P1800ES: Our Coolest Scandinavian Car


Ok, so Volvo’s P1800 was a cool car. But, by the end of the decade that gave it birth, it’s was looking outdated. It was cramped, a little slow, and couldn’t keep pace with its rivals in either styling or performance.

So, toward the end of the sixties, someone at the heart of the Volvo establishment came up with a wheeze: restyle the roof and create a sporty estate. There had been precedents, of course. The ‘shooting brake’ format, in which a sports car was extended to the rear in order for the landed gentry to be able to store the Purdeys and the downed pheasant yet retain a modicum of raffish style, had been seen on the odd Aston. Ferrari’s 250 ‘breadvan’ was an extreme version of the idea that style didn’t necessarily have to compromise utility. The Reliant Scimitar GTE, though, had broken ground in that particular area in Europe to a broader audience, whilst Chevrolet’s burly Nomad wagon had been created out of the Tri Chevy saloons of the mid fifties.

But wherever they got the idea, in 1971 Volvo introduced the p1800ES. Lopping the roof off and extending it with elongated side windows and a sexily raked C-pillar as well as a frameless glass hatch (that was resurrected by the cute and stylish c30 in 2006), pretty soon the wagon version of the existing classic had achieved a wealth of new admirers.

The ES gained a couple of hundred pounds in weight and so was a little slower on pullaway than the Coupé, but a young rakish family cold retain its stylish integrity of a weekend: an idea that has echoed down the automotive decades. This is why the 1800 ES remains for us the coolest Scandinavian car ever produced.