The Volvo P1800 is the best spy car you've probably forgotten about

Classic Volvos are awesome, but by far the coolest is the P1800. It's quick, good-looking, and was driven by a famous spy.

Alex Goy Editor / Roadshow
Alex Goy is an editor for Roadshow. He loves all things on four wheels and has a penchant for British sports cars - the more impractical the better. He also likes tea.
Alex Goy
2 min read
Watch this: The Volvo P1800 is as cool as Roger Moore

James Bond is the ultimate superspy. He has the coolest toys, hottest women, and the best one liners. But his taste in cars is liable to get him killed. I mean, rocking around in an Aston is going to draw attention, isn't it? So why not try a Volvo? A Volvo P1800, to be precise.

I say this because Simon Templar, the Saint, used one. His P1800 S is one of television's most iconic motors and, I think, one of the better spy cars.

The Volvo P1800 is Volvo's second crack at a sports car. Its first, the P1900, was not a rousing success. Volvo sold (almost literally) a handful and went off the idea of making anything sporty for a while.

The P1800 project was a labour of love and, as with all these things, had a rocky start. Volvo couldn't make the car itself, so sought out the help of Karmann. Karmann was initially keen but its chief client, Volkswagen, wasn't happy about a secondary partnership with a rival. The deal was killed and the P1800's future was in doubt.

Step back in time with the Volvo P1800 (pictures)

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Stiff upper lips and the famous British work ethic stepped in to save the day -- Jensen threw its hat into the ring and won the contract. The firm was to make 10,000 cars. It didn't. It only got through 6,000 before Volvo politely asked it to stop. Why? Because while British engineering was top notch, our ability to actually build cars was not. At all.

Volvo took P1800 production in house for the rest of its run, creating the P1800 S, E, and ES (an estate thingy).

Simon Templar's involvement with the car is pretty simple: the show's producers asked Jaguar for an E-Type and it said no. As with many things, the second choice ended up with the better deal.

I'm not saying the E-Type was in any way forgotten, but how stratospherically famous would it have been if it had been the Saint's motor? Thought so...

Engine 1.8-litre four-cylinder
Power 96 bhp
Torque 103 lb. ft.
0-60 mph 11.9 seconds
Top speed    107 mph