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: