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I’ve never heard a meet-cute couple story that made me smile like Irving “Irv” Gordon and his Volvo P1800S. In 1966, the 25-year-old Long Island native had never even heard of a Volvo. But one Friday, a friend showed him an ad in Car and Driver magazine for the sporty P1800S coupe, and Gordon liked the look of it.

Gordon stopped by the nearest Volvo dealership and they threw him the keys to a bright red 1966. Perhaps they shouldn’t have trusted the kid to test drive all by himself. But they did. And once Gordon slid into the driver’s seat, all he wanted to do was go. He didn’t just drive around the block. Or around town. He drove for three hours. He drove until the Volvo was nearly out of gas. He said, “I loved it…the only reason I came back was I didn’t have a key for the gas door.”

The list price of a 1966 Volvo P1800S was $3,695. Even though Volvo bragged it drove like a “$10,000 car,” that was still a lot of money in those days. And Irv Gordon was just starting out his career as a high school science teacher. But he was smitten. So when his father got home from work they returned to the dealership and bought it.

Red Volvo coupe parked in front of a sunset.
Irving Gordon’s 1966 Volvo 1800s | Volvo

The next Monday, Irv Gordon was at the dealership again. Why? For his 1,500 mile checkup. He had spent the entire weekend driving his new car. And if you think he was going to slow down after the first feels died away, you’ve got another thing coming.

For 35 years, Gordon commuted 125 miles every day. He is an avid skier. So all winter, he’d test out his Volvo’s northern roots, taking it through the snow and to the mountain. But once Gordon tasted the joy of driving his 1800S, he never again needed an excuse to go for a drive. Even a long one.

“Everybody needs a hobby; I like to drive. I would drive to Montreal for dinner, turn around, and come back. If I felt like seafood, I go to Maryland for crab cake or whatever else, you know. So miles just keep adding up.”

Irv Gordon

Next thing Gordon knew, he went into New York City for dinner at Tavern On The Green and broke one million miles. That number put Gordon and his Volvo in a very small club of ultra high-milers. But he didn’t stop there. At 1.69 million miles, Irv broke the Guinness World Record for highest mileage private vehicle. At that point, Volvo called Gordon.

The automaker must have hoped Irv Gordon would make it to the mythic 2 million mile mark. And as the day approached in 2002, it hosted an event in Times Square. Gordon good-naturedly drove across the finish line as his car broke 2 million miles. But he was far from done.

Irving Gordon stands next to his red 1966 Volvo P1800s with his fist in the air
Irv Gordon’s 1966 Volvo P1800 in Times Square 2002 | Mario Tama via Getty Images

After 2 million miles, Castrol motor oil enlisted Gordon’s help as a celebrity sponsor. He even filmed a commercial. At 2.85 million miles he blew past the record for any car anywhere, set by a Greek taxi driver’s Mercedes-Benz 240D. How did Gordon celebrate? By starting to plan a trip to the west coast…of Alaska.

Irv Gordon’s Volvo P1800S broke 3 million miles in Anchorage, Alaska. That’s one epic way to cement the world record. Volvo even transported Gordon–and his car–to Sweden so they could tour the homeland. And of course once there, Gordon took the chance to drive all over Europe. Gordon said, “I’ve just had such a great time, all because I bought this car.”

Irving Gordon stands next to his Guinness World Record holding Volvo P1800s
Irv Gordon and 1966 Volvo P1800s | Getty Images

In an interview, Gordon joked his car would outlast him. He died in 2018. His obituary might have read “77 years old.” But his friends knew the real number Gordon would have bragged about was his 3.2 million miles. That comes out to about 60,000 miles for every year he owned his Volvo.

So what was Gordon’s secret? Well like a good science teacher, he read the textbook. In this case, it was the Owner’s Manual. He religiously changed his oil between 3,000 and 3,500 miles. And he swapped out his transmission fluid every 25,000 miles. I would add that Gordon was also a very good driver and never reckless. He claims he never had to pull a U-turn and once made a clutch last for 445,000 miles.

Next, read about the Mercedes 240D that came in second place, or see an old interview with the undisputed roadtrip champ in the video below: