You will get to surprise your neighbours twice when you rock up in a P1800: once when you tell them it’s a Volvo and again when you reveal that the first examples were built in West Bromwich.

This is no doubt a conversation that you will become used to having fairly quickly, considering that the P1800 coupé is among the most objectively eye-catching cars ever released, but this stylish Swede has a few more trivia tricks up its sleeve.

You might know, for example, that the Guinness World Record for the highest mileage travelled by a single car is held by the late Irv Gordon’s 1966 P1800S, which quickly hit 250,000 miles without requiring any unscheduled maintenance, before going on to accumulate 3,000,000 miles in 2013 at the age of 47 years old – with its original engine block and gearbox still in situ. Proof, perhaps, that this is one of few bona fide classics that wouldn’t suffer being pressed into daily service.

Midlands manufacturer Jensen built the car under licence from 1961 until 1963, but quality problems led to P1800 production being shifted to Gothenburg, with the car adopting the S suffix that it would wear until the end of the decade.

Those early cars are tricky to find (the sole example in the classifieds at the time of writing was listed in the Netherlands for £90,000) and are primarily distinguished from later cars by a unique ‘cowhorn’ front bumper and a slight power deficit.

With a production run of nearly seven years, it’s the P1800S (the S for Sweden) that dominates the classifieds today. This facelifted car used the same carburetted 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as the Jensen-built model, but with power upped from 101bhp to 109bhp in 1963 and again to 115bhp in 1966.

Fuel injection didn’t arrive until 1969, when the P1800E (the E for einspritz) was ushered in with a new 2.0-litre engine producing an extra 15bhp and a raft of other upgrades, including disc brakes, rather than drums, at each corner.

It’s this later P1800 that is likely to tempt the more casual enthusiast, thanks to its electronic injection being easier to live with than a pair of SU carburettors and its relative concessions to safety giving it the edge in terms of daily usability. Not only that, but also you will pay around £10,000 less for a clean example.

What’s more, there’s added variety, courtesy of the shooting brake-shape P1800ES, plenty of examples of which are still knocking about.

The P1800’s modest output – in all guises – meant it was never viewed as a bona fide sports car, so most examples have been driven carefully and maintained to stock specification. If buying a project car, however, spend some time making sure that all parts are present and correct, because rebuild costs can quickly spiral, and you can get stopped short of the finish line by an elusive switch, seal or screw.

How to get one in your garage



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