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Saintly California Car: 1965 Volvo 1800S

Roger Moore gained his fame from his long and somewhat campy portrayal of James Bond.  He did, however, earn his acting chops by playing a British spy of sorts in the television series “The Saint.”  While that portrayal probably served Moore well in making him a shoo-in for replacing Sean Connery as Bond, the real star of that TV series was a white Volvo P1800 coupe.  If you want to put a somewhat famous “star car” in your garage, then reader T.J. has found a prime example of Simon Templar’s ride.  This 1965 Volvo 1800S for sale on Craigslist in West Hills, California is in very good original condition and could be the perfect stand-in for that semi-famous white Volvo.  Is $28,500 too high a price to pay for this beautiful example of perhaps Volvo’s most respected and beloved car?

People love “star cars.”  From the A-Team van to the 1951 Ford F-1 from Sanford and Son, people will pay big money to build copies of these screen legends.  There are so many of them running around now that museums have started hosting exhibitions of these vehicles.  Perhaps the most famous is Bandit’s black Trans Am.  That car has a whole multi-day tour dedicated to it called “The Bandit Run.”  As much as we love TV and the movies here, our cousins across the pond have a similar affinity for their shows.  One of the most popular was a British series called “The Saint.”  This series ran from 1962 through 1969 and produced an amazing 118 episodes.  The show was so popular that it was put into syndication in the United States as well for a brief time.

The lead character, Simon Templar, tooled around in a very beautiful Volvo P1800.  Interestingly, Jaguar was approached to provide the car for the show but refused to assist the producers in supplying one of their new E-Type sports cars.  Volvo, on the other hand, leaped at the chance.  The P1800 that they offered was an interestingly styled coupe based on the Amazon/122 series.  The styling was penned by Pelle Petterson, who was trained by Pietro Frua.  Frua and his design studio were affiliated with the Italian design house Ghia.  Knowing that little historical tidbit helps one to better understand the lines of the P1800.  In the design of the P1800, you can see hints of some of the Chrysler show cars that Ghia designed, and the roofline bears a family resemblance to the Volkswagen Karman Ghia.  Volvo was never a company to go out on a limb styling-wise, so the design of the P1800 is somewhat of a historical anomaly for the company.

What isn’t an anomaly is the quality and attention to detail that Volvo demonstrated in all of its cars during that period.  Still, the P1800 series took that conservative and value-oriented reputation to the next level.  Volvo fans may remember that a fellow named Irv Gordon drove his 1800S over 3,000,000 miles before the car ended up being purchased by Volvo and placed in their museum.  The amazing part is that the car was still in great shape and rarely needed more than routine maintenance throughout its life.  If one wants a car to last, an early Volvo is a very good candidate.

If you are one of those people looking for what could be your last car, then this 1965 Volvo 1800S would be a good candidate.  The sidebar in the ad lists this car as having 31,440 miles, but no statement is made about that being the true miles.  Perhaps the owner doesn’t know themselves, as the quality level of the materials used in the production of the 1800 series could easily look as good at 131,000 miles.  We are told that a lot of time and effort has been spent sorting out this well-kept Volvo.  The car runs well, the sometimes troublesome fifth gear on the transmission functions as it should, and all of the parts and pieces work as they did when the car rolled off the assembly line 58 years ago.

The only drawback here is the price.  While the car is surely one of the nicest examples out there, $28,500 is the top of the market for the earlier examples.  The seller also can’t count on the TV connection to raise the price in the same manner that the 1977 model black Trans Am prices are inflated.  Still, if one is looking for a car that is legendary for its quality and longevity all wrapped up in a beautifully styled body, then this would be a good pick.  Most of us would rather ride off into the sunset in a good P1800 than in any econobox sitting in a showroom today.  the TV tie in is just gravy after that.

Do you have an affinity for Volvo P1800s?  Do you remember “The Saint” on television?  Is this car priced right?  Please share your thoughts and memories in the comments.


  1. RayT Member

    Never watched “The Saint,” but certainly have always known about P1800s, and have even driven a couple. They’re sweet cars, at least when they haven’t been nibbled on by the tinworm.

    My guess — strictly that — based on the photos is that this particular example has covered 131,000 miles, if not more. It has the kind of patina that suggests that much.

    Not that it matters all that much. Volvo’s B18 engines are nearly un-killable, and can even be hotted up a little without any loss in reliability.

    My only question would be the transmission. I recall the P1800s I drove as having four-speed gearboxes. Could this one be from a later car, or has it been allotted an extra cog in error?

    $28K seems a little high. Nice car, however.

    Like 7
    • jim motavalli Staff

      It’s a four-speed gearbox with a Laycock d’Normanville overdrive unit. That’s what’s meant by “fifth gear.”

      Like 12
    • Carl Plaskett

      The 5th speed was the electric overdrive, activated by the slender lever switch just behind the right hand steering wheel spoke in the supplied photo. I had a ’66 from ’68 to around ’84 and sold it for more than I had paid after adding about 150,000 miles to the odometer, for a total of around 166,000. Wonderful car!! I wanted one from the first time I saw “The Saint”, which featured a P1800. The body build quality from Jensen in the UK was not good and later models from around late ’64 were 1800s versions with the “S” signifying being built in Sweden.

      Like 7
      • Bridget

        I learned to drive in a 1971 P 1800E and it had over 120,000 at that time and my two brothers learned to drive that car as well. My father bought it a year old and we had it in the family running until 1990, the only bad thing about it was the speedometer stopped working so it was drive by tachometer.

