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Saintly Swede: 1964 Volvo P1800S

Volvo is not the first marque to come to mind when one thinks of the great sports cars of the 1960s. Yet their sole commercial success in this arena was groundbreaking: just look at this 1964 Volvo P1800S. Located in the Valley Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, this Swedish classic is listed here on Craigslist for $29,500. Many thanks to MattR for the tip!

One might argue that the P1800 was the sports car that was never really meant to be. Their sole prior entry into the segment, the fiberglass-bodied P1900, was judged a disaster by the company, with only 68 made in regular production before the whole project was canceled. Small wonder, then, that the P1800 would be marketed as a grand tourer– and would never, ever be offered as a convertible. Design work was completed by the Pietro Frua’s studio, then operating under the aegis of Carrozzeria Ghia. Frua had been responsible for some of the most gorgeous Italian designs of the Fifties, including incredible bodies for the Maserati A6G. But ironically it was a young Swede studying under Frua, Pelle Petterson, who would actually perform the design work for the P1800.

Volvo initially approached Karmann to build the coupe, and significant preliminary work had already been done when pressure from Volkswagen forced Karmann to bow out. Several other firms were considered and rejected before Volvo awarded the contract to Jensen Motors. Unfortunately, by 1963 Volvo felt that Jensen’s product wasn’t up to snuff and moved production of the car to their Lundby factory– adding an S to the model name to differentiate the Swedish cars from those produced by Jensen. Although it was no longer built in West Bromwich, this would not be the end of the car’s impact on Britain; rogue hero Simon Templar would famously drive a white P1800 in the television series, The Saint, and lead actor Roger Moore was so impressed with the car that he bought one for his personal use.

This car is a well-preserved example from early in the Swedish production run. Looking at the undercarriage, it appears to be fitted with the optional Laycock de Normanville overdrive, a welcome addition to the M41 four-speed gearbox. The engine appears to be the original Volvo B18. New, this would have produced 108 hp for a top speed of around 110 mph. The photos reveal a car that seems to be virtually rust-free. The interior could use some attention, with worn upholstery and damaged door cards, but that’s nothing to detract from the driving enjoyment that this beautiful example of Swedish engineering might offer. Advertised as all original, this one may be a real testament to the sort of exacting standards and attention to detail that made Volvo a byword for quality.

Comments

  1. CVPanther Member

    What a nice P1800, appears to need minimal TLC.
    One of the better body styles of the 60’s, and certainly the sharpest thing Volvo ever put out.
    I was initially surprised at the $29k price, it seemed high to me, but after a bit of research it looks like that is typical now, at least going by Hagerty’s figures for a #3 good condition car.
    I love it, glwts.

    Like 5
  2. DRV

    The original SU’s are better, as are the trim ring and Hubcap for ’64. It seems to be a rare black if original. With the armrest cover applied over the lower panel it makes me wonder what else was done poorly. Having had a bunch of these, it MUST be personally inspected for rust

    Like 7
  3. Frank D Member

    Today, just like back in the 60’s I never got excited about this model.

  4. David Laker Member

    I had a ’63 bought in Singapore when I belonged to the Malaysian and Singapore Vintage Car Register and then shipped it to U.K. and drove it a few more years. Was told that the upturned “cowhorn” bumper indicated it was built by Jensen. A stranger once told me he had designed the camshaft for Vauxhall. A thoroughly delightful car to drive.

    Like 3
  5. Angel

    I always thought it looked like a miniature Studebaker!

  6. RMac

    I like the red one listed at $13,000 better and the price much better this car is nice but no way worth twice as much?

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