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P1800 buying tips

The Volvo P1800 (or 1800S, 1800E and 1800ES) is a pretty rare Volvo and not very easy to find. They are more expensive than a PV, Duett or Amazon but you’ll get a unique classic car which still has many fans. You’ll have to be sure you pick up the right one for your needs! With this buyers guide for the Volvo 1800-series we will help you to find the right P1800 for you.

It’s a long buyers guide, but you can find a summary at the end (also very useful when you’re going to check a car, so take a print of the summary with you).

A sketch of a Volvo P1800 Jensen
A sketch of a Volvo P1800 Jensen


The Volvo 1800 as a daily driver

If you’ve got the idea of using a Volvo P1800 as a daily driver: remember it’s not as comfortable as a Amazon or 140! First of all: getting into the car is more difficult due the low entry. And due the smaller steering wheel it’s a bit harder to turn the car at low speed (compared with the PV or Amazon). But it’s still good enough for using it daily. The last Volvo 1800E and 1800ES are the most comfortable versions of the P1800-series (thanks to their excellent seats and small improvements during the years) but a 1800S is also still suitable. A P1800 Jensen is less suited as daily driver due their seats and some things weren’t developed enough. A 1800S (or 1800E or 1800ES) should be a much better choice.

Buying some books or workshop manuals of the Volvo P1800 will help you a lot!


Your plans with the Volvo P1800

Before starting your journey for a classic car you’ll need to ask yourself what the intention of your purchase will be: do you want it to use it as a daily driver, do you want to restore a car, are you planning to buy a spotless car that won beauty contests or do you want a car that isn’t perfect but needs a bit work? All these factors will give you the idea for the car you are looking for and also determines the budget. You won’t find a car that is in a showroom condition and only costs $ 1000,– and a rustless P1800 Jensen isn’t available for $ 1500,– (unless you’re extremely lucky).

Please keep in mind the tips below are a indication for a car that is in a good state. A perfect car is hard to find but they are available (but they won’t be cheap). So don’t try to get a bargain for a car that has the price for a car that needs a little work. Decide for yourself what budget you’ve got and how many work a car is allowed to have.


The Volvo P1800 buyers guide

Below you can find the complete buyers guide for the Volvo P1800 Jensen, 1800S, 1800E and 1800ES. I’ve seperated each section of the car, so you’ll get a detailed description where you should extra pay attention to when you’re looking for a P1800. A summary is included at the end of this buyers guide. Enjoy! 


Volvo P1800 bodywork

Just like many other old vehicles a P1800 can rust badly (much worse than a PV or Amazon). Keep in mind welding a P1800 is very difficult because wings etc are made as one piece with the rest of the chassis. Body repair parts of the P1800 are very expensive and pretty hard to get (the reproduction is only done in small series).

When you’re going to have a look on a Volvo 1800 please make sure the following bodyparts and parts of the chassis aren’t rusty: 

  • the area around the grille can be rusty due standing water at the chrome surrounding (due a bad or missing rubber). Also be sure the car don’t have damage due a crash because it isn’t easy to fix it.
  • The front wings can badly rust at the area around the headlights and indicators. Also the wheel arches and inner parts of the wings can rust badly. Repairing it is difficult and expensive! If it’s in good shape: you should definitely buy a pair of Locari inner splash screens which prevents the front side of the wings for standing water and mud (so it will not rust).
  • Check all areas under the hood (also the hood itself), especially the crossmember (radiator support). This crossmember is made of four parts and each part can rust badly. Replacing it is a thing that isn’t fixed over a night. Also check the battery box.
  • The sills are also very rust-susceptible. The sills of the P1800-series are made of three parts: the outher sills, inner sills and a bodypart that is welded into those two. When one of the sills is rusty you can expect the other two will also have rust.
  • The part just above the sill and in front of the rear wheel is also a part that can rust badly. Also take a look behind the stone guard (standing water will lead to rust).
  • Check the area around the windscreen and rear window for any rust, caused by a bad rubber. Also check the places where water would make its way down.
  • The doors are also bodyparts that can rot badly. Because Volvo thought that day only a partial seal was needed for a door water could easily get into the door and when the drain holes are blocked this water could lead to serious damage. Check the bottom of the doors carefully for any rust, also the doorway above the sills. The gutter of the 1800ES is also very rust-susceptible.
  • At the bottom: check the floor panels, jack supports (outriggers, especially at the front of the car), front crossmember (must also be inspected under the hood), inner sills and the steering box mountings.
  • Test the hinges of the doors and hood. The hinges of the bonnet are mounted on very thin bodywork so this part can easily bend or break.
  • At the rear of the car: check the wheel arches and the inner parts of the rear wings. Check the trunk for any rust and look inside the trunk for any rust (also check the wheel container). Have a close look on the rear lights because this area can also rust badly (especially the rear light mounting plates), just like the upper and lower panels between the rear lights. The lower rear wing parts behind the rear wheel are very rust-susceptible, so is the fuel filler area.

