The Volvo P1800 received prominence in the early 60's when a white 1962 Volvo P1800 with number plate ST1 was driven by the character Simon Templar (Roger Moore) in the hit TV series The Saint (1962–69). When asked to name his favorite "movie car" many years later, Moore said it was the Volvo P1800, commenting: "I have a great affection for the Volvo P1800, as, of course, I owned one, as well as used one in the series. It’s a beautiful car and I still drive a Volvo to this day."
Two new cars had been introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961, a Jaguar E-Type and the Volvo P1800. Jaguar was first offered the opportunity to provide an E-Type for the TV series but declined. Volvo accepted and offered a P1800, leading to increased sales. Initially, Volvo lent two cars for the series, one for static studio shots and the other for moving shots. When the P1800S came along, one of the earlier cars was cut up to allow better interior shots. When the series Return of the Saint was created in the 1970s, Jaguar offered the then-new XJ-S for the series.
The Volvo P1800 is a two-passenger, front-engine, rear-drive sports car manufactured and marketed by Volvo Cars as a coupe (1961–73) and shooting-brake (1972–73).
While the P1800 was more of a stylish touring car rather than a sports car when it came to its speed capabilities, the P1800 first became popular when it was featured as the main car driven by Roger Moore in the hit television series The Saint which aired from 1962-1969. The P1800 featured styling by Pietro Frua and mechanicals derived from Volvo's Amazon/122 series.
The car was marketed as the Volvo P1800, 1800S, 1800E and 1800ES.
In 1998, an 1800S was certified as the highest mileage private vehicle driven by the original owner in non-commercial service — having exceeded three million miles (over 4.8 million km) as of 2013.
The project was originally started in 1957 because Volvo wanted a sports car to compete in the US & European markets, despite the fact that their previous attempt, the P1900, had failed to take off with only 68 cars sold. The man behind the project was an engineering consultant to Volvo, Helmer Petterson, who in the 1940s was responsible for the Volvo PV444. The design work was done by Helmer's son Pelle Petterson, who worked at Pietro Frua at that time. Volvo insisted it was an Italian design by Frua and only in 2009 officially recognized that Pelle Petterson designed it. The Italian Carrozzeria Pietro Frua design firm (then a recently acquired subsidiary of Ghia) built the first three prototypes between September 1957 and early 1958, later designated by Volvo in September 1958: P958-X1, P958-X2 and P958-X3 (P:Project, 9:September, 58:Year 1958 = P958, X: eXperimental.).
1957 Prototype P958-X1
In December 1957 Helmer Petterson drove X1, (the first hand-built P1800 prototype) to Osnabrück, West Germany, headquarters of Karmann. Petterson hoped that Karmann would be able to take on the tooling and building of the P1800. Karmann's engineers had already been preparing working drawings from the wooden styling buck at Frua. Petterson and Volvo chief engineer Thor Berthelius met there, tested the car and discussed the construction with Karmann. They were ready to build it and this meant that the first cars could hit the market as early as December 1958. But in February, Karmann's most important customer, Volkswagen VAG, forbade Karmann to take on the job. They feared that the P1800 would compete with the sales of their own cars, and threatened to cancel all their contracts with Karmann if they took on this car. This setback almost caused the project to be abandoned.
Other German firms, NSU, Drautz and Hanomag, were contacted but none was chosen because Volvo did not believe they met Volvo's manufacturing quality-control standards.
It began to appear that Volvo might never produce the P1800. This motivated Helmer Petterson to obtain financial backing from two financial firms with the intention of buying the components directly from Volvo and marketing the car himself. At this point Volvo had made no mention of the P1800 and the factory would not comment. Then a press release surfaced with a photo of the car, putting Volvo in a position where they had to acknowledge its existence. These events influenced the company to renew its efforts: the car was presented to the public for the first time at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1960 and Volvo turned to Jensen Motors, whose production lines were under-utilised, and they agreed a contract for 10,000 cars. The Linwood, Scotland, body plant of manufacturer Pressed Steel was in turn sub-contracted by Jensen to create the unibody shells, which were then taken by rail to be assembled at Jensen in West Bromwich, England. In September 1960, the first production P1800 (for the 1961 model year) left Jensen for an eager public.
1963 Volvo P1800
The engine was the B18 (B for the Swedish word for gasoline: Bensin; 18 for 1800 cc displacement) with dual SU carburettors, producing 118 hp (75 kW). This variant (named B18B) had a higher compression ratio than the slightly less powerful twin-carb B18D used in the contemporary Amazon 122S, as well as a different camshaft. The 'new' B18 was actually developed from the existing B36 V8 engine used in Volvo trucks at the time. This cut production costs, as well as furnishing the P1800 with a strong engine boasting five main crankshaft bearings. The B18 was matched with the new and more robust M40 manual gearbox through 1963. From 1963 to 1972 the M41 gearbox with electrically actuated overdrive was a popular option. Two overdrive types were used, the D-Type through 1969, and the J-type through 1973. The J-type had a slightly shorter ratio of 0.797:1 as opposed to 0.756:1 for the D-type. The overdrive effectively gave the 1800 series a fifth gear, for improved fuel efficiency and decreased drivetrain wear. Cars without overdrive had a numerically lower-ratio differential, which had the interesting effect of giving them a somewhat higher top speed (just under 120 mph (193 km/h)) than the more popular overdrive models. This was because the non-overdrive cars could reach the engine's redline in top gear, while the overdrive-equipped cars could not, giving them a top speed of roughly 110 mph (177 km/h).
