Volvo Amazon is First Produced
The Volvo Amazon was a mid-size car manufactured by Volvo Cars from 1956 until July 3 1970 at the company's Torslandaverken — with 667,323 vehicles produced.
Compared to its predecessor, the PV, the Amazon was a more modern car available in a wider range of body-styles — though the Amazon shared both the wheelbase from the PV as well as its tall posture and high H-point seating. Notably, the Amazon was the first car to feature three-point seat belts, and the first to have any kind of seat belt as standard equipment.
When originally introduced, the car was called the Amason (with an 's'), which derives from the fierce female warriors of Greek mythology, the Amazons. Volvo modified the spelling to Amazon and used the name for the range up until 1961, when it initiated its new tri-digit nomenclature and the line became known as the 120 Series.
The Amazon's styling was inspired by American cars of the early 1950s, strongly resembling the Chrysler New Yorker sedan and the Chrysler 300C hardtop Coupe. According to designer Jan Wilsgaard, the Amazon's styling was inspired by a Kaiser automobile he saw at the Gothenburg harbour.
Notably, the Amazon featured strong articulation front to rear, pronounced "shoulders", and slight but visible tailfins. These features became inspiration for Peter Horbury when reconceiving Volvo's design direction with the V70 — after decades of rectilinear, slab-sided, boxy designs.
The station wagon (estate) version was introduced at the 1962 Stockholm Auto Show, and Volvo manufactured 73,000 examples between 1962 and 1969. The Amazon estate featured a bi-parting tailgate, a lower section folding down to provide a load surface and an upper section that hinged overhead. The vehicle's rear license plate, attached to the lower tailgate, could fold "up" such that when the tailgate was lowered and the vehicle in use, the license plate was still visible. This idea was used by the original 1959 Austin Mini. In recent years a similar arrangement was used on the tailgate of the Subaru Baja.
Notably, the Amazon platform was used as the basis for the P1800 and P1800ES.
The first Amazon was manufactured in July 1956 and carried the internal designation 120 series. Further iterations included the 121, the base model with a single carburetor 66 bhp (49 kW) engine, the 122S introduced in 1958 as a performance model equipped with a dual carburetor 85 bhp (63 kW) engine, and the later 130 (two door sedan), 120 (four door sedan) and 220 (4-door estate wagon) models.
In 1966 the Volvo PV ended production, replaced by the Amazon Favorit, a simpler version of the Amazon. In 1967 came the 123GT that was a 130 with high compression B18B engine (from the Volvo P1800), M41 gearbox, fully reclining seats, front fog and driving lights (on some markets), alternator, fender mounted mirrors, special steering wheel, dash with a shelf and tachometer, and other cosmetic upgrades. In 1969 the displacement of the old B18 engine was increased and the engine was called the B20.
While the car was sold as the Volvo Amazon in Sweden, it was marketed using the model number in most other countries, commonly, the Volvo 122; the name "Amazon" was already a registered trademark in various markets by German moped manufacturer Kreidler.
The Amazon's mechanics and modified floorpan were used in the Volvo P1800 sports car.
Notably, the 1976 film All the President's Men (about Watergate), featured a grey Amazon driven by the investigative reporters (Woodward and Bernstein).
Original specifications for the Amazon included Volvo's new B16 engine, a 3-speed manual gearbox (H6) and rear wheel drive. In 1958 the sport model, Amazon Sport, was released and later the same year the Amazon became the first series produced car with a two-point safety belt in the front seats as standard. In 1962, Volvo introduced a two door version, a five door wagon, and the new B18 engine, deleting two-tone paint and upholstery. In 1965 the Amazon color-coordinated embossed vinyl upholstery and door panels became available. The new gearbox selections were the three speed M30 (briefly offered with an automatic electric clutch), the four speed M40 and the M41 with four speed and overdrive. The M31 gearbox was also introduced in 1961 but was only available that year (a three speed fully synchronized gearbox with overdrive on both second and third direct gears). Gearbox options on the 121 were the M30, M31 and M40 while gearbox options on the 122S were the M40 and M41 gearboxes. In 1964 the Borg-Warner BW35 three speed automatic transmission also became available on the four-door and two-door. From 1967 to 1968 the BW35 was also available on the five-door wagon.