If everything of the list above is looking fine, the condition of the bodywork shouldn’t be a problem! If you have any doubts about the bodywork (for example: the owner uses putty to cover hidden rust on the bodywork) please bring some small magnets (to check the bodywork: if putty is used the magnet won’t stick to the car) and a sharp object (like a screwdriver, to test the bodywork when too much undercoating is used).

The chrome bumpers are also very sensitive: dents and rust can damage the bumpers seriously. Chromizing the bumpers isn’t cheap, you should consider replacing the bumpers with stainless steel bumpers if they need a replacement.

Please note the costs for welding a car are very expensive (unless you can do it yourself), especially the Volvo P1800. If you can’t weld yourself (or you don’t know a cheap welder): welding bodywork is much more expensive than engine problems or replacing brakes and suspension-parts.


The engine of the Volvo P1800

The engines of the Volvo 1800-series are pretty reliable. Keep in mind a B18 or B20 shouldn’t run “too smooth” (or: like a charm) because it means it will be worn out also. When a B18 is running idle it should have sometimes a “dip” in revolution.

Be sure you don’t see any oil leakages caused by broken seals or filt gaskets. A seal or gasket isn’t expensive but it can be a hell of a job to replace one. Also check the oil level and the condition of the oil.

Replacement parts are very easy to get for the B18- and B20-engine, but the parts of the Bosch D-Jetronic injection system (used on the B20E and B20F) are more rare and sometimes pretty hard to get. Due the rareness prices of some items (like injectors, cable harnesses, air pressure sensors and fuel pressure controllers) for the B20E or B20F-engine are rising. 

The B18- and B20-engines can handle high mileage, so don’t be scared to buy a car which already drove 250.000km (or 125.000 miles).

Check the exhaust system for its color: when it’s completely black in the inside the car has a serious problem with the oil consumption. If it’s gray it will be OK. Another great test is to check the color of the gasses when the engine is running: step on the gas a few times and check the color. If it’s gray there is no problem, blue gasses from the exhaust means the pistons are worn out, water in the engine (due a broken head gasket) or the car consumes too much oil (but it can also be the valve seal rubbers, which aren’t a big cost to replace) and black gasses means the engine or carburator isn’t adjusted well.

Also be sure the cam gear set is replaced (in case it’s made of steel and fiber) or a steel version is mounted. The steel camgears will make some more noise but they will last forever!

The best indication of the condition of the engine is a compression test. A engine in a good condition will have a high compression. All cilinders shouldn’t be below 10 bar. A revised B18- or B20-engine will have about 13 bar (or above) compression.

Another simple test: when you take out the car for a testdrive, speed up to about 60mph (90kmh) and release the gas pedal. When the car is dropping to about 35-40mph (60kmh) put the pedal to the metal and look in the rear view mirror: if black or dark blue smoke is visible you’re certain the car is consuming a lot of oil. It can be caused by valve seal rubbers (B18, the B20 haven’t got the “umbrella’s”) or in worst case: broken pisten rings. In case of the last option: the engine needs to be rebuild and that’s expensive.

The carburators are pretty easy to maintain. The SU- and Zenith-Stromberg carburators were used for a long time and also on other brands than Volvo, meaning parts are pretty easy to get. If the previous owner replaced the carburators of his B18B of B20B by Webers: the Weber-carburators are also very reliable and parts are also easy to get.

