high-quality restoration translates into a car that drives and feels delightfully solid and planted with that signature Swedish robustness. Desirable and highly collectible, this stylish Volvo P1800 S is surely one of the finest of its kind on offer today.