Friday July 27, 2018
During my primary school years, one of our close neighbours owned a dark grey 1966 Amazon Estate and compared with the Ford Cortina Mk. IIIs and Datsun 120Y Sunnys that populated the village, the Volvo looked far older than its years.
Its lines seemed to hark back to the Teddy Boy era and the younger me was fascinated by its details - the strip speedometer, the thick windscreen pillars and the way in which the gear lever sprouted directly from the toe board.
But in the winter, the 121 never missed a beat while vehicles a decade its junior ground to a halt during the first signs of a mild frost. The Amazon was not the original Volvo station wagon, but it was the first to be derived from a car rather than a light commercial.
It was also the company’s first estate to establish itself with the British public, to the extent that in 1965 Hampshire Constabulary made history by deploying a foreign-built patrol car for the first time in the UK – a Volvo, of course.
The Amazon Estate made its bow in February 1962, nearly six years after the launch of the saloon. It was handsome - Jan Wilsgaard, the designer of the four-door, ensued that its five-door counterpart looked purpose-built rather than a modified saloon while the horizontally divided tailgate was practical and added a touch of Americana to the design.
Most importantly, the new Volvo estate was sufficiently tough for Sweden’s agricultural community (a major potential market) and for the worst of the country’s weather. The very first models came in any colour shade you desired, providing that it was “Mist Green”.
By 1963 there was a wider choice of colours plus a 90bhp twin-carburettor 122S version. The first British market versions arrived during that year and the price of a 121 Estate was £1,270 5d which was extremely reasonable given what the Volvo offered the motorist who might otherwise have considered a Vauxhall Cresta PB Friary or a Ford Zodiac Mk. III Farnham.
True, the local rivals offered six-cylinder power but the performance from the Amazon’s 1,780cc engine was brisk enough for motorway work. The interior veered towards the practical rather than the luxurious, but the standard equipment included an elaborate heater and a radiator blind while the bodywork included any number of clever touches as such the rear overriders that doubled as steps.
‘An attractive vehicle for the sporting-minded family man and the country dweller’ concluded Autocar, which images of tweed-jacketed types using the Amazon estate as a Q Car on rural roads.
The Estate gained servo assisted front disc brakes for 1965 and lumbar support adjustment for the front seats. Anyone who has taken a long journey in a large British car (no names) of the same era fitted with benches fore and aft will know what a major development in comfort this development represented.
The advent of the 144 in 166 resulted in the demise of the Amazon four-door in the following year but the station wagon continued in production, the latter-day examples gaining the 2-Litre B20 engine.
The final Amazon wagon left the factory in August 1969, two years after the launch of its eventual heir, the 145, and by that time it had created the template for all future Volvo Estates. ‘Created in Sweden with all the care in the world’ ran the advertisement slogan – and that was an understatement.