Volvo P1800

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It’s odd what you forget and your memory needs to be jogged by a friend’s comment. A recent example is that of a favourite TV series from the late 1960’s.

I had forgotten that it’s hero, Roger Moore’s rather wooden “Simon Templar” aka “The Saint”, – cue title music – dodo dodo dadodo –  drove a very early white Volvo bearing the registration “ST1”. Long before they became super sensible Volvo, yes a Volvo, agreed to sponser the design and constructed later versions of the far from ordinary and wholly iconic Volvo P1800.

Available from 1961 to 1973, it was designed by Pelle Petersen – later to find fame as a decorated yachtsman and yacht designer – and featuring the styling of, Pelle’s tutor, Pietro Frua, a leading Turin-based car designer who’s work is seen particularly with Maserati.

In 1957 Volvo sought a sports model to compete in the US and European markets. The concept for the car came from Pelle father, Helmer, an automotive engineer and consultant to Volvo. Volvo were insistent that the car had to designed by an Italian coach-builder and the resulting P1800 was what was then known as a “stylish tourer”.

It was initially intended to build the car at the Osnabruck (Germany) factory of Karmann but, it is thought Karmann’s major client, Volkswagen, may have insisted that Karmann refuse the work.

The car was finally presented at the 1960 Brussels Motor Show and it was initially assembled at the Jensen Motors factory in West Bromwich (near Birmingham, England). Production moved to Sweden in 1963 and the car was renamed the P1800S – “S” for “Sweden”.

Over its production run more than 47,000 cars were built. In addition to a couple of engine sizes – the 1800 denoting the 1778cc initial spec. engine – the P1800 was available as a neat two seater coupe or as a three-door “shooting-brake” or sports estate – the P1800ES. This acquired the affectionate nicknames, the “Fiskbilen” – Swedish for the “Fish-van” – and in other parts of Europe, the slightly sinister,  “Cinderella’s Coffin”.

In September 2013, a 1966 P1800S, having obtained an entry in 1998 Guinness Book of Records for the highest mileage private vehicle at 1.69 million miles – exceeded three million miles.

In the 2013 adaptation of Jonas Jonasson’s excellent book “The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared” the leading character Allan Karlsson (played by Robert Gustafsson) is shown – in a Swedesh city location – driving a P1800 S.

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