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Buying tips Amazon

The Volvo Amazon is a very popular car and they are offered a lot on websites, classic trader etc etc. But you’ll have to be sure you pick up the right one for your needs! With this buyers guide for the Volvo Amazon we will help you to find the right Amazon for you.

It’s a long buyers guide, but you can find a summary at the end (also very useful when you’re going to check a car, so take a print with you).

The Volvo Amazon as a daily driver

If you’ve got the idea of using a Volvo Amazon as a daily driver: it’s a great idea! All types (including the first P1200) are suitable as a daily driver, but in my opinion the late types are the best choice: since ModelYear (MY) 1965 all Amazon-types are equipped with brake discs. Brake discs are a lot better than brake drums because they’re easier to maintain, cheaper to fix and you won’t have the problem with pulling to one side every first time you’ll brake on a trip. Also a brake booster is a item you will enjoy on a daily driver. For safety reasons (in case of an accident) headrests are a good option for a Volvo Amazon which is used regularly.

Volvo Amazon 131 B20 divided brake system 1969 as daily driver
My old ’69 Volvo Amazon 131, used to be a daily driver and is now a daily driver again 

In my opinion the best choice for an Amazon is a 1969- (S-series, introduced in August 1968) or 1970-model (which is introduced in August 1969 and is a T-serie): both series have the new dual-circuit brake systems which are still used in modern cars. When one of the brake circuits fails the brakes are still able to function, unlike the old single-circuit brake systems (in that case: a brake failure due broken brake hoses or brake pipes or any other failure) where braking is almost impossible. Also these series have a collapsable steering column so your stommach won’t be perforated by the steering wheel at a crash. The B20-engine of the S- and T-series is also more powerfull than the B18 and that’s pretty nice in modern traffic. And the Stromberg carburator is very easy to maintain. There is only one big disadvantage of the S- and T-series: the sedan is only available as a two-door. If you want the latest type and it should have more doors than two you’ll have to buy an Amazon Combi.


Your plans with the Volvo Amazon

Before starting your journey for a classic car you’ll need to ask yourself what the intention of your purchase will be: do you want it to use it as a daily driver, do you want to restore a car, are you planning to buy a spotless car that won beauty contests or do you want a car that isn’t perfect but needs a bit work? All these factors will give you the idea for the car you are looking for and also determines the budget. You won’t find a car that is in a showroom condition and only costs $ 1000,– and a rustless Volvo Amazon 123GT isn’t available for $ 1500,– (unless you’re extremely lucky).

Volvo Amazon 122s rally sport trial
The Volvo Amazon is excellent for rally sports or trials, but if you’ve got plans to do that: it won’t be cheap!

Please keep in mind the tips below are a indication for a car that is in a good state. A perfect car is hard to find but they are available (but they won’t be cheap). So don’t try to get a bargain for a car that has the price for a car that needs a little work. Decide for yourself what budget you’ve got and how many work a car is allowed to have.

The Volvo Amazon buyers guide

Below you can find the complete buyers guide for the Volvo Amazon P121, 122s and 131. Of course: the Amazon Combi P220-series is included as well. I’ve seperated each section of the car, so you’ll get a detailed description where you should extra pay attention to when you’re looking for an Amazon. Enjoy!

Volvo Amazon bodywork

Just like many other old vehicles an Amazon can rust badly. But most Amazons are more bulletproof than any other cars from the good old days. In case of rust: almost every bodypart is available as a new repair part. New panels (original Volvo) are also still available but very expensive. But in most cases the repair parts for the bodywork will do the trick.

When you’re going to have a look on a Volvo Amazon or Amazon Combi please make sure the following bodyparts and parts of the chassis aren’t rusty:

