V8-Swapped Volvo Wagon
This V8-Swapped Volvo Wagon Does Street Rod to Scandinavian Style
hBrand loyalty starts young and, often, it’s less about the badge and more about the memories they evoke. For Greg Carnforth, the automotive moniker tied most closely to his heart strings is Volvo. The Swedish carmaker was his mother’s favorite, and the apple certainly didn’t fall far from the tree. “My mother, from the early 1970s on, had Volvo wagons, and I’m just in love with them—they’re tanks,” Carnforth says. “When my three kids came of age, each one of them had a [Volvo] 240 wagon.”
Volvos have synched an inarguably solid rep among the auto crowd as a reliable, safe, and relatively indestructible form of transportation. Sporty and stylish? For most–true or not–those descriptors aren’t synonymous with the brand. Carnforth’s build puts that stigma to rest. We love different and “this” is “that.”
The build began as so many do, with a cursory search through eBay. “I was looking for something to build, and I wanted a street rod,” Carnforth says. “I live in Louisville, Kentucky, where the street rod nationals have been for about 10 years in a row. It’s a good street rod scene around here.”
He happened across a Volvo Amazon wagon, and the project wheels started turning. “It’s a cool old car, but the only problem was that they only came in a four-door. That’s a little cooler now than it was three years ago.”
The Amazon was located in Waco, Texas, and serendipitously, Carnforth had some work out that way. His day job is building stainless-steel rooftop pools for hotels and casinos—the exact kind of day job you’d expect from a guy who built (and now flies) an airplane in his basement. No, really—it’s a Van’s RV7 that cruises at 190 mph!
“I called my brother, who’s my partner in crime—he’s quite a bit younger than I am. He’s got a lot of style, is a good fabricator, and grew up in the circle-track scene with me. I told him, ‘I found this car, it’s almost rust-free, but it hasn’t run in a couple years. How about I split the cost of the ticket and we fly down and see how far we can get it back. We’ll rent a truck and trailer if we need to.’”
The seller got the car fired and met the Carnforth boys at the airport in Dallas. What began as an internet project-car
search had snowballed into a thousandmile, four-state road trip in a car that hadn’t run in years. What could go wrong? Against all odds, nothing.
“We had a blast,” Carnforth says, laughing. “It was OK at 55 mph, but it had quite the shake and rattle at
57 mph. We stopped by Gas Monkey and drove through Memphis. I have a picture in front of the Gibson Guitar.”
Once back in Kentucky, the car was lowered via a spring chop and some additional miles were added to the odometer cruising between local shows and events. That didn’t last long. The tiny hot rodder on Carnforth’s shoulder was awash with ideas, and soon the car was completely cut apart.
“This was a unibody car, and before you knew it, I had all that cut out of it and had a chassis built and underneath it,” he says. Carnforth and his brother are circle-track racers at heart, and that fabrication knowledge was put to use building a custom frame and suspension for the Amazon. “The chassis was the most challenging aspect of the build. I’m big on getting the geometry right,” Carnforth says.
All of the fabrication was done inhouse by Carnforth and his brother. For the powertrain, a crashed 2004 GTO gave up its LS1 and T56 transmission. The engine was augmented with a rebuild, a Texas Speed cam and head package, and an LS6 intake manifold. It made 473 hp and 456 lb-ft of torque on the dyno at Auto-Motion in Louisville.
Function is key, but no street rod is complete without a little of the owner’s personality. After the heart transplant, the car went under the knife again, where Carnforth gave it a door-ectomy, remov-
ing the rear pair and smoothing the metal seamlessly. “I noticed that the architecture on the front doors of a coupe were the same as the wagon, so I cut the back doors off and took a Sawzall to it,” he says.
He made filler panels and used wooden bucks to flawlessly craft the swap. Next in line was a trip to Danny Taylor Automotive Art, where the Amazon receives a glossy splash of color.
The last stop was LB Interiors, where the original seats were reupholstered along with all of the interior panels. The wiring was updated with a Painless harness and the radio was deleted because “you can’t hear it anyway,” Carnforth says.
So what’s it like to drive a V8-powered Volvo Amazon? Few will ever know, but according to Carnforth, “It’s been a blast! My favorite part is that it’s a Volvo. It’s been a part of my family, and my mom’s still around. It’s a bit of a tribute to her.” The miles are racking up and the Volvo has turned several heads at automotive events across the country—soon to be “countries,” as the Volvo has been invited to the Power Big Meet in Scandinavia (one of the world’s largest car shows), where it will momentarily return to its roots.
01] The powerplant in the Volvo is anLS1 sourced from a wrecked 2004 GTO. It was treated to a full rebuild with forged rotating components and had its output beefed up to a dyno-verified 473 hp and 456 lb-ft of torque with a set of Texas Speed stage 2.5 heads, a TS camshaft, and an LS6 intake manifold.
01] The original Volvo engineers likely would have never imagined monster, Boyd Custom HR-99 wheels, measuring 8x18-inch front and 11x19-inch rear being tucked under the body. The rubber is Michelin’s Pilot series and the car has no trouble spinning the 325mm rear set. The brakes consist of Wilwood Dynalite-series calipers and rotors on each corner.01
01] Stick shifts are more fun, and Carnforth settled on a Tremec T56 for the job. It has been beefed up with a B&M shifter and Monster clutch.01