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Volvo Amazon… a strong concept

The brand new Amazon in 1956
ER Classics Desktop 2022

In September 1956 a car was born that is still regarded as a highly respected classic to this day. The Volvo Amazon – in Sweden amason called – accompanies the PV 444 (Catback) from that moment on. Jan Wilsgaard's design is well received and is characterized by, among other things, beautiful lines, good road holding, excellent equipment and (preparations) for passive safety.

The first Amazon (in Sweden: Amason) has the model designation (bodywork variant) P 1200. It comes with the B16A power source. The execution is Amazon. In 1958 the name gives way to the 121 and 122 S, which is new. The internal model code has been changed to P 120 for the entire series. The new 122 S gets the more powerful B16B engine with two SU carburettors and 76 HP. Volvo, meanwhile, is steadily expanding the transmission options. In 1960, a four-speed gearbox, a three-speed gearbox and a three-speed gearbox with overdrive are available to the potential buyer. In the variants mentioned, all gears are synchronized. The 'synchro transmissions' are known as M gearboxes.


Family expansion, type name issues and updates

There is a reason that the Amazon name is officially disappearing for most markets. Volvo has to give the cool car a different name because of legal aspects – outside of Sweden. The type name Amazon appears to have been recorded by Kreidler. The nickname remains Amazon, by the way, the Volvo will no longer lose that name in popular speech. In the meantime, the Amazon is being cosmetically updated (other grille, two-color will be canceled) and it will be extended to a family. In 1961 Volvo introduces the two-door model variant P130, which is also available again in the 121 and 122 S version. In 1962 the Swedes introduced the P220, the exquisitely designed Combi. It is remarkable and at the same time logical that the final drive on the Combi is initially shorter than on the two- and four-door models, and that has everything to do with the potential load factor.

Security theme and improvements

During this period, Volvo seizes the safety theme to, among other things, strengthen the body structure, while from 1959 the three-point seat belts are already part of the standard equipment. The Swedes are not only making changes in the field of safety. From 1961 a 12V installation is mounted. The B18 engines replace the smaller B16 aggregates. The configuration of the engine (one or two carburettors, high or low compression) depends on the trim level. In 1963, Volvo expanded its transmission range for the Amazon. From that moment on, the Borg Warner 35 automatic transmission is also available. In August 1964 Volvo again changes the grille of the Amazon types. In addition, all versions have disc brakes on the front wheels. In contrast to the two- and four-door series, the P220 has power brakes, and the entire 'Amazon range' uses newly developed furniture, together with doctors.

Entry model and top model

In 1965, as the successor to the PV 544 (which replaced the PV 1958 Kat back in 444), Volvo launched a real entry-level model based on the model variant P130, the two-door Amazon. The Favorit comes on the market with the B18A engine, a three-speed gearbox and sober equipment. At the other end of the spectrum, Volvo – a year later – brings the 123 GT version, which is very popular to this day. It is only available as a two-door version (ie in body style P130). The car comes with the high-compression B18B engine with 96 DIN HP, the four-speed gearbox with overdrive, radial tires, chrome wheel trim rings, fully adjustable backrests, additional front spotlights, mirrors on the fenders, a special sports steering wheel, a dashboard with storage bowl and a tachometer. The B18B engine also comes in the 122 S version, with the same power. The work for the B18D engine, which has been modified a few times and given more power, is finished.

Further development. Also in recent years

The Volvo Amazon is continuously updated. When the 140 series is introduced in 1966, the careful phasing out of the successful Volvo starts. The grille will be adjusted again during that period. The first body variant of the Amazon – the P120 four-door version – disappears at the end of 1966. Nevertheless, Volvo still takes the two-door version and the combi very seriously. The Amazon continues to benefit from new safety features (new safety steering wheel and steering column, power brakes on all models, modified rear axle mounting). Depending on the version, the two-door version is fitted with the B20A or the sporty B20B engine and a separate braking system. The Combi also benefits from the arrival of the two-liter engine, albeit that the B20B engine is not available in it. The sporty engines are available in the 122 S GT. In fact, it succeeds the most sporty and luxurious variant: the 123 GT. Incidentally, Volvo does stick to the designation 123 GT for certain markets (Germany).

very strong image

However, the production of this Volvo type is coming to an end. 1969 will be the last year of construction for the combi. And in July 1970 the two-door version blows out the candle. The versions 121 and 122 S GT (or 123 GT) are the last of the Mohicans. In total, the Amazon is built 667.341 times. Thanks to continuous refinement and a rock-solid foundation, it is considered one of the very best cars in history, which simply has a rock-solid image. And a lifetime of room for innovation. It is not for nothing that this Volvo is still a regular part of the traffic picture. No less than ten percent of the Amazon copies produced are still on the planet. It's telling. And at the same time, more than 50 years after the last Amazon left the production line, unsurprisingly. Because this car is one of the very best built cars in history. No doubt.

IIn AMK 1-2022 you can read the eight-page report about the Volvo 122 S by Theo Hoekstra and many more interesting facts about the Amazon types. 

13 Comments

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  1. Wonderful car to drive. I've had 0 of them. I should never have gotten rid of the latter (exchanged it for a Yamaha xs 2 motorcycle). Quite a nice motorcycle, I don't hear about it, but I still regret that I got rid of my red Amazon.

  2. The neighbors at my parents' house drove an 'Amazon' for years. Colour: off-white. Green sun visor above the windshield and mirrors on the fenders. Was a very special car. Stately and beautiful. If you could drive something like that, you had some status. It has been many years now, but it is etched in my memory, as is the sound of that beautiful Volvo. An evergreen. I agree with Dick with the thanks for the beautiful photos

  3. I've been driving Amazon since 1982 and that as a daily transport, had many cars but when I bought my first Amazon in 1982 I thought this is it.
    I'm on the second now.

    Johan Geers

  4. I know exactly what you mean Willem Overeem, had a white 40 GT almost 123 years ago, lovely car and quite fast for that time. (2 SUs difficult to adjust). Also had a green four-door in the early 90s, now seems to run on LPG. Registration of this Amazon is 54-54-DE, would appreciate a photo of this car!

  5. Not only the amazon but many cars from those good times had character and their own appearance. in the dark you could recognize the cars by the lighting. Now you have to stand to read what kind of brand is stuck on it. Technically perhaps much more extensive, but less of its own image.

    • I know exactly what you mean Willem Overeem, had a white 40 GT almost 123 years ago, lovely car and quite fast for that time. (2 SUs difficult to adjust). Also had a green four-door in the early 90s, now seems to run on LPG. Registration of this Amazon is 54-54-DE, would appreciate a photo of this car!

  6. Very nice car! Have had 2, when they were just “old” cars (a long time ago).
    The last one was a beautiful red 122S from 1969.
    Never had to get rid of it, but yes, I've had more cars like this that I should never have got rid of….. (Saab 96 2t, Triumph Spitfire mk III, Toyota Corolla GT, Ford RS2000, Audi S3….)

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  7. Still driving a 123 GT every day. We have now covered more than 300.000 km with it without any problems with the same block. Even for a trip to the Italian Dolomites, it does not turn its crankshaft. APK, always out the door without any problems. On time maintenance and not skimping on brakes, tires, etc. Very environmentally conscious, because replacing our GT pollutes many times over 55 years of history. 😏

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