  • the area around the headlights are very rust-susceptible, check for any small holes or rusty surface on the top of the front fenders. Also the headlight bucket (housings or bowls) will rot over the years, but they can be replaced very cheap by plastic headlamp housings.
  • The front wings are also sensitive for rust because mud and water will clamp on the inside over years. But front wings are easily removed (they’re just bolted on the car) and replaced by better front fenders or by plastic (polyester) fenders. In case of new steel fenders: please also add inner splash plates (for example: the Locari-set) which will prevent letting the wing rust again.
  • Pop the hood and have a look under the hood. The inner front wing (both left and right) is very rust-suceptible so they should be in good condition. The repair part isn’t expensive but welding it can be expensive. Also check the front cross member (radiator support) and the lower part of the front (bottom of the grille).
  • Turn the front wheels and have a look at the inner parts of the front fenders and take a very critical look on the inner wheel plates and the rest of the box section.
  • Have a close look on the doors: they can seriously rot at the lower parts and bottom of the door. Also check the condition of the hinges (easily recognisible: the door is hanging too low and when you open the door it will drop a little).
  • Check the sills for any rust and also check the bottom very well: the floor panels at the front and rear can rot easily (especially the front floor panels). Be sure to check the jack points on all sides.
  • The front windscreen rubber can also a source for some nasty rust: if there is any leak water will make its way by the inner wheel plates (remove the cardboard panels to inspect the inner bodywork) and will damage the wheel plates and front floor panels but also the plate behind the pedals. You should also check the bodywork area around the windshield for any rust. It can be very expensive to repair (the windscreen should be removed and reinstalled again which can take several hours, and repairing the area around it isn’t a cheap fix). The rear window should be checked for any leaks.
  • At the rear wheel you should check the wheel arches, the bodywork above the sills and behind the rear wheel (the ridged lower section and the bodywork part above the fold).
  • Open the trunk and check the boot lid for rust on the lower part of it (condensation can cause serious rust if the trunk rubber isn’t in good condition). Make sure you don’t smell any petrol: it means the fuel tank is rotten or the section between fueltank and tank cap is broken. Also remove the boot mat and check the lower rear part (between the tail lights), the section above the wheels and also check underneath the car to check the rear bottom section. The spare wheel container of the saloon can also be rusty so be sure it is in a good condition.
  • For the Amazon Combi: all these items mentioned above will apply on the Volvo Amazon Combi (except the spare wheel container since it has a other construction at the Combi, and the ridged lower section behind the rear wheel doesn’t have ridged on the Combi), but the splitted tailgates are also very rust-susceptible. Please make sure they both are in a good condition because they’re very hard to find and expensive!

If everything of the list above is looking fine, the condition of the bodywork shouldn’t be a problem! If you have any doubts about the bodywork (for example: the owner uses putty to cover hidden rust on the bodywork) please bring some small magnets (to check the bodywork: if putty is used the magnet won’t stick to the car) and a sharp object (like a screwdriver, to test the bodywork when too much undercoating is used).

Volvo Amazon rust due leaking windscreen Volvo Amazon welded floor panel after being rusted
The floor plates and inner side plates of my ’69 Volvo Amazon were extremely rusty due a leak at the windscreen rubber. As you can see the car became a Fred Flintstone-vehicle but it could be repaired by original Volvo bodywork parts (the after-picture is taken before the finishing of the welding)

The chrome bumpers are also very sensitive: dents and rust can damage the bumpers seriously. Chromizing the bumpers isn’t cheap, you should consider replacing the bumpers with stainless steel bumpers if they need a replacement.

Please note the costs for welding a car are very expensive (unless you can do it yourself). If you can’t weld yourself (or you don’t know a cheap welder): welding bodywork is much more expensive than engine problems or replacing brakes and suspension-parts.

Taking the Volvo Amazon 131 to the welder by a autotransporter
I can’t weld myself, so the Amazon was transported to a welder after I stripped the car (driving the car to the welder wasn’t a option because I removed the complete interior)

The engine of the Volvo Amazon

The engines of the Amazon are pretty reliable, the newer and bigger it gets the better it is! The B16 is the “less” reliable engine due the less bearings. When a B16 is used for running long times at higher speed the engine will wear a lot harder than a B18 or B20. Needless to say, but a B18 or B20 should be the best choice. With more bearings and a 4-speed gearbox (or even better: a 4-speed transmission with overdrive) the car was better protected against engine wear. The BW35 automatic gearbox is also a good option for the Amazon because the revs at highest gear aren’t much higher than the 4-speed manual gearbox. A B18 or B20 shouldn’t run “too smooth” (or: like a charm) because it means it will be worn out also. When a B18 is running idle it should have sometimes a “dip” in revolution.

Be sure you don’t see any oil leakages caused by broken seals or filt gaskets. A seal or gasket isn’t expensive but it can be a hell of a job to replace one. Also check the oil level and the condition of the oil.

Replacement parts are very easy to get for the B18- and B20-engine, but the B16-engine parts are becoming more rare these days. Due the rareness prices of some items (like pistons, some bearings, con rod and cogwheel sets) for the B16-engine is rising.

