A Badass Volvo 1800S Joins the SCM Fleet

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“It’s black, and it’s slammed.”

That was my first thought when I set eyes on the ’64 Volvo 1800S. My daughter Alex and I had just arrived at iRoll Motors in San Martin, CA.

I purchased the car in July, but it took this long for the shop to address a variety of mechanical issues and for our schedules to align.

We took a 6 a.m. flight from Portland to San Jose. Mike Dudek, the owner of iRoll Motors, met us and took us to his shop.

Dudek had recommended this 1800S to us. It was a 1964 model (the last year of the bull-horn front bumpers) and a rare factory-black car.

It was low and nasty-looking, dropped close to the ground on IPD performance springs. It wore dark-spoked magnesium American Racing wheels.

We got the around-the-car tour from Dudek. He pointed out that the original 1,800-cc engine had been replaced with a later 2-liter one, and that a sport exhaust with a 4-into-2 exhaust header had been fitted. I’d had him install a rear sway bar to match the front IPD bar already in place.

The car still wears the original California black plates it was first registered with, and I have the registration certificates from new to prove it.

You know how it is when you actually see a car you’ve bought for the first time — You circle around it again and again. You sit in the seat and look at the world through the eyes of the car. I let myself go back in time to 1964 and imagined what it would be like to come out of my house in the morning and have this new car waiting for me.

The more I looked, the more I liked. The 1800S was an honest car, straight with no apparent evidence of collision repair or past rust.

The interior seemed freshly redone, and although the materials weren’t strictly correct, it was handsome.

We fired it up, and the exhaust snarled through the twin tips in a most un-Volvo-like way.

The combination of the black paint, dark mags and lowered suspension gave it a menacing appearance.

This was one badass Volvo, and we were about to turn it loose.

I don’t know what it is about me and Volvos. I’ve probably had 10 of them over the years, each more satisfying than the last. Our 122S and 544 were almost sports sedans but not quite; we made their suspensions work, but they just didn’t have much grunt under the hood.

The 1800S was something different. It had a ton of eyeball and enough scoot to be viscerally satisfying.

We decided to go up U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 through Petaluma and Mendocino, stopping for the night in Eureka.

The Volvo had the feel of a much-loved and properly cared-for car. We settled into a loping 75 mph with overdrive engaged and noted that all the gauges worked (well, the gas gauged worked when it wanted to) and that the car was solid.

As you leave Eureka, 101 has a series of long sweeping curves that can be taken at 70 mph. Alex and I noted how well the car liked to take its “set” – you give it a certain amount of steering input, then apply just enough throttle to keep the car hunkered down on its suspension.

For the 800 miles we put on the car, it simply didn’t let us down. In fact, it got better and better as we learned how it wanted to be treated.

I’ve driven and owned hundreds of cars over the years, and this Volvo is one of those special cars that just feels right as it goes down the road.

I still don’t why I’m drawn to Volvos, but after this weekend’s road trip, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy my Swedish fixation.

(To see more photos from the trip, click here. You do not have to be a Facebook member to view these shots.) 

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Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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  1. Keith
    Nice looking car. I was on a Volvo site and found this and thought I’d get your opinion since you own one now. I’ve always loved the 1800 es model and am curious what your thoughts are on that model. I’m not looking only at “investment” side but never hurts if this is a gainer and not a loser. I may reach out to Dave, seems he’s the West Coast guru but I’m in FL (I have talked to Don Thibault also).
    Love your show also! Hope to meet you some day.
    Greg