Volvo B20F D-Jetronic engine in a 1800ES
A B20F engine (with D-Jetronic) in a Volvo 1800ES imported from the USA

If you’re planning to buy a Volvo 1800E or 1800ES: these cars are equipped with a fuel injection system. In both cases it’s the Bosch D-Jetronic system. It’s very reliable but when you’ve got problems with it, you can expect high bills. Some parts are pretty hard to get or needs refurbishing. In both cases it wouldn’t be cheap. Be sure the engine is running nice and doesn’t hick up in lower rpm’s when accelerating. Also be sure it doesn’t smell of petrol (which can be caused by leaking injectors or a broken fuel pressure accelerator). Also the cable harness of the B20E and B20F is sensitive for hitches and/or bad connectors. If there are problems with the distributor you should consider to replace it with an electronic ignition.


Volvo 1800-series transmission and powertrain

The Volvo P1800 can have 4 types of transmissions: the M40 4-speed gearbox, the M41 4-speed manual transmission with electronic overdrive, M410 4-speed transmission with overdrive (only used in MY1970 and replaced by the renewed M41 in MY71) or the BW35 automatic transmission. 

All transmissions are very reliable but you should listen carefully for some noise: a high/whooping noise means the needle bearings can be broken (manual gearboxes). If the top gear is quieter than the other ratios it means the gearbox is worn out. The condition of the BW35 automatic gearbox can easily be checked by looking at the automatic transmission oil (ATF): if it’s clear red everything seems to be fine, but if it’s darker red or black the gearbox might have some serious problems! Also check how the automatic transmission changes gears while driving: too late gearchanges or hicking indicates problems with the gearbox. But late gearchanges can also be caused by the kickdown-cable. Replacing a gearbox will take about half a day (plus the costs of a new/rebuild or used gearbox).

Manual gearboxes of old Volvo-cars always sweat some oil, so don’t panic if the gearbox is a bit wet. But if you see oil traces from the bearings or propshaft there are some worries. Fixing it means the gearbox should be disassembled, fixed and reinstalled again (again: the costs of replacing the parts aren’t expensive but it will take a few hours).

The clutches of the 1800-series are very reliable. To test the clutch: put the transmission in the thirth gear and release the clutch slowly. When the car stalls  the clutch is fine. If it keeps running the clutch is worn out. Please be aware that not all car sellers like this test so ask them if you’re allowed to perform this test. If the gearbox and clutch produces a screeching / rattling noise or doesn’t t fully engage the release bearing and/or the pressure plate is worn out. Note: please also notice the gasses from the exhaust when you test the clutch: if big black smoke is coming out of the exhaust (coloring the street or pavement entirely black) the engine can be worn as well!

When you drive the car and you’re switching gears the revs of the engine should drop immediately when the lever is in the higher gear. When the revs are rising for a moment it means the clutch is slipping. Replacing the clutch will take about 4 hours of work plus the costs of the new clutch set (clutch plate, pressure plate and always replace the release bearing as well). In most cases it will be about $ 675,– / € 500,– (including parts, wages and VAT) if you can’t do it yourself. 

To test the overdrive: take the car for a testdrive and the overdrive should work when you drive 45mph (70kmh) by slightly push the clutch pedal and use the overdrive switch. When you release the clutch pedal the revs of the engine should be a lot lower. Please test it several times and also for a longer time because overdrives can fall out due tilting pistons or solenoid problems.

The late type 1800-series (introduced in August 1968) don’t have a clutch master (main) cilinder and slave cilinder  but are working with a clutch fork and clutch cable (the same parts as the 140-series). Check the condition of the cable under the hood because it can break. Clutch cables aren’t expensive but you don’t want a broken cable when you’re driving home!

Also check the driveshaft for noises and shocks. In most cases of noise and shocks the universal joints of the prop shaft are worn out. If you hear a screaming noise it means the bearing of the propeller shaft is worn and needs to be replaced. Please replace the rubber (bearing support) as well. Replacing these parts are easy and pretty cheap.

Make sure the differential isn’t noisy. If it’s “singing” or whistling it might take a rebuild. Rebuilding a differential with new bearings and pinions can cost some serious money!