The B18-engines can handle high mileage, so don’t be scared to buy a car which already drove 250.000km (or 125.000 miles). B16-engines also won’t have problems with those mileages but can’t handle high speed for a long time (it will increase engine wear).

Check the exhaust system for its color: when it’s completely black in the inside the car has a serious problem with the oil consumption. If it’s gray it will be OK. Another great test is to check the color of the gasses when the engine is running: step on the gas a few times and check the color. If it’s gray there is no problem, blue gasses from the exhaust means the pistons are worn out, water in the engine (due a broken head gasket) or the car consumes too much oil (but it can also be the valve seal rubbers, which aren’t a big cost to replace) and black gasses means the engine or carburator isn’t adjusted well.

Also be sure the cam gear set is replaced (in case it’s made of steel and fiber) or a steel version is mounted. The steel camgears will make some more noise but they will last forever!

The best indication of the condition of the engine is a compression test. A engine in a good condition will have a high compression. All cilinders shouldn’t be below 10 bar. A revised B18- or B20-engine will have about 13 bar (or above) compression.

Another simple test: when you take out the car for a testdrive, speed up to about 60mph (90kmh) and release the gas pedal. When the car is dropping to about 35-40mph (60kmh) put the pedal to the metal and look in the rear view mirror: if black or dark blue smoke is visible you’re certain the car is consuming a lot of oil. It can be caused by valve seal rubbers (B18, the B20 haven’t got the “umbrella’s”) or in worst case: broken pisten rings. In case of the last option: the engine needs to be rebuild and that’s expensive.

Volvo Amazon 131 B20 engine and dual circuit brake system including ATE brake servo
A Volvo B20A engine (with Stromberg 175CD2 carburator) inside an Amazon 131. It isn’t very clean but it runs good!

The carburators are pretty easy to maintain. The SU- and Zenith Stromberg-carburators were used for a long time and also on other brands than Volvo, meaning parts are pretty easy to get. If you don’t care a lot about engine power the single carburator is the best choice: easy to maintain and in case of replacing parts you’ll only need to do it for only one carburator. The Zenith Stromberg carburator is very reliable. If you’re planning to replace a twin carburator set (like the SU HS6 or Zenith 36VN) you should consider a Weber carburator set. The Webers are very powerfull and cheap in replacement parts (SU-parts are pretty expensive and are beginning difficult to obtain).

Volvo Amazon 12V B18 B20 electronic ignition 123ignition
A 12v 123-ignition for the Volvo B18 and B20

Also check the ignition: be sure the car starts and runs well. An electronic ignition is a better replacement for the car: it will start better, runs better (slightly increased horsepower) and fuel consumption will be slightly better. But most important: you won’t have the common problems with breaker points anymore or replacing them!


Volvo Amazon transmission and powertrain

The Volvo Amazon can have 7 types of transmissions: the H6 3-speed gearbox (P1200),  M30 gearbox (a 3-speed manual transmission which was used on the P1200 and Amazon Favorit), the M31 (3-speed with electronic ovedrive), the M4 and M40 4-speed gearbox, the M41 4-speed manual transmission with electronic overdrive or the BW35 automatic transmission.

All transmissions are very reliable but you should listen carefully for some noise: a high/whooping noise means the needle bearings can be broken (manual gearboxes). If the top gear is quieter than the other ratios it means the gearbox is worn out. The condition of the BW35 automatic gearbox can easily be checked by looking at the automatic transmission oil (ATF): if it’s clear red everything seems to be fine, but if it’s darker red or black the gearbox might have some serious problems! Also check how the automatic transmission changes gears while driving: too late gearchanges or hicking indicates problems with the gearbox. But late gearchanges can also be caused by the kickdown-cable. Replacing a gearbox will take about half a day (plus the costs of a new/rebuild or used gearbox).

Manual gearboxes of old Volvo-cars always sweat some oil, so don’t panic if the gearbox is a bit wet. But if you see oil traces from the bearings or propshaft there are some worries. Fixing it means the gearbox should be disassembled, fixed and reinstalled again (again: the costs of replacing the parts aren’t expensive but it will take a few hours).

