Even if you are not a specialist in classic cars, you know you have seen this one before. And you’re right, its fame came from being Roger Moore’s ride in the TV series “The Saint”. In fact, the man who played Simon Templar liked the car so much that he bought one for himself. Revealed at the 1960 Brussels Motor Show, the unmistakably-shaped Swedish coupe was not the first choice for the part in “The Saint”. The producers first asked Jaguar for the E-Type, but the British refused, arguing that the car didn’t need more publicity. Volvo said yes and so the P1800 became known worldwide.
Production started in 1961 and almost 46,000 units of the model were made in various versions until production ended in 1973. Probably the second most famous P1800 driver after “The Saint” is American Irv Gordon, who drove his Swedish coupe for 45 years, reaching more than 2.8 million miles (4.5 million km) without changing the engine, the transmission or the axles. A statement for the durability and the quality of an outstanding vehicle. To celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the P1800, Volvo will participate at the TechnoClassica show in Essen (March 30 – April 3) with six special models: the X1 (the first prototype), a 1961 first series model assembled in the UK, a 1963 P1800S Rally, a 1966 1800S Volvoville (US-built convertible), a 1971 1800E and a 1971 1800ES.
Volvo P1800 timeline: 1959 – Volvo announces P1800 prototype built by Frua. 1960 – The car is showcased in Brussels, first pre-production cars tested. 1961 – Production car: 2-door coupe, steel body, 2+2 seating, 1.8-liter twin carburettor engine, 100 bhp/5,500 rpm. First 6,000 cars assembled in the UK by Jensen Motors. 1963 – P1800 is renamed 1800S to mark the start of Swedish assembly. Introduction of the 1964 model with improved 108 bhp engine, improved brakes and modified seats. 1964 – Revised interior, straight bumpers with rubber inserts. 1965 – Power increased to 115 bhp, diaphragm clutch, sealed greasing, improved brakes. 1966 – Modified front grille, chrome side trim introduced. 1967 – Three spoke steering wheel, minor interior changes. 1968 – 2.0-liter engine type B20, 118 bhp/5,800 rpm, fitted with emission equipment. Dual circuit braking system introduced. 1969 – 1800E model with Bosch electronic fuel injection developing 130 bhp at 6,000 rpm (B20E). ZF gearbox, disc brakes on all wheels, alloys, new dashboard. 1970 – Stronger Volvo-built manual gearbox or optional Borg-Warner 3 speed automatic introduced. 1971 – 1800ES estate car launched. 1972 – 112 bhp B20F engine USA-emissions compliant. 1973 – Production ends.