Thursday, October 27, 2016

Volvo's Not-So-Italian P1800 Italian-Themed Sporty Car

Volvo's P1800 (1961-73) was a successful sporty addition to the firm's conservative passenger car line.  According to this source, Volvo management wanted the car to have an Italian look, the very best when the project was launched in 1957.  So Frua was hired to do the design.

This was around the time Pietro Frua sold his firm to Ghia.  Moreover, it seems that Frua supervised the design, but most of the work was done by Pelle Petterson (b. 1932), a Swede who happened to be working for Frua.  So the P1800 was more of a Swedish design than Volvo was willing to admit for many years.

P1800 styling is pleasing, which probably accounted for its market success.  The most noticeable feature is how small the passenger greenhouse is compared to the rest of the body.  Rear fender tops are in the form of what amounts to vertical blades, a mild kind of tail fin that was in vogue during the late 1950s when the car was styled.  Subtle creases extended along the sides from near the headlights back to the tail light assemblies.  Chromed spears on the front fender sides were placed immediately below the creases and then curved upwards towards the aft of the doors, echoing the lower curves of the rear quarter windows.  At that point, atop the fender lines, thin chromed strips continued along the ridge of the rear fender blades, ending at the taillight assemblies.  Early production front bumpers were in two segments with a gap between them for front license plate placement.  Near the gap, the bumpers angled upwards at around 45 degrees, much in the manner of 1954-1957 Cadillacs, but without the Cadillac "Dagmar" bumper guards.  Later the front bumper was redesigned as a one-piece, horizontal unit.


This is a publicity photo of a 1961 Volvo P1800.  It differs little from the prototypes shown below.

A poor-quality photo that shows what seems to be the first Frua prototype in an Italian setting.

Studio photo of a prototype P1800.

Rear view of what might be the prototype in the previous image.  The kinked, segmented rear bumper was not a production item.

A Volvo studio photo of what is probably the gray P1800 shown in Italy, above.

Two photos of Pelle Petterson and an early production P1800.

Restored 1961 Volvo P1800, Hyman Ltd. photo.

Publicity photo, year unknown, showing the rear styling that has a few detail differences from the prototypes.

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