Peter Leoni’s amazing 1963 Volvo 1800S Restoration

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The most rewarding part of being a motor head is the people you meet along the way.

Peter checked in as he is doing a full bottom up restoration on a 1963 Volvo P1800, chassis number 6023

Looks like a pretty decent solid car to start with. Some people would drive this car as is.

Peter went to work and fixed any questionable sheet metal.

This is the track that holds the weather stripping on the doors. Since you can not go to Volvo1800doortracks.com and buy these with your Visa card, Peter made a wooden buck to duplicate this track and then made a tool so he can shape the inside exactly like the factory part. Impressive!

Peter actually built a bath for the car to run rust removing solution through it. According to Peter, the key is fluid movement. He used a pump and as the fluid is moving about, it keeps destroying rust. This he used a spy camera to look inside the cavities to make sure he did a good job.

All open seams got sealed to keep out moisture.

Protective coat of paint.

Undercoated

Peter is returning the car to it’s original color, 79 pearl white. You know, like the Saint!

Peter even built his own paint booth.

THIS! is when it really get to be FUN. Installing all the trim and chrome on a freshly painted car.

All hardware was re-plated to factory specs. Note the black bolts as some bolts were not shiny and some bolts that were painted like the trunk bolts for example were also black.

 

I met a lot of car guys that tells me “they” restored the car. A lot of times that means that they wrote checks! Peter not only do all the paint and body work…get this…he does his own chrome!

Front cross member painted in the correct blue gray color.

 

This is the frame that holds the headliner. The advantage is that you can work on a bench with it to make sure all wrinkles are gone before it goes back in the car.

Like this…

 

I look forward to updates from Peter and of course the finished product. There will be some serious awards handed out to Peter for the incredible work on this car.

1961 Volvo P1800 project, part 24

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Door stopper! I added this crude adjuster in the door opening to hold out the door so I can line up the body panels as I am test fitting everything.

Like this. This is still just approximate as the door will get a new skin and I am sure that things will change again but at least we are close for now. These parts will be removed and test fitted a thousand times! Nothing will get welded until e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is perfect. Puh!

The front fender is welded to the body and not only have to line up with the door and nose, it is also part of the hood opening cavity. If I move any part in any direction there will be a problem elsewhere. You know, that cause and effect thing you heard so much about! I installed to hood so I can line up the fender for good fit.

I made these shims quickly to be used between the body and the hood hinges so I can get the hood just right. I will use some nicer ones in the end.
I hope there is an end!

Where the front fender (wing is you reside in the UK) meets the A-pillar.

It looks like Volvo used part of the fender in the window channel. Sine my channel is very clean and solid I don’t need to disturb it. I will cut at the dotted line, that way the edge is still intact. The edge is where the strength is so as long as I keep that, I should be OK. I did run this by my Swedish experts and got approval.

Looks like Volvo gave me some extra material in the cowl area. I get suspicious when a manufacturer gives you extra material. The mind in my cynical and conspiratorial Swedish brain starts going….Why?? Am I missing something??

Once I mellowed out it looks like an extra 14 to 9 millimeters. Maybe Volvo was just feeling generous when they made the P1800 fender mold.

Now it starts to look like something.

I have ways to go but the weekend is over and I have to go to work tomorrow.

To Be Continued…

 

1961 Volvo P1800 project, part 23

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This is a short update as work is interfering with my ability to play with cars!

 

As stated before when doing rust repairs: Make template, make replacement part, install…you know…rinse and repeat.

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This is the bottom of the A-pillar. It is attached to the inside rocker panel support and hides under the front fender.

 

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Since I can not go to “Bottom-Of-P1800-A-Pillar-metal-part.com” and order this part I have to make one.

 

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Looks OK.

 

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I am realizing that I will test fit the rear quarter panel and front fender about a 1000 times. They fit in to a recessed area on the rocker so the rocker has to be…you know…just bloody perfect.

 

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Speaking of perfect…Let’s get screwed!

In order to test fit everything before I start to tack and weld it in place, I use sheet metal screws in order to “suck in” the sheet metal when it belongs. One push or pull here and there will change the fit in another corner. Puh!

 

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This sure is an interesting corner. This is where the front fender meet the body. This is NOT an Amazon, where one would just bolt on the fender and call it a day. Then you go and have ginger snaps with Gevalia coffee.

