The Amazon may have forged Volvo’s robust reputation, but care is still needed when buying one
As far as most of the world is concerned, Volvo starts here. The Amazon – originally known as the Amason until German scooter manufacturer Kriedler claimed that as a trademark, then officially titled the 120-series – was the first Volvo to be widely exported beyond Scandinavian borders. Its destinations included the UK, where we first received the sturdy Swede in 1957. Engineered with a solidity that few other manufacturers could match, it set the blueprint for Volvo build quality and dependability. As a result, Britain – or at least a large part of its middle classes – fell in love with the marque and remained throughout subsequent generations.
Amazons possess a surprising nimbleness despite their air of durability. Originally with 1583cc engines, they were upgraded to 1778cc in 1961, when front disc brakes were standardised on the twincarb variants, then again to 1986cc (for two-door versions) in 1968. The 115bhp 123GT was the most exciting performer and designed to capitalise on Volvo’s rally successes. Production ended in 1970, by which time the new 140 was on the scene.
WHY YOU WANT ONE The Volvo Amazon manages to combine kudos and credibility with engineering integrity and ruggedness. These cars are among the most well-built of their era yet still retain a sporty character thanks to their rally adventures – something you can’t really say that about the boxier but equally bulletproof Volvos that followed.
With many European saloons and estates of the 1950s and 1960s, you need to constantly keep on top of issues such as rust and mechanics. That’s much less the case with the Amazon; you can use one every day, in all weathers, and it won’t protest too much. The cars also have typical Volvo practicality, seating five people in comfort with enough room for all their paraphernalia in the capacious boot. The estates are even better at load lugging. Amazons are fun but tough.