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Volvo Amazon turns 60 – Throwback Thursday

The Volvo Amazon made its global debut in September 1956 and has become one of the most iconic models in Volvo’s history.

NAMED AFTER the female warriors of Greek mythology, the Volvo Amazon is widely regarded as one of the most iconic models in Volvo’s history. The Amazon received its debut in the Swedish town of Örebro in September 1956.

Inspired by Italian, British and US cars, the Amazon was quite unlike anything that had come out of Volvo’s design studio and is easily one of the best looking models in the brands history. The man responsible for the design was 26-year-old Jan Wilsgaard, who went on to become Volvo’s head of design for many years, designing the 140, 240 and 700 series, as well as parts of the 800 series.

The Amazon was only Volvo’s second post-WWII model, following on from the, er, Amason. That car was the PV444 which was renamed the Amazon in 1956 to fit in with the internationally recognized spelling of Amazon.

But the Amazon was only known as the Amazon in Nordic markets due to German motorcycle maker already having registered the name Amazone. So, around the world the Amazon was known as the Volvo 121. The 122 was the sports version (Volvo’s factory driver, Carl-Magnus Skogh, won the 1965 Acropolis Rally in Greece driving a 122S), while the wagon variant was known as the 221 and the 222 for the sports wagons.

Between 1957 and 1959, all cars were two-coloured. The combinations on offer were black, midnight blue or ruby red bodies with a light grey roof, or a light grey body with a black roof. From 1959, it became possible to buy an Amazon in just one colour, and 1961 was the final year of production of the two-coloured cars.

The 1958 Amazon Sport was developed for customers who wanted more power. With twin SU carburettors and a sharper camshaft, the engine made around 60kW.

In 1959, Volvo’s patented three-point seatbelt became a standard feature in the Amazon – a world first. The Volvo 122S launched in Australia in 1961.

The sportiest edition of the Amazon was the 123 GT, which borrowed its engine from the 1800S sports car. The 123 GT was launched in 1967, offering 85kW. The wing mirrors were attached to the front fenders, extra lights came as standard and a tachometer was mounted above the dashboard.

Product development on the Amazon continued despite the introduction of the 140 series in 1966. Both the Amazon and the 140 series received the new B20 engine for their respective 1969 models.

A total of 667,791 Amazons were built between 1956 and 1970, making it Volvo’s most manufactured model at that time. The Amazon saw Volvo switch focus from the domestic market to international sales – a total of 60% of Amazons manufactured were sold outside of Sweden.

The Amazon was also the first Volvo to be assembled outside of Sweden. In 1963, Volvo’s plant in the Canadian city of Halifax opened its doors. Cars were built there for the North American market. On 3 July 1970, the final Amazon was built at Torslanda. It was dark blue and was driven straight into the collection of cars that’s now known as the Volvo Museum.


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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober