Keeping a quality car on the road for a long time is no great secret but rather an "attitude" and a conscious effort to continue to do so once the "new car" appeal is over. My philosophy is to buy the best quality car one can afford and one that is infinitely comfortable, as the driver can expect to spend a great deal of time in that car, especially with a million or more miles in mind.
I spent three hours road testing a 1966 Volvo 1800 before I decided to buy it. I bought it because I could find nothing I didn't like about it. Most people buy cars as an expedience, to keep up with the folks next door or just figuring one feature, such as fuel economy. They wind up with a car they grow to hate or disrespect.
I try to understand the mechanisms within the car as the designers meant them to be used. I treat the car with respect not only when I am driving, but when it has taken me where I want to go. I don't eat or smoke in the car. I keep it clean under, inside and out. I service it as the owner's manual calls for. Figuring the manual was written by the engineers who built the car, who knows better than they do?
In addition to the P1800, I also own a 2002 C70 Volvo, a 1987 740 Turbo Volvo, 1929 Packard 7 passenger touring car, 1923 Model T Ford Fordor Sedan and an 1949 Crosley Hot Shot — the first American sports car.
Unfortunately, I do not have a garage for any of the Volvos, never did. The P1800 has been outside for 41 years and continues to live in the elements, just a block or two from the ocean and its salty winds. The car is driven daily. It has never failed to take me where I wanted to go.
The engine gets regular oil changes and a new Volvo oil filter every 3,000–3,500 miles. I have made it a point to be meticulous about such things since the car was new. The points get replaced every 20–25,000 miles along with the spark plugs. Fuel filters and air filters are replaced as necessary as are belts and hoses. The engine was only apart once for a complete rebuild at my insistence when it had 680,000 miles, as I had never heard of an engine capable of such mileage while continuing to run trouble free.
So far, even after all 2.5 million miles, the transmission is trouble free and the steering box is untouched. It sure would be nice if Volvo would help in keeping the car on the road. Even a box of oil filters or air filters from time to time would be appreciated. After several discussions regarding such sponsorship, I found their philosophy is, "If we support the car, then people would think that with such resources, anyone could keep their car going for millions and millions of miles," and, "however, what you (me) have done and keep on doing is to show everyone that anyone can keep a Volvo going for millions and millions of miles by just following simple service schedules and purchasing replacement parts from over the counter at their local Volvo dealer." I still think it would be nice to get a Christmas or birthday present of some filters or an occasional case of motor oil.
Volvo has only used my car twice in a magazine ad. The Parts Department has used it in some magazines and some of their shows/conventions for mechanics and body shop owners.
When I passed the first million miles in 1987, Volvo held a party and press conference in NYC where they gave me the keys to a new 780 Bertone Coupe. When I passed the 2 million mile mark, Volvo held a party in conjunction with its 75th anniversary at the WABC Studios in Times Square, where they presented me with the keys to a new C70 coupe.
Since the car has passed so many milestones, the car has provided Volvo with much free advertising as my accomplishment is really just a human interest story.
Read more about Irv's experiences and see photos of his P1800.