Our Wild Goose Chase for a Mythical Amazon


As I have mentioned, Josh and I are ready for a new challenge. We weren’t really sure what car we wanted to acquire next, but I had secretly been wanting an old Volvo for a while, so I placed a “wanted” ad unbeknownst to Josh. A week passed and no bites, but then all of sudden the phone started ringing. The first call was from an older gentleman who shares my affinity for Swedish iron. He invited us over to take a look at a wagon project and he mentioned that he may have a few other cars we might be interested in. Naturally, we obliged.


The owner seemed cold when we first arrived, but as we listened to him about his cars, he slowly started to warm up to us. Unfortunately, the wagon project was a bit of a let down. There was rust in the tailgate and the engine and transmission were not with the car. The asking price seemed steep too for a car that basically needed everything, so we asked if we could look at the “other” cars. The next thing we knew we were in his back yard looking at more moss covered Volvos. Ironically, we were more interested in the Cushman golf cart.


When we had first arrived we noticed a nice yellow 145 wagon parked at the neighbors, so we asked about it. Turned out that it belonged to this guy’s son. He too was interested in selling, so we were able to go for a spin in it. Someone had modified the car heavily with new suspension and turbo rims. It was a fun ride, but the amount of rust present made me feel a little uncomfortable. While on the test drive we stopped by the shop that the son owns so he could give us the low down on the wagon. After that we were invited to check out some more cars in the back.


Boy, were we surprised to find a whole Volvo graveyard back there! We felt like had been invited to the backroom of a dry cleaner that had a secret gambling operation going. There were 120s, 140s, and even a pair of 1800ESs back there! Many had been used for parts and we couldn’t see any viable projects, so we thanked the father and son and went on our way. We were both a bit discouraged because we hadn’t found anything too promising, but also felt enthused after seeing all those cars and being able to talk to a few Volvo fans.

A little later in the day, another call came in from our ad! This time it was from a local charity. This charity normally accepts donations such as old clothing or junk furniture, but every once in a while they will get a car. Well, it just happened to be my lucky day because someone had just donated a 1964 Volvo 122S! I didn’t let myself get too excited though because I assumed that it had to be a rust bucket if someone was willing to give it away. The nice guy on the other end of the line told me that they would normally just scrap a car like this, but he thought it might be worth saving. An appointment was made to take a look.


The drive into the countryside was a long one, but our excitement grew as we got nearer to the car’s resting place. As we pulled onto a gravel road we could see the silhouette of a white Amazon! We pulled up and immediately started inspecting the car. I withdrew some cash from the ATM that morning before heading out, but I had also told myself that if it was rusty, we would not buy it. Well, the car had obviously been sitting outside for some time so I was doubtful that we would be dragging this one home.


Luck was on my side though once again! Besides a few pinholes in the rockers, we could not find a single spot of rust through! The car had been in the hands of the same family for 50 years and they had obviously taken good care of it until just recently. The plates showed that it had last been registered in 1996, but we did not know how long it had been exposed to the elements. An old farmer who came over to see what we were doing confirmed that it had been sitting out there for a while. That made me a little leery, but it looked complete and there was still oil in the engine so Josh and I agreed that it would be a worthwhile endeavor.


The car has since been towed and is now sitting in front of my house. We are still putting together our plan of attack, but we did throw some good tires on the front and cleaned her up a bit in order to pacify the home owner’s association in the meantime…


  1. PaulG

    Great find! Just goes to show you how sometimes cars just find their way.
    One owner to boot!
    Better yet, saved from the crusher…

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I feel very lucky with this find! It really hasn’t even sunk in that we just bought a solid 122s for $300. Usually, you have to take whatever shows up in decent condition, but this time I was actually looking.

      • Don

        great find…but here’s a thought…if it was a charity you agreed with why not throw a little extra$$ at ’em….$300.00?….come on fellas…step up!

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Well Don, that is what he asked for the car and I didn’t haggle him down. Both parties were happy. Part of the deal was that we would help him sell any other old cars that get donated. We are also planning on going back out to the previous owner’s house once we have the car running to take him for a ride and thank him for donating.

  2. Rich

    Nice score! Glad you saved it from being crushed!!!

  3. Marc Lawrence

    If it hadn’t been tagged since 1996 – it would be towed sitting out in front of my house for tags. U must have a cool town or HOA where u live – lol. Good luck – one of my and many others favorite old Volvos.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Well, I’m just waiting for the complaint to arrive. It sat out the for almost 24 hours with two flat tires, but now with air in the tires it actually looks road worthy. Yesterday Josh and I suited up in white coveralls and respirators to clean out some of the rat droppings. We thought it was funny, but I’m guessing that the neighbors were not amused…

      • sterling

        Nice to see you with a swede again, if you need a plate I could mail you one from Alberta Canada valid until Feb 2015, I also have 2 strombergs from a P1800 I could be bribed to send as well.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Thanks Sterling! Can you explain how the plates would help though?

