From the DT Fleet: Duckling, the 1966 Volvo 1800S

Update, April 22, 2014: The Duckling has been sold! Thanks for everyone for the comments and compliments. We will post more updates (with the new owner’s permission) in the near future.

From April 19, 2014: Believe it or not, there is a downside to moonlighting as an editor for Daily Turismo and having a stable of esoteric, affordable, and interesting older cars to tinker with and write about. That downside is that sometimes you have to part with one of your own. A few months back I (CFlo) offered my ’66 VW Beetle for sale, and ultimately after a series of frustrating experiences I decided to keep the car. I’m happy I did, but now I have to bid adieu to another ’66 – this Volvo 1800S coupe. For now, this is a pure DT listing – no craigslist flakes or ebay fees desired. And I suppose it’s a seller submission since my wife is technically the owner. It’s a runner and a driver, has some needs, but is a cheap classic in the finest DT tradition. Anyways, find our 1966 Volvo 1800S for sale right here on DT for $3900 (or certain trades, see below) in Torrance, CA.

Round about 2010, this car was rescued by a few forum members from the Marin Headlands in the San Francisco Bay Area (just north of the Golden Gate). It’s an original black plate CA car that had been in the area forever. They got it running, replaced the front brake hard lines, did some wiring repairs, and sold it to my wife in 2011. She was looking for a cosmetically challenged but mechanically sound project car and this fit the bill. It was an epic adventure buying a recently resurrected 45 year old car in northern California, driving it even further north to Shasta Lake to my father-in-law’s house for the night, and then making the trek all the way back to LA the next day. That was over 700 miles in an unfamiliar old car that was wearing ancient square tires. The worn rear end did make a very obvious knock once per revolution but not under power, only off-throttle. So long as I kept the hammer down it was fine.

On the trip home we kept the speed around 65 mph, used 25 gallons of gas and calculated 29 mpg for the journey. From Shasta Lake to Torrance it’s 565 miles or about 8 hours of continuous driving. It walked right up the steep side of the Grapevine hill on I-5 with no problem at 65 mph, due to the nice B18 with twin SUs and the 4.56 rear gears. The overdrive even works. Overall, in two days we put 735 miles on an unfamiliar 45 year old car with who knows how many miles on it. These have a 5-digit odometer and we don’t have much paperwork on the car. It has some multiple of 50k miles but I couldn’t say if it’s 150k or 450k. I was impressed regardless. When we got home my wife named the car Duckling since it was fairly ugly but needed a good home and would turn into something slightly more attractive. It’s a fitting name, but at least this Duckling won’t crap all over your shoe.

Over the course of intervening years, my wife and I made good progress on the car – getting the old musty carpet stripped out, surface rust on the floor pans sanded and primed, getting the seats redone with new webbing, foam and new leather covers. We found a good used rear axle assembly from iRoll Motors in Gilroy, CA and installed it along with new hard and soft rear brake lines, some new bushings and KYB gas shocks. New seats, tires, and rear end made a world of difference for the driving experience.

I cut out the Swiss cheesed original battery tray and welded in a shiny new replacement, which (also in the finest DT tradition) was much more involved than it first seemed, and rendered the car inoperable for long periods of time. I did get that complete and now the major rain leak is cured – and it’s back on the road. I took it in for a once-over and fresh tuneup from the guys at Hi Performance Auto Service, who worked their Volvo magic and got it running very smoothly by replacing the SU needles and setting the ignition dwell and advance.

So why is this car for sale? Seems like a great project, for sure – but we didn’t make as much progress with it as we’d have liked before my wife went and got pregnant. Now there’s not much time to work on it, and it’s not the most practical for hauling around a 1-year old and our dog. The DTM5 is a bit better in that regard. And so, it is time to thin the herd…for now.

I’ve been daily driving this 1800 for periods of a few weeks at a time, and it has been great fun. Get in, fire it up, and go. Just a little bit of choke from the manual lever and the B18 is purring. You sit low down to the floor, legs straight out in front of you, and look out over a long hood through a thin-rimmed steering wheel. People are astonished to learn that Volvo ever made anything so sexy.

With a few weekends of welding, a quick paint job, and some more interior love, this could be a presentable driver quality car, usable every day without worrying too much about originality. It’s a low-stress classic Volvo. I’ve been running 91 octane pump gas plus lead replacement additive; I’m not sure if the head has been retrofitted with hardened valve seats or not. Because the floor structure is completely solid it would also make a decent restoration candidate if you wanted a larger project. It is complete, running, driving, reliable, and cheaper than just about any other 1800 that fits this description.

