Saturday 24th August 2019,

Volvo P1800, 1800S 1961 – 1973

Back in the 1950s Volvo had a burning desire to build a sports-car. Impressed with the Chevrolet Corvette, Volvo made a disastrous attempt to imitate it. The result was the long-forgotten and unlamented P1900. Volvo`s managing director drove it only once and cancelled it`s development at a stroke. Volvo`s sports-car project then entered a complicated and largely irrelevant process.

Volvo approached German designer Karmann to design and build the body. Karmann was very enthusiastic but when their biggest client, Volkswagen, heard about the project they ordered Karmann to withdraw from it on pain of losing the VW contract. VW didn`t want the competition and Karmann acquiesced and withdrew. Volvo was forced to search elsewhere. The quest led them to Italy.

Italian designers Frua and Ghia, both of Turin, played with the idea and procrastinated and eventually Volvo came away with nothing to show for their efforts. After several other strange occurrences, finally the P1800 production was settled in Britain. Jensen Motors won the contract for the first year`s production with Pressed Steel of Scotland making the body-units. However, Jensen had quality problems and so production was moved to Sweden in 1962. To clear up any confusion… the P1800 was produced in UK, for one year only. The 1800S (`S` for Sweden) was built thereafter in Gothenburg and Torsland.

The P1800 was unveiled at the Brussels Salon motor-show in 1960. It was surprising that the car was so well received because at the very same show there was another debutante… the `E type` Jaguar! Unfortunate timing, you might say, but it got worse. The Jaguar was cheaper! Sales were slow at first but Jaguar made a mistake that Volvo capitalised on.

A British television company planned to make a detective series based on the books of Leslie Charteris… The Saint. Jaguar was approached to supply an `E type` for the star, Roger Moore, to chase villains with. Surprisingly Jaguar was not interested so Volvo was asked to supply a P1800 and, predictably they leaped at the chance. Shades of the Italian Job Minis! Advertising that is both excellent and free is irresistible and the white P1800, complete with ST 1 number plate became a legend.

The car went through several incarnations. The original P1800 was re-named 1800S and an estate version (ES) came along later. Strangely, a convertible was never produced by Volvo, although a few body-builders offered very expensive conversions. We will concentrate on the 1800S;

Beautifully designed, built and finished, the 1800S was a fine car. One example achieved legendary status by performing the astonishing feat of covering 3,000,000 miles and getting itself into the Guinness Book of World Records! Superbly serviced and cared for, the car has NEVER broken down…amazing!

The 1800S went very well considering it`s relatively small engine. The chassis and suspension worked well and the handling and braking was good. A beautiful and sporty car in all respects, it had no bad habits.

Body and chassis.
Designed by Pelle Petterson the styling was striking. The 1800S was an all-steel two-door fixed-head coupe, built using unit-construction. Being of Swedish manufacture the 1800 was designed and built, like all Volvos, to be the safest of cars on the road. The car was a 2+2 but only just. Looking at it in the 21st century it is easy to imagine it`s impact in 1960. Glorious! 1960 was a vintage year for car design.

The front suspension was by way of coil & wishbones. The rear was a live-axle sprung with coils. 1800S’s stopping power was supplied by Discs all round. Servo assistance was standard equipment. Steering was by `worm and nut`, a little out-dated but very reliable. Steel disc wheels were fitted with a diameter of 15 inches and the sumptuous interior was finished in leather. Very stylish!

Power was supplied by the B18 engine from the 122 Amazon sports saloon. Four cylinders (1782cc), overhead valves (pushrod) producing 103bhp and 108 ft/lbs of torque. The hardened and balanced crankshaft was supported by five main-bearings. Twin SU carburettors supplied the fuel and the compression ratio was 10 to 1. The 1800S transmission options were as follows; Manual 4-speed with or without Laycock de Normanville overdrive… or, Borg Warner (type 35) 3speed automatic. From 1969 the B20 (2litre) engine was used.

Note; top speed 112 mph was slightly reduced when overdrive was fitted due to slight over-gearing. The 2 litre B20 engine gave only a small improvement on the B18`s performance. The last coupe model of the 1800S was quite a bit quicker with Bosch Jet-tronic injection as standard.

A fine car from a fine maker, absolute quality.

Volvo P 1800, 1800S 1961-1973
Body Type2+2 seater Fixhead coupe
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Cargo VolumeJust about enough for daily use
Engine1.8 OHV B18 (1961-1969)
Cylindersstraight 4
Displacement1782 cc108.7 cui
Power77 Kw103 bhp5800 RPM
Torque146 Nm108 ft. lb3800 RPM
Power/weight91 bhp/t
Top Speed180 km/h112 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph11.9 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 Speed Manual3 Speed Auto
Weight1134 kg2500 lb
Engine2.0i OHV B20 (1969-1973)
Cylindersstraight 4
Displacement1986 cc121.2 cui
Power88 Kw118 bhp6000 RPM
Torque167 Nm123 ft. lb5800 RPM
Power/weight104 bhp/t
Top Speed180 km/h112 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph9.6 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox5 speed manual4 seep automatic
Weight1134 kg2500 lb
GD Star Rating
Volvo P1800, 1800S 1961 - 1973, 8.8 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.

In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.

As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.

At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!

When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.

I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.

Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.


  1. Phillip Roberts 22. October 2014 at 19:59

    Thank you Rafael for spotting that. It was just a mistake. It was a two door coupe. Although the estate version would have been a three-door. But since we are focusing on the coupe version we’ve changed it to two door. :)

  2. Rafael Fabius 22. September 2014 at 22:41

    Very nice article.
    You say the car was a 3-door. Is it a mistake, or are you counting the trunk?

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