Meet the Man Who Has (Almost) 3 Million Miles on His Volvo

This 1966 Volvo 1800S is expected to cross the 3-million mile mark next September in Alaska. (Photo: Volvo).

Every time he drives, Irv Gordon sets a world record for most miles traveled in a car. He had few competitors when he hit 2 million miles in his two-seater 1966 Volvo 1800S, and nobody’s even close now that’s he’s on the brink of 3 million. That milestone is set to be crossed this fall in Alaska.

Right now, the Volvo, bought from famed Long Island dealer Volvoville (maker of the only 1,800 convertibles) when Irv was a science teacher with a long commute, has 2,998,319 miles on it. Irv is just back from a 4,000-mile run in the car, including Canada, Missouri, and all points between. On that trip, the car was also rear-ended for the second time in six months — it’s nothing if not a survivor.

The 1800S is only on its second rebuild. The first was at 680,000 miles (but it didn’t really need it) and the second at 2 million. Something else that’s been repeatedly rebuilt, by Nisonger up in New Rochelle, N.Y., is the speedometer. A notoriously unreliable British-built Smiths gauge, it freaks out every 100,000 miles or so. “There were thousands of miles I never got credit for because the speedo was broken,” Irv said. If that’s true, the Volvo’s already covered 3 million miles. Let me add here that I own a '67 Volvo 122S wagon that is mechanically identical to Irv's car. Mine is a Euro car with a kilometer speedometer, but I estimate it around 100,000 miles, a mere baby.

Irv Gordon and his Volvo

Irv is grousing a bit about having to go to Alaska, a location dictated by Volvo (which is heavily involved in the 3 million-mile event, setting up websites and sending out glossy press kits). The company also sponsored the 2 million-mile event, which took place in Times Square in 2002, with Jon Stewart as emcee. “He was doing his standup comedy routine while people were waiting for the car to show up,” Irv said.

“Why couldn’t we go to Hawaii [the other state he’s never been to] instead of Alaska?” Irv wants to know. “Blue skies and palm trees.” Irv is actually thinking of selling the car after it achieves its milestone odometer roll— anybody got $1 a mile, making it a very expensive Volvo indeed? But he realizes a) he probably won’t get that much; and b) that if he did sell it, the press would stop calling. “Without the car, I’m nothing,” he said. Just a retired guy with a nice story to tell.

Dashboard of Irv Gordon's Volvo

You can follow the run up to 3 million miles here. Irv Gordon’s tips for achieving 3 million miles on your car:

  • Start with a car you like. After all, you’re going to be spending 60,000 hours driving it.
  • Change your oil and filter a lot. It’s the single best thing you can do for long engine health.
  • Use factory parts. With cheap Asian knockoffs, you get what you pay for.
  • Check under the hood regularly. Look for frayed belts and check fluid levels (harder to do in new cars than in open books like Irv’s Volvo).
  • Wash and wax regularly. Road salt is a killer, particularly of older cars.
  • Find a good mechanic and stick with him/her. If you’re in driving range of Maier’s Garage in Bridgeport, Conn., sign up for life.

Gordon is convinced that the 1800S would make it to 4 million miles. "There are no weak spots on the body, and the suspension is still strong," he said. "I may not be able to do it, but the car will."

Volvo has got a lot of angles on this three million mile thing, as you can see in this video, which equates that old campaigner with the company's new breed of cars: