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:
Down the road from me is a gentleman who daily drives a Porsche 914. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of the boxy flying pancake. In the right configuration they look pretty cool, but my eyes always gravitate towards the more classic grand touring look of the replacement 924. However, I certainly can understand the appeal of a cheap and simple classic Porsche. For some time about a decade and a half ago I had this dream that some day when I was a little better off I’d pick up an early 911 – because, of course, a decade and a half ago no one wanted them and they were still relatively cheap. Since having a classic car is by no means a necessity, for us with less well-endowed bank accounts and no trust funds, ownership of such cars remains a dream. In that light, the 914 makes more sense since compared to the rear-engine counterparts it’s still relatively cheap – though find a good one and it’ll be a pretty penny.
But dipping in to the classic car market doesn’t have to break the bank, and there are still a few neat older German cars that would be great weekend warriors. Certainly, one of the most unsung heroes and yet one of the more visually captivating is the Opel GT. The slinky 2-door had the looks of its parent company sibling Corvette, but motivation by the normal Opel inline-4 drivetrain meant it was much more affordable. These days they’re rarely seen but always a treat:
The aura of the 911 is so thoroughly encompassing it overshadows nearly every other Porsche model conceived and constructed, but especially this seems to be true of the 1970s. During that time Porsche launched groundbreaking models like the 924 and 928; generally, both very unappreciated compared to the air-cooled siblings. But the 914 seems nearly forgotten despite its similar engine behind the driver and atmospheric cooling setup. Why? Well, it’s not the prettiest Porsche design, it’s true – but presented properly it is still quite neat.
The most collectable are the original 914-6s, but of course the low cost of ownership for some time meant there are a lot of motor-swapped 914s cruising around. Some are better than others and not all are desirable – I’d take an original and clean 914 over a poorly swapped car. But some really grab attention, as this Signal Orange 2.2-swapped car did to me:
It doesn’t get more quintessential classic Mercedes-Benz sedan than the W108 and W109 chassis. The vertical grille matched with the vertical headlights, that is all grafted onto a body of simple and square contours. None of the proportions are too big or too small, and all the angles are consistent. There is nothing offensive on this car to be found. Thankfully, the quality is as good as the looks. Stay on top of things, and they are built to last generations. Today’s car, a 1970 280SE up for sale in Switzerland, is a perfect example of that. It has never been restored and hasn’t been locked away in a bubble, just used as needed and meticulously looked after. Even better, it has a nice little ownership story of the diplomatic variety.
No, your eyes aren’t mistaken and my finger didn’t slip up one digit on the number pad. I meant to type 6.6. Let me explain.
What we are looking at today is a 1969 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3, a legendary car on its own, that had the M100 engine block opened up to increase the displacement 6.6 liters. Who is responsible for such a thing? Karl Middelhauve, of course. If you aren’t familiar with Karl, he is a man world-renowned for his expertise on M100-powered Mercedes and especially his work on the W100 600. If something can be done with a M100 Mercedes, Karl can do it and probably has already done it. This is just one of his examples. This 1969 up for sale in San Francisco is one of the few ”6.6” W109s in existence and now you can own it for a price. A very high price.
Checking back in with my favorite cars ever. This 600 Pullman is still for sale with a new price of $495,000. That is $100,000 more than the original price. An interesting sales tactic to say the least.
Last week I checked out at a 1972 Mercedes-Benz 600 that looked to be cared for by a wealthy stable owner in north Alabama. Today, we have another W100 to examine, but this one has quite a bit more history to sort through. This 1970 600 for sale in Portland, Oregon isn’t the normal standard wheelbase sedan you are used to seeing but rather it’s the rare Pullman version, which is one of 423 ever produced. Of course, those who ordered these cars usually weren’t your normal private citizens. So who was the original owner of this rolling symbol of power?
Update 10/21/18: This 911T sold for $63,600.
This is a Tangerine 1970 Porsche 911T Coupe located in Malibu. It has a black leatherette interior, 123,042 miles on it, and is up for auction without reserve. Next to Signal Yellow, Tangerine (also called Blood Orange at times) is my favorite of the early Porsche colors that isn’t blue (it’s hard to have just one ‘favorite’). Tangerine is a color that is hard to pin down. In cases like the photos here, its red tones show up quite vibrantly and it almost looks like Guards Red. Truth be told I have many times checked out a 911 that looked like it might be Tangerine only to discover that it is Guards Red. The lighting in the photos just wasn’t very good. In other cases the orange tones stand out and you’re pretty sure you know what color you’re seeing, but ultimately it does look like a bright orange car and not everyone likes a bright orange car.
However, it is precisely this mix of red and orange that I find so appealing about the color. Under the right conditions it looks absolutely phenomenal. It is definitely not for the faint of heart, but I can think of few better options on any long-hood 911.
If I had a dollar for every time I see the terms ”like-new”, ”showroom condition” or even worse, ”restored” when looking at a used car ad, I’d have a lot more cars. The overwhelming majority of the time these terms don’t apply to the car listed for sale and are just used by overzealous sellers just trying to drum up interest. I fight every urge to send them a sarcastic message saying that I didn’t know Mercedes sold new cars on the showroom floor with cracked dashes and stains on the carpets, but I resist. Either way, it ruins the term in my eyes because of how loosely it gets tossed around. Today, one of those cars actually deserves all those marketing terms because it is actually true. This 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SL for sale in Texas was restored, is like-new and is certainly in showroom condition. However, if you want to own this car, I hope your net worth is in seven-figures. It is that expensive.
Today and tomorrow I’ve got a couple cars to post that are quite a bit less pristine than what I typically like to feature. Both will need some work, but each provides a nice base with which to begin that work. And, more importantly, both are interesting enough that there should be a desire from some to return them to their full glory.
I’ll begin with this one: a Signal Orange 1970 Porsche 911T Targa, located in California, with 126,868 miles on it. This one is all about the color as it’s one of the best on an early 911. That it’s a 911T in need of work also should mean that the selling price falls very much on the reasonable side of the spectrum. At least, it should. Will it?
Update 12/24/2017 – The price of the Targa has dropped $10,000 to $89,995.
Believe it or not it’s been a few months since I featured a long-hood 911. I guess there haven’t been many lately to really grab my attention. So why not double up with two? Albert Blue is a really nice non-metallic blue that was available on these early 911s and as it happens there are two available right now, both from the same model year and same 911 model. But one is a Coupe and the other a Targa. So if you like the color, now you just have to pick your body style!
Let’s start with the Coupe: a 1970 Porsche 911T Coupe, located in Alabama, with 69,814 miles on it. It’s been fully restored, is numbers matching, and looks great.