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Give me a (Shooting) Brake: 1973 Volvo P1800ES and 1976 Jensen GT

As a Car Geek, I love a classic GT. You know – a small, personal car with enough performance to keep it interesting, lines that hearken back to a time when cars were designed by stylists and engineers (not always rowing int the same direction, mind you) as opposed to accountants and computers. The problem with so many classic GTs, however, is that they tend to be tight two-seaters with barely enough room for you and your companion, not to mention anything else that may need to make the journey as well. Enter the Shooting Brake and the subjects of this article both presently on eBay: a 1973 Volvo P1800ES and a 1976 Jensen GT.

While a “Shooting Brake” does not necessarily mean a car is a 2-door GT converted to a Wagon, but it is generally accepted as a coachbuilt wagon or “estate” car based on another car. In the case of today’s two subjects, each started out as 2-door personal cars – the Volvo a coupe and the Jensen a Roadster. There are also shooting brake Rolls Royces and the like, but we’ll save that for a different article. What Volvo and Jensen did with them was take small, fun, personal cars and made them practical with wide-opening glass tailgates and pretty impressive cargo holds. They each also have room for a companion and two small kids or your pet(s).

There were other cars loosely fitting the same genre as these around the same general time – Lancia with the HPE and (ostensibly) Chevrolet and the 2-door Vega Wagon. The Jensen and the Volvo, however, are more compelling each for their own virtues. The Volvo blends the looks of a sixties Ferrari with the reliability and durability of a Volvo. Many will recall the P1800 owner who took his car to two million miles and is still going: his maintenance regimen consisting of little more than oil changes, brakes, tires, and a new windshield every 100,000 miles. Try that with anything built after the ECU was discovered. The Jensen on the other hand, being British and from the 1970s, is basically the anti-Volvo – but powered by the same Lotus 907 DOHC inline-4 cylinder as motivated the Lotus Esprit, Elite, and Eclat as well as the original Jensen-Healey Roadster (which incidentally was the first production car powered by the 907).

The exterior looks of both may be an acquired taste for some. As a station wagon fan already, I love them. They are certainly distinctive and won’t get lost in the parking lot at your local Best Buy. The Volvo definitely looks older than the Jensen, but at the same time is a more timeless design. The Jensen is very 1970s with everything that implies, including big black rubber baby buggy bumpers. On the inside, the Jensen has a gauge package to make any pilot proud with no less than eight dials to tell the driver everything that’s going on – if they work. It also has the more “kit car” look and feel compared with the more finished styling of the Volvo with its sculped gauge pod, trim accents, and styling details. The Volvo also has typically excellent Volvo seats while this particular Jensen needs some upholstery work.

In terms of performance the Jensen is the car that’s going to make the best noise as it pushes the car from 0-60mph in about 8.5 seconds and a top speed of about 120mph. The Volvo’s more utilitarian SOHC B20F 125bhp motor (as found in several of its stablemates) took about a second longer to 60mph but topped-out at nearly the same 120mph. The Jensen is by far the rarity between these cars with just 509 produced compared with the P1800ES’s 8,077. Still, neither is a common sight these days. In any case, for someone looking for the unique combination of GT styling and fun with the practicality of a station wagon all wrapped in a classic shell, either of these could make a fine companion. For me it’s the Volvo. I like my cars to start.


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