VOLVO HISTORY: THE AMAZON

 

The P444/P544 established Volvo here in America. It took the next model to make a deeper impression upon this country. 

That car was known as the 122S to American consumers. It also went by another name - Amazon. 

The name Amazon came from Greek mythology. Fierce women warriors were the inspiration of this iconic Volvo in more than a few ways. 

Volvo began work on the new car for a Swedish introduction in 1956. They designed it to resemble period American cars, but to the scale of European roads. The "ponton" design had a look not unlike the Chrysler of the era - an iconic design that stunned the world. In fact, Volvo designer Jan Wilsgaard found inspiration from another American car of its era - a Kaiser - for the Amazon. Yet, Volvo applied its own touches to balance the flash of American-inspired designed and the tastes of an austere European market. However, the Amazon had some flashes of chrome hat made it handsome and desirable the world over. 

This design was built upon the PV544 chassis, a sturdy frame that already proven its worth in rallying and by the number of owners it attracted. The Amazon was the first Volvo to apply its safety engineering in full force. In 1959, every Amazon had a set of seat belts standard. Even more remarkable was that the front seat belts would have the addition of shoulder belts - also as standard. Another point about the Amazon was the model designation. It would become the first Volvo to use the three-digit system to identify models. 

American consumers received their first Amazons in 1959, after a showing at the New York International Auto Show that spring. U.S. models came with a 1.6liter four-cylinder engine that offered two versions - a single carburetor 66-horsepower version and a twin-carburetor 85-horsepower edition. The latter was known as the 122S. Both engines came with a three-speed manual gearbox initially.  

The year 1962 would become a watershed year for Volvo. Not only did the P1800 sports coupe was introduced, the Amazon received some needed updates. A bigger 1.8liter engine replaced the older, smaller unit. The addition of the wagon helped to add more traffic to the Amazon lineup. A four-speed manual gearbox was added, along with an overdrive version of the same transmission. After 1964, Volvo's first automatic transmission was offered in the Amazon by the way of Borg-Wagner. 

This sedan and wagon lineup attracted Americans to Volvo more than the PV544. It also was the test bed for new safety innovations. Reclining front seats were introduced in part of a new approach towards driver safety and road awareness. These new seats, co-developed with medical experts, enabled drivers to find the right position towards maintaining traffic awareness on the road. Disc brakes were introduced as standard on all Amazon models, while power-assisted brakes appeared on wagons. 

The Amazon was offered in the U.S. through the end of the 1960s, when an all-new design arrived at the right time. The legacy of the Amazon lived on, as it continued to help popularize Volvo in the lexicon of American automotive lore. 

;