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Sporting History: 1971 Volvo 1800


There’s just something intriguing about a car that was used for racing, whether on the street or the track. Knowing there are likely some old-timers around who recall a certain car tearing up the local backroads or road course just adds to its history. This 1971 Volvo 1800 found here on eBay for $1,300 still wears some clues as to its past, and the seller claims it has a race history in Oregon. 


In the first photo, you can see some much wider than stock tires. On the inside, the aftermarket Italvolanti steering wheel is another clue. This particular P1800 has had its drivetrain removed, but it’s hard to resist the urge to return this one to fighting form. What you can’t see are the IPD sway bars, Koni shocks and IPD stainless exhaust. Those are some pricey bits and may reflect a previous owner’s commitment to only sourcing the best aftermarket parts.


Another clue is the MSD ignition mounted in the engine bay. If the motor was worked over at all, we don’t know – it’s been removed due to some mechanical issues that remain undisclosed. The seller says he plans to swap in a V8 if it doesn’t sell, as he can’t figure out why the engine malfunctioned to the point of requiring removal.


There is some rust in the door channels and lower sills but is otherwise solid. My guess is this Volvo P1800 was set up for autocross and used to compete at local SCCA events. I doubt it was a track day car, but I could be wrong. If it were my project, I’d clean up the rust and rebuild a correct factory engine, while throwing any period-correct engine modifications I could at it. How would you restore this car if it was yours?


  1. Avatar photo Jim


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  2. Avatar photo TLouisJ

    The first P1800 I saw belonged to Greg. In 1965 Greg’s dad was going to buy a car for his HS graduation. Greg said he wanted a (?????) and his dad, who was an importer, ordered it. When it came in to the Portland Oregon docks, Greg and dad went to pick it up and dad then discovered it was a certified race car. No way, send it back. Greg then chose a P1800 . Nice car . Never really found out what the race car was that got sent back. :-) TLouisJ

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  3. Avatar photo Duncan

    Now THAT was a rare color…

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  4. Avatar photo DRV

    Sold mine a few months ago. I had 5 and the rust can be anywhere. This doesn’t have a header so maybe not a racer. Wide tires were all the craze early on….

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  5. Avatar photo Tucson Volvoman

    Learn the proper nomenclature

    P1800 – 61-64 – built by Jensen in England
    1800S – 65 — 69 built in Sweden – carbureted
    1800E – 70 – 72 – built in Sweden with D-Jetronic EFI
    1800 ES 72-3 – Estate Wagon – glass tailgate

    to improperly ID the car shows a lack of intelligence

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    • Avatar photo barrie

      Some 1964 P1800s were built in Sweden.

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    • Avatar photo Bobsmyuncle


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    • Avatar photo starsailing

      Correction…..If someone does not correctly identify the vehicle’s heritage, it does not show a lack of intelligence, it may show a lack of knowledge on that particular topic. Sometimes, people choose the wrong word to express themselves and or improperly frame the structure of the sentence, that they themselves express on a topic. I know I do!
      no·men·cla·ture. [ˈnōmənˌklāCHər]

      NOUN 1.the devising or choosing of names for things, especially in a science or other discipline.

      My friend Mike, whose uncle owned a Volvo dealership in Mpls area, gave Mike’s older brother an early 60’s Volvo for a wedding present. Mike’s older brother tired of this perfect gray Volvo after 5 years and wanted a different car. Since nothing was wrong with it, his wife said no. Well Mike’s brother gave us the keys one summer day and said he needed something major wrong with the car to justify getting rid of it. So…we took the Volvo down to the river bottom roads and beat the car non stop over a motorcycle track, through woods, sand dunes, fields, and numerous obstacles we could find. We brought the Volvo back with dented doors, hood, with sticks, weeds and branches sticking out from bumpers and undercarriage. Mike’s brother was angry…he wanted the clutch knocked out, or transmission broken, or maybe a knocking rod. As his brother was scolding Mike, here was the wife standing in the doorway listening to it all. They eventually got rid of the Volvo….as Mike damaged the body so bad and they got vey little for it. Mike’s brother got another Volvo to appease the wife. The only other vehicle I saw take such a beating were the Army Jeeps I used to drive in the service.
      I just watched another episode last night of “The Saint” with Roger Moore starring in it….He drove one of those whatchamacallits from above story, from one of those countries possibly mentioned above!

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  6. Avatar photo Tom

    This is absolutely NO $ on the East Coast. Having lived in Portland for a while until a couple of months ago, it is the old Volvo center of the universe! There are at least 7-8 shops the specialize in older cars. Plenty of 122’s and early 140/240’s to be seen driving in regular use. Check CL anytime and the PSNW always has interesting cars for sale.

    The nose has been cobbed up and extended out several inches. I too don’t see signs of it being raced. But at $1300, the chrome and interior bits will more than pay for itself.

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    • Avatar photo rapple

      I think that strip of black rubber or wire behind the grill is playing tricks on your eyes. The nose is the stock dimension.

      With regard to the nonsense in the ad about “race history” and the write-up’s further speculation on this, I’m pretty sure the only racing this one did was the unsanctioned-on-public-roads variety. If a few IPD bits make a Volvo a race car there are thousands out there that can lay claim to that distinction.

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  7. Avatar photo Rex Kahrs Member

    Just a quick correction on the nomenclature of the 1800. The designation of “P” 1800 refers to cars built before 1963, which were assembled in England. Quality issues coming out of England led Volvo to bring production of the car back to Sweden beginning in 1963. From ’63 forward, the cars were referred to as the 1800S, the S indicating they were built in Sweden. There is no P1800 after 1962 as far as I’m aware.

    Then in 1970 the cars were changed to fuel injection, and thus the model was then called the 1800E. For the two years of 72 and 73, there was the “wagon” or “shooting break” variant, which was known as the 1800ES. I believe the coupe model was discontinued after 1972, and so the only 1800 model sold for the final year of 73 was the wagon, the 1800ES. That is all…

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  8. Avatar photo Doug Towsley

    I live near Oregon city, and while I dont know the seller, I can say theres no mystery why it sold. There is a HARDCORE vintage Volvo base of enthusiasts here. The hipsters love them. This is a coveted body style and Im certain whoever the buyer is is one very happy person. Probably doing high 5s and cartwheels. In the Metro area, anything prior to 1975 does not require DEQ/EPA testing and pre 75 cars are coveted. You could install a modern engine, or whatever you wanted. I wouldnt be surprised to see it running with a overdrive tranny and a 3 cylinder diesel motor running on recycled vegetable fry oil smelling like a Thai restaurant. (Dont laugh, i know a couple people running cars with those powertrains.)
    Those cars are the ultimate hipster accy. If the buyer is looking to flip it after some work they wont be lacking for $$$$ offers.

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  9. Avatar photo Rex Kahrs Member

    Not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence, but I’ve dealt with these 1800 cars, so I’ve picked up a few things. 63 was first year for 1800S, not 1964, unless all my books and research are incorrect.

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