Volvo’s road testers haven’t put P1800 prototypes through their paces since the early 1960s, so we’re a little puzzled by the images sent to us by our spy photographers stationed in Sweden. Although they’re blurry, the shots clearly show a completely camouflaged P1800 prowling the streets around the company’s headquarters.
No amount of psychedelic camouflage can conceal the fact that this coupe has received extensive modifications. It wears a full body kit that adds extensions on both ends and seriously big fender flares covering unusually wide tires wrapped around center-locking five-spoke wheels. It’s also much lower than the stock P1800.
We don’t think Volvo went through the trouble of redesigning the P1800’s body and suspension only to leave the stock, 1.8-liter four-cylinder in the engine bay. The mammoth tires all but confirm this coupe packs much more than a 100-horsepower punch. However, the company has been such a fervent, outspoken proponent of electrified powertrains that it’s hard to imagine anyone there uttering the word “carburetor” ever again.
One theory is that this P1800 might be entirely electric. Aston Martin, Jaguar, and Volkswagen are among the companies that have branched out into the realm of battery-powered, restomodded classics in recent years; Volvo could jump on this controversial bandwagon, too. It could use parts from the Polestar 2, for example, to build a P1800 that delivers three or four times the factory output without burning a drop of gasoline.
Look at the prototype’s rear end, though. It’s difficult to tell with any significant degree of certainty, but we think we see a pair of exhaust cut-outs below each part of the rear bumper. They weren’t there in 1961. If that’s what we’re looking at, then this P1800’s body likely hides a powertrain that’s electrified, not one that’s fully electric.
Could engineers shoehorn the plug-in hybrid technology that powers the Polestar 1 into a body designed in the late 1950s? It’s not unfathomable, crazier swaps have been completed around the world, but it wouldn’t be straightforward because the 2.0-liter four-cylinder that powers the 1 is mounted transversally, and it spins the front wheels, while the P1800 featured a longitudinally-mounted engine that sent its power to the rear wheels. A simpler option is that Volvo, Polestar, and anyone else involved in this project could have dropped a P1800 body on a modified 1 platform. Again, madder things have happened in the automotive industry.
Here’s where the plot takes an interesting twist: According to our spy photographers, this 1964 P1800 is registered to Mattias Evensson, who leads engine development at Cyan Racing. The firm was known as the Polestar Racing Team until 2015, when Volvo purchased Polestar’s tuning arm and transformed it into a standalone brand. And, Evensson bought his P1800 from Jonas Christian Dahl, who owned Polestar and currently owns Cyan Racing. In other words, this P1800 is well-known among Volvo’s factory hot-rodders.
Volvo is keeping its silence about the prototype spotted testing near its headquarters, but keep in mind the P1800 turns 60 in 2021. It could introduce the tuned coupe to celebrate the model’s anniversary. It’s too early to tell if it will arrive as a one-off built solely to make you click “like” on Facebook, or if it will spawn a limited-edition model.