I guess this is why they call this coachwork…as in lots of work!

 

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Another interesting area. This is the top of the front fender by the windshield. It looks like the fender was actually a part of the windshield frame. Since this area is very healthy on the car I think I will just cut the fender on the dotted line and weld to body. Then I can smooth out the windshield channel with lead.

Also, I ran this by the experts in Sweden and got approval 😉 You don’t mess with Swedish experts!

Well, that all I have to say about that.
I hope to get some quality time in the shop in the upcoming weekend.

1961 Volvo P1800 project, part 20

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Now I have done it!! There is no way back now.

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In order to get to the rocker assembly the fender have to be removed. This right side fender will be replaced with a new fender. The driver’s side fender appears to be in much better condition, I am not sure if I need to replace it.

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This is the edge left from quarter panel. After cleaning up the spot weld remnants I have a nice surface to attach the new panel.

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This is why it is usually not enough to replace just the outer rocker panel. If the rocker panel is weak chances are that the sub rocker below have issues as well. …and it does!

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And…if the sub rocker have issues there is a good chance the sub rocker support panel also have issues…and it DOES! This panel goes all the way back to the rear wheel well.

1961-volvo-jensen-p1800-rocker-parts

Bottom line, once I am in this far, there is no excuse for not replacing all components. Fun fact: the original rocker assembly from Volvo came as one unit. The aftermarket parts come in three sections. This makes it easier to bang them around to fit the body.

1961-volvo-jensen-p1800-rocker-removal

I HEART my plasma cutter. I obviously need to drill out all the sport welds that holds the rockers in place but it is easier if I remove most of the rocker first. By doing this it is easier the see how it is attached, what metal overlaps what etc…Instead of using a cut off wheel and filling the shop with metal dust I fired up the ‘ol plasma cutter. It is fast and much less messy compared to the cut off wheel.

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With the rocker and sub rocker gone we can now see the inner rocker support structure.

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This is part of the crud I found inside the rocker panel. I did not have a banana handy so…glove for scale.

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Since the front fender is being replaced, I cut the fender off about an inch from the edge so I can see what was going on below.

The Spitzernagel Special is an amazing tool for removing the spot welds.  Also, because of the clamp that holds it in place, there is no effort. It only removes the spot weld but stops short of digging in to the bottom layer.

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This is what the fender support looks like under the fender. It even has little indentation to ensure dirt and moisture will lay around and eating your Swedish sports car from the day you leave the show room! Brilliant!

I guess these cars were supposed to last ten years at the most so these “engineering blunders” were probably not an issue at the time. I bet they did not expect car guys restoring these cars 56 years later. Luckily, this part of the car is very solid.

Mo later…

1961 Volvo P1800 project, part 19

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With the body back from stripping some less than professional repairs came to light.

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 door lousy bodywork

This door had a scrape on it and the honorable Drill, Bondo & Squirt Inc. drilled 200 holes and then filled with bondo. I have ordered new door skins.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 quarter panel more beautiful bodywork

Looks like the same body shop did this fine work on the right quarter panel.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 quarter panel bodywork

Also, check out this classy job on the bottom. Initially, I thought about just patching the bottom but the heat and general distortion from welding when installing a patch will always require some filler.Also, you end up with an unsightly looking seam inside the trunk. The plan is to replace the complete quarter panel for a factory looking job.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 drilling spot welds

In order to remove the panels I have to use a spot weld drill bit. This is tedious work and NOT so fun. To make things easier, I ordered a professional pneumatic spot weld drill.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 NOS fender

Can you imagine going to the local Volvo dealer and pick up an NOS front fender for a P1800??!! I just did. My local Volvo dealer had this 664372 on the shelf. The tag shows a stocking date on 1995!

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 brazing

Before I remove any panels I am taking tons of pictures. Here you can see that the front fender was brazed in place. So basically the P1800 fenders are welded, bolted and brazed!

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 rocker fender seam

Here is another seam that will be important to duplicate. The seam between the rocker panel and the fender. Small detail but filling it would not look correct.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 quarter panel front

This is another thing worth noting: The factory used lead to cover the spot welds on the quarter panel at the B-pillar. Normally car manufacturers are not “hiding” the spot welds in a location like this. This is just part of the documentation, I plan to duplicate this.

