When I saw the Gooding and Company auction catalog for their upcoming Scottsdale, AZ sale one car caught my eye. A 1967 Volvo P1800S in red. The auction catalogs says it has original paint, one long time owner, exceedingly low miles – just over 10,000, nice patina on the original leather seats, a real survivor, fully serviced, ready to drive and enjoy. Auction estimate: $50,000 – $70,000. (See their complete auction catalog description by cliking this link)
What causes a car that’s been largely ‘off the radar’ for many enthusiasts in the collector car hobby for years to start attracting attention?
1) It seems to start with a few high profile auction results that bring higher than ‘normal’ sale prices. There was the 1971 Volvo P1800 in white at Rick Cole’s 2014 auction in Monterey that sold for $81,400. Bonhams Auctions sold a 1974 P1800ES Wagon for $92,400 (wagons are rarer than the coupes and usually bring more money, but still… a big number for any Volvo).
2) Collector car pundits start writing about them, how they won’t be ‘affordable’ for very much longer. They start talking about what they might cost in the not too distant future and what seemed like crazy high auction prices just a little while ago will be the new norm (see Wayne Carini’s thoughts about the P1800 below). ‘If you want a good one, you better get one while you still can’. They they show up in magazine columns and on websites… These guys might even buy one for their own collection (see Keith Martin’s column below).
It’s not all that common to see such a mainstream publication such as ‘Forbes Life’ report on cars, I suppose they’re trying to cover all the things their readers might ‘collect’ as there was a wine, art and watch expert that contributed to the one page feature on collectibles.
Sports Car Market Magazine (my favorite of all the collector car publications) publisher, Keith Martin, devoted his ‘Shifting Gears’ column in the December 2014 issue of Sports Car Market to share with readers how he just purchased a 1964 Volvo P1800 for his personal collection. Sports Car Market is the car magazine for real car guys, Keith went into detail about the particular car he purchased and how he came to own it. He also referenced some of the finer details of the car and the robust vintage Volvo subculture in the collector car world. Click the photo below to see the whole article, full size. And if, somehow, you’re reading this and you aren’t an SCM subscriber, follow this link to their website and get a subscription, whatever it costs these days, just get it. I’ve been a subscriber for, jeez, 15 years now. It’s a must read, every month.
The collector car spotlight continues to shine down on the Volvo P1800 – It was the subject of their featured story in this week’s “Hagerty Classic Cars – Weekly News” email blast. Hagerty is one of the nation’s foremost insurers of collector cars and boats. They put together a video ride along featuring the Volvo P1800 owned by Angus Forsyth, Managing Director of Hagerty International. Angus bought his car in 1982, when he was just 18 years old. Click on the video below to see his 1964 P1800S in action, and thoughts about the car from its long time owner.
Hagerty also maintains a very informative collector car pricing tool that’s available free on their website. I insure my 1965 Mercedes-Benz 230SL with Hagerty. Their ‘agreed value’ rates for collector cars are reasonable and everyone I’ve ever talked to who’s had to make a claim has had good things to say about their service.
While the Volvo P1800 might be a car that’s just coming out of the shadows for some people, Irv Gordon of Long Island, NY has been a fan for a long time. Irv currently holds the Guinness Book of World’s Records’ “title for the most miles logged on an originally owned car” with over 3 Million miles on his red 1966 Volvo P1800S. That just about covers the question of reliability and longevity for the P1800.
The P1800 was designed by Pelle Petterson, a Swede and son of Volvo PV544 stylist Helmer Petterson while he was an employee at the Italian design firm Frua, a Ghia subsidiary at the time. It was produced from 1961 – 1973 in several iterations. For the first few years Volvo contracted with the Jensen company in England to build the bodies of the cars, but for the 1964 model year Volvo moved production to Sweden citing quality control problems at Jensen. A couple of different engines were used over the years, the 4 speed manual transmission was offered with overdrive by the mid 60s. By the early 70s the interior of the P1800 was redesigned and fuel injection replaced the twin SU carburetors that had been standard to that point.
Opinions differ as to which P1800 is ‘most desirable’, it really comes down to why you want a P1800 and what you’re going to do with it. Purists seem to prefer the earliest Jensen bodied cars with their two piece ‘bull horn’ or ‘cow horn’ front bumpers used through 1963 as opposed to the straight bumpers used on later models. The cars of the early 70s with their fuel injection are preferred by others for the more modern fuel delivery system. The interiors of these cars through 1967 are wonderful. Keith Martin calls them ‘art deco’ like in his December 2014 ‘Shifting Gears’ column (above). Chrome bezels around the gauges, teal green background on the instruments, classic steering wheel, they’re just gorgeous. In 1968 the more classic metal / plastic rimmed steering wheel was replaced with a completely molded plastic / rubber piece, losing some of the vintage charm of the earlier models. 1970 brought the introduction of the fuel injected models and a completely new interior. Fake plastic wood covered the dash, the instruments were redesigned and the P1800 came into the 70s, leaving all the true vintage charm of the 60s interior behind.
There is a great Volvo P1800 Photo site that shows cars, inside and out, from each year of production and explains the progression and changes of the P1800 from the beginning through the end of the production run. Check it out by clicking this link.
So what might all this buzz mean for the 1967 model with just over 10,000 original miles that Gooding and Company is offering at their Scottsdale sale on January 16th and 17th? It’s hard to say, but it wouldn’t surprise me that with all this buzz around these unique and robust cars from Sweden if it didn’t just get bid right past the fairly conservative high estimate of $70,000 and actually sell closer to $100,000. Original, ‘preservation class’ cars like the one Gooding is offering are the kinds of cars discerning collectors prefer today, and as we all know, ‘they’re only original once’. If this car does break Gooding’s high estimate, Wayne Carini will look like a fortune teller worth paying and that light metallic green Ferrari Mondial Cab Keith Martin bought a while back will fade away even further in the rear view mirror of his P1800.