Volvo’s shapely P1800 is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011 — so perhaps it’s fitting that Irv Gordon’s 1966 P1800 coupe, which he’s owned since it was brand new, has logged nearly 2.9 million miles to date, and plans on reaching the 3-million-mile mark within two years.
“In honor of the P1800′s 50th anniversary, I’d like to reaffirm my goal of reaching three million miles within the next two years,” said Gordon. “Recently my P1800 has been through some terrible weather, and never complained once. What a great automobile! Hitting 2.9 million miles is a true testament to Volvo and those who designed it.”
Helping Volvo celebrate the 50th anniversary of the P1800, Gordon is making several appearances on behalf of Volvo and the P1800. Last month he attended the TechnoClassica show in Essen, Germany, which is billed as the world’s largest indoor classic car show. In September, Gordon and his multi-million-mile coupe will visit Australia.
Purchased new in June 1966, it only took Gordon 48 hours to put 1500 miles on his P1800. He continued racking up the miles at an incredible rate and thanks to his 125-mile round-trip daily commute he surpassed 500,000 miles in just 10 years.
Gordon set a record with the Guinness Book of World Records in 1998 when his beloved Volvo reached the 1.69 million mile mark for the “most miles driven by a single owner in a non-commercial vehicle.” He celebrated the P1800’s 2-millionth mile by driving down Times Square in 2002.
Not only does Gordon continue to break his previous record; he also breaks the world record daily in his P1800.
The P1800 replaced the 1955 to 1957 Volvo Sport roadster, which never caught on with the public (only 67 examples were built). Volvo wanted a prestigious car that would attract “foot traffic” in their showrooms, and therefore needed to go back to the drawing board – albeit not its own. Enticed by some of the great contemporary sports cars crafted in the Mediterranean, Volvo President Gunnar Engellau ordered design proposals for the new car from some of Italy’s greatest styling houses.
Ironically, the winning design was penned by Pelle Petterson, son of Volvo consultant Helmer Petterson. Helmer snuck his son’s design in with the four Italian designs, and Petterson’s form was chosen by everyone on Volvo’s board. Pelle was a recent graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York, and although he was once employed by Pietro Frua, Engellau was furious when he discovered the origins of the chosen design. The executive promised that Pelle would never be credited for designing the car, and sure enough, decades passed before Petterson was acknowledged as having an influential hand in the finished product.
Many of the P1800’s mechanicals were taken from the Volvo Amazon, including the new B18 four-cylinder engine in all of its 100-hp glory. Ten years after the initial launch the 1800 ES arrived. The 1800 ES featured an extended roofline to become a three-door wagon with a large glass tailgate. The new body style was polarizing to aficionados, but nevertheless gained cult car status alongside the coupe.
The P1800 was designed as a niche car, but Volvo still managed to sell 39, 414 examples over its 12-year (1961-1972) production run. Although not likely, many on staff would like to see Volvo build an heir to the P1800: a rear-wheel-drive, four-passenger coupe with more than a little dramatic flair in its exterior form.