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 right side quarter panel removed

Here goes nothing! Well, actually, it is something…the first quarter panel is off.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 right inner wheel well

The inner wheel well looks very nice except the very lower corner. I can just do a spot repair in that area.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 quarter panel spot welds

It was hard to see the spot weld on the outside on this panel so I cut the panel out and left a half inch or so. Now I can clearly see where the welds are located and I can drill them out.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 ye olde quarter panel

Ye olde quarter panel

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 high spotwelds

Problem: When you drill out spot welds with the spot weld drill bit it will leave part of the weld in place so you have to dress and grind the surface so you have a smooth attaching point for the new panel.

 

spitznagel

Solution: The world famous Pneumatic Spitzenagel Spot Weld Drill Apparatus. This tool will remove the spot weld completely and you can set the depth so it does not disturb the remaining flange. You gotta love good tools.

Speaking of helpful apparatus…I ordered a rotisserie rack so I can work on the car in comfortable positions and not break my back while working on this car. Can’t wait to get it set up! If chicken is good on rotisserie cars must be too!

All I have to do now is remove and replace the other rear fender, rear back panel, rear support panel, rear side support panel, rocker panel, sub panel, rocker sill plate, front fenders, floor boards, battery box, bla, bla, bla!!! Easy right??

1961 Volvo P1800 project, part 18

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Brakes

I managed to get the very last rebuilt early caliper from VP-Auto Parts, a left unit. However, knowing what I know now I would have just rebuilt my calipers. What precious information is it? Read on.

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 brake caliper apart

Splitsville

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 brake caliper apart hammer good

The pistons were stuck in the bores but after a couple of days soaking in the vinegar I gave the piston a good smack. This may seem counter intuitive but it helped loosening the piston in the bore.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 brake caliper apart large plier

Using industrial size wise grips I was able to turn and eventually lift up the pistons.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 brake caliper apart gasket

This is the cool part. It is ONLY the seal that wears in the bores. On later model calipers the bore is fitted perfectly to the piston and it can not have any flaws or rust. In this case, all I have to do is clean up the groove for the seals and we are off to the races.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 brake caliper inside

I think I will take to money I save on rebuilding these my self and buy a blast cabinet and clean these babies to perfection. There is NO limit on how many tools a man can have.

 

1961 Volvo P1800 project, part 12

The body is finally stripped:

As mentioned in part 11, I discovered that the top bolt holding the vacuum tank was a Phillip head screw and obviously installed BEFORE the fenders were installed.

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 brake tank screws

After a fair amount of “fiddling” we got the screw out. If you read up on Volvo 1800 history you will learn that the bodies were made by a company called Pressed Steel a few miles south of Glasgow. They were then sent on to Jensen for assembly.

Some smart ass at Pressed Steel grabbed a Phillip head screw for the top mounting of this tank as I am sure it was installed before the front fender was welded to the body.  Just to really mess with my head, they used hex bolts on the lower mounting point. Oh well!

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 brake tank

This was an interesting surprice after I got the tank down. It felt very heavy. Guess what? It was full of break fluid. About two liters to be exact. I am going to guess that the brake booster failed at some point and the vacuum started to suck in the brake fluid. What is amazing is how much brake fluid the owner must have been adding to the brake cylinder.

I feel sorry for the poor owner that had to add fluid to that little master cylinder as the fluid was mysteriously disappearing! Maybe this was going on over many years, who knows.

The Jig is up!

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 frame jig

I built a metal frame and I added support beams that will hold the body to the frame so it can be transported to paint stripping and body shop.

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 empty body

I sacrificed my lawn tractor trailer for it’s wheels and also the beam that connects to the tractor. It is going to stripping in late April 2016.

Comparing equipment between the 1964 parts car and this 1961 car reveals some subtle differences.

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 speedo

Like the tachometer for example. The red line on the 1961 is at 6000 rpm. The red line…ish starts at 5500. That is code for: Hey Sven, you better start thinking about popping this baby in to another gear or your push rods will start denting your hood!

By the way,  these gauges are just gorgeous!

