Collectible Classic: 1961-1973 Volvo 1800

Michael Alan Ross

The outside door handle that's integrated into the chrome trim is an interesting design detail that you appreciate every time you open the door. The cockpit is low, but getting in is easy. The bucket seats have a distinct mod-lounge appearance, and they're wide and soft. The standard leather is quite supple. Reclining seatbacks and adjustable lumbar support were unusual items in 1971. The tiny back seats are more of a parcel shelf than a place to put passengers.

Period road tests criticized the high beltline, but it's no worse than today's cars, although the roof is low. You face a full complement of gauges, set in what may be the least-convincing fake wood ever applied to a dashboard.

The fuel-injected four-cylinder starts readily. For 1971, the 2.0-liter was rated at 130 hp, although this is a robust engine that can be tuned for even higher output. The big four is actually fairly torquey at relatively low revs, so there's not much reason to explore the upper reaches of the tach. The manual gearbox has long, although positive, shift action, but the clutch has an extra long amount of travel and uses every bit of it. The steering is very heavy at parking speeds, but it's not bad once you're moving along. The chassis is set up more for predictable understeer than lively oversteer. Cozy, comfortable, and coupe like but also a bit truck like, the 1800 isn't so much a sports car; it is more of a tourer.

Dangelo doesn't mind. "I like the body style," he says. "Plus, you don't see them all over the place. These cars are available at a reasonable price," he adds. "And nearly all the parts are readily available." In other words, the 1800 offers a marriage of exotic-coupe style and Volvo practicality. That's a combination that makes this Volvo a compelling choice among GTs of the era, even if it's not an obvious one.

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