Ads on Test: 1973 Volvo 1800ES


Classic Cars magazine

by Nigel Boothman |

Celebrity ownership, decent usable condition and not silly money – Nigel Boothman spies a smart buy

This Volvo’s first owner was comedian Jimmy Tarbuck. His name, address and signature are on a copy of a microfiche record of the original log-book. Then from 1979 to 2015 it enjoyed one long-term spell of ownership.

Many receipts in the history folder are from specialists, although its MoT history shows little use in the last 10-15 years. Its last test expired in 2018. An original brochure and handbook accompany the car, along with hand-written records of various works, although the date of them is not clear.

The comfy, high-backed seats prepare you for a relaxed experience rather than a sporty one. The selector track for the Borg-Warner automatic gearbox needs a careful hand and ideally some adjustment; reverse is tricky to find and the D and 2 positions can be confused. But the transmission works well, with the car romping away and changing gear as it should. Once in top it’s more leisurely; the weighty steering and body roll dissuade you from flinging it through bends. There’s a bit more engine noise than expected – it might benefit from some sound insulation, and the Webasto sunroof generates a ‘whoosh’ at 60mph. It stops as it should, straight and true.

The vinyl roof covering is in excellent shape, bar small blisters at the top left corner of the rear screen and under the offside quarter window. The panelwork is the car’s strongest point, with not a ding to be seen. Lower down, there is some overspray on the fuel tank, while much of the underside is covered in bituminous underseal, making it difficult to assess. The history suggests periodic work rather than a full, off-the-road restoration. The wheels have some flaking paint, with smart rim-trims and Vredestein Sprint tyres that are starting to perish on the sidewalls. The chrome is generally very good.

Classic Cars magazine
Interior has several tasks for the new owner ©Classic Cars magazine

The interior doesn’t quite live up to the beauty of the exterior. The seats are very good – re-trimmed in blue leather in the front while the back seats may still have their original vinyl. The elasticated door pockets are split and the carpets aren’t a great fit, the driver’s side sliding away to reveal some flaky paint that’s allowed surface rust to form. The centre console with the attractive Volvo eight-track player and radio moves around when your left legs knocks against it. Up above, there’s a split in the corner of the headlining by the sunroof, but the rest of it appears sound.

Classic Cars magazine
Engine idles a little high but no red flags ©Classic Cars magazine

The engine bay looks serviceable rather than smart, with no leaks. Belts and wiring look fine (though the fuse box inside the car has no cover). The engine appreciates a dab of throttle to start first time, then settles to an idle of around 1000rpm – a little high but with no worrying noises, smoke or smells. It keeps its cool, and the brake fluid and engine oil are clean.

This is a pleasant old thing, with the air of an original car maintained as needs be. We’d want the gear selection sorted out before sale and the next owner could invest in the interior. It’s a little pricey but, given its history, it’s worth the outlay.

This Volvo 1800ES is one of four Ads on Test in the latest issue of Classic Cars.

Engine 1986cc four-cylinder, ohv, Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection Power 125bhp @ 5250rpm Torque 115lb ft @ 3000rpm 0-60mph 11.3sec Top speed 116mph Fuel consumption 27mpg Length 4400mm Width 1700mm

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us