The clutches of the Volvo Amazon are a lot better than the PV and Duett. But you should be beware of the condition of it. In case of an old type Amazon:  there is good news for the older type transmissions: it is pretty easy to use the newer type clutch (please use the Sachs clutch set (plate and pressure plate) and a SKF (F&S) or Sachs release bearing as replacement for the old type clutch set. You’ll have to modify the flywheel for the late type (diaphragm) clutch set. It isn’t a hard job and it’s a lot more reliable.

To test the clutch: put the transmission in the thirth gear and release the clutch slowly. When the car stalls  the clutch is fine. If it keeps running the clutch is worn out. Please be aware that not all car sellers like this test so ask them if you’re allowed to perform this test. If the gearbox and clutch produces a screeching / rattling noise or doesn’t t fully engage the release bearing and/or the pressure plate is worn out. Note: please also notice the gasses from the exhaust when you test the clutch: if big black smoke is coming out of the exhaust (coloring the street or pavement entirely black) the engine can be worn as well!

When you drive the car and you’re switching gears the revs of the engine should drop immediately when the lever is in the higher gear. When the revs are rising for a moment it means the clutch is slipping. Replacing the clutch will take about 4 hours of work plus the costs of the new clutch set (clutch plate, pressure plate and always replace the release bearing as well). In most cases it will be about $ 675,– / € 500,– (including parts, wages and VAT) if you can’t do it yourself.

To test the overdrive: take the car for a testdrive and the overdrive should work when you drive 45mph (70kmh) by slightly push the clutch pedal and use the overdrive switch. When you release the clutch pedal the revs of the engine should be a lot lower. Please test it several times and also for a longer time because overdrives can fall out due tilting pistons or solenoid problems.

The late type Amazon B20’s (introduced in 1968) don’t have a clutch master (main) cilinder and slave cilinder  but are working with a clutch fork and clutch cable (the same parts as the 140-series). Check the condition of the cable under the hood because it can break at the highest part before going into the firewall. Clutch cables aren’t expensive but you don’t want a broken cable when you’re driving home!

Also check the driveshaft for noises and shocks. In most cases of noise and shocks the universal joints of the prop shaft are worn out. If you hear a screaming noise it means the bearing of the propeller shaft is worn and needs to be replaced. Please replace the rubber (bearing support) as well. Replacing these parts are easy and pretty cheap.

Make sure the differential isn’t noisy. If it’s “singing” or whistling it might take a rebuild. Rebuilding a differential with new bearings and pinions can cost some serious money!

Volvo Amazon heating and cooling system

Check the condition of the radiator and all hoses. If you see any traces of coolant (or anti-freeze) it means there are some small leaks. Also check the radiator of the heating system because it’s more expensive to overhaul than the radiator for the engine.

When the engine temperature is high enough (the thermostat should be opened) check the heating system at the interior of the car. Use the heating controls and fan to check if they’re working fine and the car is getting hot and cold air blown in. When the heater controls don’t respond well (only warm or cold air is available, no matter the controls stands at warm or cold temperature) it means there is a problem with the heater valve (or maybe with the links to it) or heater radiator. Both aren’t a cheap fix.

In case of a closed cooling system: check the expansion tank of the Amazon for any leaks and while the engine is running there shouldn’t be boiling water (but boiling coolant can also be caused by the cap of the expansion tank, but you can fix that immediately by pulling the spring a bit and tighten the sealant).

Volvo Amazon brakes

There are six versions of brake systems for the Volvo Amazon:

  • single circuit brake system with brake drums at the front and rear (used on Amazons until MY 1964, with some minor modification during the years)
  • single circuit brake system with front brake discs and calipers and rear brake drums, without brake booster (MY 1962 – 67)
  • single circuit brake system with front brake discs and calipers and rear brake drums, with brake servo (MY 1965 – 67)
  • single circuit brake system with front brake discs, rear brake drums and brake pressure distributor, without brake servo (MY 1967)
  • single circuit brake system with front brake discs, rear brake drums and brake pressure distributor, with brake servo (MY 1967 – 68)
  • dual-circuit (divided) brake system with front brake discs, rear brake drums and brake booster (MY 1969 and 1970)

Of course many old Amazons have conversions to later type brake systems and many Amazons are equipped with a brake booster even they were originally sold without brake booster. Adding a brake booster isn’t hard and it really makes a big difference!

