1970 Volvo P1800E

We’ve been waiting to shoot this car for nearly two and half years. Well worth the wait though!

By Shahzad Sheikh

Volvo P1800 in Dubai

This stunning Volvo P1800 coupe – the most beautiful car Volvo has ever produced in my opinion – has been in the UAE for well over two years, but it’s only now, having undergone a full restoration, that we finally get to see, shoot and drive this iconic sexy Swede.

Of course some of you may be wondering what this is, and why it isn’t just big and square and boxy, being that it’s a Volvo. Others amongst you may recognise this car in the same way you’d recognise Bond’s Aston Martin DB5.

In fact the Bond connection is strong – because this car was made famous by the Roger Moore in his pre-007 days, when he played Simon Templar in The Saint, a hit British TV series from the 1960s.

Volvo P1800 in Dubai

The story goes that – much like James Bond – the producers, and Moore himself, wanted a Jaguar E-Type for the show. And like with Bond, Jaguar couldn’t be bothered. Instead an approach was made to Volvo, which promptly supplied a car less than a week later.

It was a good move, because the car was a hit, enjoyed a lot of screen time, and its weekly appearance in The Saint made it a sales success too.

Roger Moore himself was so taken with the car that he even bought one for his own personal use. That’s like Clark Gregg (Coulson in Agents of Shield) actually driving around in a 1962 C1 Corvette convertible in real life. Incidentally, The Saint’s first P1800 was also a 1962 model.

Volvo P1800 in Dubai

If you’re wondering why a dashing and debonair British action hero was driving a Swedish car, the Volvo coupe was actually built in Blighty! Well initially at least. The steel bodies were from Pressed Steel in Scotland and then sent to Jensen (yes the guys that made the Interceptor – although they would have been building the CV8 at the time) in West Bromwich, England.

The P1800 ran from 1960-73, with over 47,000 examples made. In 1963 production moved to Volvo’s own plant in Gothenburg – with the badging changing to 1800S (S denoting Sweden), after Jensen had problems with quality.

Volvo P1800 in Dubai

There isn’t a simple answer to the question who designed this beauty. Historically it was believed to be an Italian-designed car from the famed Ghia studio’s subsidiary Pietro Frua. However in 2009 it was confirmed that the styling was actually penned by Pelle Petterson, who did indeed work at Frua at the time, but was the son of Helmer Petterson, a Swedish engineering consultant to Volvo and, in fact, project leader for the P1800.

Controversial nepotism aside, the Petterson’s did an amazing job, and Pelle himself went on to become a highly acclaimed yacht designer, famous for designing the Maxi Class sailing boats.

The curvy lines, subtle fins, sleek styling and Ferrari-esque egg-crate grille ensure that the P1800 was – and remains today – a sensation to behold.

Volvo P1800 in Dubai

Taking the car for a brief run around the block proved that this was designed to be an extremely comfortable as well as elegant sports GT. There’s an amazing amount of interior space with a laid-back seating position and plenty of room for long-legs (no wonder Roger Moore (at 6ft 2In) was right at home in it. The gear lever comes out to meet your palm at a surprisingly natural angle and the clutch is astonishingly forgiving.

It remains an incredibly easy and delightful car to drive with great visibility, keen (though unassisted steering) and eager performance, especially as this 1970 car boasts fuel injection and even an ECU engine management system!

The original P1800 had a 1.8-litre carburetted four-cylinder unit producing 100bhp and based on the block used in Volvo trucks at the time.

Volvo P1800 in Dubai

This of course meant it was an extremely tough and durable unit, as evidence by Irv Gordon. His 1966 P1800 is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest-mileage, one-owner, non-commercial vehicle in the world having covered three million miles – 4.8m km! That’s like driving to the moon more than a dozen times. The engine has been rebuilt twice, but it’s still the original unit.

In fact he would have had an extra 15bhp as the engine was tweaked in 1966 and was capable of a top speed of 175kph. In 1969 the engine was replaced with a new 2.0-litre unit producing 118bhp – although it continued to be badged the 1800S.

Volvo P1800 in Dubai

But back to the 1970 car, belonging to Tony Lynch that you see in these images. That year it was rebadged 1800E denoting the introduction of the aforementioned fuel-injection for the 2.0 by Bosch which saw output upped to 130bhp. It was said to be capable of a maximum speed of 190kph and acceleration from 0-100kph in 9.5 seconds. To cope with the extra performance, it now had four-wheel disc brakes (previously it had discs on the front and drums on the rear).

This car, with 89,000 original miles on the odometer, was originally Swiss registered and exported to the UK in the late 1970s. It actually sat in his brother-in-law’s garage for almost 30 years as an unfinished restoration project.

Volvo P1800 in Dubai

The engine had been rebuilt and all the interior parts had been replaced after the original trim had been damaged by a fire in the early 80s. More recently the car has been at AAA Service Centre in Rashidiya, Dubai for the last couple of years as Gordon Ferguson and his team stripped it down and did a full body restoration replacing the rear wings, sills and part of the floor pan, as well as repairing some of the other panels.

The bushes, tie rods and all the rubber seals were replaced, along with the injectors, engine sensors and perishable hoses. The engine head was hardened for use with unleaded fuel, and it was resprayed in an original Volvo colour – California white.

Volvo P1800 in Dubai

You may have seen this car at the Emirates Classic Car Festival earlier this year, but now that the car is finally ready, Tony plans to drive it a lot more over the winter season, despite it not have air conditioning – something he is toying with installing. We’re certainly looking forward to seeing more of this ‘Saintly’ vision on our roads!

2 responses to “1970 Volvo P1800E”

  1. Simon Cantwell says:

    I’m that brother-in-law who couldn’t get the job finished in 30 years! Tony’s done a great job on this fantastic old car. It’s a joy to see it back on the road again. Well done!

  2. Salem says:

    I am interested to buy your Volvo P1800.

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