The Guide to the Volvo B18 Engine. The Volvo B18 engine will be remembered as one of the most renowned engines of all time. Volvo produced the B18, a 1.8 liter inline-four, throughout the 1960s and used it in a range of their vehicles. The B18 Volvo is the greatest mileage engine in global history, with Irv Gordon’s 3+ million mile B18 holding the Guinness global Record.
While younger gearheads and auto enthusiasts may be unfamiliar with the Volvo B18 engine, it is an excellent motor. The engine hasn’t been produced by Volvo since the 1960s, yet there are still a surprising number of them on the road today. The B18 was not only used in cars by Volvo, but it was also used in military vehicles and naval uses.
Volvo eventually replaced the B18 with the bored-out B20 in 1969. The manual will go over the Volvo B18 engine’s characteristics, history, design, dependability, and performance.
Technical Specifications for the Volvo B18
Volvo B18A, B, and D engines were used in the following vehicles:
- Volvo 120 Series (Amazon) 1962-1968 (including 123GT)
- P1800/S Volvo 1962-1968
- Volvo P210 Duett 1962-1968
- Volvo PV544 model years 1962-1965
- 1963–1964 Facel III Vega Facel
- Facel Vega Facellia (replacement for B16) 1963-1964
- 1964–1965 GT Marcos
- Volvo 140 Series, 1966-1968
The Volvo B18C was also used in the following non-automotive vehicles:
- Volvo Laplander L3315 (Military Communications and Command Vehicle) 1962-1968
- Volvo Laplander L3314 (Military Utility Vehicle) 1962-1968
- Volvo Laplander L3304 (9031) (Anti-Tank Military Vehicle) 1963-1968
- Volvo T320 Buster (Tractor) 1963-1964
- Volvo Bandvagn 202/203 (Mk. I) (All-Terrain Military Vehicle) 1964-1968
- Swedish Reconnaissance Radar System PS-15
Volvo B18 Engine History
The First Volvo B-Series
The B18 engine was introduced by Volvo in 1961 and was produced through the 1968 model year. The earliest B-series engine was the B4B, which Volvo began building in 1944 during WWII. The B4B was a 1.4 L pushrod inline-four with a single carburetor. There was also a B14 version with two carburetors. Volvo bored the B4B/B14 to 1.6 L in 1956, resulting in the B16 for 1957.
The B4B powered the first Volvo PV444, and the B16 powered its replacement, the PV544. In the late 1950s, Volvo installed both the B14 and B16 engines in early P1900 Roadsters. Depending on the year and model, the B14/B16 was only rated at 50-70 horsepower.
From the Volvo B16 to the Volvo B18
Volvo bored out the B series once again in 1961, producing the 1.8 L B18 engine for the 1962 model year. The B18 was linked to the B16 and B14, but it had more upgrades and could produce more horsepower. Like the B4B/B14, it was available with a single or dual carburetor.
Volvo eventually released four versions of the B18 A-D engine. The B18C was the only one of the three that was primarily employed in non-car applications. After previously utilizing the B14/B16, the Swedish military began using the B18C in 1962. In the 1960s, Volvo also used the B18C in a variety of tractors, including the T320 Buster.
Furthermore, high-performance manufacturers Marcos and Facel used the B18B/D in a few of their vehicles. Facel used the B18 in the Facel III as well as as a substitute for the B16 in the Facellia, which was renowned for failing. From 1964 to 1965, Marcos employed the B18D in their 1800GT, which produced roughly 115 horsepower.
The B18 Volvo was discontinued in 1968, and the larger B20 was developed to replace it. The B18 is still in use today, despite the fact that it has been out of production for nearly five decades. Vintage B18-powered Volvos and Marcos can still be found on the road, albeit they are becoming increasingly scarce.
Military Applications for the Volvo B18
As previously stated, the Swedish military began using the B18 in diverse purposes in 1962. The Volvo Laplander L3315, L3314, and L3304 were the most visible. It was also featured in the Bandvagn 202. The engines produced roughly 80 horsepower and were chosen for their dependability. A variation of the B18 is also used by the Swedish air force on their PS-15 reconnaissance radar system.
Basics of B18 Volvo Engine Design
The Volvo B18 engine is a 1.8-liter inline-four. It has an overhead valve (OHV) valve train with a single cam-in-block camshaft and two valves per cylinder for a total of eight valves. The addition of two primary bearings for the crankshaft, for a total of five, distinguishes the B18 from its B16 predecessor. For the first time, the B18 received a 12 volt electrical system, a technology Volvo would incorporate into subsequent engines.
The B18 was available with either a single or double carburetor, with either S.U. or Zenith/Stromberg carbs. The engine was available in four variants: B18A, B18B, B18C, and B18D. The firing order was 1-3-4-2 anti-clockwise on all engines, and the oil volume was 3.75 l.