Be sure the brake boosters is working fine. The Girling, Lockheed and VH44L-versions can leak which means the brake system can loss its brake fluid resulting in non-working brakes! These three brake boosters can be repaired or replaced by a new one. But the brake booster of the B20 (which can have a leaking diaphragm) can leak and can’t be repaired. In case of a leak: the dual-circuit brake-system won’t consume any brake fluid at the brake servo but braking isn’t nice (the vacuum drawing will take longer). It should be replaced and this servo (made by ATE) isn’t a cheap one!

The brake system with brake drums is very reliable but not very easy to maintain: the technique is simple but getting the brake drums disassembled is a tough job (the most easy way is to get the brake drum puller of Volvo, part number 252423 or 9991791, but the puller is pretty expensive for a “simple” tool). Also adjusting the brake system when put together again isn’t very easy. Since the brake system is a simplex brake system you’ll have to be sure it’s working well. Also check the brake cilinder for any leaks (brake fluid).

When you’re taking a trip with an old type Amazon with brake drums the first time you’ll step on the brake pedal the car will be pulled in a certain direction (left or right). This is caused by dirt and/or  grit in the brake drums. Cleaning won’t help: a day later there will be new brake dust in the drum. And also notice the car with brake drums only will have it everytime at a new trip when you’re driving with the car. So no need for worries but if the car keeps being pulled to one side (after several braking actions) you can be sure there is a brake difference. It can be caused by a brake cilinder, brake shoes that are sticking or the brake drum itself. If the car brakes well there are no need for any worries.

Be sure the Amazon (with brake discs) won’t pull to one side during a testdrive. It means the brakes can be sticky to one side and needs a closer look to solve it. In most cases the brake calipers must be replaced (always do this in pairs to prevent brake difference).

Of course the brake system with brake discs at the front won’t have the “problem” (or feature I guess) and the disc brakes and calipers are much easier to maintain. Of course the Amazon still has brake drums at the rear but since most of the brake balance is set to the front it won’t have a hard job as the front brake discs. But again you’ll need the special tool to disassemble the brake drums and it’s still a pretty hard job to get it right.

Also check the state of the brake hoses, brake pipes and brake cilinders for any leakages or defects. Fortunately these parts aren’t very expensive and pretty easy to replace. To test the brake system for any leaks: press the brake pedal for a longer time. The brake pressure should be the same. If the pedal is lowering you’re sure something is wrong.

Parts of the brake system are very good available and not very expensive (except for the brake drums: they are pretty expensive). Working on the brake system is pretty easy as well but you’ll really have to be sure what you’re doing because making a mistake can give some serious troubles! When you’re taking a Volvo Amazon to a workshop or garage to fix the brake system you’ll have to be aware for some big bills: working on the brake drums and making the right adjustments are a time-consuming job and these days a lot of garages don’t even know how to exactly work on such old brake systems!

Volvo Amazon steering & suspension

The steering- and suspension system of the Volvo Amazon is very reliable. But of course they have some weak spots. Take a close look on the tie rods, steering rods, bushes of the wishbones, sway bars and the torque rods/support arms (and their silent blocs) of the rear axle. Since MY 1966 the rear suspension is almost problem-free thanks to the twin-trailing arm design. Earlier modelyears are featuring a single radius arm which can rust badly.

During the testdrive you should check for any play in the steering wheel and column. It can tell a lot about the condition of the bushing of the idler arm, ball joints and steering house itself. Check the steering box for any leaks.

To test the shock absorbers and suspension: lean on the car and push it down. After releasing the car should stand still immediately after it’s coming up. When the car is still shaking the shock absorbers have to be replaced. The condition of the springs can be assessed during a testdrive: if the car is too jumpy and can’t handle big shocks the springs needs to be replaced. Springs and shock absorbers are pretty cheap and not difficult to replace.

The rear suspension of the Amazon Combi needs special attention: because these cars are mostly used for heavier transports and a bigger load the rear suspension will suffer a lot more than the Amazon sedan. The radius arms of the Amazon Combi are different than the arms of the Amazon saloon and have bigger silent blocs and bushings. Due heavy load these arms and bushes can break or be worn out.