 

1964 Volvo Jensen P1800 speedo

This one is not so gorgeous but it is from the 1964 parts car.  The red line starts at 6500 rpm. I guess Volvo got a little braver or they got better valve springs…or both.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 fuel gauge

Also, the fuel gauge is different. The indicator stems from the center unlike the ’64 model where it is off to the side. Not a big deal but I want to make sure I don’t mix them up.

 

1964 Volvo Jensen P1800 fuel gauge

1964 gauge. See how the needle stems from the side as opposed to the center.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 trim piece

Another note for the nuance department: The metal trim piece that is located inside the car on the top of the B-pillar was made of aluminum. (top) The later cars had this made in stainless.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 modular shop

Modular shop. Having the axles on the wheel dollies help when shop space is tight.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 key lock

I finally got the ignition lock cylinder back. I was very excited that they were able to make a key but the pretty chrome fascia was now sporting a big scratch. Idiots!

I will be looking for a new cylinder I guess. Got one? Early style with small cylinder diameter…please  Email me

Folks along the way:

One of the fun aspects of playing with old cars is the people you meet along the way.

Having the same interest is reason enough to spark a conversation between two strangers. Maybe they have that part you are looking for or vice verse or just comparing notes in general.

Dave Lucas in Columbus, Ohio checked in with me. He is knee deep in a restoration of a 1963 Volvo P1800. This is the before picture:

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Dave’s P1800 is chassis number 6065 so I am thinking it was assembled in Sweden. The transmission and engine has been rebuilt so now he is working on the body and interior. We look forward to updates.

 

Lucas 1963 Volvo P1800 dog

We know Dave is a good guy as he is also a dog person. Here his best friend is checking out the dismal back seat! “I think I will ride shotgun in the passenger seat”

 

Gary Ramstad 1967 Volvo 1800S

Gary Ramstad from Seattle is almost finished with his 1967 Volvo 1800S. He named it “Puzzle” as the assembly of all the interior pieces resembles a puzzle.

Mo later…

Volvo P1800 Jensen history

Volvo 1800 S

The Volvo P1800 was created in 1957 as Volvo wanted to offer something sporty for the export market. Volvo turned to Frua in Italy to design the car as they wanted…you guessed it…a car with Italian design.

Volvo P1800 Prototype

Turns out…A Swedish designer, Pelle Petterson was working for Frua at the time and he was asked by the Frua management to come up with a design. They submitted several ideas anonomysly to the current Volvo president Gunnar Engellau in December 1957. Once he saw the P1800 he said: I want that! He did not know at the time that a Swede actually penned the car and was rather mad once he found out. He wanted “Italian design”. After Mr. Engellau cooled off a bit he gave the go ahead and aren’t we lucky he did!

Volvo P1800 Prototype 2

Volvo did not have the capacity to build the car so they turned to Karmann in Germany  and they were indeed interested. However, VW got wind of this and said they would pull their production from Karmann if they made a Volvo. So…Volvo looked around in Europe for other companies and finally made a deal with Pressed Steel in the UK to build the bodies and then have Jensen in West Bromwich to assemble the car. Jensen was for example building the Austin Healey.  The contract was to build 10,000 cars.

Volvo P1800 interior

Some of the design element were scrapped in order to streamline the production. For example, the drawings had the tail pipes coming out of the rear valance and the rear license plate recessed. Also, the rear quarter windows were fixed as opposed to the original design where they could open.

Volvo P1800 styling

Volvo also wanted a new engine for this sports car so they developed the B-18. It was a quite an engine for it’s time:
It developed 100 hp SAE at 5 500 rpm while sucking Swedish air through a pair of 1 ¾ tums SU HS6 carburators.

Volvo P1800 interior

Borg&Beck supplied the clutch and they opted for Volvo’s bullet proof M40 four speed transmission. You could also order a Laycock-de-Normanville electric overdrive that would give you a total ratio of 0,76:1. With the overdrive the rear axle ratio was 4,56:1 and without the rear had 4,10:1 ratio.

Volvo P1800 design

Volvo was not happy with the quality of work from the Jensen factory and decided to bring the P1800 manufacturing back to Sweden. The good news in all of this was that Volvo’s new car factory on Hisingen, Göteborg in Sweden was finished in 1963 and that meant that the older Lundby factory could be used for the P1800 manufacturing. After 6,000 cars made by Jensen the Volvo 1800 was now made in Sweden. This is why the designation P1800 changed to 1800S and the “S” stood for Sweden, not Sport as I have believed for all my life.