        Like 0
  2. Euromoto Member

    I don’t know the particulars on P1800’s so can’t say whether there’s a significant difference between years in terms of worth but Hagerty values a #3 1962 model at $24,700.

    But what I found most interesting is that, per Hagerty, values have dropped 31% in 12 months for #3 cars and over 50% for #4 condition.

    Looks like a buyers market for P1800’s to me…

    Like 2
  3. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    This car is an 1800S, not a P1800. Ask Michelle, she knows.

    Like 5
  4. JCH841

    From the original Saint books by Leslie Charteris – The Hirondel (sometimes misspelled as Hirondelle) is a fictional car driven by Simon Templar. The Hirondel is an opulent, eight-cylinder, cream and red vehicle costing £5,000 and is a recurring element in many of The Saint books. I agree the asking price is a little high; dare I say “Saintly.”

    Like 3
  5. Joseph

    Yes, Irv Gordon did drive his Volvo 3M miles. However, the engine was rebuilt at least twice during his ownership. As far as I am concerned, any claim for long term durability stop the first time the engine is taken apart. Most cars will last a long time if you just keep rebuilding them.

    Like 1
  6. Greg A

    A friend just sold one. Keep in mind that most of these cars are full of bondo. Everyone who looked at his car brought a magnet, except the guy who bought it.

    Like 6
  7. Bruce G Hughes

    Loved the Saint TV show and his white Volvo. Such a great looking car. Always wanted one. There is a red P1800 that has been rusting away in a yard off a main road near me in West Bridgewater, MA. Probably too far gone by now. Also loved “The Avengers” 60s British show with John Steed’s vintage Bentley and Emma Peel’s Lotus. Great cars and great TV shows.

    Like 6
  8. Bob from Wisconsin

    The British use Speedometer cables that are would opposite of ours, so instead of “augering” oil down toward the transmission, they move it up to the speedometer head. That gums it up so it fails. Smiths replaced most under warrantee. The replacements were installed with no miles on the odometer!
    These are Great cars> I’ve had a white ’65 that I’ve had for 58 years. I bought it from Calif. a few years ago when I moved to Wisconsin. It’s in great shape.
    This car should have the “Cow Horn” bumpers and “Egg Crate” Grill. The transmission is a 4 speed with Lacock electric overdrive.
    Nice lookin’ car.

    Like 4
  9. Robert Liivoja

    Watched the Saint as a boy. Loved the show and thought that Roger Moore was a very “cool” guy.
    The Volvo was a great looking sports car! A few friends of mine have owned Volvos over the years. Excellent quality and safe.
    I like the featured car a lot, but my garage only has room to store one car for the winter. My C5 Corvette occupies that spot.

    Like 2
  10. LCL

    For more cool Volvo ads search the web for “Volvo six pillars”.
    Volvo ran an ad showing seven cars in a stack to demonstrate that any single pillar would bear the weight of the entire car.
    I think the cars were write-offs due to flood damage at a Southern dealership.
    Then a man opened the door on the bottom car to show there was no deformity in bottom car.
    There were variations on the ad for some time after.

    Like 3
  11. Chris Londish Member

    This being an early model it would be one of the cars that was built by Jensen I think about 6000 then Volvo took over, my Aunty had a 1800 E in the mid seventies really did scoot along and quite expensive in Australia

    Like 0
  12. Laurence

    It is correct that The Saint’s producers wanted an E Type Jaguar. So did the producers of what was to become the James Bond franchise. In both instances Jaguar’s Sir William Lyons said “no”. The waiting lists for E Types in the early sixties were so long, that the cars were selling themselves. Giving cars away to production companies would result in publicity that was of no benefit to the factory, as the cars’ production was already lagging far behind global demand. However, with the benefit of hindsight, Sir William made a big mistake in both instances, particularly in the case of 007. Had he said “yes” to both production companies, the eternal glory of being closely associated with Simon Templar and particularly James Bond, would have been Jaguar’s and not Volvo’s and Aston Martin’s. Lost product placement opportunities of biblical proportions!

    Like 9
  13. Uncle Ed

    I love that there are so many people on this site who are knowledgeable about this car. I hate to say it, but I actually mean it….needs an LS motor

    Like 1
  14. Frank Denardo

    I remember watching The Saint in syndication. Corgi also issued a Volvo 1800 coupe which features the Saint emblem on the hood. Also Jay Leno’s garage also did a segment on a 1966 Volvo 1800 coupe that was used on the series that starred Sir Roger Moore.

    Like 2
  15. Slomoogee

    In my world this and the 66 are the most desirable years of the 1800s models. No side marker lights messing up the beautiful lines. The character line chromed spear that start on the front fender and swoops up at the door really makes it. The bumpers on this car are correct, only the early Jensen cars were equipped with the cow horns. These are not fast cars but were marketed as a safe, solid, and comfortable GT that would cruise all day in the left lane if you desired. I’ve owned 2 of these in my 50 year history with Volvos and I’d love to have this one.

    Like 5
    • Bob from Wisconsin

      My 1800S is a 1965, S# 11558. The Body has the “Pressed Steel LTD” stamped into the right hand fender well, has the “Cow Horn” bumpers with special license plate holders that hold the plate in the middle, not above or below the bumper, on both the front and back. I bought this car in 1966 from the original owner and have kept it original.

      Like 4
  16. bobhess bobhess Member

    Got to appreciate Volvos after spending a couple years racing an 1800 ES. It originally had the 4 speed transmission with over drive which gives 8 gear ratios to use. Car was fast out of the box and we won everything we entered. Car got faster over the years with a dyno registered 228 hp engine and 5 speed competition transmission. Nothing ever broke throughout those years.

    Like 5

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