1964 Volvo 1800S
As time progressed, Jensen had problems with quality control, so the contract was ended early after 6,000 cars had been built. In 1963 production was moved to Volvo's Lundby Plant in Gothenburg and the car's name was changed to 1800S (S standing for Sverige, or in English : Sweden). The engine was improved with an additional 8 hp (6 kW). In 1966 the four-cylinder engine was updated to 115 PS (85 kW). Top speed was 175 km/h (109 mph). In 1969 the B18 engine was replaced with the 2-litre B20B variant of the B20 giving 118 bhp (89 kW), though it kept the designation 1800S.
1970 Volvo 1800E
For 1970 numerous changes came with the fuel-injected 1800E, which had the B20E engine with Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection and a revised camshaft, and produced 130 bhp (97 kW) without sacrificing fuel economy. Top speed was around 190 km/h (118 mph) and acceleration from 0–100 km/h (0–62.1 mph) took 9.5 seconds. In addition, the 1970 model was the first 1800 with four-wheel disc brakes; until then the 1800 series had front discs and rear drums.
Volvo introduced its final P1800 variant, the 1800ES, in 1972 as a two-door station wagon with a frameless, all-glass tailgate. The final design was chosen after two prototypes had been built by Sergio Coggiola and Pietro Frua. Frua's prototype, Raketen ("the Rocket", on the right), is located in the Volvo Museum. Both Italian prototypes were considered too futuristic, and instead in-house designer Jan Wilsgaard's proposal, the Beach Car, was accepted.The ES engine was downgraded to 125 bhp (92 kW) by reducing the compression ratio with a thicker head gasket (engine variant B20F); although maximum power was slightly down the engine was less "peaky" and the car's on-the-road performance was actually improved.
Back on the road, the 1962 Volvo driven by Roger Moore in The Saint which was found rotting away on a farm 22 years ago
By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 01:57 BST, 23 September 2013 | UPDATED: 15:57 BST, 23 September 2013
It was found rotting away 22 years ago with the engine on the back seat. Today it looks as good as when The Saint last stepped out of it.
The iconic original Volvo P1800 coupe driven by Roger Moore as Simon Templar in the 1960s TV series has been fully restored by car enthusiast Kevin Price.
It went on public display at the weekend for the first time since he finished the labour of love.
Mr Price found the car on a farm in North Wales in 1991 and persuaded the owner to sell it to him in 1997. He spent ten years collecting parts and another six on the restoration.
In The Saint, which featured Moore as a suave modern-day Robin Hood-style adventurer and was screened by ITV between 1962 and 1969, the car bore the number plate ST1.
Although four more P1800s, one of which was used by Sir Roger personally, were later supplied by Volvo, Mr Price’s vehicle – registered as 71 DXC – is the original.
It was displayed at the Footman James Manchester Classic Car Show.
Mr Price, 57, who founded the Volvo Enthusiasts Club, drove it there from his home in Bewdley, Worcestershire.
He said: 'I fell in love with the shape of the car and it became a quest to find one.
'After I’d set up the club I was approached by a guy from North Wales who said he had the original car from the The Saint.
'I went to have a look and it was just sat next to the barn covered in brambles and nettles with the engine on the back seat.
'But when he finally agreed to sell and I got it home it was in surprisingly good shape considering it had been there so long.
'As much of the original car was retained as possible and it drives beautifully. You wouldn’t think it was a 1962 car.'
Show organiser Andy Rouse said: 'The Saint car is a project we’ve been aware of over the years and it’ll be great to see the final results of Kevin’s incredible hard work and dedication.'
The car needed extensive rust removal to its panels, wheels and front axle and it’s body shell had to be rebuilt.
Further work to the gear box, rear axle and engine, which included a conversion for unleaded fuel, was also undertaken to make it roadworthy.
Once asked to name his favourite movie cars, Sir Roger said: 'I have a great affection for the Volvo P1800, as, of course, I owned one as well as used one in the series. It’s a beautiful car and I still drive a Volvo to this day.'
But Sir Roger and The Saint producers had initially wanted to feature a Jaguar E-type.
But Jag were inundated with offers and declined to take part so the P1800, which was first-built at the Jensen Motors factory in the West Midlands before production was switched to Sweden, was used instead.
Sir Roger’s performances as Templar pre-dated his role as James Bond as he was reportedly asked to play 007 at least twice during the series but had to turn the role down both times due to his television commitments.