When we think of Volvo, in North America at least, we tend to envision large, boring family cars with not much under the hood. While this image has been somewhat updated over the last 15 years or so, safety and reliability are what comes to mind first. Back in the 60’s, however, there was another Volvo image: fun! The 1960 Volvo P1800, and the several ‘1800’ models that followed, namely the 1800S, 1800E and 1800ES were sporty, well-built 2-door coupes that worked wonderfully as long-distance cruisers. Handling wasn’t incredible, but it was safe, performance was adequate if not scorching-hot, but the long, low sleek look, which evolved into a hatchback with the later models, was very popular, and the car sold well, despite being more expensive than its direct competitors.
The 1960 Volvo P1800 was originally powered by a 1.8-liter four cylinder engine, which was eventually replaced by a 2-liter unit developing a maximum of 125 horsepower, at its apogee. The later models, namely the 1800ES, could reach a top speed of 115 miles per hour, and accelerate to 60 mph in 11 seconds, both of which being honest and satisfying, if not breath-taking results.
Despite its popularity, nothing lasts forever, and Volvo eventually tired of its sports car, and moved towards the staid family sedans and station wagons which they are now known for. The 1960 Volvo P1800 and its successors remain popular this day, and a fascinating part of Volvo’s history.