Volvo P1800 heating & cooling system

Check the condition of the radiator and all hoses. If you see any traces of coolant (or anti-freeze) it means there are some small leaks. Also check the radiator of the heating system because it’s more expensive to overhaul than the radiator for the engine.

When the engine temperature is high enough (the thermostat should be opened) check the heating system at the interior of the car. Use the heating controls and fan to check if they’re working fine and the car is getting hot and cold air blown in. When the heater controls don’t respond well (only warm or cold air is available, no matter the controls stands at warm or cold temperature) it means there is a problem with the heater valve (or maybe with the links to it) or heater radiator. Both aren’t a cheap fix.

In case of a closed cooling system: check the expansion tank of the P1800 for any leaks and while the engine is running there shouldn’t be boiling water (but boiling coolant can also be caused by the cap of the expansion tank, but you can fix that immediately by pulling the spring a bit and tighten the sealant).


Volvo P1800 braking system

The braking system of the Volvo P1800 is very reliable. Since its introduction the car has front brake discs. Until 1968 the car had a simplex (single circuit) brake system and since MY1969 the car has a dual-circuit brake system. At MY1970 (introduced in August 1969) the 1800-series was equipped with rear brake discs (instead of brake drums). 

Be sure the brake booster is working fine. There are three types of brake boosters: the Girling brake servo (same as the Amazon’s), the 673678 brake booster (used in the 1800E and ES), and aftermarket brake boosters like the Lockheed or Paton (PBR) VH44L, which is used as replacement for the Girling brake servo. All versions can leak which means the brake system can loss its brake fluid resulting in non-working brakes! These brake boosters can be repaired (but it isn’t easy and not in all cases the servo can be fixed) or replaced by a new one. Note: the brake booster of the 1800E and 1800ES is pretty hard to get and very expensive!

The brake system with rear brake drums is very reliable but rear brake drums are not very easy to maintain: the technique is simple but getting the brake drums disassembled is a tough job (the most easy way is to get the brake drum puller of Volvo, part number 252423 or 9991791, but the puller is pretty expensive for a “simple” tool). Also adjusting the brake system when put together again isn’t very easy. Since the brake system is a simplex brake system you’ll have to be sure it’s working well. Also check the brake cilinder for any leaks (brake fluid).

Volvo 9991791 hub puller
The special hub puller tool (Volvo part number 9991791)

Be sure the car won’t pull to one side during a testdrive. It means the brakes can be sticky to one side and needs a closer look to solve it. In most cases the brake calipers must be replaced (always do this in pairs to prevent brake difference).

Also check the state of the brake hoses, brake pipes and brake cilinders for any leakages or defects. Fortunately these parts aren’t very expensive and pretty easy to replace. To test the brake system for any leaks: press the brake pedal for a longer time. The brake pressure should be the same. If the pedal is lowering you’re sure something is wrong.

Parts of the brake system are very good available and not very expensive (except for the brake drums: they are pretty expensive). Working on the brake system is pretty easy as well but you’ll really have to be sure what you’re doing because making a mistake can give some serious troubles! When you’re taking a Volvo P1800 to a workshop or garage to fix the brake system you’ll have to be aware for some big bills: working on the brake drums and making the right adjustments are a time-consuming job and these days a lot of garages don’t even know how to exactly work on such old brake systems!


Volvo P1800 steering & suspension 

The steering- and suspension system of the Volvo P1800 is very reliable. But of course they have some weak spots. Take a close look on the tie rods, steering rods, bushes of the wishbones, sway bars and the torque rods/support arms (and their silent blocs) of the rear axle.

During the testdrive you should check for any play in the steering wheel and column. It can tell a lot about the condition of the bushing of the idler arm, ball joints and steering house itself. Check the steering box for any leaks and if the car is steering heavy it could mean the steering box is overtightened which can lead to premature wear (replacing the steering box or steering house is expensive).

To test the shock absorbers and suspension: lean on the car and push it down. After releasing the car should stand still immediately after it’s coming up. When the car is still shaking the shock absorbers have to be replaced. The condition of the springs can be assessed during a testdrive: if the car is too jumpy and can’t handle big shocks the springs needs to be replaced. Springs and shock absorbers are pretty cheap and not difficult to replace.


