As part of the media launch for the first-ever Volvo convertible in 1998, the C70, I gathered with others in the warm Arizona sun with Camelback Mountain as our backdrop. Who could miss with this venue to introduce the Volvo C70 convertible to the world. Offered until 2012, the C70 was a classy convertible, and although it never sold in great numbers, it was snazzy, comfortable and helped polish Volvo's brand image.
As part of the introduction, Volvo invited Irv Gordon from Long Island to join us. Known then and now as the ‘famous million-miler Volvo man,’ Irv was a former school teacher who gained fame in the Guinness World Records by driving his Volvo P1800 he bought in June of 1966 for over 1 million miles.
The Guinness record was broken at 1.69 million miles, almost exactly 1 million miles after Gordon had the engine rebuilt. Gordon noted that the P1800 didn’t need to be rebuilt; it was fine, but he decided to be overly cautious In 2002, the car passed the second million-mile, and earned Irv a new C70; a gift from Volvo.
Irv died recently, as learned on Facebook. His daughter posted the news that at 77, Irv had passed away. But before then, he went on to have his own ‘fansite’ and wow car buffs all over the world. Irv’s story went something like this:
After experiencing bad luck with two Chevrolet Corvairs (remember those?) he needed a dependable car to take him to/from work; a 125-mile daily commute. Irv had always been a loyal GM guy, when a friend convinced him to visit the Volvoville dealership in Huntington, New York. He looked at the P1800, took it for a test drive and was hooked. However, he had spent so much on the Corvairs, he couldn’t afford the P1800. So, he borrowed money from his father, traded in the Corvair and two days later, rode home in the P1800.
An article about Gordon’s driving record appearing in Wired notes that he began to pay attention to the miles after he passed the 250,000-mile mark with his P1800 Volvo. Even more surprising to Irv, he realized the car had only basic maintenance done, and no major repairs.
Irv wrote to Volvo praising the P1800 car and received a response. As anyone would guess, the first 1 million miles were a big deal for Gordon, his Volvo and the carmaker. In return, Volvo gave him a new, Bertone-designed 780 Coupe he used as a family car. He eventually sold the 780 Coupe (with just over 450,000-miles), but he kept the P1800. Talk about loving your wheels.In 2009, the P1800 received a new engine; the original was losing compression, and some bodywork needed after the car was damaged in transport to SEMA.
As any car lover would in the old days, Irv performed all the oil changes himself, every month and a half, and the brake work. The last time he listed the mileage on Facebook was in May 2018.
The P1800 had 3.2 million miles or over 5-million kilometers. He often joked that the Volvo was in better shape than he was!
When asked back in 1998,Irv gave me some advice for keeping your car running forever. Follow the factory service manual (you know, the one you never read?), he emphasized, replace worn or broken parts right away, and don’t let anyone drive YOUR car but you!! It is true, a car becomes used to one driver, and all drivers perform differently behind the wheel.
"I’m a firm believer in following the factory manual,” noted Irv. Which is different from the dealer manual; service is their bread and butter, so what they tell you, isn’t always the truth.
For Irv, it’s obvious that time behind the wheel of his Volvo was important to him.
The P1800 wasn’t just for getting from Point A to Point B. Rather, for him it was a hobby and he’d jump at the chance to drive anywhere. Irv once remarked that his drive to-and-from work years ago was his way of relaxing, and getting away from it all.
RIP, Irv, in Volvo heaven.
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