Mods and Con­se­quences

Orig­i­nal­ity is still king, but care­ful mod­i­fi­ca­tions are still well worth do­ing

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THIS WEEK - Richard Dredge

Volvo P1800

The Volvo 1800 oc­cu­pies an un­usual cor­ner of the clas­sic car world, be­ing enig­matic, yet widely recog­nised. It’s very us­able in stan­dard form, but even more so with a few mods.

The first of these stylish coupés were made in 1961 by Jensen. Known as the P1800, there was a twin-carb 1.8-litre en­gine fit­ted, as seen in the Volvo Ama­zon. Within two years pro­duc­tion had moved to Swe­den and the model was known as the 1800S (for Swe­den); the first 2000 cars are P1800Ss fea­ture the ‘cow-horn’ bumpers car­ried over from the Jensen era. A 1986cc (a 2.0-litre ver­sion of the 1.8) en­gine was fit­ted from 1968, then just a year later the car­bu­ret­tors were swapped for Bosch fuel in­jec­tion. These mod­els are known as the 1800E, the E de­not­ing Ein­spritz, or fuel in­jec­tion. All 1800s fea­tured a four-speed man­ual gear­box un­til 1971, but a three­speed auto was in­tro­duced in 1972 just be­fore pro­duc­tion ended, to keep US buy­ers happy. An 1800 shoot­ing brake was also in­tro­duced in 1971, called the 1800ES, but this was killed off in 1973. These cars are much less sought-af­ter than the coupés, so if you’re go­ing to make ma­jor mod­i­fi­ca­tions you’re less likely to dec­i­mate the value of your Volvo if your start­ing point is an 1800ES.

Most peo­ple don’t make ma­jor changes, though; they in­cor­po­rate some sym­pa­thetic up­grades that im­prove their car’s us­abil­ity without chang­ing the ap­pear­ance. The most pop­u­lar up­grade is to re­place the B18 1.8-litre en­gine with a B20 2.0-litre unit, be­cause it’s a straight swap. You can in­crease the B18 en­gine’s ca­pac­ity to 2.1 litres without com­pro­mis­ing re­li­a­bil­ity – you can go as far as 2.4 litres with the B20, de­pend­ing on the block used, but at this point you’re in dan­ger of com­pro­mis­ing re­li­a­bil­ity.

Al­ter­na­tively you can slot in a B20E or B20F unit, which in stan­dard (in­jected) form will push out 124bhp or 115bhp re­spec­tively. Orig­i­nally fit­ted to the 1800E, 1800ES and 140 GLE, these en­gines can be bored out to 2.1 litres and with stan­dard tun­ing mods in­clud­ing the fit­ment of a pair of SU or We­ber car­bu­ret­tors, it’s pos­si­ble to coax 180bhp out of it.

CHANGE THE WHEELS £150+ All 1800s came with steel wheels, so many own­ers fit al­loys. You’re lim­ited for choice be­cause of the PCD and off­sets. Minilites are pop­u­lar along with Cos­mics or Wol­fraces, al­low­ing you to go from 4.5J to 5.5J with tyres up to 195mm wide. FIT BET­TER SEATS £200+ The seats in the coupé are com­fort­able, but those in the 1800ES are even bet­ter be­cause they have an in­te­gral head rest. ES seats are some­times fit­ted to a coupé, but with so few shoot­ing brakes made, they’re get­ting hard to find. FIT A A STARTER BUT­TON £25+ The 1800’s soft metal keys of­ten break in the ig­ni­tion bar­rel, which in­cor­po­rates the coil. The fix is to con­vert to a con­ven­tional coil and ig­ni­tion switch, or re­tain the ex­ist­ing set-up and fit a starter but­ton, us­ing just the first set­ting of the bar­rel. UP­GRADE THE SUS­PEN­SION £200+ Don’t lower or stiffen the sus­pen­sion too much or you’ll ruin the ride. Slightly stiffer springs are worth­while and polyurethane bushes will sharpen things up; an 1800ES rear spring re­duces wal­low­ing, as does an IPD rear anti-roll bar kit. TWEAK THE FU­ELLING £2000+ All non-in­jec­tion 1800s came with twin SU or Stromberg car­bu­ret­tors. Swap­ping to We­bers isn’t a DIY propo­si­tion as the steer­ing col­umn gets in the way on RHD cars, so you have to buy spe­cial man­i­folds or tilt the en­gine. FIT A BIG VALVE HEAD £200 Fit­ting a big-valve head al­lows the 1800 en­gine to breathe more eas­ily. Find a fuel-in­jected 140 head; you can stick with in­jec­tion or blank off the in­jec­tors to fit carbs. Us­ing the 140 cam brings more mid-range torque and 130bhp. IN­STALL AN AL­TER­NA­TOR £50+ B18-en­gined cars made up to 1968 got a Bosch dy­namo; later B20-pow­ered cars got an al­ter­na­tor. The dy­namo is re­li­able and up to the job, but some own­ers swap to an al­ter­na­tor and its con­trol box, usu­ally taken from a 140.

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