Irv Gordon and a Volvo P1800 similar to the one in which he has managed to clock up 5-million kilometres in mileage. Picture: QUICKPIC
Irv Gordon and a Volvo P1800 similar to the one in which he has managed to clock up 5-million kilometres in mileage. Picture: QUICKPIC

More than 5-million kilometres travelled, only two engines rebuilt and one owner since new. Meet Irv Gordon, a former school teacher based in New York in the US who has owned a Volvo P1800 for the past 50 years which has rewritten the rulebooks of high mileage cars.

To find out from the man himself, we decided to touch base with 76-year-old Gordon during his recent visit to SA to get a better insight on this feat.

Gordon regaled us with a candid story on how he acquired his Swedish coupe back in 1966. He owned two Chevrolets prior to that, which both broke down — the second one just as he left the dealership. That proved the final straw in Gordon’s ownership of that brand. A friend of his at the time owned a Volvo sedan and was rather happy with its reliability and performance, so he advised Gordon to sample one of the brand’s models.

Of course, switching brands has never been an easy thing to do, but Gordon says he took the plunge and sampled the red Volvo P1800, which was retailing for $4,150 at the time.

Leap of faith

"After a few kilometres behind the wheel, I decided to take the leap of faith and since then I’ve never looked back," says Gordon. He has since travelled vast distances in his car, driving through more than six countries including the US and Alaska. He says he only had to change wheel bearings at 100,000 miles (160,934km) and it was not until 700,000 miles (1,126,000km) that the engine had to be rebuilt.

He says the main bearing, according to a Volvo technician at the time, was within specification of the new unit meaning wear and tear had been relatively low over that mileage.

The second engine rebuild took place in 2009 at 2.7-million miles (4.345-million kilometres), which took a while to come about as his mileage in the car was offset by his 2002 Volvo C70 coupe and later his XC60.

The numbers he has mustered from his P1800 are staggering. According to Gordon, he has driven the equivalent of around the world 120 times, has used more than 427,33 litres of petrol and 3,293 litres of oil — the latter equating to 907 oil changes. "I have been travelling an average of 130,000km per year since I retired in 1996 and I have been trying ever since to see just how far I can keep driving the vehicle," he says.

Gordon attributes his car’s reliability to timely maintenance and using only Castrol oil. "If you take good care of your car, it will take good care of you," he says.

He also mentions that his record mileage has been documented by Guinness World Records and since 2005 he has become an ambassador to the Volvo brand. His recent visit to SA coincided with him meeting some of the Volvo Club members and sharing his monumental mileage achievement and how members can do likewise with their Volvos.

The vehicle is still sitting in his driveway, the engine still turns over normally and he enjoys driving it regularly.

"I really think that this car will easily outlive me, which says a great deal about the engineering of the vehicle, which I feel was rather over-engineered and well ahead of its time."

Brand champion

As you can gather, Gordon swears by the Volvo marque and says he will continue to champion the brand as one of the most reliable vehicles on the market. In fact, I share his sentiment and feel that the Swedish brand remains one of the most underrated brands in our market, yet it is right up there with the Germans in terms of performance and build quality.

His testament to the reliability of his Volvo P1800 once again shows that a well-engineered car that is well maintained can deliver above expectations.

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