Volvo P1800 rims & tires

Tires are the most important parts of the car: it’s the only way of contact with the road. In my opinion you must never save money on tires because a cheap Chinese tire is $ 10,- cheaper than a good brand like Goodyear, Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli or Vredestein. Make sure the tread is deep enough and there are no cracks caused by drought. The radial tires are the best choice for P1800: it provides a better road handling and are safer than bias plys (radials are stronger, stiffer and handles a lot better). Look after the tirewear:

  • Over inflation: the center part of the tire has excessive wear, caused by a too high air pressure. In this case the tire is riding on the middle of the tread and wearing out prematurely.
  • Under inflation: the outer parts of the tread are more worn than the center part. It isn’t caused by a too low tire pressure but caused by a bad wheel alignment (which may indicate a worn tie rod or ball joint).
  • One side wear: a inner or outer rib of the tire is worn more than the rest of the tread. Caused by bad wheel alignment, worn kingpins or ball joints or bad bushings/silent blocs of the control arms.
  • Cupping: damage on the sides (cups or scalloped dips) means worn suspension parts (mostly shock absorbers, kingpins, ball joints or springs). If you see a brake spot on the middle of the tread it means the car has made a emergency stop. It will cause a noisy tire (rolling noise) when you drive the car. Cupped tires needs to be replaced as soon as possible: tire trimming is a bad option (the tire is trimmed in cold condition but when the tire is warm again the noise can appear again).
  • Feathering: the edge of each tread rib has a rounded edge on one side and is sharp on the other side. You’ll need to feel it because it isn’t always visible. If you have a closer look you’ll see every rib is pushed aside. It is caused by a bad wheel alignment due worn bushings.


Volvo tire wear indication chart
The tire wear indication chart (click on the image for a larger version)

Please note tires only last for about 6 years. After 6 years the rubber lost its best of its compound. In most cases the production date is found on the tire: the week and year is mentioned on the tire and is called the DOT age-code. For example: 2607 means the tire is produced in week 26 of 2007. If you see a 3-digit number it means the tire is made before 2000 (for example: 187 means: week 17 of 1997). Needless to say but such old tires needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Check also the spare tire!

The wheels needs to be rustless and have no visible damage like bumps or dents. Some curb damage isn’t nice but it doesn’t effect the safety of the car. Some people put custom-made widened rims under their Volvo P1800 but if it isn’t done professionally it can be a big risk for your safety. I’m not a big fan of widened rims and in my opinion it’s much better to buy original GT-wheels, like Kronprinz, Lemmerz or the TUV-approved replica wheels sold by Scandcar (the Chineses replicas sold by VP and Nordicar are very poor and dangerous due its weak material). Other nice options are the Wolfrace-wheels (or Ansen Sprint, almost the same design), Minilites (again: do not buy the imitation-versions), GB wheels or Panasport wheels. Some alloy wheels of Suzuki (wheels of the small jeeps like the Samurai, Jimmy or Vitara but I don’t know which years exactly), Chevrolet and some other Japanese brands also fit on the P1800 Jensen and 1800S (but you’ll have to be sure the ET is correct and please: don’t work with spacers).

Since the 1800E the holes has been changed from 5 x 114,3 to 5 x 108 (which is the same as the 140/164 and 240). These days you see a lot of 1800E and 1800ES-cars with Virgo-wheels (240 Turbo), Galaxy-rims and Polaris-wheels.

If you hear any rolling or humming sounds when you take the car for a testdrive please check the tires and the bearings of the wheels.


Volvo P1800 interior and upholstery

During the years it’s most likely the interior and upholstery has had its best day. Sun (UV) and aging will cause cracks and tears in the dashboard padding, the cardboard kickpanels are abound and worn and rubbers can be as dry as the Sahara. Also moisture is a big enemy for the upholstery and interior. The Volvo P1800 can get very wet inside if door rubbers, window rubbers (like guide channels, windowbrushes, scrape rubbers, etc etc) and grommet or rubber plugs are worn out or are too dry.  Check the windscreen- and rear window rubbers for any damages or leaks, because a broken rubber can cause rust to the chassis. Broken side window rubbers will lead to rust inside the doors, so those rubbers needs to be in good condition as well.

