Forever associated with the TV Saint, the Volvo P1800 was well publicized by its appearance as Simon Templar’s wheels in The Saint, starring Roger Moore. In fact, Volvo supplied several P1800 coupes for the long-running production, each in turn wearing the number plate ST 1, after Jaguar refused to offer an E-Type.
This canny move certainly enhanced sales of the P1800, which first appeared in 1961 after Volvo decided to enter the sports car market again (the 1950s P1900 roadster had been a disaster).
After various problems locating a suitable supplier, Volvo contracted Jensen Motors who agreed to do the business, using bodies from Pressed Steel at Linwood to produce this classic 2+2 notchback coupe designed by Carrozzeria Pietro Frua in Italy (where the designer who worked on the new car happened to be Pelle Pettersson, son of Volvo engineering consultant Helmer Pettersson).
Nepotism duly justified by a brilliant result, the first P1800s appeared to great public excitement in 1961. The engine was a specially engineered version of Volvo’s reliable B18 plant with dual SU carburetors that gave ton-topping performance with brisk acceleration via a manual four-speed gearbox (optional overdrive available).
After 6,000 of the contracted 10,000 P1800s had been built, Jensen ran into problems and production was transferred to Sweden in 1963, at which point the name was changed to 1800S (S = Swedish assembly) and the engine was improved. The next big shake-up came in 1970, when the P1800E was introduced. This had a bigger fuel-injected engine and disc brakes all round. The last version appeared in 1972 — a striking hatchback estate car version designated P1800ES. This would be the only model built in the last year of production, 1973. Around 47,000 P1800s were produced and they are usable classics well up to the rigors of modern motoring.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
Sweden (initially built in the UK)
1961 (until 1973)
1,778 cc or 1,986 cc Straight Four
1800E without overdrive – top speed of 118 mph (km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.1 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
For some reason the B18 Volvo engine has a reputation as being rather robust and well built, perhaps because one Volvo P1800 has done over 2.7 million miles (4 million kilometers) – and counting – on its original B18 engine. Okay, so it is rather robust and well built.