  4. chef dave

    Great old cars! there are some good resources at PDXvolvos on Yahoo. We mostly do 122s and 1800s. Checks it out.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I will have to check it out Dave. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Robert J

    Excellent find! I have to spend another month or two getting the Megasquirt EFI B20 installed in my 122S, Looking forward to seeing how yours progresses. These are excellent cars.

  6. Scot Carr

    ~ Well bought! This will be fun to watch. And the father/son team of the wagon project can very likely be a valuable resource for this Amazon’s rebirth. Their 145 is identical to my first Volvo.

    also, I noticed that Vince @ Daily Turismo had featured the slant-six Dart this morning. Car guys helping car guys.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yeah, we hope to purchase a few parts from them! That was nice of DT to run the Duster. They seem like great guys.

  7. jim s

    great find and buy, i would never have guessed a volvo but this is going to be fun. and looking at the photos i see a lot of parts for the new BF project car at the first shop you stopped at.

    • Josh Staff

      Oh we are already planning a trip to the previous collection of Volvos. The owner has slowly been stripping parts off the cars, so hopefully he will let us buy a few pieces. The first item on our list is finding a new ignition, as the previous owner lost the keys. With any luck one of the parted out cars will still have its ignition and keys!

      I’m extremely excited to get this one running again, but Jesse is making me wait so we can have an organized and well planned attack. Given how long it’s been sitting out in this field it is probably a good choice, but once we are organized and prepared I will start tearing into it. So be prepared for some great videos and tutorials on getting an old Volvo running again! The best part is that you will get to see all the work without having to get dirty or spend any money yourself!

      • jim s

        driving to get an old volvo in a miata, how cool it that! think about getting some extra sets of wheels, 1 set each for summer, all season, autocross, track day, rally and studed winter tires. some seats with headrests, shoulder belts for the back, driving and fog lights ( 2 each for the front and 1 each for the back ). and upgrade the brake master cyl.. please post a photo of the motor and trunk area, thanks. when you go back to the 1st shop would you check to see if any of the 240s have a diesel motor?

      • DT

        Jesse is right ,you have to wake it up slowly and methodicaly,Change the oil,inspect it,then pull the plugs squirt some oil in there,turn it over by hand,squirt some more oil,then with the coil wire pulled, turn it over with the starter,if it has oil prerure then try to start it ,try to run it off a can,pull the gas tank and clean it.any fluids should be changed that have sat over a year.No one tried to start my Lancia for at least 14 years,I had to pull all the fuel lines and ream them out with bailing wire,wd-40,fishing line with small pieces of cloth,then I had to have the tank coated inside

      • Josh Staff

        Hey DT,
        Yeah we decided it would be better to go about it slowly and carefully. It’s better to be patient and do it right than to get impatient and go cause massive damage to the internals. I’m hoping the fuel lines aren’t as plugged up as your Lancia’s must been. Whether we get that lucky, I have my doubts, but here is to hoping. If they are, it will at least make for a good story and possibly a funny video to watch! P.S. I’d love to hear more about your Lancia.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Great ideas Jim! Summer and winter tires are definitely on the list. This thing still has the old bias ply tires on it, so we need to figure out what size of radials will fit. I would like to go with a period rally look with some purposeful modifications that can be reversed. First task on the to do list is to get it running and driving though!

  8. rapple

    Not so easy to find one of these that has been sitting so lot without LOTS of rust issues. The mildew in the interior might compensate for that though. Maybe the folks with the “previous collection” might have some usable seats and floor coverings that will help the project along. This is one of the simplest cars on the planet to work on. I look forward to watching your progress bringing this back to life.
    Lastly, forgive the Volvo fetishist nit-pick, but there was no such thing as a “P1800ES”. Only the first 6000 1800 models built in England by Jensen had the “P” designation.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yep, you caught me there! 1800ES it is.

  9. DT

    Volvos and Saabs are both made in Sweden, but the similarity stops there, you might want to keep this one

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yeah, I normally go through cars like… With original paint and minimal rust though, this one might be a keeper!

  10. Dolphin Member

    Talk about well bought. $300 is about what I paid for a decent 1964 122 wagon in the late 1970s.

