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Volvo Adventures is an independent New Zealand based resource for the older Volvo models

To "P" or not to "P"
By Kevin Greenaway

Adam Randall's 1800E (NZ)

There has been an ongoing controversy (of a mild manner only) concerning whether or not the Volvo 1800 is correctly called a P1800. Most of our members are well aware that the first Jensen built Volvo was known as the “P1800” and when production was shifted to Sweden we are lead to believe that now the model was referred to as a Volvo “1800S”, the “S” relating to Sweden where they were now built. Similarly, when the “E” was introduced in 1970, it was known as Volvo “1800E”. Likewise the 1800ES !

Is this correct? Should they be known as P1800S. P1800E and P1800ES? Again, many of us scoff and act very knowingly when someone refers to a P1800ES – isn’t it correctly known as an 1800ES. Or are us knowing people wrong?

I recently came across an old article written by Bill Webb, the author of the Volvo 1800 Bible – “Swedish Iron” in which he comes to the conclusion that it isn’t wrong to refer to our Volvo 1800’s as P1800’s. He quotes that on page 21 of his book he has a photograph of the very first “ES” model No.000001 which displays an official Volvo sign declaring it to be a “P1800ES 1971-1973”.

Neil Summerson’s 1971 1800E had “GT” badges front and rear, different console switchgear, different upholstery and the door sills were stamped “P1800E”. We were unable to confirm if this was from the factory or had been modified by a dealer or previous owner. It has been the only car I have seen with “P1800E” on the vehicle. Volvo has used the “P” model designation since they began way back in 1927 with the “PV4” – which I have understood to refer to as “Personal Vehicle” (PersonVagn, means Car in swedish, Editor) but that may only be an assumption on my part. The very fisrt model however, “Jacob” was an open vehicle and was designated “ÖV” assumed to refer to “Open Vehicle”. Other vehicles produced in the 30s destined for the taxi market were designated “TR”. This trend was continued with “PV” being the prefix for all manner of models including the PV444 and the PV544. So far so good, we have some consistency until the advent of the P1900 in 1956/7. This was an open vehicle but was only known as “P1900”, not “Ö” and there was no sign of the “V”. There were only 67 produced. With the birth of the “Duett”, or the “P210”, again no mention of the “V”, but as this was a station wagon and not a sedan maybe that was the reason. But wait, the van version of the “PV444” was known as the “PV445”! There is that consistency again! We are now up to the Amazon series. They were first introduced in the late 50s and were to be known as “P120” model designation and commonly known as the “122S”. This was a 4 door model. The 2 door model was a “P130” and also known as a 122S. The station wagon version was designated “P220” and I believe also badged 122S. Confused? Maybe I haven’t got all my facts right and will not enter into any arguments about it all but at least maybe I’ve got you confused as I am. In 1966 a full scale model of the P172 (or P16S as it was originally known) was completed and was to have 164 running gear. Production was scheduled to be begin in August 1969 but was abandoned early in 1967. Not sure how those numbers fit.

Beginning with the 140 series, Volvo embarked on a much simpler method of designation. 140 series – 142 (4 cylinders, 2 doors) 144 (4 cylinders, 4 doors) 145 (4 cylinders, 5 doors) and this method was continued with the 164 series & 242, 244, 245, 262C (Coupe) 264, 265, 740, 760 but fell down when they called the Turbo version a 760 when it had only 4 cylinders. Then all the 240 series from 1982/3 were called 240s notwithstanding the number of doors. The 780 (not sold in NZ or Australia) did not have 8 cylinders but the V6.

The 440 series had 4 cylinders as did the 480ES, not 8 as it would indicate. Of recent years Volvo has confused the matter even further. The 850 with 5 cylinders seemed to be consistent but it has since been changed to S70 / (I believe the replacement due soon is to be called an “S60”. The 960 went to S90 and now an S80. Getting back to the original story, the Volvo 1800s, Bill’s research shows that numerous parts catalogues such as Lucas, pressed steel all refer to P1800, P1800S, P1800E and P1800ES. The official Volvo parts manual refer to P180, P182 and P183 which cover all the 1800 series. It would appear that “The marketing staff and the engineering staff had different designation for the car, since P120, P130 and P220 was produced in 41 models alongside the 1800 until 1969 with many parts being interchangeable with these cars this added more to the confusion” There also seems to be confusion as to the actual number of 1800s built between 7th May 1961 and 27th June 1973. Some books indicate a total of 47,491 of which 8,077 were ES version. Others such as “Volvo – The Cars from the 20s to the 80s” tell us 47,462 with chassis No. 8,077 being the last ES. Bill Webb’s extensive research indicates there were 39,407 coupes and 8078 ESs a total of 47,485 vehicles including one more ES. I believe Bill. The USA market accounted for about 80% of production over the last 3 years with only 344 actually remaining in Sweden.

Kevin Greenaway
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