Volvo P1800 Cyan Review: $700,000 Buys You the Wildest Volvo on Earth
With 420 horsepower and a five-speed manual, this driver-focused restomod is one to remember.
Strapped in securely with a five-point harness, I barreled up Angeles Crest Highway in the world’s most unlikely Volvo. Traffic cleared ahead and my right foot dropped to the floor. The revs climbed along with a cacophony of whooshes and whines as we surged ahead, right until I grabbed fourth and looked over at my passenger, Mathias Evensson from Cyan Racing, to let out a few four-letter words.
Evensson just laughed and asked why I shifted early. I was trying to be nice to the car, I told him. “Don’t be nice,” he responded. Yes sir. Foot to the floor again and off we went, on what I can safely say was the wildest restomod driving experiences money can buy.
The concept is simple: take an old car and put a bunch of new parts in it, but keep the old look. Restomodding has exploded in popularity over the last decade, but it can still go very wrong very quickly—think throwing the O’Reilly catalog at a ‘67 Mustang. And even the beautiful and creative builds aren’t usually done up for performance driving. Do you really want to put a one-off creation worth several hundred thousand dollars in a ditch?
Cyan Racing—that’s Volvo’s old factory race team—thinks you might risk it for this, the Volvo P1800 Cyan. In it, the artists formerly known as Polestar have created something that retains the important elements of the original 1960s P1800 coupe while also providing a wholly new driving experience. It’s a flawless restomod built by race car experts with factory know-how. And really, that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
2021 Volvo P1800 Cyan Specs
- Base price: $700,000
- Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder | 5-speed manual transmission | rear-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 420 @ 7,000 rpm
- Torque: 336 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm
- 0-60 mph: <5 seconds
- Top speed: 170 mph (claimed)
- Quick take: A true driver's restomod.
The P1800 Cyan has been rebodied with lightweight carbon fiber, tipping the scales at a featherweight 2,200 lbs. It sits on grippy Pirelli P-Zero tires, 245s on the front and slightly wider 265s on the rear. A half cage has been added for safety, given the lack of any electronic assistance in the form of traction control or ABS braking systems. It’s powered by a high compression turbocharged 4-cylinder, the block of which is shared with every other four-cylinder Volvo currently in production. Based on the build used for Volvo S60 TC1 race car, the engine has been massaged for an output of 413 horsepower and 336 lb-ft of torque at a redline of 7,700 rpm. Unlike many modern-day turbo-four pots, the torque and power do not tail off as you near the redline. They only get stronger.
Back in the driver seat, Evensson encourages me to keep the pedal planted until the revs run out. He insists the power from 5,000 rpm to redline is the strongest. I was able to verify this over and over again as I hammered it out of each corner and stood on the brakes into the next complex. The unboosted brake pedal takes some adjustment, it’s hard and requires more effort than I’m used to. Once I have a feel for it, the four piston calipers do a fine job scrubbing speed. In this age of fly-by-wire, it’s especially sweet to take on such an analog machine. Aside from power steering, there are no driver aids of any kind—no ABS, no traction control.
I grabbed fourth (again) and whooshed my way further into the mountains. The five-speed Holinger transmission is easy to shift quickly despite relatively long throws for a sports car. It feels chunky and substantial in a way I can only relate to original classic cars. This is purposeful; every analog aspect of this car is meant to bring the driver more in-tune with the machine. Less insulated, more connected. The adjustable multi-link suspension is attached to custom subframes front and rear, giving the Cyan a taut but not-too-hard ride.
Visually, the car has also been modified slightly. The wheelbase has been elongated to bring the front wheels closer to the nose and the rears closer to the tails. This helps to accommodate the forged alloy 18-inch centerlock Braid wheels, arguably the most cosmetically modern part of the Cyan. The rear fins have also been shaved down for a lower, more aggressive look. The car is beautiful to look at from every angle.
Sitting close to the MOMO Prototipo steering wheel, carving my way through the mountains, it took a few minutes to get used to the whole situation. Turn-in is fantastic, as a very quick steering rack makes the car feel ready to dart towards the apex at any moment. Eversson admits that the plan was to leave the steering unboosted, but an electronic booster was added after low-speed testing revealed the inevitable: it was really hard to steer. On these roads, it was still quite heavy with the booster but in a good way, weighting-up mid-corner and transmitting plenty of information on the road surface. The rack itself was very quick-ratio, requiring very small inputs for lots of angle. Everything felt very tight.
We pulled off to take some photos and admire the car. The hue of the Polestar Blue paint almost matched the Polestar Blue sky. Aside from the wheels, without previous knowledge of the engineering involved, this could easily pass for an original classic. The interior is marvelously missing any type of screen. Only dials and gauges, the important stuff. Walking circles around the car, working my way around to the rear three-quarter I had to stop, this was the angle. With the trimmed fins poking up from the rear deck and the long front shooting out from the cockpit, it looked incredible.
Having gotten a feel for the car on the way up, Evensson tossed me the tiny little key and sent me off solo to rack up a few more miles. Entering a rhythmic section of downhill and then uphill esses followed by a long enough straight to find the top of fourth gear, I coasted for a few seconds, taking stock. No other restomod I’d ever driven could do what this Cyan just did, with such ease and confidence. Knowledge that the Cyan lacks electronic aids lives in the back of my mind when driving something like this, knowing it’s really just up to me to keep it shiny side up. But I was still able to push the car, and push it hard.
There were no surprises. The tires complained when I got close to the limit, and the weight was so easily managed because there’s simply so little of it. When asked if he’s taken the Cyan on a racetrack, Evensson said yes, but it’s not really meant for that. It’s meant for exactly what we were doing with it, spirited backroad driving. No racing, no competition, just pure driving pleasure, delivered directly.
There’ve been a handful of driving experiences in my life that I would categorize as religious, the kinds of drives where it’s the right car, in the right place, at the right time, and it all comes together. Rocketing out of corners, drenched in late-day SoCal sunlight, the turbo four popping and burbling in harmony with the soft whine of the heavy duty transmission, the P1800 Cyan made the list.
(As it should for $700,000.)
Jonathan Harper is a photographer and writer based in Los Angeles, California. Got a tip? Send us a note: email@example.com