Beautiful California Survivor: 1966 Volvo P1800

The Volvo P1800 makes the web pages of Barn Finds with surprising regularity. And why not? At a time when Volvos seemed more like boxy, safety appliances on wheels, the P1800 put a completely different slant on wearing a Volvo badge. And this 1966 California example has all the trappings of a survivor so let’s see if that’s the case. Mission Hills, California is where you will find this Volvo and it is available, here on craigslist for $24,500. Thanks to Matt R for this tip!

Considered a touring car more than a sports car, the P1800 gained familiarity, as the seller states, with the appearance of a 1962 model in a TV series known as “The Saint“, starring Roger Moore. I’m familiar with a lot of TV from that era but somehow The Saint is one that I missed as I have no recollection of it. Anyway, these are not rare cars as they were in production for thirteen years (1961-1973) and saw total sales of about 45K including the “shooting brake” version, also known as a Sports Estate (1800 ES), which is essentially a two-door station wagon.

One of the selling features of this Volvo is its factory air conditioning, an option that was probably pretty rare in 1966. The seller, however, adds, “The car has factory air condition which has been disconnected. Needs new belt and freon to get it running“. I’ve encountered this explanation too many times before, that alone tells you something more than a belt and freon are the problems. OK, but it’s still a nice clean example and the interior, along with its non-working A/C, presents beautifully with black upholstery and contrasting red carpet. The gauges and switchgear appear complete and the ’60s style two-spoke steering wheel completes the picture.

The 115 hp, 1.8 liter, in-line, four-cylinder engine is claimed to be original, and along with its four-speed manual transmission is, “easy to drive“. The seller adds the following, “Things I have done in the past few years. New gas tank, new starter, new slave cylinder, rebuilt the Original SU carburetors. Brakes work good. Well maintained. Good runner“.

I’m going to run with the thought that this Volvo is a survivor and still wearing its original clothes. It is described as, “It’s in all original condition. No modifications. Undercarriage (is) very solid. Chrome is in nice condition and the swoop chrome and spear chrome on the side is in like-new condition“. There is nothing that shows out of place and black is pretty unforgiving when it comes to D cubed (divots, dings & dents). The black finish still possesses nice depth and shows no sign of oxidization. California living has been kind to this Volvo, it’s a looker! (I would like to have seen an image of the passenger side, however…)

The mileage is recorded as 85K miles though there is no claim to that figure being authentic. Nevertheless, 85K miles or more, this P1800 is extremely presentable and is worthy of consideration for those in the P1800 market. What do you think about the ask, priced right or not quite?


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Beautiful cars. AC… easy to check and repair. If no leaks replace dryer, check oil in compressor, charge it and light it up. That will make it a cruiser of the highest order.

    Like 7
  2. Luki

    That is an1800S not a P1800.

    Like 5
    • Terrry

      It’s a P1800S. The P1800ES was the wagon version.

      Like 1
      • Luki

        P1800 were only made 1961 and 1962.

        1963 was first year for the 1800S until the 1800E then the 1800ES.

        Like 5
      • Jim ODonnell Staff

        The seller refers to his car as both a P1800 and then a 1800E


      • Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

        It’s nice to know the proper designation and Luki sounds definitive as to the model year correctness. I’ve always referred to them as a P1800 but that is apparently a generic label for me given that formal model designation ended in 1962. Is it a kleenex or a tissue? Is it a xerox or a copy? Is it a fridgidaire or a refrigerator or an icebox? Interesting how names can take on the alias for a product.
        Back in the early 70s I worked with a young woman who had a black 1966 1800S that she and her husband bought new. I had a ride in it and I was completely taken with the car. I know they’re under powered, but they have class or something. I understand what Jim was saying WRT the other models, although I think that the earlier ones (544, 122) were actually nice designs. The 142s (“They’re boxy, but they’re good”) were ugly IMO. The 144 (I think that’s the designator) with the 6 cylinder engine and interesting grill was better but still not the greatest looker.

  3. Terrry

    A deserved classic, it looks nothing like the conservatively-styled Volvos of the day. And if it really only has 85K miles, it probably has at least a couple million left. Just like the ’66 1800 that went over 3 million and outlived it’s owner.

    Like 6
  4. Christopher P Manner

    I could be wrong, but I thought A/C was a dealer installed option not a factory option.

    Like 1
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      No, you’re probably correct. The seller refers to it as “factory” installed A/C, but since he appears to have gotten the model wrong, twice, why not get the A/C factoid wrong too?


      Like 3
      • Gregory Mason

        My Brother had a black 66. He also picked up a wreck and had me put the overdrive unit in his. It made a big difference on the highway. Also replaced the head gasket rebuilt the Stromberg SU carbs and replaced the broken straps from the body to the rear.

    • Poppy

      It could still be a factory option installed at the dealer. Hondas used to come in that way and the dealers had to add all the options that the buyer had ordered.

      Like 2
      • Jim ODonnell Staff

        My follow-up research indicates that you are correct (assuming that the research is accurate which it frequently isn’t on such matters) Anyway, the option could be specified at purchase, but then installed by the selling dealership. So is it factory installed? Not technically, but it’s not exactly a generic tack-on where the dealership performs a force-fit with a questionable unit that doesn’t look like it belongs.

        Here is something that I found on the subject:



        Like 2
    • George Member

      Absolutely correct, but a lot of European makes including Volvo and Mercedes had factory-approved dealer installed kits. Not really “factory,” but not really aftermarket, either

      Like 1
  5. Gary

    Like watching a rerun of The Saint.

    Like 3
  6. Gunner

    These Volvo’s have such a classic European flair. Beautiful styling, swooping lines. For so many of us, we see the European classics that are six and seven figures knowing that it is only a dream. Driving this black beauty would be like some of it coming true. Even though many of them were made, it is not a car seen often, and people say, “what is that”?. I believe that they are going to increase sharply in value in the next few years and the way this one is priced is a great deal, a great investment. 👍

    Like 6
  7. bobhess bobhess Member

    Christopher… You are correct. Even when we ordered our ’73 1800ES factory air was not available, only dealer installed, which we had done.

    Like 3
    • Richard Martin

      I have no idea about whether the air conditioning was normally installed by the factory or the dealer but what I do know is the air con in this car is not a Volvo system.
      The optional air conditioning system looks nothing like this.
      Look at the compressor – factory systems don’t have worm drive hose clips.

  8. Rex Kahrs Member

    If this seller refers to the car as both a P1800 and an 1800E, he’s wrong both times.

    There were no P1800s built after 1963. After ’63, they were built in Sweden, and thus were called 1800S. The 1800E designation supplanted the S designation in 1970, when the B20 motor got fuel injection.

    Like 2
  9. Spridget

    “At a time when Volvos seemed more like boxy, safety appliances on wheels, the P1800 put a completely different slant on wearing a Volvo badge”

    I have to disagree with this statement! The 444/544, 122, and 140 series, the Volvos this one overlapped with, were genuinely very sporty and fun cars for their time. And, while they weren’t exactly curvaceous, they certainly weren’t the total bricks the 240 series were.

    Like 3
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      It’s not so much a statement as it is an opinion, just like your assertion, that I completely disagree with.

      Nevertheless, it is your opinion and you are certainly entitled to it.



      Like 1
      • Martin Horrocks

        Afraid I’m with Spridget, Jim. The P1800 is an early 60s design and this is a 1966 car. Upto that date Volvo had a reputation for sporting cars based on competition success of PV444/544 and Amazon. Both sedan shapes were curvaceous and based on American designs (late 40s Plymouth for P444, Chrysler 300 for Amazon). R&T or C&D at the time would put Volvos up against other 2 litre sporting imports like BMW, Alfa, Triumph, Rover etc. and all models did well in SCCA racing in the 60s.

        The square shape of the 140 series was introduced for model year 67, but was still a good sports sedan with competition usage. The Volvo marketing of safety as a priority over driving performance really starts with the 240 series in the 70s. Presumably, the company made more money that way!

        Maybe you don´t recall “The Saint” because it was made in UK and didn´t get to the US? The series launched the international career of Roger Moore, whose James Bond never went far from the persona laid down in “The Saint”.

        Like 3
      • Jim ODonnell Staff


        It doesn’t have anything to do with performance and never did, it’s all about appearance. If I wanted a car that looked like a late ’40s Plymouth, I’d buy the Plymouth and not a Volvo. And I doubt the wisdom of continuing that “PV” styling into the mid-’60s. I suppose Volvo still had buyers that wanted something that looked 15 or 20 years behind the times, and assuming that’s the case, so be it. I wouldn’t have been one of them, however. Maybe I should have suggested a “curvaceous” and/or boxy safety appliance.

        It’s all subjective, I have always been fond of the P1800, 1800E and S, they are visual attention getters to my eyes. The others? not so much so.

        As for the Saint, you are probably correct, I have heard of it, many times, but have never seen an episode.



        Like 1
  10. Scuderia

    Down right steal compared to this one last month on BAT..

    Like 2
    • Poppy

      Yes, I thought the asking price seemed low for the condition and equipment. Have always loved the look of these cars.

  11. Bruce G Hughes

    Love this car, a red one has been sitting at a house in East Bridgewater MA near the post office for years. If it were mine I would paint it white and get a ST1 licence plate for the front. Reruns of the Saint are on cable TV in my area on Sat night right after Perry Mason

    Like 1
  12. Rex Kahrs Member

    Well, I’m not trying to be pedantic, I’m just trying to be accurate. There’s a big difference between a Chevelle and a Chevelle SS 396.

    Oddly, despite the noted inferior build quality of the “P”1800 cars which were built in England, somehow these cars command higher prices than do the Swedish-built 1800S cars. Go figure.

  13. Capt RD

    If it passes the magnet test it is a bargain!

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