At last, Volvo has listened to my pleas to update the P1800, to my mind one of the most beautiful cars ever built. I owned one for years, and the in-house design by Pelle Petterson looked good from every angle. Volvo probably would have continued building the cars if it hadn’t run afoul of U.S. bumper safety regulations circa 1973.
The 1800 (see photo below), sold in both coupe and wagon formats, was a modest success—and a huge departure for a company known best for boxy safety wagons. Come to think of it, the company hasn’t had a sports car since. But the Volvo Concept Coupe is the Swedish carmaker’s “next generation P1800.”
Volvo kinda, maybe evoked the 1800, more specifically the sport wagon 1800 ES of 1972-73 (below), with the front-wheel-drive 480 ES of the mid-1980s. The glass hatchback was a direct cop from the original ES, but the car’s styling overall was kind of blah. There’s a club for the darned things in Europe, but they fell flat here. Fortunately, those days are gone.
The new show vehicle isn’t immediately evocative of the old 1800—the fins (below) are vestigial, after all—but it is a very nice-looking coupe. Who cares if Volvo is owned by the Chinese now, it’s still a Swedish company at heart, with great ideas. Now the big hurdle will be persuading Volvo to actually produce this gem.
To fully appreciate the Concept Coupe, I called Irv Gordon, a star at Volvo and the owner of an original 1966 P1800 that’s about to reach three million miles. Yes, you heard that right. Three million miles. In fact, the car is only 170 miles away from that milestone now, and will be flown to Alaska over Labor Day weekend so it can turn over its odometer there. Why Alaska? It’s one of only two states (the other being Hawaii where, ha ha, I’m going next month) that hasn't been visited by Gordon and his car.
“I think the Concept Coupe looks terrific,” Gordon said. “Friends sent me photos, and it has that 1800 retro look, not only in the back end but in the silhouette. And the elongated nose with the 1800-type grille gives the car the look of speed even when standing still. The rear deck is very similar to my 1800. I also love the glass gear shift knob. If Volvo made a car like this it would really cut in to the sales of Japanese imports—I predict a big seller.”
As Gordon points out, the concept car has a four-cylinder two-liter turbo- and super-charged engine under the hood. Even better, it's a plug-in hybrid, with an electric motor connected to the rear wheels only. Together, gas and electric produce 400 horsepower and 443 foot pounds of torque. This is likely a preview of plug-in hybrids we'll see over here: Right now, Volvo is declining to bring its diesel V60 plug-in hybrid to the U.S., citing our lack of receptivity for diesels.
If you’re into geek-speak, the Concept Coupe is Volvo’s first exercise in Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), with “a new topography on the hood and the ‘floating’ grille.” The car “showcases how design builds emotion into the Volvo brand and points toward the next generation of Volvo models, starting with the forthcoming XC90 in 2014.”
OK, but I don’t want a new XC90, yet another crossover SUV. I want the Concept Coupe. Actually, I’d settle for my old 1967 1800S. Here's a closer look at the Volvo Concept Coupe on video:
Related on MNN: Meet the man with almost three million miles on his Volvo