COAL: 1973 Volvo 1800ES – A Brief Fling with a Shooting Brake


[All photos by the author. Luckily, the internet saved them for me.]

By 2002, I was a Certified Volvo 240 Nut™. As people often do when they become enamored with a particular make and model, I felt compelled to explore the history of the marque. Allow me to tell you the sad story of a brief and bitter fling with what many consider to be the most beautiful Volvo ever sold.

I was married at the time. My (then) wife encouraged my Volvo madness, and in some ways was the source of it. I had stumbled across an estate sale happening about a hundred miles away, featuring a 1973 Volvo 1800ES. It piqued my interest – maybe I could get an interesting car at a good deal!

The day before the auction, my wife and I went to the pre-sale inspection. I took a good look at the car. It was a great “10-foot” car, but closer inspection proved more concerning. Quite a few areas needed attention, but it would be a good candidate for a “rolling restoration”. Unfortunately, I could not attend the auction myself. I sent my wife to the auction, with instructions to “spend $2000, $2200 if you have to.”

I was at work the day of the auction. My phone rang.

“I bought the car!”

“Great! How much did you pay?”

“I’m not telling you.”

I finally got it out of her. Including fees, she paid SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS!

The car, I felt, wasn’t worth that. In addition, $6000 was more than I had ever spent on a car in my entire life. It easily needed a couple thousand in parts alone, never mind labor. At that time, a perfectly mint 1800ES was worth about 10 grand, tops.

All sales are final at an auction, so I was stuck. I was quite crabby the next day as I hitched up the trailer to pick it up. I got the car home, but I could scarcely even look at it. The car made me mad, the deal made me mad, and the fact that she had completely ignored my knowledge and opinion made me mad. In fact, it was one of the nails in the coffin of our marriage.


I drove the car around a few times, hoping that I would fall in love with it, hoping that love would overwhelm my anger. It never did. I knew I couldn’t keep the car, but I didn’t think I could come close to breaking even if I sold it.

Then I realized that she had a counter-bidder at the auction, so maybe it WAS worth that much. At least it was worth a shot. I posted a few ads online, listing the price at an even $6000, hoping I wouldn’t have to take too big of a loss. I waited. And waited. And gave up hope when there were no responses in a few weeks.

Then out of the blue, I got a call from a young man. He had always wanted an 1800ES, he was fresh out of college with a good job, and he told me, “If not now, when?”

He drove across the state for a test drive. I actually had to do the driving, because his manual transmission skills were weak and he politely did not want to risk my clutch. Within a mile or two, he turned to me and said, “I’ll take it!”. No haggling, full price! My heart leapt with joy as I realized that I would be able to get this albatross from around my neck without simultaneously losing my shirt!

The deal was done, money and keys were exchanged. I gave him a brief lesson in clutch operation, and sent him and the car on their way. I’ve never been happier to sell a car.