Divine Scandi inspiration leads Cyan Racing into P1800 resurrection
As the motor racing arm of the Chinese Geely Corporation, Cyan’s Gothenburg (Sweden) base allows it to display greater free thinking than might apply to either Volvo, or Polestar, reports Iain Robertson, and reviving ‘The Saint’s’ P1800 is much more than a one-off.
It is hard to believe but the effortlessly stylish Volvo P1800 coupe was launched in 1960, a year prior to the Jaguar E-Type, two years before the Ferrari 250GTO and no less than three years prior to the iconic Porsche 911. A key acting role for the sometime ‘James Bond 007’, Sir Roger Moore, following his pre-knighthood debut as ‘Ivanhoe’, was to assume the mantle of a suave private detective, known as ‘The Saint’, complete with a Volvo P1800 that, as with most ‘star cars’, would gain as much notoriety and fame as the character.
Sharing its running gear with the rare but much-admired Volvo 122S (a.k.a. Amazon), it was more of a close-coupled touring machine than outright sportscar but was built, as most Volvos have been, to last. Styled by Pelle Petterson at Italy’s Frua design house, its hockey-stick side graphics and distinctively minimalist greenhouse would be revisited in the most recent V40 model. The early models (1961-62) were built by Jensen Motors, in West Bromwich. Power came originally from a decidedly ordinary 1.8-litre twin-carburettor petrol four-cylinder unit, later bored out to 2.0-litre capacity, with fuel injection.
Christian Dahl, founder and CEO of Cyan Racing (est. 1996), felt so inspired by the subjectively pretty coupe that he wanted to express how a ‘continuation’ model might look, were his team preparing and racing Volvo cars in the 1960s. The result is what you see here and I cannot help but feel that it is an achingly lovely reiteration, albeit as far removed from the original car as a replica can be. However, it is an ambitious celebration, as Cyan Racing intends to make as many examples as potential, enthusiastic buyers can afford…and there is no word on pricing, as yet.
Of course, vehicle build, engineering and aerodynamic standards have all moved on considerably in the past 60 years but the Cyan Racing team was determined to keep the final product as close to the original as feasible. Thus, the refinements, of which there are many, are treated as delicately as possible. Intriguingly, for a Chinese-related company, which is far more concerned with electrification than a conventional powertrain, the P1800 Cyan is much more than mere spiritual successor. As a racing team, it was determined to reinforce the connection between driver and tarmacadam, to ensure that nothing would be lost in the pursuit of perfect dynamic balance; as such, no stone was left unturned in the desired engineering purity of the project.
Powering the P1800 Cyan is a turbo-petrol 2.0-litre, 16v, four-cylinder based on the firm’s Championship winning experience in the prestigious World Touring Cars series. An in-line installation, it drives the rear axle. Developing 420bhp at a racy 7,000rpm (the rev-limiter kicks in at 7,700rpm), its power characteristics are not for the feint of heart, as the maximum torque (335lbs ft) is developed at a heady 6,000rpm, which highlights the ‘lumpiness’ of its twin overhead camshafts and a need for engine revs to keep it on the boil.
The power unit drives through a Hollinger 5-speed, straight-cut, dog-leg manual gearbox, a carbon-fibre propshaft driving the Hollinger encased, limited-slip differential. The original P1800’s live rear axle has been replaced by a multi-link set developed by the team. In fact, with aluminium uprights, double wishbones and adjustable Ohlins dampers on each corner, the repurposed chassis relies on the grip provided by its Pirelli P Zero tyres (235/40 front and 265/35 rear, mounted on 18.0-inch diameter forged and centre-lock alloy wheels). The steel brake discs feature four-pot callipers but neither booster, nor ABS antilock, all with the purpose of increasing uncorrupted ‘feel’ to the driver. Steering is by power assisted rack-and-pinion.
Although tipping the scales at a measly 990kgs, a substantial amount of weight-saving effort has been invested in the car’s bodywork. Although the core of the vehicle is a 1964 P1800 model, a blend of high-strength steel and carbon-fibre panels ensures that body flex, which was a major problem in the 1960s, is all but eradicated for the Cyan version. The upper section of the bodywork has actually been relocated slightly to create finer balance, not just visually but also dynamically. In fact, the body panels, which are made largely of the lightweight moulded material, are glued to the significantly strengthened steel platform of the car, in a manner familiar to owners of Lotus sportscars of the past 25 years (which use a bonded aluminium substructure) and several alloy-panelled Jaguar Land-Rover models.
The resultant handling and roadholding, while accepting the inevitable compromises inherent to developing a car intended for driving on public roads (and, probably, weekend racetracks), are as close to pure as they can be. Its top speed is adjustable-gearing dependent but is also in excess of 175mph, despatching the 0-60mph sprint in a cool 3.5s.
Thed Bjork was responsible for the drivetrain development and stated: “We are really satisfied with the level of grip and precision that we have achieved from the chassis, in combination with the car’s bespoke and highly responsive steering. It goes where it is pointed. The driver can be brutal entering a corner but still find its apex and depart it, with millimetric precision. The settings of the car are not aimed at fast lap times but rather the delivery of an enjoyable and exciting driving experience. I feel my smile widening each time that I control the drift angle of the car through a long turn!”
Conclusion: Despite rumours of an electrified replica, Cyan Racing has relied on traditional performance qualities, brought suitably bang up to date, in its P1800 Cyan. That it intends to sell versions to interested parties demonstrates that it understands automotive enthusiasm to pinnacle levels (cyanracing.com).