Volvo 1800 E and Volvo 1800 ES

Volvo continue to improve the 1800S through out the years for safety, convenience and power until it’s demise in 1972 for the coupe and 1973 for the ES model (wagon). Volvo produced a total of 47,485 of which 8,078 were the ES model.

Photos: Volvo Herritage Press Kit

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen Project, part 2

I continue to look over the latest addition in the garage, the 1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen car.

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 side

The car is quite straight but with some rust in the usual spots. What surprises me the most is how nice the trim and bright work is.

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 interior

The interior is actually quite decent or being 55 years old. However, as soon as you start replacing anything it all has to go.

 

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen door panel

The 55 year old door panels held up well.

 

1961 Volvo Jensen P1800 body number

I think this s the body number. If that is correct, Jensen (and Volvo) had already gone through over a thousand bodies by the time they got to this car, number 423! Is that possible?

I wanted to make sure about the engine, it would be great if it was the original engine. This is the delivery information that Volvo used to keep track of the cars coming from England. As you can tell, Excel was not yet invented! This is the 400 series chassis number so the circled number is 423.

P1800 delivery information

As we can see, the Chassis number 423 should have engine 149.

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen engine number

Ha!…there it is…149! Good to know.

 

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen door trim

All the trim is in an amazing condition.

 

i am documenting and taking photos of all items for reference. This will be a big job!

 

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen Project, part 1

Sometimes you have to go through life to figure out…a few things. That was a pretty profound thought, eh?

I have been playing with Volvo Amazons and 544’s for over 40 years and I have been pretty happy with that…until now.

While walking around at the Exotics at Redmond Town Center one Saturday morning I was throughly enjoying the lines of the 60’s Euro cars and especially the design of the Italian cars.

How can I own a car with those lines and still make it affordable and dependable?

1957VolvoP958X2

The answer was right in front of me the whole time. A Volvo 1800!!

The hunt (if you can call it that) started by emailing some Volvo friends and asking if they knew of any good projects for sale.

About a day passed and I got an email from a friend. He knew of a 1962 Volvo P1800 that was for sale. 1961 was the first model year for this car and many 1800 enthusiast agrees that the 1961 through 1964  is the most beautiful models. The “Jensen bull bumpers, beautiful “hockey stick” moldings on the doors and some other attributes that makes is special.

If I am going to spend time and effort on one of these it might as well be an early car. I went to look at it and…

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen in garage

…two weeks later the car resting in my garage.

 

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen 403

Turns out that this is actually a 1961 model year car. The chassis number is 423 and that actually makes it an early 1961.

P stands for Personvagn (passenger car)
1 = body type
8 = model (P1800 duh!)
3 = B18 engine
9 = Assembled outside Sweden as in England.
4 = Four speed transmission

69 = white
301 = red interior

The early cars were not equipped with overdrive. This also means that this car have a 4:11 rear axle ratio unlike the overdrive cars that had a 4:56 ratio.  Nerd info: When the car’s top speed were tested, it turned out that the 4 speed cars were faster compared to the overdrive equipped  cars. The taller rear axle ratio put the engine right at the optimum RPM for torque. Having said all that, I plan to add an original style overdrive to this car but I will keep the ratio stock. Best of both worlds, eh?

 

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen bumpers

The first order of business it to take an inventory and catalog what I have. These are the “Jensen” bumpers.

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen grille

Early style “egg crate” grille made from heavy aluminum.

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen tail lights

All red tail light lenses.

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen dash

The car has a FrigiKing underdash A/C unit.

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen engine

Looks like it has a later model sealed cooling system and a five blade fan. I think this may have been upgraded when the A/C was added.

 

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen wheels

I am sure these are the original 4 1/2 wide rims.

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen wheel marking

The rims appear to be in a gun-metal gray color.

 

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen jack

Original jack and lug wrench.

 

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen interior lights

License light assembly without back up light. it is my understanding that only the early cars had these milky interior lenses as they later were clear.

 

1961 Volvo P1800 Jensen manual

Original manual with notes from the original owner about spark plug gap etc. Cool stuff.

This will be a HUGE project and I hope to be able to pull it off.