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A "design model" that shines brilliantly in the history of Volvo

*This is a translation done by a machine.

In the postwar period, when automobile production was about to grow by leaps and bounds, people were always interested in new models, but at the same time, they also had a yearning for sports-type models. Manufacturers therefore began to develop sports models that would also serve as "customer pandas" in order to attract as much interest as possible to their showrooms. Sports cars were also a promising product with the potential to expand sales in North America, especially on the West Coast, which was a large market at the time.

Scandinavian hero Volvo was no exception. In 1954, Volvo introduced the Sport (P1900), a two-door convertible. Like the Chevrolet Corvette, it was an innovative sports car that used fiberglass-reinforced plastic, the most advanced material at the time, as the body material.

However, its quality had numerous problems, and the then president Gunnar Engellau immediately put a halt to production. The Sport P1900, which he criticized as "not a good car for Volvo," ended up being produced in just over one-sixth (68/300 units) of the planned number of units.

Volvo, however, did not give up. Due to strong demand from dealers, Volvo continued to seek plans for a sports model. And The 1800 series was launched in 1960.

The birth of the 2-door coupe style, which is still full of individuality, has a funny story that makes you feel the times. The president of the company, Mr. Engellau, had a strong desire for an Italian design. So we ordered a design proposal from Pietro Frua, who was housed with a design studio in the famous Carrozzeria, Ghia. At the time, Frua was joined by Helmer Petterson's son Pelle, a former Volvo head of development (PV 444) and consultant, as an apprentice designer at Frua's studio.

Frua submitted four final design proposals, but Helmer secretly slipped in a fifth proposal drawn by his son, Pelle. And lo and behold, Pelle's idea, while studying industrial design in New York, caught the eye of Volvo's management, who didn't know it. With the help of Pietro Frua, Pelle's idea was refined and officially adopted, and three prototypes were built by Frua between 1957 and 1958.

The next problem was to secure a production plant. Volvo was just entering a period of growth, and the Swedish plant did not have the capacity. So father Helmer turned to Kalman in Germany and began negotiations for production by the end of 1958, but these negotiations ended in failure. At the time, Kalman was VW's biggest sponsor, producing the Beetle Convertible and the Karmann Ghia coupe. Volvo's new sports car had the same position as the Karmann Ghia at VW in terms of Italian design, German production, and North American sales expansion.

After negotiations with Kalman broke down, Volvo gradually lost interest in producing the P1800. That's where Helmer came into play on three occasions. The father tried very hard for his son (I don't know if this is true or not). After negotiations with two British companies (Pressed Steel Company and Jensen Motors), the first P1800 finally went off the line in 1961. As a result, it is hard to deny the feeling that the P1800's contents were "out of date" due to the three-year delay in its release.

The first 6,000 cars were assembled at Jensen in England, but in 1963, all but the body production (pressed steel) was moved to Sweden (Gothenburg). The name of the car was changed to P1800S (S is the Swedish initials). Body production in Sweden did not take place until 1969. Also in 1969, the displacement was increased from 1.8 to 2 liters, but for some reason the name "1800" was retained in the car name.

In 1970, it evolved into the P1800E with mechanical injection system. In 1972, the P1800E was equipped with a low-pollution engine to comply with U.S. emission regulations.

There was another big news in 1972. This was the appearance of the P1800ES, or "Fish Van". It was a two-door wagon in the Shooting brake style, with the second half of the coupe body stretched as it was. The distinctive rear glass hatch design had a major impact on subsequent Volvo designs. At this time, Volvo actually sought a design proposal from Italy, but in the end settled on an in-house design. It was also around this time that the automatic transmission version was added.

Since production of the coupe ended in 1972, only the P1800ES was produced in 1973, thus ending the history of the P1800 ES that had continued since 1961. The coupe was produced in about 48,000 units, while the estate ES was produced in less than two years, with only about 8,000 units produced.

To return to the original story, when Mr. Engellau found out that the original design of the coupe was actually the work of a "Swedish family member," he was furious, saying, "He tricked me! I would never accept him (Pelle) as a car designer." In the end, it was only recently that Volvo acknowledged that the P1800 design was the work of Pelle Petterson, not Frua. Pelle himself later became a boat designer, not a car designer.

Jun Nishikawa's Highlights!

This is a P1800ES, a very rare combination of a 1972 right-hand drive + manual transmission. The current owner acquired it two years ago from a car store he knew. Although we have not been able to confirm this, we assume that it is probably a dealer vehicle as it is right-hand drive, type acquired, registered in the year of production (November 1972), and has a Scandinavian Motors (Yanase affiliate) plate on it.

The exterior color is a slightly purplish black, which is a repaint. The color code (108) reveals that the original color was Sapphire Blue, a bright light blue. The interior is the original combination of black leather and blue carpet (449-822). Sapphire blue has only this combination of interior colors, and the P 1800 ES with this combination of interior and exterior colors was produced only in 1972.

The odometer reads 7300 km, but based on the deterioration of the leather, pedals, etc., it is probably not the actual mileage (so we consider it unknown). The exterior condition is good overall, although there is some age-related deterioration on the rubber parts of the bumpers, and some lifting on the chrome parts (door handles, etc.).

Interior negative points include a reupholstered dashboard and non-original steering wheel and ABC pedals. The driver's seat is cracked, but the rest of the car, including the roof liner, is age-appropriate. The cooler also worked.

The engine starts at once. Idling is stable. We moved it around a little in the owner's garage premises, and the engine system seems to be in good condition. P1800 is famous for its heavy steering wheel, but it is much heavier than we imagined. We would like enthusiasts who are proud of their strength to give it a try.

It would be fun to return them to their original colors. Just imagine how stylish it would be to have the P1800ES in a bright light blue color.

Vehicle Specifications

Model Year1972
Year of PurchaseNov 1972
Engine Capacity1,986cc
Steering WheelRight
ColorDark purplish black
Chassis No.1834352WOO2037
Engine No.466
AreaOsaka, Japan