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Amazon history

In 1950 Volvo realised the competitors were introducing new car designs (wider bodies) and were bigger on the inside than Volvo’s PV 444. Besides: Volvo had the feeling the design of the PV 444 was already outdated. It would take a couple of years to develop a good replacer for the PV 444, so Volvo started working on it. The new car should be sold alongside the PV444 for a couple of years.

History of the Volvo Amazon

The first option for a PV 444-replacement was Gösta Wennberg’s ’52 Elizabeth (as mentioned in Volvotips’ History of the PV) but the first (presented as prototype in 1953) version hadn’t much space in the back. The new car should have a lot of space for its passengers so this first prototype wasn’t an option. In 1954 (two years after the first sketches) the Elisabeth II was presented to Volvo but again with no success: the car would be too expensive and Volvo was developing its own prototype for the PV-replacement (the Elisabeth II was rejected after Volvo already develeped some prototypes).

Volvo Elisabeth prototype for Amazon P1200
Wennberg’s Volvo Elisabeth (based on PV444)

The prototype P179 was Wilsgaard’s vision on how the new car should look. It was a new design but still based on the PV 444. It had the roof lining of it and it nearly went into production. But Petterson thought the car was too heavy to give good performance with just a B14 under the hood. The design was also a bit clumsy looked from some angles. But there was good news: the car had a great design of the rear suspension. When the P179 was crashed by a Volvo-engineer the proces of the P179 stopped.

Volvo P179 Margaret Rose Amazon prototype
Wilsgaard’s Volvo P179 prototype which was driveable and equiped with a B14-engine

Petterson was given a new assignment by Gabrielsson to develop something new: the PV 454. But in the meanwhile Larsson asked Jan Wilsgaard also to design something new.

Volvo PV454 prototype
The Volvo PV454 prototype by Helmer Petterson

The PV 454 by Petterson was also based on the 444 but with a other front (with splitted grille), new fenders but still the same roof-lining of the PV444. Wilsgaard was developing his Project 55 and was told the roof-lining of the PV wasn’t needed anymore. When the designer presented their designs Volvo decided Wilsgaard was allowed to develop the Project 55 further but with some details of the PV 454 of Petterson and the Elisabeth. The new car should be named: P1200.

In the pictures below you can see some prototypes of the P55, soon the be renamed the P1200.

Volvo P55 PV55 prototype Amazon
The Project 55-prototype by Wilsgaard. At a later prototype the “V” on the front there was replaced by a button to open the hood. The grill was inspired by Petterson’s PV454

Volvo Project 55 prototype Amazon
Another prototype of Project 55 by Wilsgaard. Inspired by the 55-prototype above and the Elisabeth. Already recognisable as the Amazon but only with a different grill and bumpers.

When the P1200 was almost ready Volvo decided the car was sold next to the PV, so Volvo would have a multi-model range (the PV, Duett and P1200). The P1200 would also be too expensive to replace the PV444.

Because the new cas was heavier than the PV444 Volvo decided to upgrade the B14 to the B16 (the B16 is a B14 with bigger pistons etc) by increasing the volume to 1583cc.

In 1954 the new design was ready and the car could be developed. Volvo tried to claim the name Amazon but unfortunately Kreidler (who produced mopeds) already had the rights of this name. After some tough negotiations Volvo and Kreidler had come to a agreement: Volvo was allowed to use the name Amazon in Sweden, but in other countries it should use a other name. In the beginning they used P1200 but soon it changed in 121 (for the single Zenith carburator and B16A with 66bhp) and 122 (B16B with twin SU-carburators, providing 85bhp).

Volvo introduced the Amazon in 1956 and one year later it was available at the dealers. It was available in a two-tone colorpaint.

The new car had many parts that were used on the PV444 but the rear suspension was completely new. The car has the same wheelbase as the PV 444 but was a little bit shorter and wider so 5 persons could easy fit into the car. The car was also heavier so it really needed the bigger B16-engine instead of the B14. The gearbox was the M30 but after a while the M40 was introduced (made by Volvo itself but inspired by a gearbox of ZF). The car was also available (right from the start) in a righthand drive-version for the UK-market (and other countries where RHD was the standard).

Nils Bohlin invented the three-point safety belt and it was fitted since 1959 in all Amazon export cars.

During the development of the P1200 the new PV 544 was also developed and be launched after the P1200.

