Big Wheels Keep on Turnin’

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Irv Gordon breaks a world record every time he gets behind the wheel of his 1966 Volvo P1800. The 67-year-old retired teacher has clocked more than 2 million miles (2,593,831 as of this writing) on the car…and he’s still driving it. He’s got the Guinness world record for “most miles driven by a single owner in a non-commercial vehicle” and, as one might imagine, a major case of the travel bug. “Some people watch the Travel Channel.

Then there’s the rest of us,” says Gordon. “I’d rather be there and see it in person.”

Gordon pulled over to talk to us on Interstate 70, while on his way to Las Vegas for an auto trade show.  We asked him what drives him to, um, keep driving, and for some of his favorite stops along the way:

Gordon’s not the type to go to art museums, but the Devil’s Rope Museum

in McLean, Texas, is right up his alley. An ode to that sharpest of American inventions, barbed wire, it used to be a brassiere factory in the 1940s, he says. Best of all, it’s free.

The tiny town of Gothenburg, the “Pony Express Capital of Nebraska,” is worth a stop for its station museum.

The Henry Ford Museum is another favorite, good for road trippers from Chicago. It’s actually in Dearborn, Michigan, nearly 300 miles east, but with Gordon’s internal gauge, anything within a few hundred miles is certainly worth a side trip, he says. (We’re sure Ford would be proud).

To that end, he’s also not overly concerned with making an itinerary. Once, traveling east on Interstate 80 in Nebraska, Gordon started seeing signs for John Wayne’s birthplace in Winterset, Iowa. When he got there, he realized he could also see the famed bridges of Madison County —”two birds with one stone.” He was on his way out when he stopped at a pig farm and got a personal tour from the farmer.

Irv at a Glance:

  • Average gas mileage: 25-30 miles per gallon
  • Favorite roadside meal: A huge steak at this place called Zeno’s in Rolla, Missouri.
  • Number of accidents driving the Volvo: 0 (a few cars have hit him when he’s been parked)
  • Favorite highway: Interstate 40 (Route 66)
  • Marital Status: Divorced; His wife became a travel agent and started to prefer flying, he says.

  • Hobbies: Need you ask? “I belong to most of the Volvo clubs in the country.”
  • Car maintenance ritual: Nothing fancy. Irv sticks to the guidelines of the original manual that came with the car: check tire pressure regularly, oil change every 3,500 miles, regular spark plug maintenance…
  • Personal fuel: Waffle House coffee. He used to drink about 12 cups a day before recently switching to a modest five to six cups of decaf.
  • Driving music: Original A.M. radio, whistling country tunes, occasionally classical and pop
  • Number of hitchhikers picked up: 0
  • Average speed: 60-65 miles per hour. “I don’t speed”
  • Road trip advice: Don’t set rigid goals about mileage per day or where you’re going; “You’ll ruin the trip.”

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  3. Joe Maas
    November 2, 2007, 12:45 pm

    I have a 73 VW Super Bug I purchased new in 6/73. But I can’t compete with the “Volvo Man” as I have piddling 300K on “Lightning Bug” [name of my car]!
    Good article written in excellent fashion!