Sport Wagon: 1973 Volvo 1800ES

This 1973 Volvo 1800ES resides in the sweet spot of being a car you can drive and enjoy as-is, or is a solid candidate for restoration thanks to its many years of residence in Texas that left it mostly rust-free. The 1800ES is a striking design, a model I am still personally smitten by, and this one runs, drives, and has never been apart, either as a project or a restoration-gone-wrong. It’s equipped with the optional Borg-Warner three speed automatic transmission, and the 68,422 miles on the clock are believed to be genuine. If you’re looking for an appreciating classic that’s also pleasingly practical, this rare 1800ES here on eBay is worth a look – especially at no reserve.

The 1800ES really is an interesting collection of features, not the least of which is that huge rear glass pane – a design feature that earned the wagon the nickname “Snow White’s Coffin” overseas. The Pietro Frau-penned design is elegant, and while it may not be everyone’s definition of beautiful, it is eye-catching none the less. The slim bumpers were from an era that wasn’t defined by overzealous American safety regulations when European cars were stripped of their beautiful chrome appendages and made to bolt crude “park bench bumpers” on instead, along with other design changes. Volvo actually kept the 1800ES’ production run quite brief because it didn’t wish to prepare the model for the new regulations.

That’s why you don’t see many today, with total production of just over 8,000 models. The example shown here was in Texas for most of its life, and off the road for many of those years. Fortunately, it was clearly stored inside, as the interior still presents incredibly well, with seat upholstery that appears to still be quite supple, along with original carpets in good order. The dash shows no major cracking, and the center console and steering wheel are original and both in good, driver-quality shape. Even the map pockets on the door panels show no apparent sagging. The automatic transmission may not get the enthusiast vote, but it also likely means this 1800ES hasn’t been ragged on.

The B20 engine wasn’t a rocket ship, but it still delivered respectable performance for the era. The 1800ES is an ideal combination of looks, speed, and practicality, and while it doesn’t excel in any one area, it does all three reasonably well. The seller presents this example as being an honest driver that will still fire up with the first turn of the key, and while there is some rust to address in the floors, it doesn’t sound serious and it’s certainly the kind of project you can drive while improvements are made. Fortunately, that doesn’t appear to involve restoring the cabin or tearing the engine down, at least not yet. In a no reserve auction, there’s a good chance of going home with this funky Swede for a fair price.

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  1. Jim Field

    These are beautiful cars- to drive and to look at. Best friend had one. Paid $6000 for it in 74. I have no idea what a reasonable price for a car in this shape would be.
    Any idea of the hp on a B20 engine?

  2. Ian C

    Without a doubt, the only Volvo I would ever consider buying. The 1800 series was the only attractive body style they made. Just my opinion, of coarse.

    I would still have to do an engine swap though. Probably an AMC 390 & 4spd.

    Like 3
  3. Tom Lange

    The automatic is a turn-off for me. I wonder how much it would cost to convert it to a 5-speed?

    Like 3
    • Roger Salls

      Pickup a Volvo M 41 transmission , 4 speed plus overdrive this is pretty much bulletproof, same driveshaft and rear end. The other thing you would need is a peddlebox a da weekend to do the work.

  4. Tin Box

    Easy swap to a 4spd w O/D, this dates from the era where the body shell was made the same regardless of gearbox.
    Clearly this one lived indoors for its time in Texas, the seats / dash / door panels would be in shreds otherwise.
    Nice to see the injection has been kept, but I’d have a hard time not slotting in a 302/5spd combo for a nice rumble mixed with torque.

    Like 2
  5. Thomas Egan

    Lost me at automatic..

  6. RichardinMaine

    Have always loved these, and I keep wondering if the 2.4 ltr. twin cam 5 cylinder from the 850/S70 would fit. Owned one of those and it ran great.

  7. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Always like these.

  8. bobhess bobhess Member

    Pretty cars. Spent some time in a SCCA race version. Pulled 226 hp at the flywheel and won a lot of races. Got so many grocery cart comments put “got milk” on the back of it. There is an adapter available to put the Ford T-5 five speed gear box in these cars. Richard… If you are serious I can find out about the engine swap from the good friend who built the race car and just retired from 30 years owning a Volvo only service and repair business.

    Like 1
  9. SebastianX1/9

    The most Italian Swedish car of all. It’s the Scandinavian Alfa GTV. Cheaper too.

  10. Randolph Biden Robinette

    Tempted but I’m gettin’ older. Got one new in ’73 for about $5800. I LOVED IT. Drove it all over USA & Canada. I almost did a Sweden pickup, to drive around Europe then ship home on Volvo’s dime. With standard injection, this B20 had 118hp. I’ve had much faster Volvos but the ES was still a high speed precision gem. 125mph was a real sweet spot & Montana was perfect. Sleeps 2 w/o camping gear. If you add HP & torque you’ll really need new shocks, springs and F/R sway bars. I doubled the fun with some Koni’s. Was constantly pricing out screamin’ engines but never did it. Somebody please go have some fun. Oh, and maybe pick me up for a ride in it some day?

    Like 3
  11. Ron

    Have to wonder what happened to the rear interior trim.

  12. DRV

    HP fell off of 135 after 1970. If it has the stock cam it was around 115. A thorough personal rust inspection is needed no matter where they spent their life.

    Like 1
  13. log

    I had one until I had a flat tire and the jack went through the body.

  14. Tennis Tim

    Zoom in on the rust collecting on the rocker panels.. not that it should kill the deal

    Like 1

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