Volvo Amazon wheels and tires

Tires are the most important parts of the car: it’s the only way of contact with the road. In my opinion you must never save money on tires because a cheap Chinese tire is $ 10,- cheaper than a good brand like Goodyear, Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli or Vredestein. Make sure the tread is deep enough and there are no cracks caused by drought. The radial tires are the best choice for an Amazon: it provides a better road handling and are safer than bias plys (radials are stronger, stiffer and handles a lot better). Look after the tirewear:

  • Over inflation: the center part of the tire has excessive wear, caused by a too high air pressure. In this case the tire is riding on the middle of the tread and wearing out prematurely.
  • Under inflation: the outer parts of the tread are more worn than the center part. It isn’t caused by a too low tire pressure but caused by a bad wheel alignment (which may indicate a worn tie rod or ball joint).
  • One side wear: a inner or outer rib of the tire is worn more than the rest of the tread. Caused by bad wheel alignment, worn kingpins or ball joints or bad bushings/silent blocs of the control arms.
  • Cupping: damage on the sides (cups or scalloped dips) means worn suspension parts (mostly shock absorbers, kingpins, ball joints or springs). If you see a brake spot on the middle of the tread it means the car has made a emergency stop. It will cause a noisy tire (rolling noise) when you drive the car. Cupped tires needs to be replaced as soon as possible: tire trimming is a bad option (the tire is trimmed in cold condition but when the tire is warm again the noise can appear again).
  • Feathering: the edge of each tread rib has a rounded edge on one side and is sharp on the other side. You’ll need to feel it because it isn’t always visible. If you have a closer look you’ll see every rib is pushed aside. It is caused by a bad wheel alignment due worn bushings


Volvotips Volvo tire wear indication chart
The tire wear indication chart (click on the image for a larger version)


Please note tires only last for about 6 years. After 6 years the rubber lost its best of its compound. In most cases the production date is found on the tire: the week and year is mentioned on the tire and is called the DOT age-code. For example: 2607 means the tire is produced in week 26 of 2007. If you see a 3-digit number it means the tire is made before 2000 (for example: 187 means: week 17 of 1997). Needless to say but such old tires needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Check also the spare tire!

The wheels needs to be rustless and have no visible damage like bumps or dents. Some curb damage isn’t nice but it doesn’t effect the safety of the car. Some people put custom-made widened rims under their Amazon but if it isn’t done professionally it can be a big risk for your safety. I’m not a big fan of widened rims and in my opinion it’s much better to buy original GT-wheels, like Kronprinz, Lemmerz or the TUV-approved replica wheels sold by Scandcar (the Chineses replicas sold by some companies and webshops like Nordicar are poor and could be dangerous due its weak material). Other nice options are the Wolfrace-wheels (or Ansen Sprint, almost the same design), Minilites (again: do not buy the imitation-versions), GB wheels or Panasport wheels. Some alloy wheels of Suzuki (wheels of the small jeeps like the Samurai, Jimmy or Vitara but I don’t know which years exactly), Chevrolet and some other Japanese brands also fit on the Amazon (but you’ll have to be sure the ET is correct and please: don’t work with spacers).

If you hear any rolling sounds when you take the car for a testdrive please check the tires and the bearings of the wheels.

Volvo Amazon interior

During the years it’s most likely the interior and upholstery has had its best day. Sun (UV) and aging will cause cracks and tears in the dashboard padding, the cardboard kickpanels are abound and worn and rubbers can be as dry as the Sahara. Also moisture is a big enemy for the upholstery and interior. The Volvo Amazon can get very wet inside if door rubbers, window rubbers (like guide channels, windowbrushes, scrape rubbers, etc etc) and grommet or rubber plugs are worn out or are too dry.  Check the windscreen- and rear window rubbers for any damages or leaks, because a broken rubber can cause rust to the chassis. Broken side window rubbers will lead to rust inside the doors, so those rubbers needs to be in good condition as well.

Volvo Amazon Combi 220 interior upholstery
The interior of my ’65 Volvo Amazon Combi, including new original Volvo rubber floor mats (expensive but worth every penny), unfortunately the seat upholstery has a small crack in the vinyl and the seat straps needed replacement. A nice job for my brother when he bought the car 🙂

Replacing rubbers isn’t very hard (except the windscreen- and rear window rubbers, it can be a hell of a job) but if many rubbers needs to be replaced it’s expensive. Dashboard paddings are still new available and also covers for the paddings are available (which can be placed over the broken padding).

Lift up the carpet set (or rubber mat) to check for any rust at the bottom of the car. Especially check the sides (sills) and at the pedals and kickpanels: if there is any rust it means there could be a leak at the windscreen.

When you have a look at the doors: check for rust at the bottom of the doors and check the condition of the door panels. Open and close the side window and feel how smooth it goes (if it’s hard: the cable of the door window can have a problem but it’s pretty easy to replace). Check the hinges of the doors: if the door falls a bit down when you open it the hinges are worn.

