Story Ned Howard
Photos Dave Vahey and Ned Howard
The 1800 was an unexpected release from Volvo in 1961. A departure from its modestly styled predecessors, the 1800 was an Italian designed coup for drivers who appreciated sophistication, but secretly harbored conservative sensibilities.
In the spring of 1999, I mentioned to my car-loving father an interest in finding an 1800. In a stroke of good fortune, my father had seen one for sale while out on a walk in his neighborhood. So I made the drive from Portland to Roseburg to give it a once over. This particular 1800 was a green ’69 coup with carburetor issues. I was able to talk the owner down to $2k and a local Roseburg mechanic made adjustments allowing me to drive it back to Portland.
Traveling from Roseburg to Portland, my first impression of the 1800 is it’s really more of a touring than a sports car. The B20 engine, which first appeared in the ’69 model, is a 2.0 L and produces about 118 horsepower. Given the weight of the car, acceleration is unimpressive. But out on the highway with the overdrive engaged, it’s a pleasant driving car.
My 1800 proved to be reliable despite its age. From the start, I did fight various electrical gremlins. The ’69 features a Stromberg carburetor instead of the SUs from previous years. For reasons I can no longer recall, I decided to switch to a Weber 323/36 DGEV carburetor. The Weber proved to be solid, but I missed the throaty exhaust sound of the Stromberg.
My 1800 was with me until 2008. With marriage around the corner and a move to the Willamette Valley in my immediate future, the 1800 just didn’t fit into the picture anymore. It was sold to a fine lad from Vancouver, WA who is hopefully still enjoying the car. I daydream from time to time about getting another 1800. If I did, it would probably be the fuel injected 1800E from the early ’70s. Someday, maybe.