Wednesday, December 10, 2014

5k: Fix And Go: 1971 Volvo 1800E

A significant number of the affordable classics you can find for sale have ugly exteriors with running mechanicals, but paint/interior can be extremely expensive.  What about the nice looking cars that have a busted motor, can those be a good deal?  The answer is yes, but only if the engines are cheap to rebuild - so stay away from 6.9 liter M100 Mercedes V8s and stick with something simple like a Volvo inline-4.  Here is a 1971 Volvo 1800E that needs engine work, offered for $5,000 or best offer here on craigslist, located in Orange County, CA.

This '71 1800E has had a nose job (see a stock face here) from a previous owner who didn't like all the chrome, according to the current seller.  It makes the front end look even more like a fish mouth and the quality of this sort of customization is tantamount of determining if you want the car.  Cheap/sloppy bondo work needs to be avoided because returning to stock will be pricey, but a finely done nose job could be left alone.  Even with the T-bird style hood scoop, this car would be a steal at $5k...if it ran...

Under the hood we get to the root of the low asking price, the little pushrod 2.0 liter B20 engine has some bottom end issues.  Being a later 1800E, this car should be fitted with Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection, (in which fueling is proportional to manifold pressure, D for the German Druck, meaning pressure) but it has been backdated to a single carb setup.  Expect something in the range of 125 horsepower, when things run.  Tear it apart and take a look -- a new block for a B20 shouldn't be hard to find (or expensive) since Volvo used these things in everything from their sporty 2-seaters to 4X4 military vehicles.  If you are going to modify it, stay away from Chevy 350 V8 swaps and do something like a boosted Volvo inline-5.

The interior is filthy, but liveable.  Many of the parts you see inside this car are available from aftermarket suppliers -- carpet kits, seats and such can be found without too much searching.

See another sub $5k 1800 that isn't a total rust bucket?


  1. Does anyone know of any engines or engine/transmissions that make for an easy swap into one of these? I more modern anything would be amazing in one of these.

    1. There aren't really any easy swaps, but most common engines you can think of have been attempted. The later OHC 8-valve Redblock Volvo engines are probably the most straightforward (as found in the 240/740/940 RWD cars). These were mounted at an angle starting with the 240, but the old pushrod B20 oil pan can be used with a modified oil pump pickup to mount the newer engine vertically in an 1800. Physically they are larger than the B20 so the engine bay will start to get tight. But you get an extra 0.3 liters, modern EFI, and OE turbo setups (if you use a B23FT or B230FT from a 740 or 940 Turbo).

      Yoshifab makes an engine mount adapter plate that I believe makes the later OHC Redblock a bolt-in. Not sure about bellhousing options, since you'd need to match the new upright angle, but do some research - I'm sure there's an easy solution.

    2. Kinda repeating again... But I will anyway 8^)

      I believe a Ford Mustang 3.7 V6 and transmission would fit very well except that you may need some hood modifications.
      The oil pan seems perfect for the cross member and the motor can be set low. The motor can be set back further than a I4, I5, and V8 because it is only 3 cylinders long.
      These motors are around 315 horsepower un-chipped and they are available in just about every wrecking yard. Rent a Mustang at Hertz and give it drive. It will surprise you. (I do that on some business trips!) Now imagine a Volvo 1800 at almost half the weight and better yet with a stickshift !

      Go with a low mileage engine with all the accessories and the transmission attached.
      Do not use the Mustang driveshaft, they are not good for high RPM's. So plan to have that fabricated.
      The rear end in the Volvo should support the motor if the tires are not too aggressive. Braking should be good because it already has large rear disc brakes on the rear end.

  2. The good news is that this a '71, one that had the additional transmission tunnel space into which a T5 transmission can fit without much ado. The bad news is that it is still a tight engine compartment to which engine transplants are not easy. A person in my neighborhood is dropping a V8 in his - starting with a complete build of a new front axle. If I were to stay with a Volvo redblock it would be a 16 valve version with a high CR. More "fun" & work is a turbocharged Volvo 5-cylinder whiteblock - which has been done.


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