Where Are They Now: The Volvo P1800 Whisky Cars

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

I came across an excellent recounting of misadventure on the high seas involving some 29 Volvo P1800 coupes, ordered by Americans who held deposits on the swanky Swedes. For some of these special-order cars, their chance to carve up Route 66 or other stateside environs wasn’t meant to be as a two ships passing in the night disrupted their travel plans. Find the story in its original form here on Hooniverse.

Also, before we go any further, photo credit goes to Volvo P1800 – From Idea to Prototype and Production”, by Mats Eriksson & Kenneth Collander. As you can see from the on-the-scene photos, the collision involving the MS Kassel – which held the Volvos and a healthy amount of Scotch whisky – and the MS Potaro was somewhat violent. The maritime incident resulted in a gaping hole in the Kassel, and the River Thames came rushing into the hold where 18 of the P1800s were stored.

The flooding in the cargo hold allowed the Volvos to be picked up and tossed around in a bath of whisky and salt water. Apparently, the cars were not secured tightly enough to prevent movement, and the P1800s were battered and bruised before their journey even began. Further damage occurred at the hands of the port staff that crudely attached hoists to the undersides of fenders and yanked the cars off the boat. Caved-in roofs like this car was among the most significant damage.

In addition, the aluminum dashboards and pretty interiors didn’t take well to salt water exposure, and Volvo moved quickly to auction off the damaged cars, primarily to Volvo employees. Eleven of the cars were undamaged and went onto their excited U.S. owners who knew nothing of their close brush with death; the remainder were sold and not much is known as to whether they were repaired and put back on the road or scrapped. All of the affected cars had production numbers between 3226 and 3285 – do you own one?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie PalmerStaff

    Jeff, I did some hunting. Many cars in that serial number range still exist! Check out these two registries: http://www.v1800reg.org/pages/Jensenbuilt.pdf and http://volvo1800pictures.com/PHPMaker/1800/chassislist.php. Interestingly enough, some of them are REALLY rusty. For example, check this one out (#3234): http://volvo1800pictures.com/PHPMaker/1800/chassisview.php?showdetail=&Id=3234.

    What a cool writeup!

    Like 1
    • Jeff LaveryAuthor

      Thanks Jamie. Good detective work! As per the rust – this seems like the exact reason why manufacturers today take zero chances with cars that are even potentially exposed to salt water in transit!

      Like 0
    • J wright

      Thanks! Great read.

      Like 0
  2. sir mike

    Same sort of in thing happen in…not sure..1968-70.Quite a few Ford Cortina’s were dropped at the docks in N.Carolina.Holman Moody was in charge of selling off the parts.I even bought a few items from them.Fun days..

    Like 0
  3. leiniedude leiniedudeMember

    Great story is right! Thanks for the work Jeff. Sad story and on top of that, that Scotch would be 55 years old today. Pretty cars, I do not know much about them. I am confused on the ID on the cars. 29 cars on board but the serial number range is 59? Thanks again, Very interesting story!

    Like 0
    • Z1rider

      Volvo COULD have built those U.S. bound cars in sequence but it is not likely they would have. Export cars would have been separated after end of line quality checks and shipped en’masse, but on the production line they were probably just part of the mix.

      Like 0
  4. jw454

    In 1972 a train went off the rails in Xeina, Ohio and several cars carrying new Chevrolet Vegas ended up on their sides. Our high school auto shop class received three of the damaged cars as a donation from GM. One station wagon and two fast backs. One of the fast backs was the GT model. We repaired the GT with parts from the other two as a learning project then, it suddenly disappeared. I often wondered what happened to it.
    Side note: The station wagon was turned into a “complete car cut away”. Every possible part was dissected to show it’s inner workings.
    Still like to know who got the GT though.

    Like 0
    • Vegaman_Dan

      One of my goals is to someday have a 74 GT Kammback Wagon again. I do miss that car greatly.

      Like 0
    • Fred W.

      Interesting that they ended up on their sides, as they were the only vehicles I’m aware of that were shipped standing on end!

      Like 0
  5. Bob Deveau

    I hauled my 1963 1800S out of a shed 15 years ago! VIN 6374. Thanks Jamie Palmer for the link to the Volvo registration sight, mines not in there but will be soon!

    Like 0
  6. Bob Deveau

    I hauled my 1963 Volvo 1800S out of a falling down shed 15 years ago! Thanks Jamie Palmer for the Volvo registry link, I plan to register it soon.

    Like 0
  7. AllenMember

    Since when would a ’72 Vega qualify as a “donation”? These early Vegas were liabilities, not assets. ‘ Sorry to hear about the derailment, but can’t help but speculate somebody from Chevrolet might have been involved. Dissecting one of these cars would not reveal anything “working” inside. That said, I believe they did work the bugs out in the later models. A friend had a ’75 wagon and I don’t think that thing ever quit. He finally passed it on after close to 200,000 miles – all the more remarkable back then.

