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Sweedish Iron

I’ve always been a bit of a Volvophile and have a thing for underpowered skinny-tired European sports cars. So I jumped at the opportunity to pick up a reasonable-priced Volvo 1800S

The 1800S is part of a sporty Volvo family that debuted in the early ‘60s. Jensen of England made the original bodies, but Volvo started manufacturing them in the late ‘60s after numerous quality-control problems. Mine has a Swedish body but many British parts remain, such as the unique Smiths guages…

..and the SU carbs. No, I’m not vintage sport-tuning…those are reproductions of the original air cleaners.

SU was short for SSU, or Sausage Skinners Union. Yes, these babies were designed by British pork butchers. I am going to ask Bondé and Ken if I can still drive the car if I go vegetarian. The big “pots” contain an oil-dampened piston that regulates the flow of air and fuel into the engine (the little black cap on top is where you put the oil). The float bowl is the smaller cylinder next to the pot. Fuel flows from the bowl to the jet through a small hose underneath and simply uses gravity. As air increases in velocity through the carb, the piston rises and allows more fuel (and air) to pass. SUs are a great example of simple, elegant ingenuity. However, one needs to be sure to only pull the choke just before cranking over a cold engine. An SU choke just drops the needle down below the level of the fuel in the float chamber, allowing a puddle of raw gasoline to form on the bottom of the carb that will hopefully be pulled immediately into the engine and not drip down on a hot exhaust manifold.

This particular Volvo has every dealer option that was available in 1968, including air conditioning and vacuum-assisted brakes. The drawback of these luxuries is that the plumbing makes doing any work on the distributor a Houdini-like exercise.

Posted by on November 19, 2006