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Vintage Volvos set auction records- are values on the rise?

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Images are courtesy of Bilweb Auctions

Outside of their home country of Sweden, Volvo cars have always been a bit of an acquired taste, sold for decades on their merits of safety, durability, and even sportiness. In the USA, the automaker’s fan base is narrow, but deep, and its cars have typically had reasonably approachable values in the collector-car market. The first collectible Volvo whose selling price began edging upwards sharply was the 1800-series sports GT; reports that #1 “concours”-condition examples of the P1800, 1800S, and 1800E coupe have more than doubled in value since 2006, while the 1800ES has just about doubled in the same period.

It was an unusually low-mileage ES that sparked a bidding war during Bonhams’ 2014 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance Auction and set a record ($92,000) for the marque, but other low-mileage 1800s sold at auction seemed to follow that trend.

And while the 1800 may be this automaker’s most coveted postwar model, it’s certainly not the only one that has raised eyebrows and thrown up flags for valuation experts in auction settings.

This driver-quality 1965 1800S brought 270,000 SEK/$33,241 during the Olsson auction, substantially more than U.S. #2 “excellent” book value.

An online-only auction of nearly 200 cars, trucks, motorcycles, mopeds, and automobilia recently took place in Olofström, Sweden, that town also home to Volvo body component production since the automaker’s founding in 1927. Since 2003, Olofström has also been the location of Kjell Olsson’s auto museum, which housed the aforementioned collection, and a large portion of the vehicles it contained bore the famous iron mark.

Olsson had acquired Volvo cars, trucks, and other commercial vehicles that represented more than 60 years of production, and among those, had two examples of the very first production model, the 1927-1929 ÖV4, of which very few are known to remain.

Against a 900,000 SEK/$110,803 pre-sale estimate, the 1927 ÖV4 shown above brought 1,750,000 SEK/$215,451. A second example sold for 1,480,000 SEK/$182,210.

These twin veteran Volvos were the auction’s top sellers, but not the only ones to blow the 1800ES’s 2014 record out of the water. A 1957 P1900 Sport brought 840,000 SEK/$103,416, a substantially greater amount than the $59,400 commanded by last example that sold at an American auction, in 2016.

This fiberglass-bodied 1957 Volvo Sport, aka the P1900, is one of fewer than than 70 built.

The rally-proven PV544 is a popular model on both sides of the Atlantic, but it isn’t considered a very valuable model over here, with prices ranging between $7,500 (#4 “fair” condition) and $31,500 (#1 “concours” condition), with $15,000 being a #3 “average” price. Nicely restored examples have brought more during recent auctions, but they haven’t moved the bar.

Two of the PV544s offered through the Olsson auction certainly have, though; a twin-carbureted 1962 Sport model, advertised as in excellent condition, brought 500,000 SEK/$62,093, while the 1965 PV544 Sport show above, wearing factory rally gear and with a 128 hp engine, brought an amazing 650,000 SEK/$80,721.

sub-53,000-mile 1981 240 Turbo sedan (below), with nearly $41,000 in restoration receipts, managed to hammer at 300,000 SEK/$37,256 – consider that the top printed book value in the U.S. for this model is $2,125.

The value story of some of these cars is often different in their home market, as our friend and reporter for Klassiker magazine, Fredrik Nyblad, explains; “A 240 Turbo can today be sold for 125,000 SEK [$15,396], while a Tradera auction before Kjell’s auction sold one for 175,000 SEK [$21,555], which was a record, until this 300,000 SEK car. A PV Sport can be sold for 150,000 SEK [$18,476], and now one was sold for 650,000. An Amazon 123GT can be sold for around 200,000 SEK [$24,634], now it was sold for 325,000 [$40,031; U.S. value guides actually concur with this sale, listing #1 ‘concours’ as high as $45,700].”

Klassiker magazine covered this auction in some detail. Its staffers note that car auctions haven’t traditionally been successful in Sweden, and they feel the extraordinary results of this well-publicized Olsson auction are attributable to its reasonable fees, including a 10-percent buyer’s premium. That the descriptions and bidding were handled in both the Swedish and English languages may have helped attract an international clientele, as well.

Incidentally, Volvo Cars Heritage manager Per-Åke Fröberg confirmed that Volvo purchased one of the excellent-condition 244 Turbos, as well as the  very 1935 PV36 “Carioca” that was built for Volvo founding partner Gustaf Larson.

So, will the prices achieved during this Swedish auction have a far-ranging effect on Volvo values worldwide? Time will tell, and we’ll be watching.