For inquiries, email me directly:

As a replacement fun weekend car for my wife, we’d love to consider the following for trades:

-Volvo 142 or 145

-Volvo 1800ES (yep, the wagon version of this car)

-Datsun 510 2-door, 4-door, or wagon

-BMW 2002, 1975 or older

-Toyota Corolla, 1975 or older

-Nissan Pao (yes – yes!)

And her ideal replacement car would be tastefully lowered, on Minilite / Panasport style alloys, with a newer more powerful turbo engine swap, e.g. B230FT in a 140 or SR20DET in a 510. Talk about a cool chick, right?

Find my full photo album of the 1800S here on

If this car were going up on craigslist, here’s what the ad text would look like:

1966 Volvo 1800S

Clean, clear CA title, current registration

Smog exempt

California car since new

Original black plates from 1966

B18, twin SU carbs, M41 4spd+OD transmission

4.56 final drive

Shows ~45,300 miles on odometer (true mileage unknown)

Original color: 91 light green

With some black paint touch-up this is a decent 20-footer car

Can be a “drive-as-you-go” project

Located in Torrance, CA (just south of LAX)

Will assist with shipping at buyer’s expense or can deliver within the greater Los Angeles / Southern CA area for a small fee.

I am going to be as honest and complete as possible with the description, warts and all.

The good:

Starts immediately with very little choke

Idles smooth

Good power, pulls cleanly to redline

Reliable daily driver

Shifts great – overdrive works!

Floor pans, crossmembers, jack points, and structure are completely solid on this car

5 recent radial tires (including spare) – Federal Super Steel 657, 165/80R15 87T – close to stock size – mfg. date: week 30, 2011

Fresh tuneup from Ian at Hi Performance Auto – new carb needles, new fuel lines, timing advance & dwell set correctly

New battery tray, MIG welded & seam sealed

Front seats rebuilt with new foam and new black leather covers by Don Thibault @

’68+ headrests

Original rear seat in good condition

’68+ collapsible steering column w/ matching steering box

Dual-circuit front brake calipers w/ new hard lines

Recently replaced rear axle assembly

New rear brake hoses & hard lines

New rear limit straps

Fresh KYB gas shocks in rear

Original steel wheels & hubcaps

Has all trim inside & out except for rear bumper rubbers

All lights working (hi/low headlights, turn signals F/R, taillights, brake lights)

All glass seems to be original and is serviceable – no cracks

All gauges work except the clock – even the notoriously flaky oil and coolant temp gauges

There was just a bit of surface rust on the interior floor pans due to rain water, but that has been sanded off and primed with rust-resistant silver urethane

The bad:

Clutch either needs adjustment or replacement – near end of pedal travel

A bit of blue smoke on cold start, so it’s burning a little oil

Usual slow oil drips from engine and trans

Dash is cracked

Center dash panel cut for larger radio

No radio, speakers, or antenna

Gauge lenses are cracked

Horn not functional

No carpet currently (we saved the original pieces as patterns but they are musty)

(note that what appears to be rust on the interior rear wheel tubs is actually dried up glue from vinyl removal)

Headliner torn around support rods

“Custom” lower door cards, but uppers are original and nice

Heater fan works on high speed only

Steering wheel spokes bent, plastic rim cracked

Side window and door rubber is dry and cracked (replacements included)

The ugly:

Black paint is thick and brittle; peeling off in some spots, gone in others

I’ve chipped off the loosest of the black paint

I’ve removed a bunch of body filler and primed over bare metal with a rust-resistant silver urethane

Has rust in the usual 1800 areas:

-Dogleg area of rockers (joint to front fenders)

-Lower rear quarter panels behind wheels

-Cowl vent has some holes and needs repair

-Snorkus between grille and radiator has a few holes

-Under and around passenger side taillight

-Some bubbly spots under the paint on front fenders and door skins

Has accident damage to the rear panel and rear quarters – previously repaired but needs some further straightening

Nose, and portions of front fenders were replaced long ago due to accident damage, solid but not the prettiest job

Some of the exterior trim needs straightening; front right fender trim has holes drilled for screws (?)

Parts included with sale:

New door, door window, and side quarter window rubbers

Upper and lower dash caps

Virgin aluminum dash center section (not cut for larger radio)

Gauges: tach & oil pressure, very nice, just a few minor cracks

Complete FrigiKing AC system from an 1800E (B20) including condenser, evaporator, vent unit, compressor, lines, receiver/dryer

New 1800E exhaust (manifold-back), larger 2″ diameter

New motor mounts and trans mount

New KYB gas shocks (front)

Once again if you’re interested, email me directly:

Update: SOLD as of April 22, 2014.