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Swede Week: 1970 Volvo 1800E

The famous Volvo 1800 actually came about thanks to another unusual partnership in the earlier, and lesser known, P1900. In 1953, Volvo commissioned California-based fiberglass body producer Glasspar to help make a sports car based on the 544. A few were made, but changes in leadership ultimately killed the project.

The idea was reborn in the 1800 and design moved from California to Italy, where prototypes for the new sport concept were produced by Frua. Frua couldn’t handle large-scale production, though, so Volvo took the prototypes to Karmann in Germany. Though it initially agreed to produce the car, Volkswagen’s contract with Karmann to produce the competitor Ghia ruled it out. Stymied, Volvo turned to Jensen in England after exploring some other dead-end options. Jensen’s production possibilities looked promising to Volvo, but ultimately Jensen didn’t have the capacity to produce the bodies. An agreement was struck with Scottish Pressed Steel, which then produced the P1800 bodies so poorly that a very frustrated Volvo ended up moving production back to Sweden in 1962. The renamed 1800S (no longer with a “P”) signified the changeover.

But regardless of how many masications they went through or who was producing it on any given day, one thing remained certain – the 1800 is one of the best looking cars to come out of Sweden and was an unusually round peg from a notoriously square manufacturer:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1970 Volvo 1800E on eBay

Year: 1970
Model: 1800E
Engine: 2.0 liter inline-4
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Mileage: ‘10,000’ mi
Location: Elizabeth, New Jersey
Price: Reserve Auction

1970 Volvo 1800E

This 1970 Volvo 1800E was acquired by a friend of mine in 1984 and reportedly sat unused for over 20 years before his purchase in 2013.
A subsequent refurbishment was completed in 2017!

Bodywork included welding in replacement panels for the floors, rockers, and door sills. The partial chassis replacement was completed, and the insides of the frame rails were coated with protectant. The car was media blasted, coated with epoxy primer, and repainted in its original California White (42).

A new reverse light housing, front turn signals, and rear light housings were installed. Period 15″ clover wheels were mounted with BFGoodrich Advantage rubber in June 2017.

The reupholstered cabin is trimmed red leather with matching vinyl door panels and black trim. A new white headliner was installed and the carpet, seat webbing and foam, and upholstery were replaced during the refurbishment work.

A 3-spoke steering wheel sits in front of a woodgrain-trimmed dashboard with new padded covers. The 5-digit odometer is believed to have rolled over once and currently shows 10k miles. Total mileage unknown. The interior lighting was upgraded to LEDs.

The fuel-injected 2.0L B20E four was rebuilt in 2017 with a .040″ overbore and new pistons, bearings, cam, lifters, timing gears, valves, springs, guides, seals, and water pump. Replacement underhood components included the starter, alternator, voltage regulator, ignition coil, radiator, heater core and control valve, hoses, clamps, and more. A stainless steel exhaust system was also installed.

The original fuel injection setup was replaced with a MegaSquirt II Stealth system controllable via EFI Analytics TunerStudio software on a tablet PC, which is included in the sale. The fuel system was refreshed with a new tank, pump, filter, pressure regulator, lines, and wiring harnesses. The 4-speed manual transmission received new bearings and is mated to an electrically-actuated Laycock overdrive unit. The rear main seal, clutch, throw-out bearing, and differential bearings were replaced during the refurbishment.

Suspension bushings were upgraded with polyurethane replacements and new ball joints, control arms, and shocks were installed. An IPD front sway bar was added, and a rear sway bar is included separately. New wheel and axle bearings, brake rotors, calipers, and brake lines were installed.

This 1800E is offered with build receipts and photos, spares, and a clean New Jersey title.

I’m not sure if many (any?) of you are eagerly anticipating what Swede I would come up with next, but if I had to guess I’d assume at least a few of you wanted to see an 1800, and most of those probably expected to see a 1800ES roll on through. Well you know what? Although I absolutely adore the shooting-brake design, I think the honest reality is that the Coupe is prettier. And this white over red example sure is stunning, with its California White paintwork gleaning and nicely chosen period clover wheels. I get early Porsches are special, but man – I think I’d rather be seen in one of these! And it should cost you a lot less to do so, as well. Bidding here is $17,000 so far with the reserve unmet. These have been steadily climbing in value – a very clean early ‘S’ Swedish-production example just sold for over $51,000 on Bring a Trailer. This one probably should be a bit less expensive than that example, with a very similar car selling for a more reasonable $25,000 back in February. Can you get much more style and individuality from this period for less?



  1. Rich
    Rich May 15, 2020

    I’ve appreciated the Swede week! Thanks for the detour! My recently acquired 1993 240 Wagon is a great practical classic, whose build quality easily rivals the various Benz and BMWs I’ve owned (all project/driver cars, nothing special) Plus the turbo parts from the 740/940 were an almost direct bolt-in, and I’m now enjoying a slightly-less-slow brick!

  2. Carter
    Carter May 16, 2020

    Thanks Rich and sounds like a cool car – is it an actual ‘Classic’ model? I love the wheels they put on those.

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