Irv Gordon, who bought a new Volvo P1800S in 1966 and drove it to , has died. He was 77.
Gordon didn't set out to become a Guinness world record holder. —when his Volvo showed just 2.8 million miles—he simply wanted a reliable ride after having bad luck with a brand-new Corvair. "I liked the way the car looked and the way it rode, but it broke down four blocks from the showroom the night I bought it," he said of the Chevy.
In June of 1966, Gordon walked into Volvoville of Huntington, New York, and test-drove a P1800S. He loved it, even if the $4150 sticker price represented nearly a full year's salary for the high school science teacher. "I borrowed money from my Dad, traded in my Corvair and I bought a new car," . "That was on a Wednesday. That Friday night I picked the car up and I've had it ever since."
At first, Gordon was happy to simply drive his car, a lot—his daily commute was 125 miles, and he loved a road trip. It wasn't until his car hit 250,000 miles that Gordon's quest for maximum mileage began. "I wrote to Volvo," . "I had never had a single repair on the car. Maintenance, yes, but I never had to have a water pump removed or anything like that. They wrote me back with a very short letter that said, 'We’re happy you’re happy with the product, don’t forget to buckle up.'"
He wrote another letter at 500,000 miles. At the million-mile mark, Volvo gave Gordon a brand-new 780 coupe, which he drove for 450,000 miles and sold.
At 1.69 million miles, in 1998, Gordon set his first Guinness World Record, for "highest certified mileage driven by the original owner in non-commercial service." He hit two million in 2002. Over the years, he rebuilt the engine twice. The first time was at 680,000 miles—the dealer said the car didn't need it, but Gordon insisted. "Like they said, there was nothing wrong," Gordon told Wired. "I learned my lesson." The second rebuild, in 2009, came after Gordon had some trouble getting the car up the steep grades of the Rocky Mountains. And there were some body repairs, after a car hauler crunched Gordon's Volvo while shipping it to SEMA. Ever since then, Gordon insisted on driving the car himself, no matter where it was set to appear.
The three-million-mile mark came , near Girdwood, Alaska. Yes, Gordon was still road-tripping. The most recent mileage update to Gordon's Facebook page was .
Irv Gordon's fine taste in cars, his dedication to doing maintenance yourself, and his love of the open road embodied everything we car enthusiasts stand for. We extend our condolences to his family, friends and fans worldwide.