Irv's Volvo to Go

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

As Ford prepares to jettison Volvo, it's worth noting what could have been. While Volvo's mindspace is mostly occupied by boxy wagons that you can't kill with neglect, road salt or repeated blows with a ball peen hammer, it's important to remember there was brief shining moment when Volvo was drop-dead sexy. I speak here of one model and one model only: the P1800. Wikipedia has plenty of rivet-counting revelations on this certified classic, but the bottom line is that Simon Templar's steed turned out to be an evolutionary dead end (along with an equally doomed and thoroughly hideous mutation called the P1800 ES). Perhaps someone at Ford thought they could add a little P1800 back into the Volvo mix when the company scarfed the Swedes back in '98. Or did they really think Volvo's preppy design language could morph from middle class stolidity to upmarket aphrodisiac? In any case, Irv Gordon bought a P1800 back in the day, piled on the miles and found himself a G-list celebrity in the process. Now that he's retired, Irv's got time to explore the possibilities of his hard-won status. Will someone get this guy an agent? If only "Broadway" Danny Rose was real.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Redbarchetta Redbarchetta on Oct 24, 2007

    I read somewhere that he has replace a lot of parts over the years but for the most part and with all the miles it's been reliable. I think I read that when he had 1.6 million. I do remember my dad replacing the generator(or alternator) 3 times and his only had 140K before it was sausaged. It ate shocks and tires too, electronic overdrive died before 100K, paint whats that. But man was that car fun to ride in, and solid feeling considering swiss cheese rust problem it had. I don't believe he has zero rust unless he drove it 3 million miles in a bubble. I agree with Robert the ES(station wagon) was fugly and still is, I saw an orange one a few weeks ago by someone who owned 2 P1800's. It looks like a fat toad.

  • Steve Biro Steve Biro on Oct 24, 2007

    Variety is the spice of life. If Robert thinks the P1800ES was ugly, well, that's his right. But I'm one of the many who thought then, and still thinks now, that the ES was quite beautiful and oh, so cool. There are a number of so-called "sport" wagons on the market today. I wish several of them came with a single door on each side and a hatch at the back, al la P1800ES and Chevy Nomad.

  • Terry Parkhurst Terry Parkhurst on Oct 25, 2007

    I earned the enmity of the presenter at a press preview for the (then new) 1999 BMW M coupe, after he'd compared it to the MGB-GT, when I piped up and said, "What about the Volvo 1800ES?" With a withering stare, he responded by saying, "That's not a sports wagon." And that was that, as I resisted the urge to add, "Well, not to those of us who are into Volvos." True enough, the P1800 ended up once on display in MOMA (Musuem of Modern Art) in New York City. But having never driven one, I can only take the word of Jim O'Keefe, who mans the office of a Volvo repair shop in Seattle, who once told me, "They're terrible" about how the front end of a P1800 handles - or rather, doesn't. But one man's "terrible" can be another man's "wonderful" as the story of Irv Gordon attests; and I believe he has all those miles on the car. In one magazine article, he said that after he first bought the car new, back in 1966, he went out and drove and drove and drove, until he had gotten to the point where a recommended service interval was required. When he pulled into the dealership's service department, after racking up all those miles - about 3,000 or so - in just one weekend, reportedly, they looked at him as if he were out of his mind. Love will do that to a guy.

  • Safe as milk Safe as milk on Oct 25, 2007

    all these high mileage types are proactive and do their own maintenance. how many people do you know that carry a set of brushes with them because they feel a generator build coming? be one with the machine. sorry bob, i too prefer the es to the coupe. and i love the 30cs!