When I sold my 72 1800ES, I had some sort of void that I needed to fill. I wanted an 1800, but I simply did not want all the nonsense of fuel injection that came with it. So I knew I had to look for a pre-1971 Volvo 1800 to find one with carbs. Of course I could not make it easy on myself, I had to find, as some Volvo enthusiasts consider a holy-grail, a Jensen built Volvo.
Yes, you read that right, Jensen. When Volvo introduced the 1800 to the world back in 1961, they had a space shortage. Volvo did not have the capacity to start on a new model. They were needing someone to build their bodies for them, and also assemble them. After some collaboration, Pressed Steel agreed to make the bodies for Volvo, and Jensen Motors agreed to assemble them. Now, what makes these cars so rare is a number of things. #1 Jensen only assembled the first 6,000 of these cars. Basically going from 1961 to 1964 (although some will say a 1964 is not a Jensen model even though the bodies were constructed by them). #2 they rusted out very easily.
Jensen was assembling these cars right next to the sea in England, so basically they were rusting right as they came off the assembly line. Not to mention the early builds also were somewhat crudely made, so water could get in between the seams of the body panels easily. And #3 Volvo lost some cars in transit after they were assembled. If you Google “Volvo Whiskey Cars” you will find some articles that go more in depth than I will, but basically the ship that was carrying some of the early builds collided with another ship in the port. To make matters worse, the ship was also hauling a good amount of Scotch Whiskey. So the Volvos were floating around in the cargo hold with Whiskey and salt water.
With all that being said, the P1800 (61-64) are rare. I started my search online, and of course that didn’t come up with much. I knew that my budget would only allow for a project car, and I was fine with that. I was posting on forums and websites that I was looking for a Jensen 1800, but they were all too much, or way too rusted for me to attempt. Then one day, I just decided I was going to Google search “Volvo Jensen for sale”, and nothing really came up. Then, I found this one off website that had a few cars, but one caught my eye in Denver. The seller was asking close to $10,000 for it, which I couldn’t afford, but I wanted to see if it was for sale, and see if there might be some negotiating room on it. So I called the person up, and sure enough she had it. It might be worth noting that the ad that I found was over a year old at this point.
The seller agreed to send me some more pictures, and we would talk that night when I got off work. Once I got more pictures it was apparent that it had rust, but it was not too far gone to save. The seller told me that the car was left to her by a friend that had bought it many years ago. He had died, but signed it over to her before he died. Also, for later in the story, she had sent me some questionable videos of her “dancing” as she did this on the side. I have no issues with this, but my girlfriend did, and insisted she go with me to get the car. The car ran, but did not have any brakes at all. The seller actually told me that the car should make it back to Arkansas, but I might have to downshift to slow down. I quickly passed on that idea, and at this time I had bought a trailer for myself. The seller agreed to take $3,000 for the car as she needed the money. So, for spring break my girlfriend and I packed up my XC90, and headed to Denver.
When we got to Denver, I had messaged the seller to tell her what time we would be getting in. She told me the car was at her mechanic’s, and gave me the address and we would meet there. Well, we got there, but no seller. The mechanic fired up the car for me, and we loaded it on the trailer. By the time I strapped it down, still no seller. I had the title signed and the car already on the trailer at this point, and was frantically calling her. Her mechanic gave me her address, and we drove by there, but still no one.
At this point we were hungry, so we found a place to eat. I told the seller where we would be and she can come get the cash at this point. Finally around 8PM I got a text from her. She had told me that she would meet me at my hotel, but at this point I was not comfortable with that. She was insistent on it, but said we had just sat down to eat, and she could meet us there. She finally showed up, and wanted me to get in the car with her to count the money. I told her I was fine standing outside the car, and that I needed to get back to dinner. She apologized for going MIA for several hours, but she needed a “fix”. Whatever that meant at the time, I don’t know and I don’t care, I just wanted out of Denver at this point!
The next day, we spent some time around Denver doing the usual tourist things, and preparing for the drive back home. The next morning, we got up early and started the long drive back. It was very foggy all the way until we got to Wichita, and I don’t remember from that leg of the trip much which was good. Once we got the car back home, it was eventually going to go down to Clinton so David could help/teach me how to fix the rust.
Once I got the car down to Clinton, we took a look at it further. The engine ran very well, but found out quickly it was actually a Volvo Penta motor that had been converted back to automotive use. We took that out, and David had a nice newly rebuilt motor that I bought off him ready to drop in. We also quickly took inventory of every single part that I need to restore the car. I made a massive list, including all the body pieces that I need to repair the rust. Most if not all the parts were bought at VP Auto in South Carolina. They get the parts directly from Sweden, and are amazing to work with. I have everything thing I need for right now. Inevitably more will come up, but I got a good start. I was even able to source the very rare hubcaps for this car. I have been able to track down some rare parts for this car with the help of other Volvo enthusiasts.
This is the first car in 17 posts that I still have to this day. Right now the car sits as an empty shell. I have sandblasted all the paint off the car for the most part, and we are just fixing the rust around the wheel arches. I had to slow down working on the car, as life got in the way, but we still find time to tinker on it. After having this car for 4 years now, and going through so much to get the car, I will see this restoration to the end. It might take me 10 years to do it, but I will finish it. Right now, the car has been named pack-rat because when we were taking apart the blower motor a rat scurried out with its babies still attached to it. We have no idea if they came across state lines with us or were Arkansas rats, but nonetheless it got the reputation.