1970 Volvo P1800E - $24,900
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Unusual but attractive, durable but fun to drive, and even a little practical with the folding back seat.

When you think Volvo, you don’t really think of low-slung sports cars. But the P1800 of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s should have changed Volvo’s image. Stylish, fun to drive, and built with typical Volvo quality and precision, it was a great blend of performance and practicality. Today those virtues are starting to see some appreciation as these cars find new homes with ever-rising values, a sure sign that enthusiasts have caught on to something great. If you squint, you can see a bit of Maserati in the styling, the engine is the same reliable hardware that powered Volvo’s more staid offerings, and parts availability is still quite good, so it’s a fantastic choice for a hobby car if you like to tinker.

First off, this particular P1800 is a dark, dark olive green, not black, so make sure you look at the photos carefully. It’s extremely attractive, but be sure you’re getting what you expect. It was repainted at some point, probably 20-25 years ago, but it’s holding up rather well and we gave it a deep buff and cleaning to really bring up the shine. There’s no evidence of wholesale panel replacement, accident damage, or serious rust issues, and it fits together with typical Volvo precision. For a little car, the doors have a very satisfying sound. Of course, as an older repaint, there are a few signs of use and age as you’d expect, but nothing jumps out as severely weathered or damaged and aside from some very, very minor bubbling under one of the headlights (so minor it doesn’t even show up in photographs), we can’t really find any significant issues. Most of the chrome is probably original, so there are signs of age there, but again, nothing has deteriorated to the point of needing replacement or restoration, making this a car that you can use without worries. Perfection is overrated, so the freedom of just getting in and having fun in this car can be very liberating. A no-worries old car can be a joy to own.

The interior is suitably sporting and features cutting-edge design (for 1970) with a Swedish flavor. Dramatic but simple lines highlight the door panels and dashboard, and low-slung bucket seats are comfortable enough for long drives. The funky 3-spoke steering wheel frames a set of big, round gauges, with auxiliary dials in the center of the dash. Original Smiths dials are beautiful to look at, with the coolant temperature gauge being a newer aftermarket replacement. There’s a newer AM/FM/cassette radio in the dash as well, and the restrained use of woodgraining warms up the interior without becoming overwhelming. If anything, this Volvo is the model of good taste. A few years ago, an aftermarket A/C system was added with dials and vents under the dash, but it was so neatly integrated that it could almost pass for a period-correct installation. It’s effective in a way that a 1970 Volvo system probably wouldn’t be and uses R134a refrigerant for easy service in the future. The rear seat is probably good for small kids, but fortunately it folds down to make a rather spacious cargo area. There’s also a decent trunk that includes a matching full-sized spare and jack, just in case.

In 1970, the P1800’s 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine was augmented with Bosch fuel injection, becoming the P1800E with the E standing for Einspritzung, which is German for “fuel injection.” Power went from 118 horsepower in 1969 to 130, a reasonable boost that came with improved tractability and cold weather starting as well. We don’t have any history on rebuilds or previous heavy work, but it’s probably worth pointing out that a Volvo P1800 holds the world record for most miles by a private owner: 3.25 million. Obviously, reliability is not an issue with these cars. This one starts easily and after a little bit of warming up, runs great with a traditional 4-cylinder sports car feel. It isn’t luxury car smooth, of course, but it’s a willing engine that likes to rev and makes all the right sounds. There are plenty of signs of proper maintenance over the years and the modern A/C system was professionally installed and looks right at home. A few bright aluminum bits make it look interesting under the hood and as I mentioned, parts are readily available for these cars so keeping them in top health isn’t an issue.

The 4-speed manual transmission offers a slick feel and light clutch action, and thanks to the overdrive, is a relaxed cruiser even in today’s world. It never feels flat-footed and the engine is so torquey that lots of shifting isn’t really needed. Yes, it’s a little grungy underneath, but you will not find any structural rust in the rockers or floors, and all the sheetmetal appears to be original to the car. Newer shocks have been fitted and it’s worth mentioning that 1970 was also the first year for 4-wheel disc brakes, a nice upgrade. The exhaust ahs not one, not two, but three mufflers for just the right soundtrack and ride quality is superb for a low-slung sporting car. Steering is manual but light and those optional alloy wheels are quite attractive. Four 185/65/15 Pirelli radials were fitted not too long ago and have plenty of life left in them.

These are very likeable little cars. Unusual but attractive, durable but fun to drive, and even a little practical with the folding back seat. This is not a show car, but it’s a solid car with no major needs that you can enjoy right away and upgrade along the way. We’re also seeing significant gains in value on these cars, so it presents as a great opportunity to ride the rising tide and add a little sweat equity to pay for your fun. Hard to beat that in a vintage sports car. Call today!

Harwood Motors always recommends and welcomes personal or professional inspections of any vehicle in our inventory prior to purchase.

Vehicle: 1970 Volvo P1800E
Price: $24,900
Stock Number: 118001
Mileage: 135,886
VIN: 18445130102
Engine: 1986 cc inline-4
Transmission: 4-speed manual + overdrive
Gear Ratio: 4.0999999999999996
Wheelbase: 96.5 inches
Wheels: 15-inch aluminum wheels
Tires: 185/65/15 Pirelli radials
Exterior Color: Dark Green
Interior Color: Tan leather
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