Replacing rubbers isn’t very hard (except the windscreen- and rear window rubbers, it can be a hell of a job) but if many rubbers needs to be replaced it’s expensive. Dashboard paddings are still new available but are pretty expensive (especially when you need to replace both paddings).

Lift up the carpet set (or rubber mat) to check for any rust at the bottom of the car. Especially check the sides (sills) and at the pedals and kickpanels: if there is any rust it means there could be a leak at the windscreen.

When you have a look at the doors: check for rust at the bottom of the doors and check the condition of the door panels. Open and close the side window and feel how smooth it goes (if it’s hard: the cable of the door window can have a problem but it’s pretty easy to replace). Check the hinges of the doors: if the door falls a bit down when you open it the hinges are worn.

The upholstery is now available again if you want to replace it. But it isn’t cheap but you’ll get the car in the same condition as it was when it left the factory. It’s possible to let a furnisher make a custom-made interior but that isn’t cheap as well.  And if the car has the foam seats you should check it sits still very good (if not: the foam needs replacement and/or the elastic seat straps). New seat padding (foam) is very good available (except for the Jensen) and not expensive.

Volvo 1800ES medium brown interior with wooden steering wheel
Interior of a Volvo 1800ES with wooden steering wheel

The headlining of the Volvo P1800 won’t suffer a lot so in most cases it is in good condition. If it needs to be replaced it isn’t expensive but it’s not a very easy job.


Volvo P1800 electrics

Check all wire harnesses for any cracks or rusty plugs and connections. Check all lamps of the car if the lights are matching with their light output (differences may indicate earth-problems or rust at the housings of the lights).  Test the indicator lights (if there is a problem with it: in most cases the relay is defect). Also test the horn of the car: if it won’t work there can be a problem with the horns or hitch in the cable in the steering wheel.

The only thing of the electrical system that can be very expensive is the cable harness for the Bosch D-Jetronic system of the 1800E and 1800ES. Many injection failures of the B20E and B20F is caused by this cable harness. Be sure the ECU is working fine, because it’s expensive to repair or replace.  Pay also extra attention to the injection air pressure sensor (can be found at the right inner wing), injection trigger contacts and the distributor (which can be replaced by an electronic ignition). All these parts are hard to get and expensive.


Volvo P1800 registration papers & VIN

Please check if  the licence plates and papers are complete. Check if the chassis number (VIN) on the registration papers matches the VIN-number on the car. The VIN-plate is located under the hood at the firewall on the passenger side, but the VIN is also stamped on a other location: check the registration papers where it should be located. Also check if the owner has a service history. Most Volvo 1800-cars are maintained by the owner itself: check if the seller has any copies of invoices.


Volvo parts for the P1800

Most parts for the Volvo 1800 are very good available. Most parts can be bought as brand new product at many webshops, most of them aren’t original Volvo-parts but they’re good enough as replacement (in some cases: a lot better than the original). When you buy a Volvo P1800 please don’t try to fix it with only second-hand parts because some day you’ll be punished for that. Some parts are out of production and aren’t being produced by other suppliers but that kind of parts can be refurbished at specialists (like radiators or alternators). Most rubbers are also very good available. Some parts are difficult to get, like the body repair parts (they are only produced in small series) or some parts of the Bosch D-Jetronic injection system. But in most cases a solution is available!


Volvo P1800 for sale: what to pay?


It’s pretty hard to say what the right price is for a Volvo P1800. One thing is for sure: they are cars that aren’t sold in just one day because most people love it but are “afraid” to drive one because it’s not really practical as a daily driver or they think the car needs too much attention or is too expensive to have.

Prices of a 1800-series car may differ per country, so the prices I mention here is a indication for most countries in Europe and I think the USA will have about the same asking price. I must admit: prices for old Volvos in The Netherlands are a lot higher than in Belgium and France, but Germany has almost the same prices as The Netherlands.

The biggest factor for the price is the condition of the car: a P1800 that needs work and doesn’t have a MOT (due too much rust or brakes that won’t work) the price should be about EUR 3.500,– (US Dollars: 5.000,–), a car that is suitable as daily driver (with a little rust but nothing big) should be around EUR 7.000,- ($ 10.000,–) and a P1800 in perfect condition should be around EUR 12.000,– ($ 17.500,–). These prices may vary per country and of course the exact condition of the car determines its price. Also extra accessories or service history can rise the price a bit. A P1800 Jensen can be a bit higher in asking price than a late 1800S but it all depends on the market.

