Junkyard Gem: 1973 Volvo 1800ES

Junkyard Gem: 1973 Volvo 1800ES

Volvo began selling cars in the United States with the 1956 PV444, a sturdy unibody machine that looked quite a bit like the 1946 Ford from some angles. Reliable, sensible — maybe stodgy is a better word — PV544s, Amazons and 140s followed the 444s across the Atlantic as the 1950s became the 1960s. Starting in 1961, though, a genuinely sporty Volvo arrived here: the P1800. Members of the P1800 family were sold here through 1973, and I’ve found one of those final-model-year cars in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.

The P1800 (later named the 1800S and then the 1800E) was based on the chassis of the Amazon and was available only as a coupe from 1961 through 1971. The 1800ES shooting brake version with its all-glass hatch debuted as a 1972 model, and just under 9,000 were built before production ended the following year.

The U.S.-market 1800ES got a 2.0-liter pushrod straight-four engine with Bosch fuel injection, rated at 112 horsepower. Its dirtier-running European counterparts got more power.

This engine was known as the B20F. First-year Volvo 240s got the B20F as well, before moving up to the SOHC “Red Block” engine for 1976.

A 1966 P1800 holds the world record for most mileage on a street car: more than 3.2 million miles. That car has a B18 engine that was rebuilt twice. The highest-mile junkyard car I’ve found was a Volvo as well, though it only had 626,476 miles. Does the credit go to the cars or to their owners? Yes!

This car appears to have sat outside near the Pacific for too many decades; it has the top-down rust associated with living in the salt spray and fog near beaches in NorCal. This is pretty bad, but I’ve seen worse. This Volvo’s final parking spot is just about a mile from crashing ocean waves.

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Worth restoring? No way, not when much nicer examples sell for a few grand.

All the chawed-up seat foam suggests that raccoons and other Golden State wildlife lived inside for quite a while.

The good news is that many of this crusty old Swede’s components will live on in other Volvos. In fact, one of my regular readers scored a junkyard bonanza when he found this car (and several other vintage Volvos) not long before I arrived.

Northern California car graveyards still offer plenty of old Scandinavian steel.

You tell ’em, Christina! The actress in this commercial went on to a long and successful career in film and television in Sweden, which included work with Ingmar Bergman, and continues to work to this day. You can learn plenty of unexpected, interesting things when you study a discarded car.