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Volvo 1800S- 1966


The idea of Volvo building a sports car in the 1950’s seemed unlikely to most. Volvos have been safe family cars since the beginning. But after Volvo vice-president Assar Gabrielsson visited GM in 1953 and saw the new Chevrolet Corvette production line in Flint, Michigan, he realized sports cars influenced by European designs were becoming popular in the US. They were especially popular with celebrities, and he speculated Volvo could produce such a car to pave their way into the lucrative American market.

In the beginning, attempts with the fiberglass-bodied convertible Volvo Sport, or P1900, were unsuccessful. But they proved to be useful experiments that attracted a lot of attention. In 1957 Gabrielsson was succeeded by Gunnar Engellau, an engineer from Volvo’s aircraft engine subsidiary. He remained keen to produce a feasible GT model, utilizing Volvo’s Amazon/122 series high-performance engine potential and was set on an Italian design.
Swedish industrial designer Helmer Petterson (designer of the PV444) was deeply involved in the P1900 design. His son, Pelle Petterson, followed in his designer footsteps and attended Pratt Institute in NYC when Helmer confided with him about the project. After graduating, Helmer secured his son a job with Pietro Frua, one of the leading Italian coachbuilders and car designers during the 1950s and 60s.

When the Volvo Board was ready to review the four proposed Italian designs, Helmer slipped in one of Pelle’s re-worked drawings that he did while still at Pratt. His Swedish design was selected over the Italian designs. Pelle and his father were the only ones who knew. Later, after the truth surfaced, Engellau felt deceived and let it be known that Pelle would never be acknowledged as the car’s designer. Pelle would go on to become a successful boat designer and Olympic medalist in yacht racing. His role as the designer of the Volvo P1800 would not be publicly acknowledged until 2009.

Serious production for the P1800 started in Sep. 1960. Bodies were produced by the Pressed Steel Company in Lynwood, Scotland with final assembly of the first 6,000 cars taking place at the Jensen Motors in West Bromwich, UK. Unfortunately neither could meet the quality standards of Volvo. In 1963 all production was moved to Volvo’s Lundby Plant in Gothenburg, Sweden and the car was renamed simply as the 1800.

This 1966 Volvo 1800S is a two-passenger, front-engine, rear-drive sports car marketed as a coupe. The “S” stood for Sverige—or Sweden. The engine was the B18 (B for the Swedish word for gasoline: Bensin, and 18 for 1800 cc displacement. While the 1800 was more of a stylish touring car than a sports car when it came to its speed capabilities, the 1800S first became popular when it was featured as the main car driven by Roger Moore in The Saint television series.

Manufacturer: AB Volvo
Country of Origin: Sweden
Drivertrain Configuration: Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: Water-cooled, 1778cc inline four, 100 hp
Transmission: 4-Speed Manual Gearbox
Top Speed: 107 mph
Years of Production: 1961 -1973
Number Produced: 39,414
Original Cost: $3995