Volvo 1800S and Volvo P1800 Jensen 

The Volvo P1800 buyers guide: the summary

As you can see the buyers guide for the Volvo 1800 is very long. Of course you can read it completely but when you arrive at the car for a closer look you’ll forget the most of all the tips above.

Always be realistic with the price the seller is asking for his P1800: you can’t expect a showroom-condition at a P1800 which should cost $ 2.500,–. Keep in mind what your intention with the car is (daily driver, hobby-car, to restore it completely or partial, or you want a car that is actually in a brand-new mint condition) and also think what you want to spend.

And always make a testdrive with the car!

Please use this summary and take a print of it with you when you’re going to have a look:

  • Bodywork: check for rust, especially the area around the headlights and indicators, area around the grille and hood (also the hinges), bottom and hinges of the doors, front- and rear fenders, front and rear window areas, inner front wing panels, wheel arches, , the parts in front and behind the rear wheel, radiator support, area between the rear lights and fuel tank cap, sills and floor panels. Also check the condition of the bumpers.
  • Engine: check for oil usage during the testdrive (go to 60mph/90kmh, let the car drop down to 35mph/55kmh and put the pedal to the metal: if you see black smoke leaving the exhaust the car has a oil consuming problem). If possible: perform a compression test. An engine that “sounds like a charm” isn’t the best buy: when running idle the car should have some “dips” in revolutions sometimes. Be sure (in case of a 1800E or 1800ES) the injection system is working fine.
  • Transmission and driveshaft: check for noises and test the clutch (ask for permission) by putting the car in thirth gear and engage the clutch pedal. If the car stalls the clutch is fine, if it keeps running the clutch needs replacement. Listen carefully for noises during a testdrive: a constant screaming sound and banging means there is something wrong with the driveshaft (but not expensive to repair).
  • Cooling system: check the hoses, radiator and when the engine is hot enough test the heating system in the car. At a closed cooling system: check at a hot engine the coolant isn’t boiling in the expansion tank.
  • Braking system: check for any leaks and test during a testdrive if the cars is pulling to one side when braking. Also check the brake booster and brake cilinder for any leaks.
  • Steering & suspension: test the shock absorbers and springs by pulling down the car. After release the car should get up and stop shaking immediately. If it keeps shaking the shock absorbers needs to be replaced. Check for any play and noise from the front axle during the testdrive. Be sure the car is steering fine and not too heavy (check the steering box for leaks and wear).
  • Wheels & tires: check for any damage at the wheels or rims and tires. The condition of the tire can tell you a lot about the wheel alignment and condition of kingpins, ball joints and tie rods. Check the tread and the age of tires (DOT-code, tires shouldn’t be older than 6 years). Check for rolling sounds (caused by bad tires or bearings).
  • Interior: check for rust at the inside (especially the inner sills and floor panels) and the condition of the upholstery. Take a close look at the rubbers (especially the rubbers of the windows and windscreen). Check the seats for its support and the seats shouldn’t be sagged (otherwise it needs new foam and/or new seat straps).
  • Electrical system: check all lights and have a look all lamps are shining at the same strength (if not: the car can have some troubles with its negative/mass). Also check the condition of all cable harnesses and electrical wires. In case of a 1800E or 1800ES: be sure the electrical parts (harness, ECU, sensors) of the D-Jetronic system is working fine (engine should run perfectly and not having troubles at lower revs).
  • Paperwork: check if all registration papers and service history (if possible) are complete.

If you have any doubts (in the car or yourself) you should consider a purchase inspection. If the seller don’t want to co-operate with a inspection you know there is something wrong with the car. A purchase inspection will cost some money but can prevent you spending money on big repair costs, and the defects that will appear can be a good reason for negotiating on the price.

And of course: take someone with you when you’re going to have a close look, because two pair of eyes see a lot more than only your eyes.

Good luck with finding the right Volvo P1800 for you!

Any questions or comments? Please feel free to mail me at info@volvotips.com!

© Volvotips 2011

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