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The Volvo Parts, Accessories &
Performance Specialists Since 1963

Volvo Amazon

1956-1970 Volvo Amazon - 121, 122, 123GT, 130, P220

In the late 1950s, the PV544 remained a popular model for Volvo, but the age of its WWII-era underpinnings was becoming very apparent. Add in a growing global demand for bigger cars, and Volvo felt the time was right for a larger successor to the venerable PV444/544.

This new car, now also available as a 4-door sedan and a 5-door wagon, was originally supposed to be called the Amason, but due to a copyright conflict with a German motorcycle company that had a similarly-named model, Volvo only called it the Amazon for the domestic Swedish market, instead introducing its 3-digit naming scheme internationally as the 120-series. We thus commonly refer to this car as the Amazon, but models came badged as:

  • P120 series 4-door:
    • 121
    • 122 S
  • P130 series 2-door:
    • 131
    • 132 S
    • 123 GT
  • P220 series 5-door wagon:
    • 221
    • 222 S

We've seen some USA examples of the Amazon as early as 1956, but the model's official North American debut was at the International Automobile Show in New York in 1959. 

Also arriving in 1959 was a new piece of equipment, pioneered by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin: the three point safety belt. The Volvo Amazon was the first car in the world to carry this lifesaving technology as standard, and seatbelts soon spread both to other cars in Volvo's lineup and (thanks to an open, freely-available patent) other manufacturers' cars as well.

The Amazon first came with a B16 inline four cylinder engine and a 3-speed manual transmission, but over the model's long life it was also eventually offered with the B18 and B20 engine, as well as a 4-speed manual M40, 4-speed manual with overdrive M41, or 3-speed automatic BW35 transmission. 

As with many other Volvos from the late 1950s through the 1970s, "overdrive" in cars with this option was a separate overdrive unit attached to the rear of the transmission, between the transmission and the driveshaft. On pressing the "overdrive" switch on the shifter at cruising speed, the "D-type" Laycock de Normanville overdrive assembly would engage a higher gear; effectively, a Laycock overdrive unit is a self-contained 5th gear bolted to the outside of a 4-speed transmission.

The sportier "S" models had twin-carbureted, high compression engines, typically making around 100hp. 100hp from a 1.8 doesn't sound like much to a modern audience, but given the Amazon's relatively low, ~2400lb curb weight, it was competitive for the time.

The B20 2-liter four cylinder appeared late in the Amazon's history, available from 1969 until the Amazon's end of production in 1970. By the late 1960s, the Amazon was being gradually replaced by Volvo's new midsize car, the 140 series. Declining production in later years means B20-engined Amazons are quite uncommon, especially in the USA.

  • Sold in the USA from 1956 through 1970
    • Some early models before official availability from 1959 onwards
  • Available in 2 door sedan, 4 door sedan and 5 door station wagon variants:
    • P120 series 4-door:
      • 121
      • 122 S
    • P130 series 2-door:
      • 131
      • 132 S
      • 123 GT: special edition from 1967, with high compression engine, M41 transmission, and extra options and trim
    • P220 series 5-door wagon:
      • 221
      • 222 S
  • Automatic and manual transmissions:
    • 3-speed manual (H6, M30)
      • 3-speed manual overdrive (M31) in 1961 only
    • 4-speed manual (M40)
    • 4-speed manual overdrive (M41), D-type
      • J-type overdrive on cars with B20 engines
    • 3-speed automatic (BW35) from 1964
  • Only four cylinder gasoline engines available:
    • B16 before 1962
    • B18 from 1962-1967
      • Twin-carb, high-compression B18B on "S" trims
    • B20 from 1968-1970
  • 12-volt electrical system with alternator from 1962
  • 3-point safety belt standard for driver and front seat passenger from 1959 onwards

Model information is based on the USA vehicle market. Other model variations may exist outside the USA.

Here are some popular products for Volvo Amazon

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