The oil filter was full-flowing and positioned on the right side of the block, and all cranks were drop forged. Steel valves with chrome heads were used, and the intake manifold had separate intake and exhaust ports. The B18 was capable of exceedingly high revs, reaching up to 7,800 RPM. All internals on the B18s and the larger B20 are interchangeable.
The Volvo B18A
The B18A was mostly used in the 120 Series, where it was equipped with a single Zenith/Stromberg carburetor and produced 75-85 horsepower and 101-108 lb-ft of torque. From 1962 to 1964, compression was 8.5:1, and from 1965 to 1968, it was increased to 8.7:1.
The Volvo B18B
Beginning in 1966, Volvo used the B18B in the 120 Series, including the 123GT. It has the highest power output of the B18 series, producing 100-115 hp and 108-112 lb-ft of torque. Compression is stronger on the B18B than on the B18A to boost output, at 9.5:1 from 1961 to 1963 and 10.0:1 from 1964 to 1968. The B18B has twin S.U. HS6 carburetors.
The Volvo B18C
Volvo primarily employed the B18C for military and agricultural purposes. The agricultural versions, such as those used in tractors, produced approximately 40 horsepower. Military variants, such as those seen in the L3314 or Bandvagn 202, produced closer to 80 horsepower.
The Volvo B18D
In terms of performance, the B18D was somewhere between the A and B, producing 90-100 horsepower and 105-08 lb-ft of torque. It’s a low compression B18B that was also used in the 120 Series. Between 1961 and 1963, the B18D’s compression ratio fluctuated from 8.5:1 to 8.7:1 between 1964 and 1967. Volvo employed the same twin S.U. carburetor configuration as the B18B.
Volvo B18 Dependability
If there is one word to describe the Volvo B18 engine, it is dependable. Granted, we say that about a lot of engines, but few can back up that claim like the B18. Volvo engineers drove the engine at full speed for 500 hours nonstop while it was still in production as part of their painful wear testing.
As a result, they developed an engine capable of covering absurdly long distances. It’s fairly uncommon for these engines to go well beyond 200,000-300,000 miles, and few have gone over 600,000 miles with only minor rebuilds. Given that this was the 1960s, when 100,000 miles out of an engine was regarded extraordinary, the B18 Volvo truly astounded many with its incredible lifespan.
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Volvo B18 Engine with 3 Million Miles
As previously stated, the Volvo B18 has the distinction of being the greatest mileage engine in history. Irv Gordon bought a Volvo P1800S with a B18 engine in 1966. He drove it an amazing 3,039,122 miles over the next 58 years. You did not misread 3 million miles.
Gordon had reportedly put more than 3.25 million miles on the engine by 2018, and it had only been overhauled twice in its lifetime. Gordon has now gone away, but the engine is STILL running and is occasionally driven about by his friends and relatives.
Volvo B18 Performance and Modifications
The B18 produced 75-115 horsepower and 100-112 lb-ft of torque out of the factory. While that may not seem like much today, the cars they were powering weighed only 2,500 pounds. They had good acceleration and top speeds of almost 120 miles per hour.
The B18 has been a popular racing engine since its introduction. It was utilized in high-performance vehicles such as the Facel III and Marcos 1800 GT, earning it a great reputation for performance. Volvo introduced a street tuning kit for the B18 that increased horsepower to 135 and torque to 125 lb-ft. It primarily required increasing compression, using B18B manifolds and cams, and installing new carburetors.
Gunnar Axelsson, the engine designer, designed a dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) version of the B18 in 1971. This new twin-cam system increased horsepower to 190-225. It is simple to install on all B18 engines and provides a significant power boost.
There are a variety of approaches you can take if you want to modify your B18. A freer flowing exhaust system is a good bolt-on addition. You need also make certain that you are utilizing the B18B distributor. Upgrading to the B20E cylinder head will increase power, and the B20D or F cam will improve performance.
From there, you’ll need to start the engine in order to accomplish anything else. Porting and cleaning the valves and head has resulted in significant gains, and upgrading to a larger carburetor is an excellent approach to add more air and fuel.
Volvo Legacy B18
The B18 engine is one of the best engines Volvo has ever produced. It was in production from 1961 to 1968 and powered some of the most famous vintage coupes, sedans, and wagons. The formidable inline-four might not have looked like much, but it could go for miles and miles without breaking down.
It was used in both high-performance automobiles, such as the Marcos 1800 GT and Facel III, and military vehicles, such as the Laplander L3314. Farmers used the B18 on their tractors, and many boaters had the 1.8 L engines strapped to their backs.
Hopefully, the spirit of the B18 Volvo, like the engines themselves, will live on. Despite being out of official production for more than five decades, they continue to have a strong enthusiast community and reputation. Here’s to the big Volvo B18, a legendary inline-four.