1972 Volvo P1800ES


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 1972 Volvo P1800ES. This is a UK delivered, factory right hand drive example. The car was originally finished in light blue metallic (paint code 111), a stunning and rather sophisticated colour, which is how it is presented today. The interior has black upholstery with blue carpets (trim code 449-822).

The subsequent early history of this Volvo P1800ES is not known. It is understood that the car had three owners in the UK before being acquired by its current Brisbane based owner in the UK in July 2017.

When advertised for sale in the UK, the car was described as follows:

“ . . . the ‘time warp’ P1800ES now offered is a genuine three-owner vehicle, which is now displaying an unwarranted 94,000 miles, yet was garaged for no less than 29 years by its original owner. It has apparently never been restored and is presented in its original pleasing livery of Metallic Blue bodywork, Black leather upholstery and Blue carpeting. The vendor these days regards the bodywork, paintwork and four-speed manual plus overdrive transmission as ‘very good’ and the 2-litre engine as ‘good’. The venerable Volvo comes with an MOT valid to January 28th 2016.”

The car carried the UK registration NRC492K.

There is an import approval on file dated 13th September 2017 and the car was shipped from Southampton on MV Theseus to Brisbane on the 21st September 2017. Prior to being shipped to Australia it had new carpets fitted, the clutch replaced, new front & rear brake pads fitted and a few other miscellaneous jobs done. The work was done by RS Cars Ltd in Bedfordshire, UK. There is an invoice on file for GBP 2,971.20 and the mileage is noted as 93,767 miles.

Since arriving in Australia the car has been part of a collection and not used. Today the odometer reads 93,782 miles. Prior to coming to Australia the car had also travelled very few miles. The earliest MOT record on file is from the 18th August 2009, at which time the odometer was at 92,910 miles

Today this Volvo P1800Es is best described as a ‘nice driver’. From say a metre the paintwork looks really good as you will see from the photos, however, on closer inspection there are a number of blemishes, defects and minor rust spots evident. The external trim, including the chrome is similarly presented. There is some light pitting to most of the chrome with the door handles being most noticeable. There is also a small dent in the front bumper. The wheels, lenses and glass are in good condition and most likely original to the car. All of the glass, with the exception of the front windscreen have Volvo etchings. As noted previously, the car was reported as being original and unrestored, however, we believe it carries an older repaint. The underside presents as a typical English car with light surface rust evident on the suspension components and elsewhere. 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 generally in good condition. With the exception of the carpets, the interior may well be original and it has preserved exceptionally well. The upholstery is clean and tidy and whilst showing some patina there are no rips or tears. The wood grain dash fascia is a feature on these cars and it is in good condition. All of the instruments and controls are well presented and in working order.

The engine bay is clean but original. Many Volvo P1800’s are modified to run carburetors, however, this car retains its original fuel injection system.

This striking Volvo looks the goods finished in light blue metallic, but how does it drive? Get comfortable behind the wheel, turn the key and the car starts easily first time. The automatic choke kicks in and on a warm Brisbane afternoon the car initially idles at 2,000 rpm for a minute or so before dropping to around 1,000 rpm and settling into a smooth idle as the engine warms up. It’s then time to hit the road! First impressions are really positive. The ride is firm but smooth and the car just does everything you would expect. The car sounds good, it handles, steers and stops in an almost Germanic way. The Volvo P1800E/ES is sometimes criticised for its gearbox, however, we found the gearbox to be precise and relatively smooth. It is fitted with overdrive which works. Out on the road this Volvo is a joy to drive. As you would expect from a Volvo everything feels and looks solid. We got more ‘thumbs up’ driving this car than just about anything else we’ve had out on the road this year!

There is a spare wheel but no jack or tool kit with the car.

It’s not a sports car, but a ‘very cool’ car that is totally unique in many ways. They are developing a cult following and we love them! How many classic cars can you take to cars & coffee in the morning, then to golf (with ample room for the clubs & buggy) and then to the beach in the late afternoon with the dogs in the back!

Prior to being the offered for sale the car received a service during which the oil and oil filter were changed, the brake system was serviced, spark plugs were replaced and the engine was given a tune.


  • A factory right hand drive example, finished in its original and stunning colour of light metallic blue.
  • A very original car that presents pretty well and is a delight to drive.
  • An affordable classic that is ready to be used and enjoyed or it can be easily taken to the next level.




  • -
  • Volvo P1800 ES
  • 1972
  • Wagon
  • Manual
  • 93,772 miles
  • 1986 cc


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