Volvo Amazon Model Years
This page is a serious attempt to present the differences between the fourteen model years of the Volvo Amazon. It is not a complete record of those differences. Partly because Volvo didn't get the whole model year concept straight until about 1965 (not only did Volvo have half model years but also changed many details from a certain chassis number rather than in between two model years), partly because of Volvo's penchant for mixing and matching whatever happened to be on the shelves at any given time in these days, and also because Volvo has always been paying very close attention to customer needs: if a customer wanted a sports equiped P 220 Amazon Estate with the bigger engine and overdrive transmission, then the customer got just that - regardless of whether or not that particular edition was made in just that one unit or as part of a series. One example is a customer who in the spring of 1962 asked why he couldn't get an Amazon with automatic clutch. Volvo answered that automatic clutch had been available on the models with the B16 engine but that the demand simply had been too low. But if a customer wanted his Amazon delivered with Saxomatic clutch "then we will be able to accomodate such a request through our service network." The descriptions on this page mainly relates to the cars sold on the Swedish market.
Let's start from the beginning:
1957 - Volvo P 1200 or Volvo P 120 AMAZON is introduced to the public on Friday, August 3rd, 1956 and is priced at SEK 12,600 ex works Gothenburg. Production is preceded this first model year by two prototypes, called X1 and X2; read more about them in the history section. The engine in the new Volvo is based on the B4 B from the PV 444 and is named B16 A. The displacement yields 97 CID (1,583 cm3) and the engine is armored with one Zenith 34 VN carburetor. According to Volvo, the car has a top speed of 90 mph (145kph), but turns out to rust easily and has serious issues with water leakage. The side windows has the habit of falling down by themselves and the steering wheel pole rattles when driving. After some 250 produced cars, Volvo briefly stopped the production to address some of these early problems. Volvo also promise more efficient and less expensive maintenance due to a reduced number of grease points. When introduced, the car caused some surprise for a relatively underdimensioned engine with a performance matching (in some cases exceeding) many sports cars at the time. Below are some of the car's characteristics:
* Most resellers in Sweden equiped the cars with seatbelts before selling them - not only out of concern for the buyers' safety.
1958 - Production of cars that later are assigned to model year 1958 by Volvo starts in February 1958 and these distinguish themselves from the 1957 model year (which is still in production) by being fitted with the new, fully synchronized four speed transmission M4. This is possibly a reconstruction of the event by Volvo. One example of this is that cars with the older H6 gearbox were being produced in parallel with cars with the newer M4 gearbox (see the section on production). The first exported Volvo Amazon goes to Denmark on April 16th 1958 when Princess Margrethe (now Queen of Denmark) is officially presented a Volvo Amazon on her 18th birthday. The color? Royal blue, ofcourse. Sales outside Sweden is initiated shortly thereafter but not under the name Volvo Amazon as the German moped manufacturer Kreidler owns the rights to the name "Amazon" (although not in Scandinavia). The cars exported outside Scandinavia are therefore officially called Volvo 121 and Volvo 122 S, depending on edition. Outside Scandinavia, the cars are fitted with "Volvo" badges on the fenders, same kind as the cars sold in Scandinavia had below the trunk lid. During the model year, the Volvo Amazon Sport is introduced - initially outside Scandinavia only. This forces Volvo to think in new terms in regards to type designations. Sales outside Sweden is very slow. Volvo hire a certain Nils Bohlin to their safety department.
* On left hand drive cars, the opposite for right hand drive cars.
