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The desire by Volvo executives to build and market a sports car dates back to 1957, with prototypes of the 1800 appearing by late 1959. The model debuted opposite the Jaguar E-Type at auto shows in 1961 and became a great success, with over 39,000 examples of all variants of the 1800E coupe built over its 12-year run. As production of the coupe was winding down in 1972, the model was redesigned as a sleek and practical sport wagon by master Volvo stylist Jan Wilsgaard and his team. It featured the inspired frameless glass rear hatch.
Today, as when the design was new, the Volvo 1800 ES appears to many as a concept car put into production without the slightest cost-cutting revision. Unfortunately, new US emission standards for the 1974 model year spelled the end of the 1800 ES after just 8,077 copies had been built. Production ceased in June 1973.
This beautifully presented 1800 ES has been a longtime resident of Southern California, in the care of just three owners. Upon its acquisition by the consignor in 2014 – himself an accomplished automotive designer – the sport wagon was gently reawakened after more than 20 years in storage. A 2.0-liter short block built by a master Volvo mechanic was installed and coupled to its automatic transmission. To accentuate its sporting character, a set of period-correct 15" alloy VTO wheels were tastefully added.
A true labor of love, about $15,000 was spent recommissioning the Volvo, as well as many thousands on professional detailing. In striking condition both inside and out, the Volvo shows less than 72,000 miles and is an outstanding representative of its rare breed. A classic even when new, the svelte lines of the 1800 ES have aged gracefully and its following remains as strong as ever.