Safety in Volvo Amazon
When Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson founded Volvo in 1925 they had considered producing a Swedish built car for several years. The business idea was basically that a car made of the world class Swedish steel would be of higher quality and successfully be able to compete with the American cars on the market. The roads in Sweden in the 1920s were miserable and many of the imported cars were simply not built for these roads, for the Swedish winters and especially not for the combination of the two. This is where the gentlemen Gabrielsson and Larson saw a business opportunity, and Volvo's trucks and cars eventually built a reputation to be robust, safe and reliable. Simply put, they were dimensioned after different circumstances than the competition.
Responding to criticism from resellers of Volvo's cars regarding overdimensioned constructions that made the cars more expensive, and also because of poor sales, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson wrote a sales manual to Volvo's resellers in 1936. It was to be treated as confidential and each issue was numbered. In it, Gustaf Larson writes: "An automobile is driven by people. The fundamental principle for all construction work is and must therefore be: Safety. Each single detail must be dimensioned so that it withstands every strain, with the exception of collisions. If, for instance, a front wheel spindle breaks it could cost human lives".
It is not until 1956, when Gunnar Engellau resumes the seat as CEO in AB Volvo from Assar Gabrielsson, that safety as we relate to it today starts becoming a concious profile for the company. Gunnar Engellau understood probably better than most the importance for a company to profile itself and found in safety something that Volvo already excelled at, that Volvo already distinguished itself with and that Volvo from now on would become best in class at. When the Volvo Amazon was introduced in 1956 it came with fittings for static two-point seat belts in front, while the belts were sold as accessories. Already during the model year 1958 the belts are included as standard equipment. Same time extensive experience among medical doctors univocally showed how unnecessarily extensive personal injuries were as a result of people being exposed and unprotected in cars during accidents and collisions, while the general interest among car owners for buckling up were virtually non-existing. Several patents for different seat belt solutions existed on the marked, the first from as early as 1885, and Volvo's two-point static belt solution for the Amazon was not their own solution.
As a step in profiling Volvo towards safety, Gunnar Engellau hires a certain Nils Bohlin in 1958 from SAAB's airplane division to the role as Volvo's first safety engineer. Bohlin had, among other things, constructed the ejector seat and its surrounding equipment in the fighter jet J35 Draken. The two-point seat belt was not entirely successful in its design, often causing significant injuries on the body's soft tissues with the belt buckle aligned with the chest. Below is an advertisement from Volvo for the accessory seat belt (note the fitting behind the seat) and also a sketch from a 1958 service bulletin.
Nils Bohlin patents a static three-point seat belt already in 1959, which has a fitting next to the seat instead of behind it and which was simple enough in its design that it allowed buckling up with one hand. The big advantage with the construction was that the body was not allowed to move by the belt during strains, which significantly improved survival rates and reduced injuries with 50-60%. The invention has later been recognized as one of the most important for mankind during the 20th century. Volvo starts to include Bohlin's three-point static seat belt as standard equipment in the Volvo Amazon during 1959 (for model year 1960) on some markets and thereby becomes the first car manufacturer in the world to equip a series produced car with three-point seat belts as standard. Volvo quickly realize the importance of the three-point seat belt and choose to release the patent for all car manufacturers. No other single safety detail has saved more lives than the three-point seat belt.
"I realized that both the upper and the lower parts of the body must be firmly fixated, with one belt over the chest and another over the hip. With a static fitting for the buckle placed low and to the side of the occupant's hip so that the belt lies tight towards the body during the entire collision. The challenge was to find a solution that was both simple and efficient to use as it must be possible to use it with only one hand." - Nils Bohlin
Below are a number of safety details in the Volvo Amazon, listed per model year. Typically, but not always, a detail first appeared the previous calendar year. Some details are the result of legal demands on a particular market, why cars intended for that market got the detail earlier than cars for other markets (some of which may have never gotten it). The prime example is export cars for USA 1968. The detail is listed on the model year when it first appeared on the Volvo Amazon, regardless of market. Further, some details first appeared on other Volvo models than the Amazon, such as the dual circuit brake system that came on the 140-series in 1966. Some safety details were first available as accessories but were later fitted as standard equipment (this also varies between different markets). Some details were only available on a certain edition on a particular market, for instance four-way emergency flasher in Sweden (only on the Police edition). The list below is not necessarily complete and is in no particular order within the model years.
Volvo Amazon Picture Gallery
is an independent website with photos,
chassis number database, handbooks, manuals, and other documentation related to Volvo Amazon. Please
send us an e-mail if you want to add pictures to the gallery and database
or if you have documents that you want to share with the rest of us. There is no fee or club affiliation required to register a car in the
gallery. We welcome Volvo Amazons in any shape and condition!
Karl Eric Målberg and Fredrik Lofter