    I guess the answer is to buy vintage cars only from charities. Yep, that’s the ticket.

    Anybody know of a charity that has a good split window C2 available? Or a ’71 Hemi Cuda convertible? How about the 37th Ferrari GTO that’s been missing forever? Let me know.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Normally, I wouldn’t recommend the practice. I check the donation lot every once in a while, but there is a reason people gave these cars away. Many of them come in as unfinished projects or rust buckets. I suppose most people would get excited about something like a split window in either form though… We will keep an eye out Dolphin!

  11. Brian

    You guys did very well, especially buying from a charity – in my limited experience with the charities that receive and resale cars, the one I know asks too much for the antique cars that come in. I’m thinking the charity could have gotten more than $300 as scrap metal (these old Volvos are heavy!), so very well bought!

    Looking forward to reading about the progress of this project! Watch out for that HOA – they can be our project car’s worst enemy!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Some of the charities have to ask more because they are actually licensed dealers and have more overhead as a result. The charity that this car came from only sells their maximum each year to avoid all the extra cost. The guy from the charity did the math Brian and $300 was actually more than they would have gotten for the steel. They also felt better knowing it was going to go to someone who would get it back on the road!

  12. Robert J

    These old Volvos are in fact very light. It’s surprising how like they are considering their stature. It’s why they get such good fuel mileage.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yep, they look heavier than they really are. They also accelerate and handle better than they look like they would and that is one of the reasons I like them!

  13. Robert J

    GVW is 2,403 lbs.

    • Brian

      I always thought they were heavy for a small 4 cylinder car. My 63 Studebaker Lark with a V8 weighs in at 3100 lbs and my 64 Beetle at 1629 lbs. Without O.D., gas mileage wasn’t spectacular, especially by todays standards. The real beauty of these cars was their durability and safety. They are one of a very few classic cars that I would feel perfectly comfortable driving daily.

  14. VIKING

    Great car, B 18 and B 20 are almost indestructible motors, started in 1962 pv 544 and amazons, the only weak items on those cars are the waterpumps and U-joints, other than that, could be the best quality cars made. You got yourself a real keeper this time. Parts are cheap and easy to find.

  15. stevee

    Good find for all parties involved!
    One of my favorite vehicles (probably ’cause our first family farm milk truck was one) is the 1941-’46 Dodge pickups. Did you by any chance get any pics or any info re: the pickup in the backround?! It’s a bit out of my territory (south of Portland OR) but it would be a shame for it to get smooshed!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Actually the guy from the charity is going to let us know if the owner decides to donate it. We offered to help him find a buyer, so we might be contacting you in the spring!

  16. L.M.K. Member

    Great buy . Great story…..

  17. Dave Wright

    This car will spoil you. Great quality, good power. The B18 engines are wonderful. The only downside I can think of in the engine are the fiber cam drive gears, they are easily damaged if not handled correctly. The advantage to the fiber gears was they were quiet. In the shop I opened on returning from Germany we did lots of them both in this body and the 140 serise. We were near Salt lake and would buy every broken one we could find, do the nessisary repairs, drive them to the Bay Area and double our money. The Salt Lake dealer was a high binder and if a clutch or head gasket went bad people would just bail out of them cheep. Forged crankshaft, sodium cooled valves, tough blocks, simple straightforward. What’s not to like? And the values are going up strongly these days. Good luck…….you will love the car.

  18. DT

    I like your new sedan,Its a 2 door,thats good,Its an early Amazon,thats good,Its pretty nice ,thats good. all that said Ive always liked the Latter ones with the slotted wheels and the sport engine.I like that wagon,Its also pretty clean,not as nice as your car,but its a wagon,and a later model.needs alot more work and money, but it would be one heck of a rig, restored

  19. Cameron Bater UK

    I love the so called “Classic Volvos” although the ones I refer to are the 240 series, my father had an A – Reg example that we (sadly) are now forced to break, it has many “Air Con” holoes in the floorpan and has stood for somewhere around 5 years as a result of an acident. The acident was between my father and a fellow in a Toyota Carina, the bloke was speeding his way to a meeting and hit my father (with me in the back) as he was coming out of a T junction (How you can miss a 240 GLT Estate I don’t know), I was only about 2 at the time so all I said was “Oh dear” and then went back to doing whatever kids do meanwhile the corina was spread accross the road and we ended up with a dent that too 5 minuites to remove from the bumper.
    If anyone is wondering what happened to the bloke in the Carina, he sort of sat there clutching at the steering wheel in what can only be described as a circus arena after the clown cart has been around and he did get to his meeting… in our Volvo.

