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Classified ad of the week: Volvo 1800S
It’s monstrously annoying when a car manufacturer builds a concept car you actually, really want, then says it won’t be selling it. Like the Volvo Concept Coupe.
Luckily, this one’s based, in a designey sort of way, on the Volvo P1800 coupe. The car Roger Moore drove in The Saint. Arguably one of the prettiest coupes of the sixties. And, most importantly, a machine you can actually buy.
But what’s the deal? A comely two-door from… Volvo? A company famed for celebrating the straight line? And championing safety over sexy? It was a curious move, but one that served the company well. Sort of…Volvo had wanted to build a sports car for years. And, indeed, had done so with the P1900. But the predecessor was a hopeless failure, and sold just 68. So engineering consultant, Helmer Petterson, was drafted in to make something a little more appealing in 1957.
His son, Pelle, drew the first outline - almost identical to the production car. In December, Helmer had it built, then drove it to Karmann’s HQ, hoping it’d be able to build the bodies. Wooden bucks had already been hammered together, and if all went well the first cars could be ready by the following year.
All did not go well. Karmann’s biggest customer, Volkswagen, blocked the job, worried that the P1800 would rob sales of their own output. A few other German coachbuilders were contacted - NSU, Drautz, Hanomag - but they didn’t meet Volvo’s quality standards. In an odd move, Petterson turned to British company, Jensen, with which Volvo agreed to build 10,000 cars.
In 1961 the car was ready for sale, with a twin carburettor-funded, 100bhp four-cylinder engine that could drag it up to 110mph. But by 1963, Jensen had failed to live up to Volvo’s quality control expectations, the contract ended early at 6,000 cars, and production moved in-house to Gothenburg.
And this is one of the later, greater cars. As well as rather more attention being paid to panel gaps, the reborn Swedish-built car (renamed 1800S - S standing for Swedish, to drive the point home) got a revised 2.0-litre four-pot that made 118 bhp, and could hit 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds.
The price? £11,995.
OK, so it’s not as powerful as the 400bhp concept, and there isn’t a cut crystal glass gear knob, but you can, y’know, buy it…
Any TopGear.commers interested?