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Volvo P1800 celebrates 50 years

Fri, 27 May 2011

So far, 2011 has been a significant year with the Jaguar E-Type, Aston Martin DB4-GT Zagato and BMW 'Neue Klasse' all celebrating their 50 year anniversaries. The Volvo P1800, which celebrates its half century anniversary this year, is yet another car entering this exclusive club.

The svelte Swedish coupe is ‘perhaps Volvo’s most internationally renowned model,’ according to the brand, and it's easy to see why. Planned in Sweden and designed in Italy, the P1800 was unveiled in Brussels, built in Britain and became a huge success in the USA. 

Conceived with the simple aim of attracting customers into Volvo showrooms, the P1800 was a self-indulgent departure from Volvos of the past. The P1800 was a significant model for Volvo. It was a huge sensation from a sales perspective and, from an image viewpoint, it was infinitely more successful.

While the P1800's eclectic history and arresting design proved popular the world over, the car's infamy was cemented following an appearance in the British television program, The Saint, in the 1960s. Though producers initially wanted an E-Type Jaguar to star alongside Roger Moore’s character, the British firm declined. Volvo stepped to the plate and provided a P1800, which allowed the car to become a cult hit. It is still often referred to as  ‘The Saint’s car’.

The distinctive coupe's lines didn’t change over the car's entire 12-year life span. Volvo only altered minor details and added the 1800ES shooting brake to the line-up in the early 1970s. 

Volvo says the P1800 was intended to be ‘a car that looked like a Ferrari, but cost and functioned like a Volvo.' The infamous Irv Gordon car that has covered over 4,500,000km over its lifetime on the same engine is testament to this durability, whilst rising prices on the classic market mark out the P1800 as a truly useable classic that is an integral part of Volvo history.

By John O'Brien