Volvo’s first successful sports car, the P1800, looks a lot fancier than it actually is, and the latest Petrolicious video is an illustrative example of that. "It’s not expensive, it’s a Volvo." says P1800 owner John Patterson, who drives his 1964 model almost every day on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Living on a small exotic island is not all fun and games though, and comes with its own disadvantages, such as the lack of a classic car garage and not that many roads to enjoy driving a classic car. A watchmaker by trade, John Patterson doesn’t have a problem with that, as he does maintenance work on the old Volvo himself and drives the car on a 58 mile-long, "U"-shaped road, almost everyday. Petrolicious’ story on his Volvo P1800 is uplifting, to say the least, but it also gave me a bittersweet taste toward the end, when Patterson says that the craftmanship of hand-built things, whether cars or watches, is slowly becoming extinct. Because he’s right.
The P1800 was actually Volvo’s second sports car, although only 68 units were sold of its predecessor, the P1900. Depending on year, the model was powered either by a carbureted, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, or a fuel-injected, 2.0-liter engine. The car was unveiled in 1960 and was built in various specs until 1973, when the last P1800ES (Shooting Brake version) left the factory. Fans of "The Saint" TV series probably remember the P1800 as Simon Templar’s official ride, since he kept it throughout the 1960s era of the show.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not old enough to even remember the 1960s TV show "The Saint." I do remember the movie with the same title starring Val Kilmer, although that one didn’t have a Volvo P1800, but "The Saint" TV show had one. More importantly, this particular P1800 is the same one Roger Moore used as his personal daily driver.
Yes. Roger owned the car he was driving on the show. As Jay Leno said in this episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, “talk about low budget.”
But the P1800 is anything but “low budget.” It’s arguably one of the most famous TV cars of its generation, an opinion that Leno and fellow car enthusiast and auto journalist Matt Stone shared, among other things.
What makes this P1800 even more special is the pristine condition it’s in, despite being close to 50 years old. That’s a testament to the tireless and admittedly expensive restoration work put in by the car’s current owner; the self-described classic-car nerd, Bill Krzastek, who mortgaged his house to finance the purchase of this P1800.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a commitment to the cause. A slightly irrational one at that, but a commitment nonetheless.
There are few Volvos in this world that you can consider iconic cars, but if there ever was one, the old P1800 definitely tops that list. Unfortunately, the classic Swedish coupe has been lost in time, discontinued long ago with only memories serving proof of its existence.
This year, the P1800 is celebrating what would have been its 50th anniversary, and even if there’s no direct successor to the model, Volvo’s chief designer at its Monitoring and Concept Center, Chris Benjamin, has produced a visual sketch of what a modern-day P1800 could look like.
As a reminder of what-could-have-been, the "new" P1800 is certainly a car that would look pretty darn good in today’s world, but seeing as the Swedish company is currently in flux with drastic changes expected to be made in the coming months, there’s no telling if this sketch will even see the light of day - even as a concept.
Then again, the auto industry has proven time and again that you can never count out anything. If a modern-day P1800 is to be developed, we certainly wouldn’t hold back Volvo - and Geely, for that matter - from attempting to do so.
After all, it wasn’t that long ago when a couple of Korean brands were considered as mere afterthoughts. Now, Hyundai and Kia have become two of the biggest brands in the world.
So yeah, if there’s a model that deserves to have it’s silver anniversary celebrated, it’s the Volvo P1800. Cross your fingers that this "new-look" sketch comes to life in the near future.