1970 Volvo P1800E


The name Volvo was first registered as a trademark in May 1911. It was supposed to be used for a new series of ball bearings to be produced by the Swedish company SKF. In Latin Volvo means “I roll”. The idea was short-lived and the name was never used for its intended purpose.

It wasn’t until 1924 that Assar Gabrielsson, an SKF sales manager, and Gustav Larson, an KTH Royal Institute of Technology educated engineer, decided to start the construction of a Swedish car. Their intention was to build a car which could better withstand the rigours of the country’s rough roads and cold temperatures.

Volvo started building their first prototypes in August 1926 and their first car, the OV4 (“Öppen Vagn 4 cylindrar” in Swedish, which means Open Carriage, 4 cylinders) left the factory in Hilsingen, Gothenburg on April 14th 1927. They also produced a closed version, the Volvo PV4. As a logo Volvo chose the ancient chemical symbol for iron. The badge was supposed to create associations with the honoured traditions of the Swedish iron industry: steel and strength with properties such as safety, quality and durability.

The Second World War had a significant impact on Volvo’s car production, yet by the autumn of 1944 the company unveiled one of its most significant cars, the Volvo PV444. This was Volvo’s first true small car and it combined a stylish design with some American influences. It was an instant success. The PV444 and the later PV544 remained in production until 1966. They were the first models produced by the company to be sold in the US and it gave Volvo that all important slice of the American market.

In 1956 Volvo produced another significant car in its history, the Volvo 120 also referred to as the Amazon. Safety features and accident protection were key factors in its design and by 1959 the Amazon and the PV544 became the first production cars to be fitted with three-point seatbelts, an invention pioneered by Volvo’s head of safety engineering.

Up until then Volvo had only produced family cars, either as an open version or enclosed. In 1956 Volvo introduced its first sports car, the “Sport” or P1900. The car had a tubular steel chassis and a fibreglass body. Volvo built the chassis and engine, whilst the body was produced by Glasspar, a fibreglass expert in California. However, demand for the sports car was low and the build quality was simply not up to Volvo standards. In 1957 Volvo’s president took one for a drive on a holiday weekend and he was so dissatisfied that upon returning to his office the following week he cancelled the remaining production. Only 68 examples were ever produced of the P1900.

Volvo did not give up. They recognised it was important to have a prestigious and exciting model to boost overall sales. Volvo’s president at the time, Gunnar Engellau insisted the car should be designed in Italy by the world’s best. He asked Volvo consultant Helmer Petterson to order the designs. Unknown to Gunnar, Helmer’s son Pelle had a job at the Italian auto stylist Pietro Frua. When the time came to present four designs to the Volvo board in 1957, Helmer snuck in his son’s design as well and that was the one which was unanimously selected. Gunnar Engellau was particularly pleased with the design, not knowing that even though it came from the Italian design studio it was actually penned by a 25 year old native of Goteborg.  Eventually, the truth came out and Gunnar Engellau was furious, he promised Pelle would never be recognised as the car designer. Indeed, many years went by before the truth came out and Pelle Petterson received the credit he deserved.

The road from design to production wasn’t easy either. Initially, Karmann was contracted to build the P1800, however Volkswagen, Karmann’s most important customer, forbade Karmann from taking on the job. They feared the car would compete with their cars. Other German companies were contacted but they couldn’t convince Volvo they would be able to meet Volvo’s strict quality control standards. It came to a point where it appeared as if Volvo would never produce the P1800. Helmut Petterson himself even obtained financial backing from two financial firms with the intention to buy the components from Volvo and market the car himself. Up to this point, Volvo had not even made the public aware of the existence of the P1800. Then a press release with a photo of the car surfaced and Volvo had to acknowledge its existence. The company renewed its efforts and officially presented the P1800 at the Brussels Motor Show in 1960. Volvo then turned to Jensen Motors, whose production lines were underutilised, and agreed a contract to produce 10,000 P1800’s. In September 1960 the first P1800 rolled off the Jensen production line. In 1963 Volvo decided to move production back to Sweden. The contract with Jensen was re-negotiated and Jensen ended up building only 6,000 P1800’s. The P1800 stayed in production until 1973 and a total of 39,407 coupes and 8,077 estates were produced.

Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale a 1970 Volvo P1800E. It is understood this car was sold new through the Volvo dealership in Sydney to a local doctor. The car was originally finished in steel blue metallic (102), a stunning and rather sophisticated colour, which is how it is presented today.

The subsequent early history of this Volvo P1800E is not known. The previous to current owner acquired the car in 2012 and at that time it was in a poor state. It is understood that the car was stripped to a bare shell by a previous owner as a father and son project which had stalled.

After acquiring the car in 2012, the owner embarked on a journey to completely restore this Volvo P1800E to its former glory. He also opted to make some modern improvements along the way. The first step in the process was to make the body shell as good as new. New sills were sourced and welded into the car. The front wings were replaced with new wings and all the rust was cut out and replaced with fresh metal. The entire body shell received a coat of 2K epoxy primer before being painted in the original colour of steel blue metallic. All this work was carried out by South Tweed Repaint and Panel, Tweed Heads, NSW. The owner decided to give the car a more aggressive look (similar to an Aston Martin DB4!) and to achieve that he had a fully fabricated steel scoop grafted into the bonnet. We love the look, however, purists will be pleased to know that a second bonnet was sourced and modified to achieve this look. The original bonnet, which is painted, will accompany the car and could be fitted easily.

Once repainted the task of putting the car back together was given to Volvo specialists GLT Car Centre in Capalaba (Brisbane), Queensland. Lots of new parts were sourced, mainly from Volvo 1800-120 Parts in Terranora, NSW. The engine was rebuilt, the interior was redone in the original colour with the exception of the carpets. A new stainless-steel exhaust system was fabricated by Exhaust innovations in Capalaba. The restoration took some three years to complete and in 2015 the car was ready to be used again. The owner enjoyed the journey of the restoration and he used the car sparingly for club events and in 2016 it was sold to its current owner, a major car collector and enthusiast based in Brisbane. The car is now surplus to his requirements and offered for sale.

Today this Volvo P1800 presents exceptionally well. The paint looks magnificent, especially in the sunlight. There is the odd very small stone ship and blemish here and there, but you have to look really hard. All of the exterior trim, lenses, chrome and the glass are also in excellent condition, consistent with the rest of the car. The only exception are the trim pieces on the top of both doors which look to be original and have some light scratching. Similarly, the hub caps have a few light marks and scratches. Inside the car, the cabin is a very nice place to be in. All of the upholstery, the hood lining, the carpets, the dash, instruments and controls are all ‘like new’ and in excellent condition. The car is air conditioned (and it blows ice cold!) and the unit in the cabin looks to be original and unrestored cosmetically. We also like that the aftermarket steering wheel which matches the wood grain on the dashboard and just adds a little bit of class, however, the original steering wheel also accompanies the car.

You open the bonnet to reveal a clean, fresh engine bay and immediately notice the twin Weber 45DCOE13 carburettors. During the restoration the owner opted to replace the fuel injection system with carburettors. He also opted to fit a ‘123’ electronic ignition.

The front suspension has been lowered by fitting aftermarket springs as part of a ‘lowering kit’ and a front sway bar. The original springs along with boxes of old parts will also accompany the car.

This Volvo looks stunning, but you really want to get it out on the open road. Turn the key, prime the Webers and the car starts easily and soon settles into a smooth idle. After a few minutes to warm up you are away.  First impressions are really positive. The ride is firm but smooth and the car just does everything you would expect. The car sounds great, it handles, steers and stops in an almost Germanic way. The Volvo P1800E is sometimes criticised for its gearbox, however, we found the gearbox to be precise and relatively smooth. Out on the road this Volvo is simply a joy to drive. As you would expect from a Volvo everything feels and looks solid!


  • A recently restored car completed to a high standard.
  • There is an extensive file with all receipts from the restoration.
  • The car is finished in its original and captivating colour of steel blue metallic.
  • An affordable classic that is ready to be used and enjoyed.

Price: –


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  • Volvo P1800E
  • 1970
  • Coupe
  • Manual
  • 118,738 miles
  • 1990 cc


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