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Maker: Parker.

The story of this pen’s genesis, which makes eminent sense, is that it was a response to increasing numbers of mashed points being sent into the customer service department; people who had “written normally” finding that what is normal for a ballpoint is monumental overstress for a fountain pen.  The designers at Parker then went to work and produced a pen which could burrow through an elephant.  If this is indeed true, Parker either had a Sheaffer Stylist in hand to learn from, or they were willfully unaware of that pen and its undistinguished sales and performance records.

This is in general a better pen than that previous decade’s Sheaffer, and I think part of the reason lies with the decision to not offer a swapable point.  It was also aimed higher than the Stylist, which had some upper end pretentions but was founded in common popularity.  The 180 appeared initially in only two trim levels, the stainless steel Flighter and the gold-plated Imperial, both of which cost enough to appeal only to the relatively well-heeled or the serious pen-user (which still existed even in the depths of the Dark Age).  With those demographics in sight, it was wise to make a good pen, and the popularity of the 180 was such that a variety of lacquered colours was subsequently put forth.

The point of the 180 came in two sizes… which were actually four sizes, as both types could be inverted .  This is an old trick of Parker’s, going back to the Vacumatic, and is actually something most fountain pens are capable of even if not specifically engineered for it; Parker’s trick is, mainly, announcing the possibility.  The two sizes were marked on the feed; either M/X or B/F.  To allow the user to tell which way was up, the feed is a prominent black object, while the top of the point is supported by a triangular metal protrusion.

The end of production of the 180 was a protracted affair.  Officially withdrawn from the line-up, a very similar pen adopted the name Classic and continued to appear for a few years more.  It has a less flashy fitting for the point, and was a less costly pen; the casual observer could easily mistake it for a 180, though, so some care must be taken.

My one serious complaint about the 180 is that it is so very slender it can be a little hard to support without hand-cramping, although with application of good technique this can be avoided; it is slender, but is it not over-heavy.  My experience of it is that of good writing, but it has a poor reputation in some quarters which leads me to think that there was either some quality control issue, or the feed is more than usually given to clogging.  I can say that it is a bit of a struggle to completely flush a 180, with heavy residual ink coming out after several converters-full of water passing in and out of the feed, so clogging is likely at the core of any complaints of unreliability; devotion to flushing a pen is not a widespread virtue.

While I use the phrase “burrow through an elephant” above, I don’t suggest treating this pen any more roughly than a more conventional model.  Whether Parker really intended it to stand up to heavy pressures or not, the sensations I take from using it suggest it will fold up rather before something like a “51” or a Triumph-pointed Sheaffer.

Production Run: 1977 – 1985.

Cost When New: On release, $30.00 for the Flighter, $40.00 for the Imperial.  In 1981, prices peaked, ranging from $45 for a basic colour model to $100 for a “Heritage” edition (for modern value, try this calculator).

Size: 13.2 cm long capped, 13.8 cm posted, 12.4 cm uncapped.

Point: 14k gold.

Body: Metal.

Filler: Cartridge, capacity approx. 1.2 ml

Parker 180 Imperial – it does have some of the appearance of a spear, doesn’t it?

Far more harmless-looking with the cap on. There is no date code on this one, which suggests a pre-1979 model (as that’s when the UK habit was reintroduced to US production), although I understand that some early models lacked the cap-gripping tassie on the tail.



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