Restore Or Drive? 1972 Volvo 1800E

The Volvo 1800 first entered production in 1961 after Volvo at one point considered not producing the car, and in fact, denied the existence of the prototype vehicle. The reluctance of Volvo almost saw the car produced by a private manufacturer, but Volvo relented at the last moment and chose to put the vehicle into production. They are also notoriously long-lived, with an 1800S certified as the highest mileage car driven by its original owner in private use, having clocked 3,000,000 miles. This P1800 E is from the second last year of production and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. It is located in Andover, Massachusetts, and is offered with a clean title. The sale price for this Volvo is $6,800 OBO, although the owner may consider an appropriate trade.

There are a few rust issues with this Volvo, and the seller is a bit vague on these. The rust that we see in this shot is a cause for concern. The rust in the front fender is quite difficult to fix, and the rust appearing in the rocker is also bad news. The rockers on a P1800 are constructed in three pieces, and if the outer rocker is showing rust, then it is virtually a certainty that the other two sections will be as well. Once again, repairing this is an expensive job, and it is definitely the work of a specialist.

The interior of this Volvo is in remarkable condition for a car of this age. The seats in the later model P1800 were a significant step up in comfort compared to the earlier models, and these seats look to be in good condition. The dash and door trim also look good and appear to be free of any damage or modifications. I don’t think that the steering wheel is original, as I believe that it may be from a ’73 1800 ES?

The engine in the Volvo would be the B20E 4-cylinder engine, which is backed by a manual transmission. This engine signaled the upgrade for the P1800 from carburetors to Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection. This resulted in an improvement in both power delivery and fuel economy. The car is also fitted with air conditioning. The seller gives no indication of the condition of the engine, or, more importantly, the fuel injection system. The fuel injection is a wonderful feature if it is operating correctly, but they can be troublesome, and some parts such as the injectors or wiring can be both hard to source, and expensive.

Values for these cars vary wildly, depending on condition. I would want to inspect this car pretty thoroughly before committing to it, as the rust that is visible is cause for some concern. I have been able to locate a clean example that is selling for $8,900, but at the other extreme, I have found an absolutely mint example that is being offered at $29,500. I really like this car, but that rust just worries me. The seller mentions that you could restore it or just clean it up and drive as-is. What do you think?

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  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    The 1800E and ES models are notorious for reaching about 70,000 miles, when the fuel injection craps out and the rust takes over, and the owner buys another car. Irv Gordon’s car is not fuel injected, and survives to 3 million miles due to the generosity of Volvo, which has rebuilt the car a least once. And no, the steering wheel isn’t from a Volvo 1800.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the 1800. I’ve owned 10 of them, and a 122S, which is essentially the same car. Many E and ES cars were converted to Weber carbs, and for that matter, many of the carbureted S model cars with twin SU carbs were also converted to Webers.

    All of these 1800s have rust, and it is expensive to repair. For the seller to call this car “very solid” is a stretch. Were I to buy another one, I’d pop for the 25K “rust free” car, and not give a car like this a second look.

    • Jeff

      ^ This.

      I’ve looked at a number of 1800s in recent years, but have been holding out for a 122. This one has more extensive rust damage than I’d want to tackle, unless the seller would be willing to take several thousand off of the asking price.

      I completely agree regarding the fuel injection. I’ve been warned about that several times during my search, and wouldn’t consider one that wasn’t carbureted.

  2. Rex Kahrs Member

    I looked over the photos one more time, and though the seller did put the car up on a lift, he didn’t include any photos of the underside of the car. Did he forget to take photos of the underbody while it was on the lift? Or maybe it wasn’t so pretty under there. Just askin’.

  3. fred H

    6,800 $ too much.

  4. Al

    It’s only one (1) Bitcoin. I think I would prefer the Bitcoin.

  5. Bob Deveau

    I’ve had my 1963 1800S (6000 produced in 63) for a dozen years and it has been the fav of all the old cars and trucks I’ve had over the last 40 years plus! Lots of hidden patches and Bondo, I even painted it once with Tremclad! Over half a million miles I imagine (speedo hasn’t worked in years). Seats out of a Nissan Pathfinder, carpet out of a Chev caprice and VW exhaust! Four on the floor with the magic OD button on the dash, and goes like snot and handles like a dream! I am in Nova Scotia, Canada where we are surrounded by salt water so rust is always an issue. Doctor the body and repaint every few years.

  6. Mr Canoehead

    The early Bosch D-jet fuel injection and ECU a can be troublesome. Was only available on this and 914s and possibly a few other cars but not for very long (1-2 years only?). If the body were OK and the mechanicals were in need of work, then the price is fair. In this case, it is not, case in point, I bought my ES for $500 and put $6k into mechanicals, I was able to get every penny back when I sold, but I owned it for 10 years before I could achieve that feat.

  7. Martin Horrocks

    Anyone driving a car in this condition has no pride and little concern for the safety of others……why suggest such a thing?

  8. Sarah W

    This ’72 is actually the last year for the coupes, with the sports wagon being the only one produced 1973. My 1800ES spent the previous 25 years prior to my purchase in a garage east of San Diego, so had next to no rust. Anyone considering this would be wise to thoroughly examine the extents of the rust, since more should be expected!

  9. Wrong Way Member

    If I could this would definitely be for me! The 1800 is one of my found memories! They are great looking cars when brought back to par! They definitely are or never were a race car! Unless you heavily modified them!

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