Vintage vehicles, Automotive history and stories from motoring's past. 

How to make your car last long from the world expert

Irv Gordon's secrets to making his car last three million miles

It's a funny thing about Irv Gordon. He never set out to set a world's record, appear on multiple TV shows, become famous and travel the world. He just liked driving his Volvo. A lot. So much so that The Guinness Book of World's Records has awarded that three million miles is the highest number ever accrued on a single car. Having reached 70 years of age, Gordon hopes to pile on many more miles in the years to come. “Three million miles by my 73rd birthday sounded right,” he said.

Gordon's P1800 is not a stunt car that's been rebuilt several times. It's the very same car the New York history teacher bought new in 1966 after carefully researching the market and test-driving it for four hours. It’s still got its original engine, transmission, and body after having spent its entire life outdoors, without a garage or even a car cover, just a couple blocks from thecorrosive sea air of New York City, a locale not known for its kindness towards cars.

Gordon commuted in his P-1800 for 35 years on the Long Island Expressway, year around, through good weather and bad. It's never broken down and left him stranded. His secret? Simple maintenance. He follows the owner's manual recommendations, drives gently, respects the car, and keeps it clean, inside outside, and underneath.

Volvo presented Gordon a new car when he reached a million miles and another at the two million mile mark. Invited to the S.E.M.A. show each year in Las Vegas, he drives the Volvo there. He's traveled with his car to five European countries, all over the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Australia, paid for by organizations eager to show his Volvo. He's met thousands of people he otherwise wouldn't have, many of whom have become friends. Gordon and his wife have divorced, he says, "but my car seems to still love me."

Irv Gordon sums up the impact owning his classic Volvo has had on his life, "The car has given me a new meaning to the word “retirement.” If I were to sell the car, I wouldn’t get invited to anything fun or anyplace interesting any longer. No one would want to see me. After all, the car does all the work and I just go along for the ride.”

Tech details of Irv Gordon’s routine

The engine gets regular oil changes,  every 3,000-3,500 miles. Clean oil seems to be the key to longevity and is a lot cheaper than an engine replacement. I have made it a point to be meticulous about such things since the car was new. The points get replaced every 20-25,000 miles along with the spark plugs.

Fuel filters and air filters are replaced as necessary as are belts and hoses. Replacing the fuel pump (mechanical) every million miles or so is no big deal … nor is rebuilding the carburetor (two SUs) throttle bushings every 900,000 miles or so. I change the (manual) transmission fluid every 25,000 miles (as per the owner’s manual) and use multi-weight gear oil. The engine was only apart once … for a complete rebuild at my insistence when it had 680,000 miles.

Thanks to Jim Cherry for this article