    Like 1
    • Ernie the Dancing Weasel

      Most automakers donate transit-damaged cars that would require welding or straightening of metal to school auto shops to learn the trade. The schools DO NOT get Certificates of Origin and cars may not be registered or driven.

      I was on an advisory committee for the local vocational school and we were always grateful for the late model, current tech vehicles to cut up & learn from.

      GM was always particularly generous in this regard and there are probably a ton of guys out there that earn their living on skills they learned on these vehicles.

      And the Vega, a new vehicle from the ground up, was excellent for the purpose of teaching both unibody repair techniques and the peculiarities of aluminum block OHC engines…

      Like 0
  8. AllenMember

    ‘ Forgot to add that I love these old P1800s! Nice car, Bob Deveau!

    Like 0
  9. Bob Deveau

    Allen I believe from the bit of research I’ve done my Volvo is referred as a 1800S

    Like 0
  10. lawrence

    cool….now about that Adrian Doria………

    Like 0
    • Jerry

      Andrea Doria, 1956, Lancia Aurelia B24 America Spiders.

      Like 0
  11. AllenMember


    It’s still a very nice car! I’m flushed with embarrassment, but is the title car from this article mis-labeled as a “P1800”? Is there also a “P1800S”: an 1800 that was built in Sweden as opposed to Jensen in the UK? Please educate me. Many thanks!

    Like 0
    • Nathan Avots-SmithMember

      Allen, the P1800 (built by Jensen) was superseded in 1964 by the Sweden-built 1800S. The earliest of these still had the “cow horn” bumpers, as seen on Bob’s car, but switched to a straight design by 1965. In 1970, the 1800S received fuel injection and became the 1800E; this was joined in 1972 by the 1800ES sportwagon, which was the only version available for the final, 1973 model year.

      So, only the Jensen-built cars are “P1800″s, but this is the best-known name for these cars and often gets applied as a blanket for all variants. No need for embarrassment–it’s a lot of variation on one basic theme, so it can be confusing!

      The cars featured here were 1962 models, built by Jensen, and are appropriately referred to as P1800s.

      Like 0
  12. JACKinNWPA Jack in NW PAMember

    Got some whiskey in the water ? some Volvos in the sea ? what’s all these crazy questions they’re asking me ?

    Like 1
    • Rob'sGT

      That ain’t the way to have fun… Son!

      Like 0
  13. AllenMember

    Many thanks, Nathan. It all seems clear now.

    Like 0
  14. Tony S

    Great post and comments.

    Like 0
  15. Pete

    In 2004 I was heading up I-95 N I was pretty close to Rocky Mount NC when traffic came to an abrupt halt. I sat there for 45 minutes until I was able to move thru the accident area. The accident was caused by two car carrier trucks. One was empty and the other one had a full load of those lil smart cars, which had gotten scattered all over my side of the interstate. The median was full of them where they had pushed them out of the lanes of traffic. It look as if someone had put them all in a big hand and threw down the road like a handful of jacks ( jacks was a kids game for you younger guys ). Never seen anything like that in my life. Everyone of those cars was beat all to be damned. One car carrier trailer was all twisted up real bad. The other one just had a corner bent up pretty good where it ran into the loaded one. It was a site.

    Like 0
  16. sluggo

    Great story! In the 1980s was transferred to Europe while in the military and long tour so authorized to ship my car. Spent years and lots of money on it. Was distressed when time went by and no word on my cars arrival. Then a newspaper article came out in the Stars & stripes paper about a accident in a german harbor where some service members cars had gone into the harbor.
    I discussed a “What-if” with the base legal dept, They said If my car was lost they would look up blue book and pay me that. I had thousands invested and years of work on my 63 Nova SS and was distressed they would pay only low end blue book despite my receipts and photo documentation of all the work.
    Luckily, my car did turn up okay, but always check your paperwork and purchase insurance.

    In other shipping debacles my Gibson Explorer and my other guitar gear arrived okay, But my Charvel guitar had a broken neck. Base legal dept told me to just order another guitar from the Sears catalog!!!!!

    One does NOT get a gibson or charvel from Sears! Uggh, some people!!!

    Like 0
    • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

      Long live Les Paul! Love the Explorer also. Have to do some research on the Charvel. Take care, Mike.

      Like 0
      • sluggo

        Les Paul was an amazing guy, I also used to have one of his namesake guitars, the Les Paul custom. If you get a good one they sing on their own, they have their own distinct tone and sound. Charvels and Kramers came out with a strat style body, and most had dual humbuckers as well as most used the Floyd Rose tremelo (Whammy bar) they were really nice when they came out and well made, later versions were cheaply made in Asia, But for certain types of music they were the hot rod guitar to have. The tremelo has been around a long time but the Floyd Rose design changed everything. You can beat on it and wang the heck out of it and the guitar stays in tune.
        On mine it had a reverse neck and it broke off at the top from rough handling in shipping. It takes a skilled luthier to replace and properly set up the neck so, overseas where i was,, no chance. But the idea Sears carried such things or the Military catalogs thru AAFES was absurd. I got a friend home on leave who knew how to pick a good one, got me another when back in the US and hand carried it back.
        Guitars are funny items. You can pick up 20 guitars and 19 will be crap… But one thats well made feels, plays and just is right. So, not exactly catalog material. Today,,, modern manuf has closed the gap and even cheap gitters are not too bad,, But nothing sings and plays like a 1950s Les Paul custom. Once you played one you understand.

