During the month of March 2009, Volvo Cars runs a media testdrive with the new Volvo S80 with the also new D5 diesel engine with 205 hp in Monaco. As part of the programme, the journalists – representing 20 countries – visit the car collection of Prince Albert of Monaco. There they dine in the midst of a fabolulous collection of historic cars, among them three very special Volvos, brought down from Sweden.
Volvo Cars Heritage manager Claes Rydholm tells them the story behind these cars – which were all built in Turin - and here is the written information that they get:
The story about Volvo’s coupes is about as old as the company itself. As far back as the early 1930s, Volvo delivered several chassis to independent coachbuilders who designed and built different coupe bodies for customers who wanted their own individual body styles and were willing to pay for it. During the early 1950s several Volvo coupe prototypes and one-offs saw the light of day – a couple of them privately built using Volvo chassis – but they all came to nothing once the Volvo management found out what they would cost to build and sell. It is always a matter of balancing together development and production costs, production numbers, marketing costs and sales price.
The first real Volvo coupe designed for series production to emerge was the Volvo P1800. Shown forthe first time at the Brussels Motor Show in 1960, this car was the result of Volvo’s determination to expand into the more up-market segments of the market. By using the technology of the Amazon in an Italian-influenced GT body style designed by young Swede Pelle Petterson, Volvo put together a beautiful little two-seater coupe which turned out to be an immediate success.
Reaching the market in 1961, the P1800 got off to a flying start when it was used by Roger Moore in his role as “The Saint” in the television series of the same name. It also caught on with the sports car buying public, not least in the US. It had the quality, reliability and running costs of a Volvo with the looks of a small Ferrari and it performed very well for a car in its class. Originally assembled by Jensen Motors in the UK for capacity reasons, production was moved to Gothenburg in 1963 and an S (for Sweden) was added to the type designation. The P was dropped later that same year.
The 1800’s basic design remained virtually unchanged until 1971 when the 1800ES was added; it had a new type of body style. The design was a mix between coupe and estate car. Not loved by everyone at the time, the car is a real classic today and much sought after. In 1972 the 1800E was discontinued and the following year the 1800ES went out of production.
Technically speaking, the car on display is actually not an 1800 because it is prototype number one, out of three, built at Frua in Turin in 1957. The entire car was hand-made for this single purpose and it differs in many respects from the final production version. The most significant differences are the rear number plate recess, the rear valance exhaust pipe openings, the fuel filler cap, the ventilator air intake on the scuttle and the Volvo badge at the front. Technically the car is an Amazon and the original B16B engine has been temporarily replaced with a B18 unit. This car has never been rebuilt or restored and it is the current owner’s ambition to leave it like it is with the exception of returning it to its original blue metallic paint and having the missing parts made up. There are no production body spare parts that fit this prototype.
After the 1800ES had gone out of production in 1973, Volvo had no coupe to offer for some years. The 240/260 models were introduced in 1974 as model year 1975, and just one year later Volvo gave Italian design company Bertone the task of designing a four-seater coupe based on the 260. The result was the 262C and it was maybe more original than beautiful with its big body, low roof and small greenhouse. It had a very luxurious interior and featured the V6 PRVengine mated to an automatic transmission.
Launched in 1977, the car was marketed as highly exclusive and did not lack anything in terms of equipment. Not only was it designed by Carrozzeria Bertone in Turin, it was also built in their Grugliasco factory. Initially it was only available in silver metallic with a black vinyl roof but in 1980 more colours were added and the vinyl top disappeared. The 262 C/CE were produced until May 1981 and have since become real classics with owners clubs in many countries.
This car, with just some 28,000 km on the odometer, dates from 1980 and was used for sales brochure photographs by Volvo. This explains why it has been modified with the 1981 details. It was kept by Volvo for several years, eventually being sold off in 1986 to its first private owner. However, it was very rarely used and was then sold again in 2001 to its current owner who is a Gothenburgbased Volvo collector.
If the 262 C was a mere cutting job on the existing 260 body, the next coupe from Bertone was totally different when compared with its four-door sedan stablemates in the 700 series. Launched in 1985, the new coupe was called the 780 and shared its technical components with the 760 but had a totally different body, being designed as a coupe from the beginning and sharing no body panels with the four-door cars. Like the 262, Bertone also built the 780 in their Turin factory and just like the 262, the 780 also featured a very luxurious all-leather interior, all available equipment and special fittings but at the same time lacked the advantage of a really powerful engine.
Introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1985, the Volvo 780 was the absolute top-of-the-line model for several years. It was offered with a choice of engines: the V6, a four-cylinder turbo engine or a straight-six diesel engine. However, none of them could really match the high-speed Autobahn-Stormers of the German competition and the 780 was regarded more as a very comfortable and luxurious cruiser rather than a fast GT. The car remained in production until 1990 and became a collector’s item during its own lifetime.
As a collector’s item this example has found a good home with its current owner who has a second 780 that is used regularly and has many more km on the odometer. This 780 from 1987 has only covered a mere 33,000 km from new and is only used when the sun shines. Originally the car was used by the management of the Volvo’s real estate company Danafjord as occasional transport before ending up at a local Volvo dealer where the current owner found it and bought it some years ago.
Volvo Coupe production years and numbers
P1800, 1800 coupe 1961–1972 39,414 First 6,000 cars built in the UK, the rest in Sweden
1800 ES estate 1971–1973 8077 Built in Sweden
262 1977–1981 6622 Built in Italy
8518 Built in Italy