Me & My Car: We can rebuild her...
Search Driven for Volvo for sale
For Ben Stevens, Chief Executive of Risk Dynamics and founder of The Riskdashboard, the restoration his Volvo has been a labour of love and also provided inspiration for the start up he founded a year ago.
Tell us about your 1964 Volvo 1800.
It’s manual with overdrive. The colour is old Porsche silver, and it has single relay brakes. It has a city and country horn. And a purple light that glows when you kick it into overdrive.
What do you like about it?
I like the lines. I was working in Romania and came across one for sale on eBay in Germany. I flew there and fell in love with it, the design… but the steering wheel was on the wrong side. So, then I started looking for one to purchase and rebuild in the UK. Also, I like the jukebox style dashboard — which inspired the design (or the graphical user interface) of the software I have built.
How long did the restoration take?
About two years and it was a complete nut-and-bolt rebuild. I was living in Prague at the time and had someone in Doncaster pull it apart. I flew to Doncaster and spent about a month helping put it back together. It was in a million pieces (the shell had just been dipped).
It was fiddly. The rebuild went down to the wire; we were putting the rubber seals on the doors at 3am the day the 1800 was to be picked up. The reality is that really it’s a new car, racing suspension, gas flowed head, worked camshaft, it’s been lowered, has slightly wider feet and full leather interior.
I even sourced a period radio, fixed the clock and managed to find a central plastic console for it (there is no box for gloves). The cross members were even shock-blasted, and engine parts were painted in period Volvo colours etc. It was a big project and a lot of fun.
Who else drives your car?
My wife. It reminds her of a Fiat Panda she had in Germany.
Who taught you drive?
My father, and my first car was a 1972 Toyota Celica TA22 — a collector’s car even back then. I had it about two weeks before I drove into the rear of a mate’s car. I spent the next year taking books out of libraries, ordering parts from Japan, and rebuilding the engine (when I should have been studying for School C).
I remember wrapping the head of the engine up in a sheet, putting it in my school bag, and getting on a bus and taking it to Petone to have the head planed. The guys in the workshop couldn’t believe it.
Most memorable road trip in this car?
I’d been home about six months and drove it to the Coromandel. The engine blew up on the way home. There’s a stretch of road where there is a massive dip between Thames and Hikuai, and I remember looking at the gauges, as we were going down the steep section, and suddenly the temperature went from very high to very low, the oil pressure also dropped.
I realised that there was no way in hell the car would make it up the rise or home. So, we called a tow truck to pick us up. The engine was rebuilt a second time.
Anything else in your garage?
I have a Jeep Commander, which Jeremy Clarkson has referred to as a poor man’s Hummer. We also have a VW Jetta.
Is this your dream car?
I’m happy with the Volvo. I also know her well. Of course I sometimes look at other cars . . .
Favourite movie car scene?
Tom Hanks speeding through 1950s Berlin in a pearl white P1800s in the movie Bridge of Spies.
Favourite racing car driver?
Juha Kankkunen. The Finns are lethal on skis, with Koskenkorva Salmiaki, and as rally drivers. Phones not so much anymore.
Great day trip out of Auckland?
Piha, pizza and a beer. The roads out west/ Titirangi are just spectacular.
Other drivers, what irritates you most?
Tailgaters. Or people who brake suddenly.
Driving this car, can you imagine one day being in and enjoying a driverless car?
The Germans have a word, one word (fahrvergnuegen) that translates to driving pleasure. There will be driverless cars, but fewer people will own cars as the marginal cost of “ubering” versus owning a car approaches zero. In the future, driving your own car will be a bit like owning a vinyl record player.