The upholstery is now available again if you want to replace it. But it isn’t cheap but you’ll get the car in the same condition as it was when it left the factory. It’s possible to let a furnisher make a custom-made interior but that isn’t cheap as well. Check the seat spring set of the car for its condition (in case of an old type Amazon). And if the car has the foam seats you should check it sits still very good (if not: the foam needs replacement and/or the elastic seat straps).

The headlining of the Amazon saloons won’t suffer a lot so in most cases it is in good condition. If it needs to be replaced it isn’t expensive but it’s not a very easy job. The headlining of the Combi are often damaged due objects that were stabbing the ceiling.

Volvo Amazon electrical system

Check all wire harnesses for any cracks or rusty plugs and connections. Check all lamps of the car if the lights are matching with their light output (differences may indicate earth-problems or rust at the housings of the lights).  Test the indicator lights (if there is a problem with it: in most cases the relay is defect). Also test the horn of the car: if it won’t work there can be a problem with the horns or hitch in the cable in the steering wheel.

The electric system of the Amazon is very easy and cheap to maintain but you’ll have to be sure everything is working fine.

Volvo Amazon registration papers & VIN

Please check if  the licence plates and papers are complete. Check if the chassis number (VIN) on the registration papers matches the VIN-number on the car. The VIN-plate is located under the hood at the firewall on the passenger side, but the VIN is also stamped on a other location: check the registration papers where it should be located. Also check if the owner has a service history. Most Volvo Amazons are maintained by the owner itself: check if the seller has any copies of invoices.

Volvo parts for the Amazon

The parts of the Amazon are very good available. Most parts can be bought as brand new product at many webshops, most of them aren’t original Volvo-parts but they’re good enough as replacement (in some cases: a lot better than the original). When you buy an Amazon please don’t try to fix it with only second-hand parts because some day you’ll be punished for that. Some parts are out of production and aren’t being produced by other suppliers but that kind of parts can be refurbished at specialists (like radiators or old types alternators). All bodywork parts and rubbers are also very good available. Some parts are difficult to get, like the old type wiper motor (Electrolux) or some parts for the Zenith 36VN carburator. But there is always a solution available!

What to pay for a Volvo Amazon or Amazon Combi

It’s hard to say what the right price is for a Volvo Amazon. One thing is for sure: they are cars that aren’t sold in just one day (but much easier to sell than a PV or Duett). Younger car lovers prefer “newer” classic car like the 140- and 240-series. But there are many classic car fans that appreciate the Amazon a lot.

Prices of a Volvo Amazon or an Amazon Combi may differ per country, so the prices I mention here is a indication for most countries in Europe and I think the USA will have about the same asking price.

The biggest factor for the price is the condition of the car: an Amazon that needs work and doesn’t have a MOT (due too much rust or brakes that won’t work) the price should be about EUR 700,– (US Dollars: 1.000,–), a car that is suitable as daily driver (with a little rust but nothing big) should be around EUR 2500,- ($ 3350,–) and a Amazon in perfect condition should be around EUR 7500,– ($ 10.000,–). These prices may vary per country and of course the exact condition of the car determines its price. Also extra accessories can rise the price a bit. An Amazon Combi is in most cases about EUR 1.500,– ($ 2.000,–) more expensive than an Amazon sedan (no matter if it’s a 2-door or a 4-door version). Prices of the first (old type) Amazons like the P1200 may vary due its condition: most sellers ask something more (due its rareness) than a late type Amazon in the same condition, but the 6V-system, gearbox and engines are items that actually put the price downwards. It all depends on the market.

Summary buying tips for the Volvo Amazon

As you can see the buyers guide for the Volvo Amazon is very long. Of course you can read it completely but when you arrive at the car for a closer look you’ll forget the most of all the tips above.

Always be realistic with the price the seller is asking for his Amazon: you can’t expect a showroom-condition at an Amazon which should cost $1000,–. Keep in mind what your intention with the car is (daily driver, hobby-car, to restore it completely or partial, or you want a car that is actually in a brand-new mint condition) and also think what you want to spend.

And always make a testdrive with the car!