1959 - Sales outside Sweden continue. The top picture below is from the 1959 Paris Car Salon and shows two Volvo 122 S on display, of which the one in the rear is in single tone finish (and with the hood made of plexi glass). Sales of the 122 S starts in the USA and the first cars arrive in New Jersey on March 16th 1959. Volvo 122 S is introduced together with the PV 544 in april at the New York International Auto Show. Some 2,000 Volvo 122 S are shipped to the USA during the year and the equipment level on these cars is adjusted somewhat for this market, including the classic front bumper bar as a complement to the front bumper (which are also reinforced). This was because the Volvo 122 S is very small compared with contemporary American cars, whose bumpers would hit a 122 S higher up in a collision. The 121 is not included in the sales plans for USA and Canada as the A-engine (with single carburetor) in the 121 is considered to be too weak for these two markets. The cars intended for the North American market came to be lavishly equiped compared to the Swedish editions (something which is true yet today). This is a sales brochure for the Volvo 122 S in USA. Volvo still has some distance to go in terms of getting their model years straight and several changes are introduced at certain chassis numbers, this model year at 21000 with a very clear connection to the introduction of the car in the USA. During the year 30,016 new Volvos are registered for traffic in Sweden, the highest number a car manufacturer had ever achieved this far. In November, preparations begin for a new production plant in Torslanda further out on Hisingen outside Gothenburg when Volvo purchase 1,000 acres of land about 4 miles west of the Lundby plant and start preparing the access roads. The Police in Sweden buys eleven extra equipped Amazon Sport for traffic surveillance. The cars are painted black and white with the word POLIS on both sides, in front and in the back. This is new in Sweden and something they learned from America. Nils Bohlin becomes head of Volvo's safety department during the year at which he develops and patents a three-point static safety belt. The design holds both the upper and lower body in place, and is simple enough that the driver can buckle up with one hand. Volvo introduces the invention as standard equipment on the Volvo Amazon during the model year and thereby becomes the first car manufacturer in the world to equip series produced cars with three-point safety belts as standard. It has later been acknowledged as one of the most important inventions for mankind in the 20th century. During the 1963, Volvo makes the patent available to all car manufacturers.
* The one brake lining exercise (when braking) a pressure on the other brake lining, which results in a certain servo effect.
1960 - No major changes this year. There are serious plans for an assembly plant in Canada to reduce import duties, where strictly imposed import regulations would make it less expensive for Volvo to assemble the cars in Canada rather than importing them. The insurance company Volvia, a fully owned subsidary to Volvo, is founded and Volvo owners are offered a prolonged insurance policy the day that the warranty expires. This is a sales brochure for the 122 S this year.
* Also ch.-no. 39983-40115, 40118-40150 and 40156-40164. The new roof interior comes in two versions: one in plastic and one in textile.
1961 - One consequence of the introduction of the Volvo 122 S and the PV 544 in the USA is that Volvo for the first time starts getting the model year concept straight. Cars manufactured between the industrial vacations in 1960 and 1961 belong to model year 1961, which is something that from now on is valid throughout the end of Volvo Amazon production. Major changes on the power train are introduced this year including new gearboxes with overdrive and saxomatic clutch available as option. Saxomatic clutch, a semi-automatic electric clutch that is activated when the gearshift lever is touched, more or less flunked in sales and can only be found on this model year. The same went for the M31 gearbox, that with overdrive on both second and third gears in principle is equiped with five gears. Saxomatic clutch is available both on cars with floor lever and on cars with steering wheel lever, and both to 121 and 122 S. The model year is the only one in which color midnight blue (31 and 35) is available. Major changes are also made on the interior. Volvo introduces the sports car P 1800 this year, which is based on the chassis from the Volvo Amazon. This is a sales brochure for the 122 S this year.
* This is consistent through out all model years.
1962 - Volvo is by now Sweden's largest single exporter and approximately half of the total production is exported (an increase of 18 % compared to the previous year). Assembly of Volvo 122 S is started at DiVolvo's assembly plant in Arica, Chile. This is Volvo's first foreign assembly plant and some 3,000 Volvo Amazons are shipped here up to 1967. Volvo produce 108,376 vehicles during the year. Read more about this in the section on production. Every fourth new car sold in Sweden is a Volvo. Volvo is the fourth largest imported car brand in the USA, to which the 100,000 Volvo car is shipped during the year. A Volvo Amazon is priced at SEK 12 705 this year. The two door sedan (P 130) is introduced on October 27th 1961, by many perceived as a sportier model of the Volvo Amazon. At first, the P 130 is only available in black (19) *, later also in slate blue (67) and mist green (73), and it is priced SEK 500 lower than the P 120. It is initially sold only in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. At the Stockholm Motor Show in February 1962, the P 220 is introduced as the Volvo Amazon Estate, for the first time providing Volvo with a full model range within one and the same program. A Volvo Amazon Estate this year costs SEK 14,475 including sales tax. The Estate is somewhat longer behind the rear wheels compared with the sedan models and the rear is generally reconstructed to allow for a lower level of the cargo area, which implicates a different design of the fuel tank compared with the sedan models. The Estate is fitted with a split trunk lid. Volvo establishes a competition department later during the year - Volvo Competition Service - with a reluctant Gunnar Andersson as head (Andersson would much rather have continued as a full-time rally driver). On May 28th, 1962 one of Volvo's founders, Assar Gabrielsson, passes away. Gabrielsson was CEO in AB Volvo since the company was founded in 1925 and since 1956 Chairman of the Board.Gearbox with steering wheel lever (M40RV) attracts 6.5% of the customers.
