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Irv Gordon dies; LIer who gained fame for his 3 million-mile Volvo was 78

Irv Gordon, of East Patchogue, with his 1966

Irv Gordon, of East Patchogue, with his 1966 Volvo P1800 in Bellport in 2010. Credit: Newsday /Audrey C. Tiernan

Irv Gordon, a lifelong East Patchogue resident who set world records and traveled more than 3 million miles behind the wheel of his cherry-red 1966 Volvo, has died.

Gordon traversed the country and the world in his Volvo P1800, which became a part of him and gave him a unique outlet to travel and make friends, his daughter Danielle Gordon said.

“He was a person who needed to be free and who needed to just be out on the road,” said Gordon, 41.

Irv Gordon collapsed Thursday while traveling in a remote, mountainous region of China for promotional work with Volvo Cars, Danielle Gordon said. He is believed to have died of a heart attack just hours after messaging his daughter that he was “having one of the best times of his life.” He was 78.

Irvin Gordon was born in July 1940 to Henry and Emma Gordon. He graduated from a Massachusetts college, which Danielle Gordon declined to name citing security concerns over his valuable car. He worked as a science teacher at Roslyn Middle School from 1962 until he retired in 1999.

Gordon purchased the Volvo for $4,150 on June 30, 1966. In the first two days, he drove 1,500 miles. He continued adding to the odometer with his daily commute to Roslyn. In 1987, it became the fourth car to pass the million-mile mark. Eleven years later, he broke the Guinness World Record for “highest certified mileage driven by the original owner in noncommercial service” with 1.696 million miles. He reached 2 million miles in Times Square in 2002 and 3 million miles in Alaska in 2013.

“If a car can have a soul, this car has a soul,” Gordon told Newsday in 2002, one of many media interviews he did over the years.

The so-called patron saint of Volvo eventually drove 3.4 million miles — enough to circumnavigate the globe about 120 times, according to Guinness World Records. He traveled to 49 states and became a “walking tour guide of an entire map of the United States,” his daughter said.  

“Irv never set out to break world records, to him, he was simply living his life in his Volvo,” Volvo Car USA said in a statement.

Gordon regularly checked the car, which he did not let anyone else drive. His engine was rebuilt twice, and his car had been hit at least four times.

"Why would you get rid of a car that starts every time you hit the starter, takes you where you want to go and never gives you any grief?" he told Newsday in 2011.

Even with his love for driving, he had other feelings about Long Island roads and traffic: He called the Long Island Expressway “the largest parking lot in the world,” his daughter said.

Danielle Gordon said she drove the famed car, with the license plate MILNMILR, for the first time after Gordon's death to move it to a secure location. But the key broke off in the ignition, and the car somehow got locked from the inside while empty on a flatbed truck.

“We were all laughing,” she said. “It was like, oh my God, my dad is here and he’s saying, ‘Don’t touch it.’”

Danielle Gordon said she plans to put the car on display. But because “that car really is my dad,” she said she is “really not ready to let it go right now.” She said she is going to "take a drive with my dad and his car" this week before she returns to Rosario, Argentina, where she works as a psychiatrist.

Gordon, who was divorced, is survived by his daughters, Danielle Gordon and Amy Sircusano, of Maryland, and three granddaughters: Elizabeth, Lucia and Isabella.

Gordon, also remembered for his boisterous laugh, warm personality, sense of humor and thoughtfulness, will be cremated. Services will be set after his remains are returned from China.

“I'm having fun," he said in 2002. "Now it's just a challenge to see how far it will go."

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