Irv Gordon and his Volvo P1800

    Irv Gordon and his Volvo P1800. Josh Max©

    by: Josh Max | AOL Autos

    You’d think a guy with almost 2.8 million miles on his car would want to stay put for a minute. But Guinness Book of World Records holder Irv Gordon, a 70-year-old retired science teacher who bought his 1966 Volvo P1800 new, is aiming to roll his speedometer over to 3 million miles in the next three years. “I got a full tank,” he says, as I climb into the passenger seat of the small red coupe outside a diner in Medford, NY, “And we can go anywhere you want.”

    Not Ready For A Museum

    I settle into a well-worn seat groove and acclimate myself to the rolling museum surrounding me, including the dash-mounted pushbutton radio, a Smith magnetic gas gauge that waggles wildly back and forth, and an assortment of toggle switches and knobs. I reach behind my right shoulder for a seatbelt and grab a ... what is this hunk of gnarly canvas with a buckle at one end?

    “That’s the seatbelt,” Irv says. “It’s not retractable. You just squeeze the buckle and clamp it.” Irv fastens the belt for me, and we’re off. The ride’s smooth, the engine sounds healthy, and it’s a beautiful day except for the extreme summer heat.

    “Does this thing have air conditioning?” I ask.

    “Yea, the 465,” says Irv. “Four windows at 65 miles per hour.”

    Irv’s says he’s driven “just about every Interstate in the U.S. many times over,” as well as taking victory laps through Sweden, Holland, Germany and the U.K.

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    Mishaps Along The Way

    It hasn’t been a dent-free 44 years, either.

    “I’ve had my car backed into by a tractor-trailer and the nose crushed,” Irv says. “A lady in an Oldsmobile ran into the back of the car. I’ve had people who were trying to park take out my quarter panels. I even had school buses back into it on two different occasions. Nothing is forever. But that’s why they put paint in a can.”

    And why did Irv buy a Volvo, when, in the ’60s, Ford and Chevy were still the kings of the American motor market? Was it a process of careful search and selection to find a car he’d still be driving 44 years later? Was it luck? Or a bit of both?

    “I’ll tell you why,” he says. “I had two Chevys and both of them gave me nothing but trouble. The first one had electrical problems, they were never able to fix them, and GM wouldn’t stand behind the guarantee. The second one had serious engine problems. It broke rocker arms and push rods every few hundred miles. I couldn’t even drive the car. I was a brand new schoolteacher in 1962, I was driving 125 miles each way into Manhattan and back and I needed a car that wouldn’t break down.

    A foreign-car enthusiast friend listened to Irv’s tale of woe, and pointed him toward a local dealership.

    “I went to the Volvo dealer, took one of their models for a test drive and kept it out for three hours,” says Irv. “I just loved it, but I thought I couldn’t afford it. Then I saw the little red P1800, which, at $4,150, was just about a year’s salary for me. I traded in my Chevrolet, borrowed some money from my folks, bought the P1800 and disappeared. This was Friday. I didn’t come back until Monday, and I put 1,500 miles on the car that weekend.”

    Gas was 18 cents a gallon in 1966, says Irv, adding, “I remember being taken aback when it went up to a quarter.”

    Irv logged 500,000 miles over the next 10 years. Then 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. At the two million mark in 2002, he drove the P1800 through Times Square. In all the years Gordon’s been driving the P1800, the engine has been rebuilt just twice. Gordon leaves the big repairs to a mechanic but does the routine maintenance himself.

    “My tune-ups take less than five minutes,” he says. “I change the oil in my driveway, and do the brakes, too.” His P1800 has the original body, engine block, transmission and differential.

    Leader Of The Pack

    Irv’s long-haul story, though singularly impressive, is part of an increasing “keep your car” movement happening across the U.S. A recent survey conducted by Jiffy Lube reveals that more than half of U.S. drivers hope to have more than 150,000 miles on their vehicle before replacing it, and more than a quarter aspire to clock 250,000 miles or more. A Facebook page called “Keeping My Ride Alive” has racked up more than 1,200 members since its inception 2 months ago, with members sharing tips, photos, inspiration and exasperation.

    Mechanical engineer Roy Lindahl has been driving his white Jeep Cherokee since the day they drove off the lot together seventeen years ago. He and his vehicle, "Jeepy," recently reached a major milestone when the odometer hit 400,000 miles. Lindahl, of Lafayette, CA, credits regular preventive maintenance for ensuring his ride stays roadworthy.

    “I treat it like a family pet,” Lindahl says. “I make sure it’s clean, I wipe and wash it, open the hood and visually inspect it on a regular basis, make sure everything looks right. One thing I really believe is having clean oil and filters clean. I was an auto mechanic and I will never forget the sludge of some engines people brought in for repair. Rocker arms were squeaking because they were so dry. I saw the damage and it became my mission to keep my car properly lubricated.”

    Irv Gordon concurs on the value of proper oil and lube. “Maintaining a car over decades and millions of miles doesn’t just happen accidentally,” he says. “You’ve got to follow the factory service manual, replace worn or broken parts immediately and don’t let little issues become big issues. I have been extremely good to this car. I don’t even let anyone else drive it.”

    Today’s road test is but 20 miles at the most, but Irv’s enthusiasm is undaunted. After he reaches his ultimate goal of three million odometer miles, he says, “Who knows? I’d like to sell the car for a dollar per mile. One can only hope. I’m waiting for offers to be tendered. I’d like to retire in the fashion to which I will become accustomed.”