* All P 130 ch.-no. 1-877 has color code 19 (black) except ch.-no. 703 that has color code 73 (mist green) and ch.-no. 704 that has color code 67 (slate blue).
1963 - The changes that are made this model year are focused on appearance and comfort with new upholstery and color combinations. On June 11th, 1963 Sweden's Prince Bertil officially inaugurates Volvo's assembly plant in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada housed in an old converted sugar refinery. This is Volvo's second foreign assembly plant and the only plant Volvo has ever built in North America (it was closed in 1998). Through the establishment of the Dartmouth plant Volvo becomes the first European car manufacturer with production in North America. The Volvo 122 S produced here are intended for the domestic Canadian market where they are marketed as Volvo Canadian and Volvo Canadian Station Wagon. The Canadian built Amazons get a special "Volvo Canadian" badge to the left below the trunk lid (see picture), but have 122 S badges on the front fenders. The PV 544 is also assembled in Dartmouth and later also the 140-series. Read more about Volvo Canadian in the section on production. The Volvo 122 S sold in the USA are imported from Sweden. The Estate is now sold outside Sweden, on some markets also in the sports edition 122 S. Sales of the Estate in the US did possibly start already the year before, judging from the pictures of the car in this sales brochure that obviously show a 1962 Estate (dash pad extension on doors, 222 fender badges - oddly without the "S"). So far 100,000 units manufactured. During the year, Volvo releases the free use of its patent on the three-point static seat belt to all car manufacturers in an effort to reach wider acceptance for the use of seat belts. This is a sales brochure for the 122 S this year and here is one for the Estate.
* Bisect tail lights (red, red, white) on US and Canadian export cars to the USA and Canada from ch.-no. 112915 on P 120, 10725 on P 130 and on all P 220.
1964 - On April 24th, 1964 production of Volvo Amazon is moved from the Lundby factory to the brand new and custom built plant in Torslanda just outside Gothenburg (an investment which wouldn't be possible without the success of the Volvo Amazon). A Volvo Amazon is the first car produced at Torslanda. The model year is the only one in which color turquoise (85) is available, although only on very early cars - the paint was probably discontinued due to quality issues. During the model year, the oil cap on the valve cap are moved forward. Late during the model year Hayes is added to the list of suppliers of the M27 rear axis (later also the newer M30), which is identical with Spicer. Volvo manufacture its one millionth car - a Volvo Amazon - and is by now Sweden's largest corporation. USA continues as Volvo's biggest export market where 14,175 Volvo cars were sold during the year. This is a sales brochure for the 122 S this year and this is another one.
* Borg & Warner's three step automatic transmission BW35 with steering wheel lever.
1965 - This model year reveals a number of major changes on the Volvo Amazon in all its models. The new Volvo seat is introduced, which has been developed together with medical expertise. The successful staking on the rally scene leads to the manufacturing and introduction of special trim kits for competition use under the name Rally Sport or R-sport. Some 1,000 units get these trim kits factory installed and become so popular that Volvo sells them as parts through their resellers. The new M30 rear axis is mounted also in the Estate, randomly mixed with the Salisbury axis. Later this year Volvo brings its active involvement in rallying to a close, after a number of serious accidents. On October 20th 1965 the last produced PV 544 leaves the Lundby factory production line (a Sport with special paint and red interior) after 440,000 produced units. It was saved and can be seen at Volvo's museum in Arendal. Volvo establishes an assembly plant in Ghent, Belgium (Volvo Europe N.V., VENV) during the fall which assembles Volvo Amazon cars (the first produced car at VENV is a Volvo Amazon), by now the best selling car in Sweden. Read more on VENV in the section on production. This is a sales brochure for the 122 S this year
These modifications would give the car an output of approximately 124 hp (DIN) / 135 hp (SAE). Later editions of the Volvo trim kits would allow outputs up to 180 hp (SAE). These included specially made cylinder heads, valve sizes of up to 1.81 " and revolutions of up to 8,500 rpm.
