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Out of Time: 1972 Volvo 1800E


Project cars: we love them, we loathe them. As I consider potentially adding a new project to my fleet, I’m reminded of the thoughts I had in the first few months of owning my E30. Feeling overwhelmed comes to mind. Thinking about how long it would take to get it to the point I wanted it, not to mention the dollars and time involved. Those are the memories that come flooding back when I read this ad that makes it sound as if the seller is simply running on empty when it comes to keeping the project flame burning. Read on to see if it’s time for a new caretaker to step up and give this ’72 1800E, found here on craigslist by reader Alan S., a forever home. It’s located in Georgetown, Kentucky and the seller is asking $3,500.


As an aside, the car I’m looking at is both better and worse than my E30 when I first bought it. The rust is more straightforward (meaning it’s fairly obvious where new metal is needed unlike the “Surprise, more rust!” experience that my car was); the engine is more robust than even the venerable M20 motor; and finally, it has a much, much better interior than my car did. So those are all pluses. But it still has largely unknown mechanical history and a few dents and dings to smooth out, along with needing a whole mess of preventative maintenance just to drive it confidently. If I had already owned the car for a few years and those issues were still unresolved? Yeah, I may be looking to move that project along like the seller of this 1800.


I would love to think the challenge of getting this formerly-Florida car running is as simple as cleaning out the gas tank and fuel lines. Rarely is jump-starting a restoration such a straight-forward affair, but these Volvos were known for their robustness – so you may get lucky! However, from the photos, you can see evidence of rust repair or other body work on the driver’s rear quarter, and that aftermarket moonroof makes me cringe thinking about the water it has potentially allowed in. It’s hard to believe there was a time when car owners thought that having a local shop cut a hole in their roof was a good idea. I like sunroofs, but I never would have gone to those lengths to add one!


Imagine bringing a non-running car with you across several states when you moved. That’s truly a labor of love (and optimism) when a project accompanies its owner from state-to-state. Perhaps that’s why the seller has decided it’s time to move on – the 1800 is a great car, but any project that’s not running and taking up valuable garage space can wear out its welcome fast. So tell us – would you be willing to finish what the seller started? Or is it too late for this stylish Swede?


  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Always loved these…and this isn’t one of the Jensen-bodied ones (as an appreciator of fine British rust, I’ve always wondered why Volvo chose Jensen to build the bodies for the early 1800’s). This would be one I’d be willing to take on if I had the time…especially if it had overdrive :-)

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  2. Don Sicura

    You’ve covered all the reasons why I would NOT want to get Involved with this one, especially the aftermarket moon/sun roof!

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  3. David C

    I also love the 1800 coupe. I had a friend that had one he restored. Rust seems to always be the main issue. The engines and gear box are bullet proof.

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  4. DRV

    It’s all about the rust on these. Everything on these is straight forward excepting the
    Jetronic fuel infection, but even that is simplistic but expensive. From fuel pump to injectors it can get pricey. I kept it on mine, but dual SUs are far easier and more reliable for this.
    This one is nowhere near dead if the rust is minimal.
    Oh, and a small block Ford is a nice alternative!

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    • Jimmy

      No, a small block Ford is not a nice alternative.

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  5. sir mike

    i always wondered the mine set of the people who installed those aftermarket sun roofs.the worst one i ever saw was in a early MGB…in a factory hard top…as for the P1800 i always liked them…

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  6. John M

    Yea, that moonroof is a deal breaker for me. These things are going up in value, but that hole in the roof puts a big dent in the collector value.

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  7. rancho bella

    As the 1800 creeps up in value it would important to weld in the fools errand of an after market sunroof. I hate those things

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  8. DRV

    I see about 20k to do a hands on OK restoration.
    The steel roof piece can be found at many junkyards, but if not I know of 20 or so bodies.
    I have seen a dealer installed sunroof .

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  9. Brian

    I wonder if it would be easier to weld up the sunroof hole with some sheet metal or just chop and replace the entire roof section? I once looked at a ’64 Studebaker that had a silly 70’s sunroof hacked in. I passed on it for the same reason…

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  10. Jeff Lavery Staff

    Unfortunately, my dreams of owning an older 5-Series did not materialize. Very, very rusty underneath. Hope this Volvo escapes the same fate!

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  11. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    I recently brought one of these back to life. Indeed they rusted badly, and did so in structural areas as well as fenders and doors.

    But this car attracts interest like no other classic car I’ve ever owned. It isn’t fast, and it doesn’t handle all that well, but it will turn heads. The sunroof may have been added to supply much-needed ventilation…these cars got hot inside and rolling down the windows didn’t help much.

    Still, after spending 8+ months sorting the car, I finally got it on the road and enjoyed it…until some guy in a pickup truck (I’ll call him Joe Text) rear-ended me and totaled the car.

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    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Ugh. That’s the worst. At least you gave her a few more months on the road.

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  12. Alan (Michigan)

    Every time I see one of these cars I think of “The Saint” TV series and Roger Moore driving it…

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  13. Keith

    Thanks for posting my Craigslist ad on barn finds. I didn’t have the sunroof installed! It was like that when I bought it….it actually never leaked! I had some great times in this car but I recently divorced and I just don’t have the time, money, or motivation to get it roadworthy again. It started out a foam green color called “ocean mist” and someone had it repainted the metallic blue color that it is now….and they redid the interior to match. The funniest story associated with the car happened one day when my former father in law (now deceased) was in the car with me on the outskirts of Orlando. We were sitting at a stop light and there was a Porsche 911 turbo in front of us (SCCA and IMSA stickers on the rear window) and my father in law said “follow him, let’s see where he’s going” so I switched off my turn signal and went straight following the bright yellow 911. I saw the 911 driver look in his mirror and he gave it some gas….my father in law said “stay with him”…..a little later the same scenario and my father in law said “stay with him” and I accelerated to stay with the 911….finally the 911 driver had enough and he floored it and disappeared. My father in law asked me “how fast are we going?” and I told him 120 and he freaked out “slow down! Are you crazy?”. I think there are still finger nail impressions on the passenger side of the dash! I figure the 911 was doing 175 when it disappeared.

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  14. Vince Habel

    In 1970 I could have bought a 65 for 500 but I had just bought my first Avanti

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  15. jim s

    i think this car needs a PI then make the seller an offer. if the rust is not too bad then this would make a great daily driver. back in the day they sure cut a lot of holes for sunroofs. i know 3M, who mostly did pin stripes, had a deal were they would come to a dealer and put sunroofs in their new and used inventory. nice find

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  16. cory

    no offense to anyone, but this is a car i just don’t get. it has never appealed to me and the prices seem way out of line for what they are

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