June 2, 1954 – Volvo unveils its first sports car prototype

Volvo founder Assar Gabrielsson had a fascination with new technology and regularly traveled the world to identify new products and processes that could benefit Volvo. In 1951 he came across a company called Glasspar, which was located in Montecito, California, that made fiberglass boats and sportscars. Fiberglass was relatively new at the time, and Gabrielsson became obsessed with it. To introduce the material to Sweden, he struck a deal with Glasspar to design and build a sports car, while training Volvo’s staff on the fiberglass manufacturing process. Back in Europe, Volvo engineers would lead the development of the new vehicle’s chassis. Fast forward to this day in 1954, and the prototype Volvo Sport P1900 was unveiled.

Above: The Volvo Sport prototype (source: Volvo)
Top: Volvo Sport (source: Volvo)

The car was under-engineered and did not perform well during internal tests. It suffered from cracking plastic, a weak frame and other issues. In any event, two more prototypes were built before Vovlo announced a limited run of about 300 cars would be made for export starting in 1955. It wouldn’t be until 1956 that the first Volvo Sport P1900s were delivered. The cars landed in the United States, South Africa, Morocco, and while for export only, a few remained in Sweden. By 1957 only 68 of the cars had been built. At that point, new Volvo CEO Gunnar Engellau shut down production after driving one of the vehicles, stating it did not meet Volvo’s quality standards. However, Engellau would use this vehicle as the basis for the iconic P1800, which debuted  just four years later, though the new car featured a steel body.

While 68 P1900s were made, only 67 VINs exist, as Volvo accidentally gave two of them the same chassis number. A total of 50 of the vehicles whereabouts are known to exist today, meaning 18 could still be out there waiting to be found.

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