* Front seats with pre-installed guide sleeves for the headrests on some markets, including USA.
1966 - The Volvo Amazon Favorit is introduced on some markets this year as a more economic alternative to the standard edition and also to compensate for the discontinuation of the PV 544. A Volvo Amazon Favorit is priced at SEK 1,500 less than a Volvo Amazon. Until now, the Volvo 121 has been considered the standard edition - something which is now taken over by Volvo Amazon Favorit while Volvo 121 is considered to be the special edition. Volvo Amazon Favorit has no special badges on the body, on the contrary it ships with "121" badges on the front fenders just like special edition. The Volvo Amazon Favorit is sold on several markets (but not all) and is also assembled at VENV in Belgium. Volvo 122 S is now also assembled in Durban, South Africa by Motor Assemblies Ltd. Read more on the South African made cars in the section on production. A record number of 119,000 units are manufactured this year and consequently the most common Volvo Amazon is a pearl white two door sedan of model year 1966. Production in Dartmouth, Canada has now reached 3,700 cars annually. Here's a 1966 122 S review from Volvo.
* Of course, this also led to an increased output but Volvo didn't bother to mention this.
1967 - Production of the P 120 comes to an end in December 1966 and the last unit to roll off the assembly line at Torslanda does so with ch.-no. 233747. The last units are delivered in parts to assembly plants abroad. The assembly plant in Canada is relocated a few miles from Dartmouth to a new and larger facility in Halifax, still in Nova Scotia. The Halifax plant has a capacity of just over 8,000 car per year. Volvo starts manufacturing the M30 rear axis, that now has three suppliers: in addition to Volvo also Spicer and Hayes. As a direct result of Volvo's racing successes, the 123 GT is introduced this year as a top of the line model with a vast number of extra features. A new 123 GT is priced at SEK 18,800 including taxes. The engine is a B18 B with C-camshaft, higher compression and different armament of the carburetors compared with the B18 D on the 122 S and has a stated output of 96 hp (DIN) / 115 hp (SAE) which is lower than on the P 1800. Besides the engine, previously available only on the P 1800, the 123 GT is equipped with the M41 gearbox with overdrive. Essentially being a 122 S with P 1800 mechanics, the story is that persistent delays in manufacturing P 1800 bodies in the UK caused a backlog of B18 B engines and M41 transmissions and so Volvo used up the excess by producing the 123 GT. The 123 GT is not sold in the USA *, but several cars are privately imported and it is also available for American customers via Volvo's European Delivery Program. The 123 GT is assembled also at the Halifax plant in Canada (type designation 133951, for instance ch.-no. 258557). The Volvo Canadian GTs typically came without the auxiliary lights, had only one fender mirror but came with limited slip differential and emergency flasher unit **. These Volvo Canadian GT were also available in other colors, including light green (91), light blue (95) and dark blue (96) and are often seen with S-codes 5145 and 5324. The 123 GT is assembled also at the Ghent plant in Belgium (VENV, type designation 133951M, for instance ch.-no. 235563) and is often seen with S-codes 5118 and 5297. Several improvements and safety innovations developed for the 140-series, such as dual circuit brake system and collapsible steering wheel pole, are introduced late in the model year on the Volvo Amazon in its export edition to the USA. A number of vehicles in 122 S edition are delivered with the B18 B engine (type designation 133x41/2M), including export cars to the USA, cars for assembly in South Africa, and cars to the Swedish police. A number of cars, both P 120 and P 130, in 122 S edition are delivered with overdrive this model year (type designation 122351/1M and 132351/2M). Volvo Amazon remains Sweden's most sold car with 19,252 units this year.
