The P1800 story really began in 1953, when Assar Gabrielsson of Volvo was shown around Chevrolet’s Michigan factory. At that time, Chevrolet had only just set up for the all-new Corvette. Gabrielsson was so intrigued by the Corvette’s fibreglass body that he also visited Glasspar, a fibreglass specialist based in California.

While Volvo were probably more interested in applying composite construction to truck bodies, Gabrielsson’s thoughts turned to the production of a Corvette-style sports car. With that in mind, another Volvo employee, Ake Zachrison, was sent to Glasspar to supervise the design and building of a prototype Volvo sports car that would eventually be shipped back to Volvo in Gothenburg. Once there, it was fitted with a Volvo PV444 drive-line and designated as the P1900. Although unveiled in 1954, the P1900 would not become a production reality until 1956 due to teething problems with the fibreglass body.

Fitted with a 52kW (70bhp), twin-carb version of the PV4’s 1414cc engine, mated to a three-speed gearbox, the P1900 didn’t exactly set the performance world alight and couldn’t even crack the imperial ton. With only 67 examples having been built, incoming Volvo chief Gunnar Engellau decided to cease production of the P1900.

However, the idea of a Volvo sports car wasn’t completely abandoned and Helmer Petterson, the man behind the PV444, persuaded Volvo to revisit the concept, this time turning to an Italian designer.

The Italian Connection

Frua is usually cast as being responsible for the final design of the car that would become the P1800; however, the story is rather more involved and would also involve another Italian design house.


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