August 2010 - If you go to a drive-in movie with Irv Gordon, you won't be eating popcorn. On July 15, Gordon turned 70 years old and made a pledge to drive his 1966 Volvo P1800 until it hits the 3-million-mile mark. The car currently has about 2.8 million miles on it, and neither Gordon nor the car show any signs of stopping.
Gordon says in 1966, he had no idea how much this car would change his life. "In 1998 with 1.69 million miles, he made the 'Guinness Book of World Records' for most miles driven by a single owner in a non-commercial vehicle. ... In 2002, he drove the car's two-millionth mile down to Times Square to national and international media attention," according to a press release.
Before test-driving the red Volvo in 1966, Gordon had never heard of a Volvo before. "In those days, the salesmen used to just hand you the keys to the cars and just say, 'Listen, go take it for a test drive and when you get through, come back and we'll talk about it.'" Gordon says. "So I went out for a three-hour drive. And I wouldn't have brought it back then, but I was almost out of gas."
At the time, Gordon was a new schoolteacher, and had just bought two Chevrolets that broke down often. "The car was $4,150 total. And in 1966, I made $4,200. So I had to borrow money from my dad," he says. After purchasing it, Gordon made the 125-mile round trip to work everyday to Roslyn, Long Island, N.Y., where he worked as a science teacher.
On the road again
"The thing about the car is it gives me an excuse to go places. I get invited to go interesting places that I would never normally think to go," says Gordon. He recently returned from Paris where Volvo was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the P1800. "The [Volvo 1800-120 Club Australia] and Volvo France were having a big celebration," he says. "It was just a phenomenal affair."
Although Gordon would never dream of allowing fast food into his car, the maintenance required in tending to a car goes beyond avoiding a spill on its interior. "When a lot of people buy a car, they really never spend much time investigating the car. They buy a car just because it's a car." For Gordon, it's about following the manufacturer's advice.
"When I bought the car, I read the owner's manual. I follow the manufacturer's recommendations for service. I figure they're the guys that built the car. They're the ones who designed it. They're the ones who know what should be done and when," he says. He doesn't understand how people can buy something for $50,000 and trash it. He believes if car owners don't treat vehicles with respect, they can't blame them for breaking down later on.
"In the last 44 years, it's never failed to get me where I want to go. Every trip has been trouble-free." He admits to having to change the fuel pump and generator twice along with replacing the windshield and brushes a few times. He fixes all these things himself. Other than that, it's been a steady road.
As for future travel plans, Gordon has his sights set on the Australian coast having previously driven through the Outback. "I drove in the oldest Volvo in Australia. That was a real treat," he says. Gordon's not sure what he'll do with the car after reaching 3 million miles, though he's open to purchase offers. "A dollar a mile sounds like a fair price," he says. Otherwise, the car might end up at Volvo Museum in Goteborg, Sweden.
Ultimately, Gordon is enjoying meeting other auto enthusiasts from around the world. "There's good people and bad people everywhere, but the car culture just seems to be terrific--You own a Volvo? I own a Volvo. Oh, we'll be best friends." MM