Driving the Volvo P1800 reimagined by Cyan Racing

Photography by Daniel Ahlgren and Joel Carlsson

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of Classic Motorsports.]

The first clue is in the soundtrack. This doesn’t sound like a Volvo P1800. First, there’s the deep whoosh of the turbo, like a vacuum cleaner gone rogue. Next, you hear the engine, ferociously screaming as the wheels fail to contain 420 horsepower.

This bright blue dot is a racer’s homage to the most iconic car Sweden ever produced, the Volvo P1800. Yes, you can buy a car just like this one, but–spoiler alert–it might be a little more expensive than you think. 

Take a Chance on Me

Let’s back up a minute first. The shape of the P1800 may be instantly recognizable, but the team at Cyan Racing has effectively created a whole new car–think the Singer treatment but not involving the ubiquitous Porsche 911.

Cyan Racing’s name might not be well known in the States, but chances are good that you’ve heard about some of its exploits under a previous name: Polestar. This is the crew that equipped the Volvo S60 with a big V8 and took it racing in the Australian V8 Supercars series. It also raced Volvos in the Swedish Touring Car Series and, later, in the World Touring Car Series. 

Polestar won the world title with the Volvo S60 in 2017. And then Volvo pulled out of racing. 

When Volvo pulled the plug on its latest road racing program, its technical partner was left wondering what to do next. Its answer: Build a fully modernized version of the brand’s iconic P1800. The look might be a blast from the past, but its power comes from that recent motorsports program. 

Volvo bought the rights to the Polestar name and changed it to an electric-powered, standalone brand. The racing team went its separate way under the banner of Cyan Racing, winning the 2020 world title in the World Touring Car Series with Lynk & Co, another brand from Geely Automobile Holdings, the Chinese company that also owns Volvo. 

“So, in 2017, we had a bit of a problem,” explains Cyan Racing’s general manager, Hans Bååth. “The regulations for the World Touring Car Championship changed to the current TCR format, which was a lot less challenging since much of these cars can’t be altered. Thus, we had some very talented engineers twiddling their thumbs. At the same time, our CEO, Christian Dahl, was looking for something to replace the income we lost at Volvo. He does not want our racing program to be fully dependent on a manufacturer’s budget.”

So Cyan Racing came up with its own modernized take on the P1800. “The choice for the P1800 was obvious,” Bååth explains, as it’s Sweden’s most iconic car. But by going the restomod route, his team members can build it as they dreamed it.

Even though a race team built this car, it retains a civil, fully trimmed interior. The team updated the body in addition to the drivetrain, brakes and suspension. The resulting machine is well balanced and a pleasure to drive. 

“At first we wanted to keep as much of the original P1800 in place as possible,” explains project engineer Mattias Evensson. “But as soon as we started working on torsional rigidity, it was clear early on that we would never be able to achieve what we wanted with the original car. We drove the original P1800 along with some contemporary competitors, but they all left a lot to be desired, shall we say.” 

A drastic new approach was deemed necessary, one that involved sacrificing a donor car–in this case, a 1964 Volvo P1800S. “Look on the bright side,” notes Bååth. “The state of the donor car is irrelevant. We recuperate the roof structure, the floor panels if they are still useable, and the chassis number.”

Cyan Racing then created everything else in carbon fiber, making some changes along the way. The wheels were moved forward about an inch. At the back, the overhang was slightly shortened, creating a more powerful stance by nudging the cabin toward the rear. 

The 18-inch wheels now stop the car’s body-side crease at the door panels, where it originally ran the length of the sides. The chrome strip is limited to just the area on top of the shoulder line. 

The original floors of the P1800 were kept where possible but strengthened with high-tensile steel reinforcements. At the back of the cabin, a roll cage was integrated to add stiffness without hindering the occupants at the front. (Rear seats? What rear seats?)

Total weight was kept down to 2182 pounds. “Our initial target was 2315 pounds,” Evensson explains. “We considered making two versions, one a stripped-out race version that would have weighed 1984 pounds. In the end, we settled on a compromise with which we think we can be happy.” Even at 2182 pounds, the Cyan Racing restomod is still nearly 200 pounds lighter than the donor vehicle. 

The suspension has been changed to double wishbones all around and fitted with adjustable Öhlins dampers. Brakes are four-wheel discs from AP, complete with an adjustable, competition-spec pedal box.