The Amazon was introduced as a four-door saloon, but at the end of 1960 2 the two-door coach was introduced. Two-door cars were very popular in Sweden.


History of the Volvo Amazon Combi Estate

In the early 60’s Volvo started developing the Estate-version of the Amazon. The new Amazon Estate should replace the P210 / Duett after a while. The load capacity of the new stationcar should be better because the floor is lowered (compared with the Duett).

Volvo made a couple of prototypes for the new car, inspired by Chrysler and Chevrolet. The tailgate can be opened in two parts, just like many American stationwagons. See the pictures below for the prototypes.

Volvo Amazon Combi prototype
The first Volvo Amazon stationwagon prototype, inspired by American wagons

Volvo Amazon Combi prototype 2
A newer prototype of the Amazon stationcar. As you can see it’s almost the same as the version that went into production: the tailgate was slightly different and at the final version the glass was mounted with more metal around it to add more firmness.

In 1962 at the Stockholm Car Show the Amazon Combi was presented. The name Combi was in line with the Duett: the name “Combi” stands for a combination of work and leisure. Although the Amazon Combi should replace the Duett, it didn’t: the sales of the Duett were very high so Volvo decided the Duett shouldn’t take out of production. The Duett was very popular at commercial users because it’s volume was enormous. The Amazon Combi could carry more weight but couldn’t beat the enormous volume of the Duett. For home use the Amazon Combi was a big hit: it wasn’t a Van like the Duett but more like a “normal” car and it had some nice details, like the horizontally split-tailgate: the bottom part could be used as a bench while you’re picknicking with the family and the bumper overriders were flat and had rubber on the top of it so it could be used for a foothold when you’re loading the imperial on the roof.

The Volvo Amazon 123GT

A special model that was launched by Volvo itself (in 1967) was the Amazon 123GT. It was a sports model of the Volvo Amazon and had some nice options and accessories:

  • B18B-engine with FIA-approval 5152, double carburators (SU), delivering 115bhp @ 6000rpm (B20B-engine with 118bhp for MY69, which wasn’t FIA-approved);
  • rev counter/tachometer;
  • M41 4-speed gearbox with overdrive (and new type of clutch with diaphragm spring);
  • extra shelf on top of dashboard;
  • extra lights on the front (high beam lighs, or a roadside/cornering light and foglight) with special Volvo-covers;
  • rear foglight;
  • alternator (instead of old type generator);
  • GT wheels (made by Kronprinz, Lemmerz or Volvo itself), also available with special hubcaps, chrome wheelnuts (instead of the standard hub caps) and chrome wheelrings;
  • reinforced windscreen wipers;
  • GT rearview mirrors (which were mounted on the front fenders);
  • special HD (heavy duty) shock absorbers;
  • radial ply tires (Pirelli Cinturato);
  • collapsing steering column (introduced on other Amazon-models in 1968);
  • louder horn;
  • limited slip differential;
  • brake booster;
  • chrome exhaust tailpipe;
  • lighting for trunk and under the hood and dashboard (which was introduced later on other Amazon-models);
  • three-spoke GT steering wheel with GT-emblem;
  • seamless inclination of the backrests of the seats (which can completely fold down);
  • available in red, white or dark green. Rumours says some 123GT’s were sold in Sweden in metallic blue

A lot of imitation 123GT can be found these days (all accessories were available later and are also being reproduced for several years. It isn’t very hard to verify a Amazon is a real 123GT: the VIN-plate (with chassis number) will tell you. The 123GT must have chassisnumber 133351 (for LHD) or 133351 (for RHD). For the cars which were assembled as kit (like the factory in Canada) the model number is 133951. If it is a other number it’s not a real 123GT.

Volvo Amazon 123GT 123 GT sport
The Volvo Amazon 123GT

The Volvo Amazon 123 GT continues as “Special Utförande 5314” (and 5324 for Canada) in 1969 and 1970, what means “Special Model 5314” and was equipped with a B20B-engine. It is a very rare model. Because there were “special models” it isn’t very sure how much Amazon GT’s are produced. It is assumed about 1500 GT’s are produced in 1967-1968 but other sources says about 5000 GT’s (including the 1969 B20B’s and Special Models) are made.

Production of the Amazon 123GT ended in 1968 but some overstock models were sold in the beginning of 1969.


