Its a Small World or How I came to own a Sport Volvo
reprint of an original ca. 1988 R. Kwas, revised
In about 1977,while owning my second and third Volvos, having rebuilt many of their system, including engines, and thereby acquiring a true appreciation of their quality of materials and engineering, I happened upon a gentleman and his 1800 in distress. In fact it was in front of my residence of the time that their ill-fated trip came to an abrupt end. As I came to his assistance he said " the engine stalled and now it won't start". A quick inspection under the hood revealed the starter completely dislodged from the engine block and literally dangling by the cables. As a matter of fact, the dipstick tube had been neatly cracked out of the side of the block and replaced by a dark hole to its heart. Number three connecting rod had apparently found an alternate path after becoming free of the crankshaft. This car was not going any further that day under its own power, and "stalled" was an interesting understatement...maybe he had the radio (way) up and was unaware of the sound of an engine block "venting"!
Considering myself fairly capable, I introduced myself, and offered to build an engine for the gentleman, but looking back now, I don't suppose I would get involved with some guy off the street to construct a powerplant for my vehicle. The next day, the car had been towed away and I forgot about it.
About a year later, at the Connecticut Motor Vehicle Department, my lady friend of the time, had just finished with probably an hour of the wait-in-line game, and was returning to her black 1800 (I wonder who had gotten her into that car!). "Nice Volvo, I have one of those", a passerby remarked, "but it's got a problem and is parked at the moment". (This guy was apparently a master at The Understatement.) After a further chat, connections were made, he told her of the details, where it was parked, and that "it was available".
When I looked over the derelict in a quiet parking lot behind his place of employment later that day, I found it just about as I remembered, but with the ravages of outside storage starting to take their toll. Kids, as well as rain had pried their way into the car. The frozen hood hinges allowed no more than six inches of opening, but the sheet metal, particularly the first-to-rust transverse box sections underneath, was perfect. A later examination of the paperwork showed the car had lived most of its life in California and although it needed a fresh powerplant and a thorough going over, the sheet metal would be a great place to start.
Never one to shy away from projects of (for other people seemingly) immense proportions, and figuring that this would be the least expensive way I could ever get into a P1800, I called..."I'm the guy who was there after you blew up that day a year ago", I said. "Yeah, its a small world...do you want to buy it?". Done. Considering the condition, the purchase price didn't nearly break the bank, so I was at last the proud owner of a sport Volvo (restoration project anyway).
Wendy and I towed the car to my parents where I proceeded to "in a mere moment of inattention" let the car get away from me on a slight incline and damned near roll it over my arm! ...hell of a beginning to the relationship! As it was, I and the car survived and began a long-term relationship that continues. The car sat for another while...its good to let a fine wine rest after transport also! Once I got to work on it, the body and mechanicals were cleaned up (I wound up building the motor anyway!), the color was restored to the original rich California white (befitting for this lady, and always my favorite anyway), the front end was restored and upgraded with IPD equipment, and everything was reassembled using authentic Formula One anti-seize (not just the silver American stuff, but the rest of a tube of gold colored British (K. S. Paul Co.) anti-seize, which had been left in the Ligier pits after a late '80s Montreal race)...beats the heck out of a t-shirt souvenir and I swear the steering is quicker!
The car has since given me miles of driving pleasure, even winning a minor but non-the-less encouraging award at the 1985 Lime Rock Fall Vintage Fest. It has also graced the (b&w) rear cover of a mid-'80s Rolling along with Gary Ricker's black 1800, in what I call the Salt and Pepper 1800s photo, taken at one of the first Volvo Club of America national meets.
I'm kind-of glad it's a small world.
|Salt & Pepper 1800s at Snow Lake, Mount Snow, Vermont. ca. 1986|
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