* Volvo Service Hints, Volvo Inc., 1968 page 16.
1968 - Safety continues to dominate the changes between the model years, this year with collapsible steering wheel pole, non-reflecting windshield frames and power brakes. Several details in the interior are changed for increased occupant safety, especially on cars for the North American markets: knobs and fittings get a rounder design, knee and foot protective mouldings are added, parts are made non-reflecting, etc. This is to a large extent driven by legal demands in the USA. The same or very similar legal requirements are later imposed also on several other markets. This is the last model year sold to customers in the United States - from now on, all marketing efforts there are focused on the new 140-series and the more luxurious Volvo 164. A 122 S is priced at $2,775 and an Estate at $3,075, an increase of $95 from the previous model year to compensate for the additional safety features. Read what Volvo writes when introducing the 1968 model year. On July 4th one of Volvo's founders, Gustaf Larson passes away. He held the position as chief engineer and deputy CEO until 1952 when he took a seat in the board of directors, a position he held until his retirement in 1958. On September 3rd 1967, Sweden shifts to driving on the right side of the road and in connection with this, speed limits are introduced also outside cities. The introduction of the 1968 model year in Sweden is therefore postponed and Volvo Amazon is for the first time introduced in foreign countries before Sweden. The Volvo Amazon Favorit - that never became a favorite among the customers (except in Norway) - is discontinued after this model year.
* P 130 ch.-no. 295233-, P 220 ch.-no. 69299-.
1969 - Product development of the 120-series has ceased and the model year is characterized by several simplifications, of which many are derived from the now discontinued Volvo Amazon Favorit. This is the last model year with the Estate, which is now being replaced by Volvo 145 and Volvo 145 Express. The last Estate manufactured, a dark blue with ch.-no. 73220, was saved and can be seen at the Volvo Museum in Arendal. An early design proposal (see picture below) of removing the front overriders is revoked. The model year is introduced with rear side windows on the P 130 that cannot be opened, but this is soon changed by popular demand. The new B20 engine (developed for the 140-series) is introduced also in the Volvo Amazon: B20 A in the 121 with 82 hp (DIN) / 90 hp (SAE) and the sport engine B20 B with 100 hp (DIN) / 118 hp (SAE) in the 122 S and the 123 GT. The new engine is of course based on the B18, and comes with a more powerful engine block compared to its predecessor. The same cylinder block is used in both the A and B versions and the difference in compression (8.7 and 9.5 respectively) is accomplished by having different thickness on the gaskets. Sales of the 122 S in the USA has ceased but continues in Canada with slightly changed type designation (P133441S, for instance ch.-no. 335783) and with headrests as standard (S-code 5558, 5559 or 5560 depending on upholstery). The 123 GT is now available on only a few markets and the few cars exported in GT edition are done so with S-code 5314 and type designation P13335xS. Most of the extra GT equipment is now sold separately as accessories by Volvo (see for instance the 1969 accessories catalogue). There are trim kits made by Volvo Competition Service also for the B20. The carburetors are now called Zenith-Stromberg 175 CD-2 and SU HS 6.
* On the B engines the same kind of simple emission control as fitted on the export cars to the USA in 1968, on the A engines also changed carburettor (with sealed settings).
1970 - Not since the B16 cars have there been fewer differences between two model years. The model year starts with ch.-no. 340001, a dark green 123 GT. The last Amazon, a dark blue P 130 with ch.-no. 359726, rolls off the production line at the Torslanda plant in Gothenburg on Friday July 3rd, 1970. It was saved and can be seen at the Volvo Museum in Arendal. By then, the multi-talented car had given safe and reliable service to thousands of families all over the world, to numerous police forces plus winning the Acropolis rally, among many other things. Thousands of Amazons around the world still bear witness of a true survivor, being well looked after collectors cars or mellowed "million-milers" in daily use. When production is resumed after the industrial vacations in 1970, all Amazon production assets are relocated to the 140-series. The Volvo Amazon is no longer assembled in Halifax or Ghent - all production assets at these plants have already been relocated to the 140-series. The very last Volvo Amazon cars are shipped in parts to the assembly plant in South Africa later in the fall. The last Volvo Amazon assembled in South Africa has ch.-no. 359918.
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