The Volvo Amazon Cabrio

It wasn’t a official Volvo product but I think it’s worth to write something about it: the beautiful Volvo Amazon cabrio made by coachbuilder Jacques Coune (Brussels, Belgium). He introduced the car in 1963 and his Amazon Cabriolet was based on a P130-series Amazon with B18D-engine (the car needed a stronger engine due the extra weight caused by the reinforcements). He removed the entire roof and reinforced the sills and B-pillars. The upholstery was replaced by a nice leather interior and all these modifications means the car was really expensive: it costs half the price more of a regular Amazon! Coune produced only 6 Amazon Cabrio’s: 4 four-seater cars and 2 two-seaters.

Volvo Amazon Cabrio Coune convertible cabriolet pressphoto image
The official pressphoto of Coune’s Volvo Amazon Cabrio

The idea of Coune’s Amazon cabrio was a big inspiration for Volvo-lovers (and some small Swedish coachbuilders) and now there were some other Amazon convertibles available. Most of them are replicas of the Coune convertible.


Models of the Amazon

During the years the Volvo Amazon included the following models:
– P1200: the first Volvo Amazon, with B16-engine
– 121: B16A (1959-1961), B18A (1962-1968) and B20A (1968-1970 and called 131 as type) with single carburator. Not sold in the USA.
– 122S: B16B (1959-1961), B18D (1962-1967), B18B (1968) and B20B (1969-1970) with two carburators. All Amazons in the USA were sold with double carburators. All models mentioned were available as four-door saloon (122), two-door coach (131) and Combi (220-series).
– 123GT (1967-1968): a special sport-version (see above) of the 130 with B18B, twin carburators, slip differential, dashboard with extra shelf on top and tachometer, special steering wheel, extra foglights, wider wheels, special mirrors, etc etc.

The Amazon had the following modifications during the years:

  • A-serie: the first Amazon.
  • B-serie (introduced in spring 1958): B16B and 4-speed gearbox (M40).
  • MY59 (introduced in August 1958): safety belt is a standard equipment for all cars, Amazon Sport was introduced in Sweden, new type of brake servo (duo-servo), improvements in the heating system.
  • D-serie (introduced in August 1960): new three- and four-speed gearboxes (all-synchronised), introduction of overdrive (Laycock) for the 3-speed gearbox, new seats.
  • E-series (A-series for P130 and P220, August 1961): 12V electrical system, B18-engine, asymmetrical headlights, new grille, body was painted in one color (two-tone wasn’t available anymore), front suspension is reïnforced and heavier. The sport-versions featured Girling disc brakes on the front. Also the two-door version was introduced.
  • F-serie (B-series for P130 and P220, August 1962): modification of rear axle-design (safer design and reinforced), new rear lights including reversing lights, better rust prevention.
  • G-serie (D-series for P130 and P220, August 1963): BW35 automatic gearbox, new handle on the boot including new licence plate lighting, new roof lining.
  • K-serie (E-series for P130 and P220, August 1964): front disc brakes for all models, Combi equiped with a brake booster, new grille, new wheels and hub caps, new emblems on the sides, rear heating duct for the passengers in the back, rear armrest for all types, handle on dashboard for the passenger, radiator blind was removed. Gas strut for the Amazon Combi’s upper tailgate. New ergonomic seats which were designed with the help of medical experts (Volvo believed a good seat results in safer driving).
  • L-series (F-series for P130 and P220, August 1965): new compression ratio for the B18 (by fitting thinner cilinderhead-gaskets), new camshaft, permanent lubricated front suspension and propeller shaft. Rear wheels were equipped with a valve to prevent locking when braking. Introduction of Amazon Favorit (with no chrome strips around the windows, only available in black or white 2-door body and M30 3-speed gearbox).
  • M-series (August 1966): new grille, new type seatbelt, introduction of the 123GT, increased power for all engines (by using the new Stromberg-carburator), closed cooling system with new radiator. P120-series discontinued for most markets.
  • P-series (August 1967): divided/collapsable steering column, new steering wheel, brake servo for all models. Production of the four-door saloon was ended (replaced by the 144).
  • S-series (August 1968): B20-engine, dual circuit brake system with brake booster.
  • T-series (August 1969): Combi and Duett productions were ended, only the B20-engine was available, safety belts for the rear seats, adjustable front headrests.

On July 3 1970 the last Volvo Amazon was produced (at some assembly factories like Halifax-Canada or Durban – South Africa production continues in 1970 until all parts were out of stock). The Amazon was replaced by the 140-series.

© Volvotips 2011

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