The Volvo P1800: The Wheeler Dealers Take on “The Saint”
by Eileen Marable
There is no better way to cap off a season of Wheeler Dealers than to give the team a car with a history so grand it is known as “The Saint.” The Volvo P1800 was a ‘60s wonder car made famous as Roger Moore’s sweet ride in the popular TV series “The Saint,” and on the road as a car that could take some serious driving.
Finding one is going to be a challenge.
Here’s the thing. The P1800 was produced from 1961 to 1973 and between its 2-door coupe and the 3-door estate model, around 47,000 were produced. That sounds like a lot, but consider this as Mike searches for one within the budget – these cars have become cult classics. They are either in treasured mint condition still being driven by fans, or they’ve been driven literally until they can’t go any farther and are being used for parts.
If you look for a P1800 in a web search you’ll instantly find dozens of fan sites and parts listings. People are VERY serious about caring for or restoring their P1800. It’s a lively and loyal community dedicated to these little Swedish cars, and by the looks it can be difficult and costly to find one.
What makes them so popular? At the core, the car married the new 1960’s aesthetic with groovy curves designed by Pelle Petterson – but the lines were contained as a compact sports car. It was a far cry from the land yachts of the 1950’s and a breath of fresh air.
No one knew that better than Volvo, who marketed the car as a way of life. Copy from a sales ad read:
“For real fun and pleasure, there is no car like the new P1800 Gran Turismo. Be more than just alive. Be lively! Where do some people get the verve that makes their lives so rich and vibrant? Simple - they just go to their nearby VOLVO dealer.”
The “lively” car was good looking but it also was a performer. It had a V8 engine adapted from their Volvo truck line. (For all us stats geeks the P1800 ranged from 1778 cc’s to 1986 cc’s by the end of production.) Most cars had an M41 gearbox with electrically actuated overdrive as an option. The overdrive meant the car had a fifth gear that improved fuel efficiency and decreased drivetrain wear.
So the P1800 had a lot going for it as a regular production vehicle. Then it was chosen as the faithful sidekick to Roger Moore’s TV spy character, the Saint. The Saint drove three models over the course of the show.
The image of the Saint and the P1800 became indelibly mixed in the minds of the public – and the best part was you could buy that car. It really existed and wasn’t some exotic, out-of-reach Bond vehicle.
Fast forward from the swinging ‘60s to today. A guy named Irv Gordon has hit the record books with his 1966 P1800. He has a Guinness World Record for the highest mileage in the same car he’s been driving for more than 45 years. As of July 2010, Gordon reached 2.8 million miles for his 70th birthday, and announced that he hopes to reach 3 million by the time he turns 73.
That record speaks volumes for the durability of this classic car – and for the loyalty it earns from its owners.
You know I never give away the ending of a show, but as you watch Mike try and meet the challenge of finding a P1800 for Wheeler Dealers you’ll have a sense of what he’s in for.
Don’t miss Wheeler Dealers tonight at 9:00 pm E/P. Plus, next Wednesday at 9:00 pm E/P we kick off a new season!
In the meantime, catch up with some old videos to get in the mood!