Customer Spotlight - Spencer Larue
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - Spencer Larue
My 1962 Volvo P1800
by Spencer Larue
It was always that car, that one car that we had in our yard rusting and rotting away. My Dad had bought it from the original owner nearly 30 years ago, and he had commuted in it for years, but then due to lack of maintenance, it stopped being a reliable or practical car, so he parked it, and there it sat. I had never thought much of it as a child, because it was just another object in our yard. As I turned 15 I started learning more about cars and how they worked, because in just a few short months I would be starting my driving permit and that meant that I would have to know more about cars. My Dad came home with a 240 Volvo for me, which I liked a lot, and drove it for the next 3 years through high school. Senior year in my high school we are required to do a project, and I thought what about that old Volvo we have in the yard, I could restore that for my project. I talked to my Dad, and asked him if I could have the old car for my project, he said, “You want that old thing?” and without any further hesitation he granted me permission.
I immediately went outside and uncovered the old 1962 Volvo P1800. I took pictures of it, then opened the hood, and proceeded to get it running. A little carburetor work and some hours later, I had it running well enough to pull it into the garage. Over the remainder of the summer I sat and sanded the car all the way down to metal. This was by far the hardest (and most time consuming) part of the whole project. My dad had had the car re-painted at some point many years ago, and this ugly white paint was over the original paint, which was over the original primer. Through three layers of paint I sanded and used gallons of paint remover. Eventually I had almost all the car stripped down to bare metal. At this point I had only one thing left to do, which was to get the car to my friends shop that was about 10 minutes away. His shop has a paint booth, and much more space. My friend came over and we got the car running (barely) and drove it (without a hood as we had taken the hood separately) towards his shop, but the problem was it was 11:00pm and we had no lights, and hardly enough gas to make it. As we came down into the small town between his shop and my house, the exhaust falls off… now we are making quite a bit of noise. I am trailing him in my 240 Volvo making sure that if need be we can have some taillights. I pull over and pick up the exhaust, and then get back on the road and follow him down into town. He pulls into an empty parking lot, with the engine dead. My diagnosis is that the generator isn’t working, because I jump the car with my Volvo and it starts right up, but when I disconnect the jumper cables the car dies. Lucky for me I have a spare battery at home, so I drive home and grab the spare battery. I arrive back and we get the car going and drive the P1800 with no exhaust and no lights through the middle of town with an exhaust decibel reading way beyond most rock concerts. Lucky for us, the police car we drove by didn’t seem to have anyone inside.
We finally made it to his shop, where the rest of the work would commence. The rest of the work started with tearing out the interior, including dash, and carpeting. Next I finished off the last of the paint stripping, and continued to have the car sprayed with primer. Bumpers and chrome came off as well as the trunk lid. Next we started on the rust holes, first with metal plates, then with fiberglass, then with bondo. Once the body was squared away, we tore off the old vinyl out of the dash, and sanded and painted the dash, so that its an all metal dash. I did this because the price of a new dash is off the charts, plus the metal dash seems more solid, more Volvo. I also welded and cut new holes for modern gauges. We painted the interior black, and patched the holes in the floor. This is a Jenson Built 1800 so it is known for having rust problems, on top of that, it was previously driven out by the coast, so the salt had taken its toll. Next was the engine. The engine itself was in fair shape, it had high mileage, but as Irv Gordon has shown, the B18 engine is a solid engine. I took out the generator and installed an alternator, as well as completely bypassing and removing the broken brake booster. I rebuilt the front brake calipers with new pistons from Sweden. I re-welded the exhaust and installed new U-Joints.
It was finally ready for paint, the time put into the bodywork was incredible, and with help from a friend who has been doing bodywork for 30+ years we managed to get everything squared away. The color was going to be yellow. It has been my favorite color since I was a baby. The hard part was finding the “right” yellow, and to this day I am not positive I found the right yellow, but its close. I found the paint code off of a car that I liked the color of, and we proceeded to buy the paint from the local paint store. They told me that the hardener was mixed in with the catalyst for the clear coat. This was false information, and so after the car was painted the clear coat never dried. This was a huge setback; I now had to go over the entire car in lacquer thinner to take the clear coat off. Lucky for us we were able to get another gallon of both base and clear coat from the paint store for free. This time the paint dried, and all was well. I bought and cut and installed carpet myself, and fabricated everything that I needed for the interior, including a new headliner. I proceeded to put the chrome back on, and bumpers etc.… I found some wheels that I liked a lot more then the stock ones, and it really changed the look of the car for the better. I rolled it out of the shop, and drove it home. The look on my Dads face when he saw the car pull into the driveway, the first time he had seen it since I drove it away those many months ago. The P1800 lived again. The work was far from over, I still needed to fix the front end, the shocks were all depleted and the front bushings were all but gone. I replaced everything in the front end, tie rod ends, ball joints, center rod ends, upper and lower control arm bushings (polyurethane from IPD), wheel bearings, idler arm bearing (on the Jenson it’s a bearing not a bushing) and I rebuilt the steering box. I also replaced the whole rear end (which was worn out) with one out of a 122s, which compensated for my broken overdrive. I replaced the door, hood and trunk seals and I successfully got the car laser aligned. I now drive the car regularly as my weekend cruiser. It was a long process, but one well worth it to keep such an amazing old car on the road. It is now a beautiful car, and a car that I will never sell. It was much more then a high school project, it became a sentimental project, and it was, is and will always be my favorite car.
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