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The Volvo Amazon Has Just Turned 60


The Volvo Amazon Has Just Turned 60

Named after the female warriors in Greek mythology, one of Volvo’s most iconic and timeless beauties – the Amazon, has just turned 60. And despite being as old as some of our parents, the Amazon is still a looker, continuing to inspire new models like the V90/S90.

First unveiled in September in 1956, the Amazon was known to be a car which differed greatly from the common perception of what a Volvo should look like.

The shapes were beautiful and challenging, with features drawn from Italian, British and American design. 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. Jan Wilsgaard recently passed away at the age of 86.

The new car was the company’s second postwar model, following on from the PV444, and had been named Amason - spelled with an ‘s’. The name came from Greek mythology, in which the Amazons were female warriors. The spelling was changed to the more internationally viable Amazon prior to the launch of production in 1957.

Unfortunately, German moped and motorcycle manufacturer Kreidler also happened to launch a moped called Amazone at the same time, which meant the name was unavailable in a number of key markets.

So, a deal was reached to allow the Volvo model to be known as Amazon in the Nordic markets. This is also why the standard model was known as 121 while the sports model was called the 122 in the rest of the world.

And then, there was the estate model with a standard engine called 221, the estate with the sport engine called the 222, the 85hp 1958 Amazon Sport with twin SU carburettors and a sharper camshaft, and of course, the sportiest of them all – the 123 GT, which borrowed its engine from the 1800S sports car, offering 115hp and overdrive back in 1967 itself.

In total, 667,791 units of the Amazons were built between 1956 and 1970, making it Volvo’s most manufactured model at that moment. It is also the car which switched Volvo’s focus from the domestic market to the export market – as a total of 60 per cent of Amazon’s manufactured were sold outside of Sweden.

Besides that, another reason why the Amazon will go down in automotive history as a hall-of-famer is because it was the first car in the world to feature the three-point seatbelt - an invention by Volvo - back in 1959. Realising the life-saving potential of the three-point seatbelt, Volvo gave away the patents to its invention for free. It is estimated that at least one million lives have been saved by the three-point seatbelt over the course of its 57-year lifetime. The Amazon was also the first Volvo to be assembled outside of Sweden in 1963.

Despite the introduction of the 140 Series in 1966, product development on the Amazon continued, where both the Amazon and the 140 series received the new B20 engine for their respective 1969 models, providing better torque and a slight increase in power.

After 14 years of production, the final Amazon was built in July 1970 at Torslanda, Sweden. Clad in dark blue exterior shade, the car was driven straight into the collection of cars which later became the Volvo Museum.

It may have been more than four decades since the last Amazon was produced but many of them are still running strong around the world. Even in Malaysia, many faithful owners, classic car collectors and enthusiasts have said that it is one of the most iconic and reliable cars that the world has seen.

That said, let us wish the Volvo Amazon a very happy 60th birthday.

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