Vox Customs presents modern Volvo P1800

Article by Christian A., on August 25, 2010

Mattias Vox, the Koenigsegg engineer who has done some work on cars with the Volvo badge, one of which was his 1967 Amazon Station wagon from which he squeezed 600hp (448kW), is currently facing a new challenge. The new challenge consists of taking the famous Volvo P1800 sports car and turn it into a fearsome machine.

To aid him in updating the car, Vox has solicited the assistance of Vizualtech, a design company from Sweden which has made several computer aided images showing the new bespoke vehicle.

Although the general lines of the vintage P1800 will be maintained, changes will have to be made to make room for the state-of-the-art equipment that Vox intends to equip the car with, including a front extension of the car reaching 70mm and larger wheel housings.

Since Vox will be installing a new V8 powerplant from the Volvo XC90 SUV, these revisions will help accommodate the large engine.

With a 6-speed manual, the engine will be equipped with a turbocharger to bring power output up to 600hp (448kW).

Included in the performance enhancements intended for the car are a diffuser at the back, a flat underbelly, and a modified front section to improve air flow. Although no date has been offered for its unwrapping, construction is going well under way at present.

The Volvo P1800 is highly regarded as the brand’s most famous model as well as the one that evokes the most emotion. This model was originally planned in Sweden and then designed in Italy. It was later unveiled during the Brussels car show before being made in Britain and became a huge success in the U.S.

This world-renowned model turned 50 in 2011. It took four years of planning and development before it managed to reach showrooms. Production started in 1961. It continued to be in production for the next twelve years. Though it played a small role on a sales aspect, it had a larger impact image-wise compared to previous models as only a few succeeding models have even managed to match it. The Volvo P1800 was manufactured for the simple reason that the company wanted to get the attention of people who were passing on its display windows.

In addition to that, Volvo also wanted to increase what is termed as 'floor traffic' in a way that when people entered the showroom, they were sure to leave in a Volvo. The brand originally took a shot at a sports car during the early 1950s in the form of the open plastic-bodied and two-seater Volvo Sport. Built between 1955 and 1957, a total of 67 units were made. The Volvo President Gunnar Engellau said that while it was not a bad car, it was a bad Volvo and thus retired the model.

To his credit, Engellau recognized the significance of having a prominent model that could increase sales and knew that Volvo dealers wanted such vehicle. The company thus ordered design proposals from Italy. Helmer Petterson, Volvo’s consultant, was part of the team that was planning the new model and had managed to get his son Pelle employed at Pietro Frua. Pelle has just finished industrial design from New York’s Pratt Institute.

It was in 1957 that four proposals were to be unveiled to the brand’s board. Helmer had managed to sneak in a fifth design made by Pelle and it was this one that everyone eventually decided on. Engellau for instance took a liking to it since he had wanted an Italian-designed car and that was what he got. The only difference was that it was made by a 25-year old Göteborg native who would later became known for designing boats and winning Olympic medals for yacht racing.

However when the truth about the design proposal came to light, Engellau was furious as he felt that he had been deceived and he vowed that Pelle would never be recognized as the designer. Indeed, it would be many years before Pelle Petterson would be officially credited as the one who designed the brand, if not the world’s, most beautiful sports coupes. The new model is a sports car with a steel body and a fixed roof. It also has a number of mechanical components that have been lifted from the Amazon.

By the time it arrived in showrooms, it was given a new B18 engine with 100 hp under the hood. From 1957 to 1958, three prototypes were made by Frua in Turin. It had Amazon underpinnings that were used for different purposes. For example it was used as templates in the production of the press tools, utilized in a wide range of tests, for shows, and even press work and photo shoots for advertisements. The three prototypes are still accounted for and continue to be road-worthy.

By this time period though, Volvo realized that it was undergoing a rather huge expansion phase and that it did not have the in-house capability to make the new model, such as with the process of assembly, painting, or even pressing the body panels. It could not even do this on a small scale. Led by Helmer Petterson, Volvo looked for new partners and eventually decided on two British companies.

Pressed Steel would be responsible for making the bodies while Jensen Motors would assemble and paint the new model. Production immediately started after that though it was not one without hitches. A number of issues came to the forefront like suppliers, working methods, logistics, personnel, and quality. Aggravating it was the fact that there appeared to be a reluctance to deal with these problems and thus Volvo had to transfer production back to Sweden when it became possible to do so.

By the spring of 1963, Jensel had built 6000 cars, and production started for the 1800 at the brand’s Lundby factory. It was only in 1969 though that the body pressings were transferred to the company’s Olofström press shop from Pressed Steel way in Scotland. This transfer would set the stage for the change of name for the P1800. It was originally called as the P1800 S and then changed to 1800 S by 1963, with S signifying Sweden.

For the duration of the life of the coupe, no major changes to its exterior lines were made. The variations over the years would be limited to the colors, trim mouldings, grille, and wheels. On a technical standpoint, the 1800 trailed the development of other model and always needed upgrades. Some of the clear changes were the engines with more power, disc brakes all round, and the electronic fuel injection.

Topics: volvo, coupe

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