Five and a half million kilometers in one and the same vehicle, American Irv Gordon did it in his legendary Volvo P1800. This week we received news that in the end, the car outlived Irv.
Publicity slogans often behold empty phrases. Promises, promises, good feeling, but how true are they? The slogan ‘Volvo. For Life.’, invented by some agency that wanted to give Volvo’s thoroughly reliable image some more credibility is no exception. Thank God life creates its own exceptions. Take Irving, Irv, Gordon, who in his lifetime traveled no less than 5,5 million kilometers in a Volvo P1800 S. With one and the same Volvo that is! Simply because he loved do drive and in particularly drive his Volvo. On the road Irv and his endearing personality made thousands of friends through the years. This week he died on a trip to China. Irv Gordon was 77 years old. His Volvo is still going strong.
Disillusioned by the disappointing quality of his recently acquired Chevrolet Corvair in 1966, Irv Gordon sets out to find a reliable replacement. A friends points him towards the slender lines of the Volvo P1800. Although he had never heard of the brand, one day Irv strolls into the VolvoVille dealership in Huntington NY. That first date would last some three hours, and hadn’t Irv run out of gas during the test drive, it would have lasted even longer. Irv is sold, so is the car. The car costs a mighty 4150 Dollar, which equals his yearly salary as a teacher. With money borrowed from his dad and the trade in on the Corvair he has to wait for another week to collect his brand new Volvo that next Friday. On Monday the car returns to the dealer for its first service. That first weekend Irv racked up some 1500 miles. Gordon has a 125 mile commute to work every day, which can count for something. Besides that he just loves to drive. At 250.000 miles on the odometer Irv Gordon is taking a liking to racking up more and more miles on the little Volvo. He writes to Volvo to tell them how much he loves his car and how reliable it is with only standard maintenance. When reaching 1 million miles Gordon receives a brand new Volvo 780 Coupé, in which he drives for 450.000 kilometers before selling it on. The P1800 remains in his possession.
The first Guinnes World Record Gordon achieves in 1998, with 1,69 million miles on the clock. He than is the man with the highest mileage by the first owner in a privately owned vehicle. In 2002 he reaches 2 million miles and in 2013 Irv Gordon’s Volvo puts 3 million miles on the odometer. On September 18th at four in the afternoon near Girdwood to be precise. Volvo is there to record the whole thing on video. In september 2018 Gordon denies a post on Facebook stating he has done 4,5 million miles in his Volvo. In fact he ‘only’ did 3,4 million. In kilometers however this is still a staggering 5,47 million. Disbelieve about the mileage of his car is something Irv Gordon has met a lot of in his lifetime. People simply can’t believe it’s possible. Gordon always replies with a smile, politely answering all questions. Besides Hawaii he traveled every state of the USA, drove throughout Europe and large parts of Australia. Skeptics will say he could not have achieved this with the original engine. The truth is there to tell them wrong. Engine and cilinderhead are still the 1966 originals. In all these years Gordon rebuilt the engine twice. A first time after a mere 680.000 miles. His workshop tries to convince him there is no need for such work to be done, but Gordon insists. His workshop is right, the engine is still in excellent nick. In 2009 Irving notices the engine doesn’t quite deliver as it used to whilst climbing the Rocky Mountains. This time an overhaul is truly needed. The bodywork is all original but for one little accident repair. For that once you lend your car to someone else. Never again.
During his many travels Irv Gordon reached the far ends of the world. When asked it appeared that his favorite roads were to be found in his home country. From the many astounding views, his drive down the I-70 between Denver and Grand Junction leaves a deep impression. Like the North of California, where you leave the big cities behind and the road becomes rough and winding. No more traffic lights, just corners and the waves crashing on the rock below you. Today Irv Gordon is home at the Elysian Fields, where we hope he can rack up many more miles in his heavenly Volvo P1800 S.
Photography kindly made available by Dries Bakkenes who visited Irv Gordon at his Long Island home in August 2017.