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    1 - 20 of 208 Comments
    tlongday Sep 21, 2010 9:53 AM
    Do the math according to Volvo it took 26 years to get the first 1million miles ( this is when he had a job) that's when they gave him a new car ( he drove this one 200K ) and has other cars as well I don't know how he can drive 2 car at the same time now this clown says he drove 2 million in 18 years he also says he went 2 million miles on the same brake rotors ( from an earlier interview) this fat guy is a joke
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    cincoventry Aug 26, 2010 10:12 PM
    Ummmm, I don't know about all you skeptics. Do the math. Driving 60 miles per hour. Three hours a day (Hour and a half there and back, as many Americans do). Subtract weekends (roughly 104 days in a year). Leaves you with 261 days of 180 miles per day. This equals 46980. Times 46 years. This equals 2161080. Now, lets say he retired after 30 years, and really loves to drive. Maybe he hit the road for 10 years. I used to put 1000 miles on my car driving home to NY up I-95 from Florida when I went on leave while in the Navy. 18 hour drive. Costly, ******* possible.
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    volareco Aug 26, 2010 2:21 AM
    What a REALLY flawed poll...geezzzz. AOL. I would bet if you had "Less than 100,000 miles" that it would have been the top answer! But not even giving the audience a choice for that???
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    maples01 Aug 26, 2010 1:59 AM
    I do not believe he has that many miles, even fairy dust won't keep parts from wearing out, they are speaking as if regular maint will achieve this, BTW the vehicles he mentioned ********** it do serious damage, and paint don't fix that. Those cars rolled over at 100,000 miles, who was there to certify all 28 times it's done so. I have some beach front property in east Tennessee I'd like to sell on here, it's a mild 72 degrees year round, and the house is green, made of recycled materials, leaves absolutely no carbon foot print, requires no utilities.
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    charleswgarrett Aug 26, 2010 12:50 AM
    2.8 million miles in 44 yrs requires over 60,000 miles/yr, or 167 mi/day (avg), -- less than 4 hrs/day of driving. Certainly possible if you have nothing better to do; there are commuters to D.C from West VA that do that every working day.
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    maranda1r Aug 26, 2010 12:47 AM
    Good for you Irv. I loved my '71 P1800e (new). I only put 150K on it
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    mike010249 Aug 25, 2010 11:44 PM
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    bluefish6 Aug 25, 2010 11:43 PM
    My math is exact. I was using metric seconds.
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    dab828 Aug 25, 2010 11:39 PM
    Bluefish6.. your math is wrong...... 166 miles a day is very reasonable considering he said he was driving 125 miles in each direction to work.
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    mike010249 Aug 25, 2010 11:35 PM
    bluefish6, your math sux. :) Try 0.002mi/second. Or 167mi/day on average. Which is still quite a challenge... but not beyond reason considering daily commutes and long weekend trips... or in his case, being retired for a while... long everyday trips.
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    philboxer Aug 25, 2010 11:33 PM
    Oil changes at 3000 miles are a total waste.. Today's oils are so much better than in the past. You can easily go 5 to 7 thousand miles between changes. By the way, if a Volvo dealership changed the oil every 3000 miles on a 3 million mile car, that would add up to about $50,000 dollars alone! Let's do some more math. If every American driver drove 60,000 miles a year, that would be about 120,000,000,000,000 total miles driven. Yes, that is 120 TRILLION miles. Total cost for gasoline, @20 MPG, 15 TRILLION dollars! Certainly something we should not strive for. By the way, do you all realize that there are 3600 oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico alone? Do you see why?
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    bluefish6 Aug 25, 2010 10:49 PM
    Let's do the math. 2,800,000 miles divided by 46 years divided by 365 days divided by 24 hours divided by 60 minutes divided by 60 seconds equals 2.4165898958542 miles per second. Assuming he had to stop at traffic lights and stop signs, I doubt he would be able to go 2.41658989585 miles each second.
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    jaguar6cy Aug 25, 2010 9:47 PM
    Irv drives 5,303 miles every month, over 60,000 miles every year, for 44 years? This article is a con. Don't believe it.
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    mjack82347 Aug 25, 2010 9:45 PM
    Well, it's nice to know people still believe in keeping the old and not just throwing it away for the new. 2.8 million miles is something that will probably never be broken in our lifetime. And 2 engine rebuilds over that time frame means he drove an average of 1.4 million before having any engine work performed. That's better than a lot of cars...shoot that's better than all cars. I wanted my 94 Saturn to hit a million. But she is still rolling at 330,000...only problem is the odometer stopped working...
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    buzzz52490 Aug 25, 2010 8:59 PM
    I bought a 1990 Volvo 940 Turbo Wagon. Hunk of Junk. Turbo blew and was $1800. They didn't want to cover it claiming I changed my oil every 5k as the Volvo manual specified . They said Turbo is every 3K but was not posted in the manual. Eventually they fixed it. More problems after that. Never again. Overpriced and under powered. I will stick with FORD and Chrysler.
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    brianbuster12 Aug 25, 2010 8:45 PM
    I agree with MIDVALTAXSER ,Keep your money.Do your homework and buy a used car.These dealerships and their deals are full of it.They do'nt have your best intrest at heart.I'm not saying pontiac or any other mfgr are bad on purpose,Only that labor disputes and so on are effecting they way we do things in this country.Stop thinking only of ourselves and start helping one another.DO THE WRIGHT THING and do'nt be greedy and selfish,PASS IT ON!!!!!!
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    micedwr5 Aug 25, 2010 8:44 PM
    again who wants to drive the same car for 46 years how goofy
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    mnjmike5 Aug 25, 2010 8:41 PM
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    mwcaptainamerica Aug 25, 2010 8:39 PM
    So the point or moral of this story is what? Buy and rebuild as you drive any hunk of junk, and drive it forever? This story makes no sense what-so-ever. The mileage reference for the car means nothing, as it has been rebuilt many times, except this fellow is the only one that has driven it when it was out of the shop. There is no story here, which is typical for AOL.
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    kwgreenthumb Aug 25, 2010 8:36 PM
    I think that is great! Not many people can say they had a car that long. A Volvo is one of the best made cars but I, myself, like the looks of the Ford Mustang. Keep it as long as you can. A well taken care of car can last a life time.
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    1 - 20 of 208 Comments
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