As Good as New

The reimagined P1800 is still powered by a Volvo, but it’s nothing like the 1.8-liter, four-cylinder version that offered just 105 horsepower in 1964. “We considered many options, but ultimately we decided on the engine we know best,” Evensson explains. “We have been racing this engine for more than 10 years.” 

That engine is the 2-liter four-cylinder that powered Cyan Racing to the World Touring Car title in 2017. But for the P1800, the team has made some changes, including individual throttle bodies attached to a new intake as well as a BorgWarner turbocharger–it’s installed down in the front of the engine bay, almost hidden.

“We run it at a maximum boost pressure of 1.7 bar,” Evensson notes, which yields 420 horsepower along with 336 lb.-ft. of torque–all sent to the rear wheels through a carbon-fiber driveshaft. Zero to 60 should take less than 5 seconds, with a top speed in the 150 mph region. The first cylinder sits in line with the front axle, Evensson points out, pushing the weight distribution to 47/53. 

That same attention to detail can be found in the interior. The combination of leather and felt is both warm and luxurious in a very Scandinavian fashion. The dials retain their Swedish inscriptions, and the gear lever sits in the same elevated position on the transmission tunnel.

There is no room for digital here. All is analog and kept to a minimum. But the physical contact points are finely detailed, from the small, leather-clad Momo steering wheel to the impressive pedal box in the footwell. 

All the buttons are newly developed, beautifully crafted and delicate to touch. Cyan Racing has given in to modern technology on two points: one switch activates the air conditioning, the other allows Bluetooth to pipe your favorite Abba tracks to the car’s speakers. To open the doors, on the other hand, you have to pull a very old-fashioned strap.

Money, Money, Money

The starting price for all this thoroughness: $500,000. And Cyan expects to build 10 a year. 

Some perspective: A new Singer has around the same base price point, although you can easily spend more. And when a Singer shows up on the used market–a rare occasion–asking prices are closer to a million. 

Can Cyan’s take on the P1800 justify the steep price tag? That’s a tough one, as it’s a big number for a car wearing a Volvo badge. On the other hand, there is no denying the diligence of Cyan’s effort to deliver an engaging driver’s car–a pure, untampered driving experience combined with everyday usability and a gorgeous shape.

And it’s not another modified 911.

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Gary UltraDork
10/27/21 8:43 p.m.

I owned a '68 1800S for a few years back in the seventies. I really liked the looks. However, it handled and steered like a fifties-era pickup truck and needed about a hundred more HP. But back then, who was concerned about those deficiencies? Not Simon Templar anyway. This Cyan version, although it's an interesting concept, isn't for me, even if I could justify that really ridiculously stupid price. Instead, if I was so inclined, I'd buy a great original example for around $30K, put another $20K or so into sensible upgrades to engine and suspension, and have a really nice vintage GT vehicle for a tenth of the price ... with properly proportioned tail fins (i.e., original). smiley


Tomwas1 New Reader
8/3/22 8:24 a.m.


Got my license in 69, used to borrow my cousins 67 1800 convertible they purchased new in volvoville on long island. Same place Irv Gordon got his multi million miler. Spoke to him over the years at a few Swedish get togethers,said he couldn't afford the vert so he got the coupe... His was definitely a keeper for him while my cousins probably ended up in a junkyard somewhere in Pennsylvania... 

BimmerMaven New Reader
11/1/22 9:36 a.m.

I'm not alone in admiring the shape of the 1800S, the XKE, C2 Stingray....


I've never considered evaluating the price/value of any car over $50K;  as a hobbyist with a well-equipped shop, I'd spend a lot less than 500K to build the wildest car of my dreams.


Meantime, I just picked up a BMW M Coupe for $35K...Most I've ever spent on a car...and I expect to have a lot of fun with it.


Something about the Emperor's New Clothes comes to mind.

759NRNG PowerDork
11/7/22 7:01 p.m.

At the beginning of this year my sisters and I unloaded  my dear fathers'  1963S(black/red interior) to an individual that somewhat promptly delivered it to a new owner in Belgium /Switzerland  for a "tidy" sum.

Don2001l New Reader
2/12/23 2:59 p.m.

What a beautiful car, doesn't look bad from any angle !

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
2/12/23 4:37 p.m.

With that sort of power-to-weight ratio I'd expect "under 5 seconds" to be an understatement. What to say? Looks like a spendid way to spend more money that I'll ever have. Certainly more interesting than remodeling the aft lounge on one's yacht. 

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