Please use this summary and take a print of it with you when you’re going to have a look:

  • Bodywork: check for rust, especially the sills, doors, front- and rear fenders, front and rear window areas, inner front wing panels, wheel arches, spare wheel container, the parts behind the rear wheel (rigged body part) and floor panels. Also check the condition of the bumpers. At an Amazon Combi: take a close look on the rear tailgate doors for rust and the bottom of the rear part.
  • Engine: check for oil usage during the testdrive (go to 60mph/90kmh, let the car drop down to 35mph/55kmh and put the pedal to the metal: if you see black smoke leaving the exhaust the car has a oil consuming problem). If possible: perform a compression test. An engine that “sounds like a charm” isn’t the best buy: when running idle the car should have some “dips” in revolutions sometimes.
  • Transmission and driveshaft: check for noises and test the clutch (ask for permission) by putting the car in thirth gear and engage the clutch pedal. If the car stalls the clutch is fine, if it keeps running the clutch needs replacement. Listen carefully for noises during a testdrive: a constant screaming sound and banging means there is something wrong with the driveshaft (but not expensive to repair).
  • Cooling system: check the hoses, radiator and when the engine is hot enough test the heating system in the car. At a closed cooling system: check at a hot engine the coolant isn’t boiling in the expansion tank.
  • Braking system: check for any leaks and test during a testdrive if the cars is pulling to one side when braking. Also check the brake booster and brake cilinder for any leaks.
  • Steering & suspension: test the shock absorbers and springs by pulling down the car. After release the car should get up and stop shaking immediately. If it keeps shaking the shock absorbers needs to be replaced. Check for any play and noise from the front axle during the testdrive. Check the rear support arms which are connected to the rear axle.
  • Wheels & tires: check for any damage at the wheels or rims and tires. The condition of the tire can tell you a lot about the wheel alignment and condition of kingpins, ball joints and tie rods. Check the tread and the age of tires (DOT-code, tires shouldn’t be older than 6 years). Check for rolling sounds (caused by bad tires or bearings).
  • Interior: check for rust at the inside (especially behind the cardboard kickpanels and floor panels) and the condition of the upholstery. Take a close look at the rubbers (especially the rubbers of the windows and windscreen). Check the seats for its support and the seats shouldn’t be sagged (otherwise it needs new foam and/or new seat straps).
  • Electrical system: check all lights and have a look all lamps are shining at the same strength (if not: the car can have some troubles with its negative/mass). Also check the condition of all cable harnesses and electrical wires.
  • Paperwork: check if all registration papers and service history (if possible) are complete.

If you have any doubts (in the car or yourself) you should consider a purchase inspection. If the seller don’t want to co-operate with a inspection you know there is something wrong with the car. A purchase inspection will cost some money but can prevent you spending money on big repair costs, and the defects that will appear can be a good reason for negotiating on the price.

Volvo Amazon P1200 and 131 at an independent purchase inspection
A ’58 Volvo Amazon P1200 and Amazon 131 at an independent purchase inspection

Good luck with finding the right Volvo Amazon saloon, coach or Combi for you!

Any questions or comments? Please feel free to mail me at info@volvotips.com!

© Volvotips 2011


2 Responses to “Buying tips Amazon”

  1. volatus says:

    Hi,I’m new to your site and enjoy it very much,Ive owned and restored many volvos in my 72 years.I’m now retired from volvo cars of North America and enjoy driving my 1967 210 Duett.
    I recently bought 4 wide rims from VP and I’m a little worried about your statement of Dangerous and Weak.Could you help me with some of the details,Id hate to discard the wheels,But if they might fail I have no other choice.
    Thanks for any information.

    John Jones

    • Volvotips says:

      Hello John,

      thank you for your reaction! If you have the Chinese versions there can be reason to worry. The biggest problem of the Chinese version is during the installation of the tires: a couple of tirefitters told me the Chinese replicas were cracking and crunching on the tire fitting machine. If the tires are already on the wheels and didn’t cause any problems there are no reasons to worry. VP had problems with the fitting of the hubcaps but fixed these problems. Since the new wheels are available the number of complaints dropped enormously.

      The TUV-approved versions seems also to be produced in Asia (most likely also China), but don’t have any “Made in China”-stamp in the wheel.

      VP mailed me about the statement I made of the wheels and thinks I’m wrong about the VP-versions that I called unsafe. I will mail them back and tell them why I think their version couln’t be safe. If it appears they’re selling the right version now, I will let it know on the website.

      Best regards,
      Rob ter Huurne
      Webmaster Volvotips.com

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