Friday, August 8, 2014

Coffee Brake: Cheap Volvo 1800 Roundup

It's Friday, so that means its time to un-tuck your shirt, roll down the windows and enjoy another episode of DT's Coffee Brake where the coffee is cold and the brakes are piping hot!  The Volvo 1800 is a regular on these pages, but it won't be forever because the market seems to be driving prices into Jerry Seinfeld price range...actually he drove one in an episode of the brilliant Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.  Luckily for folks on a low budget (like a mailman for instance...) you can still find a deal, typically from a project or a seller who isn't trying to squeeze the last cent of our his sale.

Image from

A brief background for the initiate: The original P1800's sheetmetal was designed by Pelle Petterson while he worked at Carrozzeria Pietro Frua - an Italian coach builder from back in the day - its mechanical parts were hewn of sturdy Scandinavian stuff, and wiring was provided by the prince of darkness, Lucas. The combination of solid Swedish mechanicals and iffy British electrical components offers a unique blend of high-end appearance with roll-the-dice reliability. The pushrod B18 and B20 engines hardly ever have issues, but the Lucas lighting might complain if you rally this little steed through any water crossings.  Time to check out what we can find in the DT bargain shelf.

First up is this 1968 Volvo 1800S incorrectly labeled as a P1800 (the P1800 cars were only built in 1961 and 1962 at the Jensen plant in  West Bromwich, England, and when production was moved to Sweden the car was badged as the 1800S starting in 1963).  This 1800S is offered for $6,000 in SF Bay area and while it is a little ugly, it is advertised as mechanically strong and would make a great car after a $4k paint job.

This next car is a 1971 Volvo P1800E offered for $7,000 in Oceano, CA via craigslist.  The 1800E added Bosch D-jetronic fuel injection and a bigger cam profile for a total of 130 horsepower out of the B20E inline-4.  This car is now fed fuel via a carburetor, but the bigger issue is the fact that it is basically in pieces.  The owner says it is 60% complete (whatever that means) but if all the parts are here and it just needs a paint job this could be another well purchased 1800 for the man or woman with spare time and steady fingers.

For a change of pace we are going to take a quick look at this 1973 Volvo 1800ES offered for $5,500 in Parker, AZ via craigslist.  The 1800ES is a somewhat rare model, only sold in 1972 & '73 model years as a way to extend the life of the long-in-the-tooth 1800 coupe. The funky looks can be polarizing - the Germans call this model Schneewittchensarg, which translates literally to "Snow White's coffin."  This particular example looks like it will need careful reconditioning, but the details from the seller are limited.

Up next is another 1973 Volvo 1800ES, this one offered for $6,900 via Cincinnati craigslist. This ES also needs a cosmetic restoration, but is said to run/drive okay. This seems to be a theme with these old Volvos; they seem to be able to take a lickin and keep on tickin.

Back to the subject of coupes, this next 1969 Volvo 1800S is currently bidding for $2,000 on ebay with 2 days left to go, located in Eatontown, NJ.  It looks like a decent body that has been stripped of its trim and covered in primer.  The mechanical condition is described by the seller as: Car starts, runs, drives, turns, shifts, and stops.  Sounds perfect.

This 1972 Volvo 1800E is currently bidding for $4,000 on ebay with 3 days to go, located in Eagle River, WI.  This is unfortunately an automatic transmission equipped car and the seller says it was running 5 years ago when it was put into storage.  Maybe pass on this one....

This next 1800S looks like a decent deal from the pictures. Find this 1967 Volvo 1800S currently bidding for $4,525 on ebay with 3 days to go, located in Roanoke, VA.  Paint is described as okay, but not perfect, and looks so-so in the pictures.  More importantly, it seems to have most of the original trim and the seller mentions the bumpers and brackets will come with the car.

The final part of our 1800 series is this 1970 Volvo 1800E in Eagle River, WI currently bidding for $2,025 reserve-not-met with 2 days to go.  This is yet another 1800 that will need a bit of bodywork, but the mechanical aspects likely aren't as bad as you could expect.  Fix it or just drive as is?

See a good cheap 1800 we missed?


  1. For Midwestern guys & gals into Volvos (and Lincolns) ...
    If you are within 3 hours of Battle Creek/Kalamazoo, Michigan I would recommend going to "VOLVOS AT THE GILMORE V" on Saturday 9-August. Linky for Gilmore Car Museum The Volvo Great Lakes Chapter always put together a 1st class gathering.

    I plan to drop by on my way from Detroit to Holland, Michigan although I will be driving my Audi 5000S Quattro and not the ES. That should give me some incentive to get my ES project moving next spring.

    1. Rene,
      If you have the chance to take some pics of interesting Volvos that you find, shoot us a copy and we'll post em up as a reader-report or some to-be-named feature.

  2. Wtf, Vince? You're actually deliberately trying to get my wife to leave me with this feature, I just know it. Every one the featured cars is just so...comely. As in: come hither, swing into my low (and I mean low) flat seat and wrap your fingers around my big, thin wheel while I caress your cribriform with that subtle yet intoxicating waft made up of oil (from the drips under the overdrive), gasoline (from the pinhole in the #2 fuel line), musty carpet (from every horizontal surface inside), a pinch of ozone (because that's what Lucas anything is best at generating) and a hint of the PO's BO (from countless hours sweating all over the floor trying to find that goddamn tach wire that MUST be shorting to the dash, dammit!). Each example can be had for really-expensive-weekend money and promises many hours of frustration and precious seconds of elation...until you finally just realize that you and the 1800 exist together in a type of master and servant relationship, where neither of you is really either but are alternately both. I would get them all if I could.

    1. Doctordel, I loved your post as much as I love the work of the DT authors. Every one of your points rings true across decades of buggering about with old cars. Thanks, it is good to know I am not alone.

    2. "Redolence" seemed so loquacious. As I typed the letters, I was certain that KBZ would call me out for my redundancy, though. You have the memory of the pachyderm, sir.

  3. Ha, last night I started searching for a p1800. I don't have a link for one for sale but I did find an image of how I want to build mine.

    Here is an inspiring shot


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