10:00 PM | January 15 2021
Motoring experts embrace “retro hero” Volvo P1800 Cyan
Motoring writers from the UK and US have savoured their drives of a 21st-century interpretation of Volvo’s famous 1960s sports car.
International motoring media have got behind the wheel of one of 2021’s most unique cars – the P1800 Cyan that is a modern-day interpretation of Volvo’s iconic 1960s sports car.
The Volvo P1800 Cyan – a vehicle type known in the industry as a ‘restomod’ – has been created by Cyan Racing, the reigning triple World Touring Car champion team that started racing Volvos in the mid 1990s.
Motoring writers were excited even before they started driving an example of the Cyan that started life as a 1964 P1800.
“Forget faithful replicas,” said Britain’s Top Gear. “This is very much a fantasy reimagination of what a P1800 stuffed with today’s latest track-developed technology would look like. And it looks good.”
Compatriot UK magazine/website Autocar revealed to its readers just how much effort had gone into transforming the original car.
“Let me tell you the parts on this car that are directly taken from a Volvo P1800,” wrote Autocar. “Relax, it won’t take long. There’s the metal in all the roof pillars. The handbrake lever. The bonnet release mechanism. And the windscreen wipers. That’s it. That’s all.”
US collectible car insurance specialist Hagerty explained how potential buyers just needed to provide Cyan with an original P1800.
“Almost 40,000 of the original coupes were produced, and Cyan is happy with even the most tired starting point, such as a cheap, basket-case P1800.”
Inside, the P1800 Cyan again aims to delicately interpret the clean and driver-oriented cabin of the original Volvo, though using modern materials and technology. Bespoke digital instruments are a clear link to the 1960s model, while, with an eye to classic-car racing, there are racing seats and harnesses plus a leather-clad titanium roll hoop.
Autocar embraced the cabin as soon as its tester snuggled into the “low-slung, genuinely comfortable driving position”.
“Fit and finish around the cockpit are exceptional: beautifully stitched leather, nice fabric and a great, simple array of dials and toggle switches. Race teams do know where to put stuff so it’s easy to find while you concentrate on driving.”
Hagerty’s test driver was also a fan.
“A racing team’s interpretation of a Volvo 1800 was always going to be exciting and analogue. More surprising is that this is no stripped-out bone-shaker. The doors open and clack shut with an unexpectedly substantial feel given the feathery curb weight, fit and finish are superb, and, despite a resolutely racy flavour, the interior embraces a classic GT feel.”
Forget the relatively humble 1.8- or 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines, or the four-speed manual or three-speed auto, of the original P1800.
The 2021 Cyan features a 308kW/455Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder – an engine borrowed from the Volvo S60 TC1 race car that won the 2017 World Touring Car Championship.
Power goes to the rear wheels through a customised five-speed dog-leg gearbox and limited-slip differential. And there are no modern driving aids
For a purer driving experience, Cyan Racing decided to forgo modern driving aids such as electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes or brake booster.
AutoExpress was amazed the engine produces even more power than the race car while also noting it didn’t make the Cyan feel intimidating to drive.
“Fire up the thoroughbred touring car engine and it instantly settles to a smooth idle. At odds with its track-focus, the light clutch and smooth gear change make for an easy drive at low speed, fulfilling the race team's brief of making the P1800 Cyan a car you could use every day.
“If you pack a set of earplugs that is; flatten the throttle and the turbo four-cylinder erupts into a soundtrack diehard WRC fans will relate to.”
Hagerty was equally enthused with the engine, reporting that “there’s a screaming rush past 7000rpm that fizzes with energy and feels quite unlike any other turbo four I’ve driven”. Top Gear declared the P1800 Cyan “demands no more of the driver to operate than a diesel XC40… unless you choose to poke it with a stick, or in this case a battered size-nine running shoe”.
The P1800 Cyan is more than an engine, however. Eschewing modern driver aids such as electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes or brake booster but employing modern construction, suspension and tyres, the car has been created to deliver a pure and harmonious driving experience.
Autocar hailed the Cyan’s key controls that provide the crucial interaction between car and driver.
“[The gearlever] is long, not overtly weighted, but slots into first with such tremendous precision that I try moving it around the gate a few times just for the sake of it. It really is something else.
“The steering is medium weighted, superbly accurate and remarkably free of kickback. It doesn’t take on much additional weight as you add cornering forces, but it retains its smoothness.
“I can’t remember the last time shifting gears was this much of a pleasure. The whole experience is engaging like nothing modern this side of a Caterham, Ariel or Lotus Elise.”
Hagerty agreed that Cyan Racing had succeeded in its mission.
“The real magic is how Cyan makes such potentially thuggish performance and an extrovert chassis so exploitable and enjoyable on the road. You feel it in the finessed ride to the way power builds like a pot of boiling water and how its tires progressively relinquish their hold on even cold, sodden UK asphalt.”
Top Gear said: “Cyan calls it “an authentic rear-wheel-drive experience”.” “We call it an OAP with bionic hips and a repeat prescription for adrenalin.”
Cyan Racing, which was involved in the development of the Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar performance sedan and wagon produced between 2013 and 2015, says pricing and individual specification for the P1800 Cyan is available for prospective clients.
In its overall verdict, Top Gear suggested lucky buyers should first drive the original Volvo P1800 they buy to be converted, because “only then will you appreciate the lengths [to which] Cyan Racing has gone to kiss the very peaks of restomod perfection”.
Top Gear went on to vote the P1800 Cyan as its Retro Hero of the Year as part of its annual awards.
“The reborn Volvo P1800 Cyan [gives] the stunning Swede the performance its looks have always demanded,” summarised AutoExpress. “Better still, in a world of ugly speed-obsessed supercars, the little Volvo P1800 Cyan is breathtakingly beautiful and finally a joy to drive at any speed.”
Hagerty used one powerful line to conclude its first-drive review of the Volvo P1800 Cyan.
“An absurdly over-engineered and meticulously restored Swedish sports car for the thinking enthusiast.”