        Nothing is worse for a kid or someone learning how to play than giving them a crappy cheap guitar,, most are so challenging new students give up. Too hard. Of course a newby doesnt need a $40,000 dollar Les Paul custom either with custom fretting and low action. If you want to give one as a gift, get a experienced player to help you pick a good one.

        Like 0
    • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

      Hi sluggo, I did some research on the Charvel, sounds like a nice Axe. I do agree the best way to get someone not to play guitar is get them a beater for a starter guitar. I also agree with the big box music stores. There was a great music store in Madison Wisconsin, I stopped in to look at the new Les Pauls. None! All the good axes were going to the big box store under contract. I am blessed, I still own my 1973 Black and Gold Les Paul Custom that I bought new. I know she is not a fifties Goldtop, but I still have her. Take care Mike.

      Like 0
    • bog

      Sluggo – all officers were allowed to take basically anything one owned to Europe for free when I was sent there in ’67. So, my brand spanking new Fairlane GTA was sent by me from good old Bayonne, NJ to Bremerhaven, West Germany. Apparently, the cranemeister had too much Schnapps with his bier the day mine got unloaded. They must have thought it was a 6 cylinder car or something…the photo of the Volvo with the straps lifting it out of the hold is the picture in my mind of what was done to my hotrod. Front fenders on both sides dented in right above the wheel centerline. I was p!ssed. Lots of GI paperwork. Great insurance Co. though, so got it fixed and then played the waiting game for reimbursement. Sadly, German Ford yellow only approximated my car’s paint, so to my eyes it was never quite right. Got all the hi-test gas and battery stolen out of it upon return, so I was 2 for 2. Still, not as bad as the poor guy that had his car dropped from deck height in Germany. Flat to the windshield. Counting my blessings !

      Like 0
  17. BiggYinn

    The jensen built are indeed P1800

    A later car P1800S holds the record for the highest ever milage over 3 million miles …. makes you appreciate if you manage as much as 200,000 let alone 15 times that again !!

    Like 0
  18. AllenMember


    ‘ Love your comments on guitars. I’m no guitarist – made my living playing the trumpet, and now retired, I try a bit of piano here and there.

    I fully understand about the instruments that sing! It ain’t the brand, it ain’t the price, although the pricier ones do tend to sound better. And sometimes they don’t do everything on the first date. You have to spend some time with ’em to coax them to show their finest qualities. Purchasing decisions are particularly difficult with custom-made instruments. You get a maker to commit to making one for you – and right there, you’ve bought it long before it even exists. And sometimes the best efforts of the most skilled makers don’t deliver what either you or the maker expected. Heartbreak!

    There are so many obvious parallels to a beautifully tuned vintage engine. There’s that point in the tuning when you know you’ve found the sweet spot and all is well with the world.

    Like 0
    • sluggo

      Allen, yes, then you do understand. I used to have a knock off copy of a Gibson SG and that thing was amazing and wonderful feel to it. I failed to appreciate it fully at the time. (It came to a sad end when I foolishly loaned it out for a friends gig).

      My nephews are getting into music and I have enjoyed trying to educate them and take them into the big city to the GOOD music stores as well. (They live in a remote rural community).

      Stay away from the corporate music stores. There is some very revealing Youtube videos about them and how they trash viable instruments. Its way off topic here so Ill leave readers to search it out, but the store mgr took a hammer to a Les Paul gold top. (my heart aches)

      But the comparison to quality tools, or machinery is there. I enjoy all types of vintage machinery and some of it just so beautiful and artistic. You could go out and buy the modern Yamaha version, but the BSA Goldstar is perfection and no comparison. Same with some cars, I worked under a few people and while I never got to be as refined, some of those people could listen to ANY type of machinery and know exactly what they need, fuel, ignition or bearing rumble thats indistinguishable to a mere mortal. At our local Car & Motorcycle museum we were having a class on hand formed aluminum body work. (Another art form) and one of the neighboring museums had an old tractor out.
      One of the guys in the class,, Frank, cocked his ear and commented the Impulse coupling on the Maggie was not working right.

      When its right, its right. In aviation school I spent 3 days learning how to time and tune a 18 cyl radial. (Challenging with 2 banks of 9 cyls and you have to split the math to make it run right). When I got it done I was very proud! The instructor asked me,…. “Does it run because of you or in spite of you?” My ego kicked in and I was a bit ticked off… but I calmed down and realized how wise he was. I consider it a metaphor for so many things including mgmt and leadership.

      Like 0
  19. Reg Bruce

    @ Jack in NW PA and Rob’sGT:
    Funniest responses I’ve read in a long time. Wife doesn’t understand why I’m going to bed now with a big grin on my face!
    Thanks guys.

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds