Clean Low-Mileage 1965 Volvo 1800S

The owner gives very little information on this 1965 Volvo 1800S (not a “P1800,” as commonly identified) for sale here on Craigslist in Vallejo (near San Francisco), California with an $18,000 asking price. As the former owner of two of these lovely beasts, I think I can fill in some of the missing information.

What do we know? It’s a one-owner (for 50 years) black-plate California car, garaged its entire life with just 75,000 miles on the odometer. If the car was any worse, I’d say TMU—maybe it’s 175,000—but everything about it supports a carefully coddled California car.

These cars can get really bad. Ask me how I know. The ’64 I owned was comprehensively rotted, and once these go it’s cost-prohibitive to bring them back to life. It’s definitely worth spending the extra money to find a clean 1800. And this one is exceptionally clean.

The 1800 shares its mechanicals with the contemporary 122S, with the addition only of a problematic oil cooler. That means a 1.8-liter four with a four-speed gearbox (with overdrive on the 1800s and a few 122s). Mechanically, they were bulletproof and far more reliable than contemporary British sports cars. Acceleration is leisurely, but once underway the cars hum along. Handling is pretty good.

In fact, they’re more grand tourer than a sports car. The driving position is very low to the ground but quite comfortable. There’s a big trunk and a fold-down rear seat. Early cars (but not this one) were assembled in England, and there are such English touches as Girling brakes, Lucas electrics, and (often non-functional) Smith’s gauges. The last year of the 1800S was 1969 when they gained the larger B20 engine and Solex carbs.

Being a ’65, this 1800 has the very cool upswept chrome on the doors—it later became a less-charismatic straight piece. I can’t see the grille clearly, but it appears to be an original type.

Back to the car at hand. It’s had a Weber carburetor conversion, which isn’t a bad thing. It looks extremely original. The only things I’d question are the red carpets—shouldn’t they be black?—and the third brake light, which is certainly not factory (but probably safer). Does the overdrive work? The owner doesn’t say, but it’s important—they’ve become hard to find.

The best thing about this car is the underside, which looks pristine. The all-important frame rails look rock-solid. They’re seldom this good. I’m not seeing rust, dents, dings, or paint flaws. All the chrome looks great. The dash is uncracked—a rarity. The passenger door stands slightly proud, but that’s common.

With the way 1800s have been appreciating, $18,000 for one in this condition with 75,000 miles seems like a very, very good deal. Just sayin’. If you’ve been wanting one of these, this might be your car.


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  1. Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

    Already gone.

    Like 6
  2. pebblebeachjudge

    Don’t dream. It was a 176,000 Mile car that needed a ton. Better buy one that is a frame off restoration. Great cars. Karam Ghia is as good.

    Like 1
    • Wolfgang Gullich

      Karmann Ghia: the world’s slowest sports car. Having owned VWs and Volvos, the 1800 is lightyears more refined and reliable than any air cooled Volkswagen.

      Like 11
  3. Al

    looks like 175k looking at the odometer….the 7 is just a click up from center….dead give away.

    Like 1
  4. jim motavalli Staff

    C’mon, it’s a Smith’s gauge. It doesn’t do anything predictable.

    Like 1
  5. Sam Shive

    I want the Ford truck.

  6. Bob G.

    The Smiths speedometer usually went bad and needed replacement because the British speedo cables were wound backwards and cause transmission oil to come up the cable and gum up the speedometer.
    This car should have a “Cow Horn” front bumper, and the center console with the glove box is from a later car. I have a white coupe a few numbers earlier than this.

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