Collectible Classic: 1961-1973 Volvo 1800

Michael Alan Ross

Bigger changes arrived with the 1970s, starting with Bosch fuel injection, which brought the 2.0-liter's output to 130 gross hp and triggered another switch in model designation, to 1800E. Four-wheel disc brakes arrived the same year, as did a major interior revision. An available three-speed automatic transmission followed for 1971.

A sleek, two-door-wagon sister model, the 1800ES, made its debut for 1972. It was identical to the coupe from the A-pillars forward as well as under the skin, but it had a wagon like rear end capped by a frameless glass hatch (reprised decades later on the 2008 Volvo C30). The final year for the coupe would be 1972; wagon production ended in 1973.

It was around this time that Michael Dangelo was fresh out of college and looking for his first car. "I stumbled across a '63 P1800, and I bought it on the spot," he recalls. The Volvo's fortuitous star turn in the 1960s TV show The Saint, starring Roger Moore, had made an imprint on Dangelo. Perhaps for that reason, it had an air of romance. "Nobody had foreign cars back then -- you saw Volkswagens, but that was it. This was so exotic." Unfortunately, his P1800 attracted someone else's attention as well and was stolen after only six weeks.

Dangelo forgot about P1800s for a while -- a long while -- but then four years ago, when he decided to get a classic car, he went looking for another one. He bought a red 1971 1800E, but it suffered an engine fire and was totaled. "This gold one is my third-time's-the-charm car," he says. It's another '71, purchased fully restored from Volvo 1800 guru Don Thibault in Sandwich, Massachusetts. It has factory air-conditioning, an AM/FM radio, and the four-speed manual gearbox with electric overdrive.

The factory gold livery really sets off the body style. It's remarkable that a car designed in the late 1950s could still be contemporary in the early '70s -- and the clean, simple design and classic coupe proportions still look good today.

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