A late 60s Volvo Amazon would make a very suitable daily classic driver. For its time (and even this time) it is a safe car due to its rigidity and seatbelt provision and you'll have no trouble keeping up with everyone else; in fact you'll probably be overtaking many of them as you whoosh in relative confort down the motorway in overdrive.
The Amazon is a very comfortable car, with excellent seats and not too much body roll. Any that there is can be minimised by some suspension improvements. It will seat four adults in comfort and has quite a big boot.
The Amazon was sold originally on its performance, and even today a well-kept car should do 0-60 in about 10-14 seconds, with a top speed of 95-100+ mph, although I am told the steering gets a bit imprecise at that speed. The 4-speed + overdrive (optional) gearbox is beautifully smooth, unbreakable, a bit notchy but fully synchromeshed, so climbing steep hills is a doddle.
Brakes are usually disks in the front, drums in the rear, early models had all drums. But the stopping power is excellent, given a strong push on the pedal, a push which is made easier with a servo.
Carbs come singly or in pairs, with SUs being the most popular, Webers which have their supporters and detracters, and single/dual Strombergs. I have had experience of both SUs and single Strommies, and the latter have given me lovely smooth running, no idle problems and decent, if not great torque, plus good economy. I would not go back to twin SUs but if you want to tune your carbs you would probably choose these.
You will often find cars with new unleaded heads, but I am told that valve problems are certainly not quick to appear if you use unleaded with an original head and when they do it will probably be the guides that need replacing, at which stage you will fit an unleaded head anyway.
Mainly fine. Alternator-conversion is worth it for UK, where, in the autumn/winter, you may have headlights, fan, wipers and radio all trying to catch a share of the current. I had two dynamos fail on me so I'm biased! Stock headlights are OK but it's worth upgrading to halogen/Cibie. I would also fit a rear-windscreen mounted third brake-light (LED) since the existing lights are set low and a bit weedy.
uum, there aint much choice anymore, is there. A modified engine might like Super, but any car will be fine with 95. If you're lucky you'll find a car with an unleaded conversion. Expect around 20-35 mpg depending on where you're driving, your driving style and engine set-up.
Every Amazon I've been in has been different. Some suffer from more wind noise (door/window seals etc), some have vibrations at various speeds, the twin-carbed ones will roar more, some have sound-proofing and carpet, whereas others are bare metal and rubber mats and holes in the firewall (which can be plugged with grommets). If noise is a consideration then test-drive at motorway speeds and you'll soon see. Overdrive is important if you'll be doing long distances on the motorway.
THere are some good websites which explain exactly what changed every year. Personally I like the post-65 seats, and I don't like the disappearing door pockets in '69.
The parts back-up in UK is brilliant due to the presence of several expert-enthusiasts, whom you'll find by searching. Some of these guys have rallied themselves or prepped cars for ralleys, so can give a wealth of advice if you want to start. Some panels are getting scarce, and you may find that repair sections are cheaper and easier to do.
Amazons do rust, but just not as quickly, or as much as some other cars of this vintage. Check the wheel arches, door-bottoms, spare-wheel wells, inner/outer wings, floors (leaky windscreens are common). Find the old editions of magazines on Ebay that give buyers guides and what to look for.
Get the best Amazon you can afford; check that everything electrical works inclusing the overdrive, check it has the right number of carbs and their condition, ask when things like the clutch cylinders, brake cylinders, timing gear, were replaced etc
There are several good books on Amazons, and lots of websites, including some excellent technical forums. You will be joining a real community, not just a few blokes swapping stories because no one else has the same car. However, that said, your Amazon will still get stares, thumbs-up, and questions about the age; it's a good-looking car, strong yet curvy, and much to people's taste.
Talk to the experts. To get a good car with minimal extra spending needed, first consideration should be structural/rust, second would be interior condition, third would be age (post 65 has sealed for life grease-points, post-67 has longer-lasting rear suspension arms, post-68 has dual-diagonal braking etc). Then you can look for goodies, such as overdrive, alternator, unleaded head, re-built carbs, nice radio.
My car has been all across UK, to the south of France, to Hungary, and any problems have been easily fixed. I'm not tempted to get a modern car yet, but I would like to make mine a bit quieter and to treat her to new carbs and maybe an unleaded head.