    My mother also had a 240 GLT although this was a later example and this was sold a few years ago and (as far as I’m aware) its now a banger racer (Carinas look out) the only volvo we have in road worthy condition is now our 940 Turbo and the only issue its ever had was when the ignition system failed, the last run it made was a run from Wisbech (Cambridgeshire) to Fareham (Hampshire) – about 180 – 200 miles in all and although the issue was evident it waited until we got home to fail completely (failfull old thing) where its handbrake cable also snapped, this issue has been rectified however (by replacing a 25 year old distributor cap) the cars only about 20.

  20. Ben

    Junk! you are better off with the Cushman.

    • Cameron Bater UK

      How very dare you sir, I grew up in that car and I still love it today. breaking Borris is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

    • Brian

      Not at all junk! They were marketed in their day as a “10 year car” in a time when cars just didn’t last that long under daily use – but they will … and have.. last(ed) alot longer than that! You can keep your Hondas and Toyotas – these old Volvos have more personality in just one of their hubcaps than the Japanese cars have in their entire lineage!

    • Josh Staff

      Ah the classic Minilite look! I bet those do look great on the Amazon. As a matter of fact, if you have a photo of your car sporting these wheels please share(just attach it to an email and send it over)! We are still trying to decide what direction to go with ours, but any inspiration people can offer is much appreciated!

  21. CROB

    Love the Volvo – but I really want to know about the old truck in the picture

  22. Alan (Michigan)


    This looks like a fun and very worthwhile project. Besides getting a solid and rust-free car for the starting point, you got into the Volvo at the bottom dollar. Can’t beat it.

    So now, the only decision to make is how faithful you will be in keeping with the original “as produced” version of the car, or whether you will go more modern in some areas, as Robert J suggests would be awesome. (Those really are nice wheels, would make the 122S look rally-capable immediately) The interior is ripe for an upgrade, as are suspension, brakes, etc. Congratulations, Josh and Jesse!

  23. ConservativesDefeated

    About time SOMEONE bought a car for whats its worth! So tired of seeing folks willingly overpay (imho) for cars which just drives the prices up down the line. So kudos to you guys.

    The Duster is going to look pretty good pretty soon as you spend every dime from it’s sale on this baby!

  24. VIKING

    You say you need a key for your Volvo, be prepared to include the cable operated theft proof ignition coil, this cars cannot be hot wired, the coil is bolted to the firewall. The 12 volt side of the coil is operated by the cable in the back of the coil, I cant remember the year they started and ended that feature. That is if you need the switch also.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      I love this site/forum. Again I learned something that I had no idea about, and would have likely forever been ignorant of. Smiling as I write this!

  25. Rich Nepon Member

    Had a score of these late ’70s, early 80’s. Check the inner fenders for a split resulting from flex. Almost everyone I had developed this malady. I just welded them up. Carbs usually needed a rebush on the butterfly shaft bronzes and a new shaft to be able to properly adjust. IPD was a popular performance supplier. Fiberglass front fenders were available. Overdrive was also a useful addition. AIR was a local northeast resource that rebuilt volvos and sold them. Tons of fun.

  26. jerry

    Re Viking. You can drill out the ignition tumbler and a small flat blade screw driver serves as a key. Volvo sells the new tumbler with 2 steel keys. A set of 16″ Ford Crown Victoria BBS style wheels look good or any Ford bolt pattern steel wheels.

  27. DT

    1962 first year for the Amazon 2 door, check your serial numbers, keep all the original parts to put this back to original

  28. Doug M. (West Coast) Member

    Jesse, Great Find! I didn’t know you had an interest there. I have a 67 Amazon wagon with very little rust…waiting for me to restore. Google Images can give you a bunch of picture ideas. I have an old ad that shows an amozon with red wheels and wide whitewalls. Lowered just a bit… can be a really cool look. Especially where you have the red interior! Great project! You’ll have lots of fun… keep us posted.

  29. John Stannard

    Wow, great find.
    I and two friends each had one of these, also two door. I got 25 mpg out of the B18 in the country and loved driving it. One of the nicest gearboxes anywhere.

    We each wrote ours off over the years. I can’t believe still walking away from a 70mph altercation with a tree stump with not a scratch. Even the seat supports are designed to collapse in a crash, and did after the car stood on its nose then fell back on its wheels.

    The P1800 B18 with four-speed plus overdrive drops in, but the 1800 isn’t strong enough to run in overdrive, get a B20. The 123 GT is the duck’s if you ever find one.

    In colour, the first Amazon you found looks a bit like mine, a pale grey until you run in snow or fog when it turned ice blue, hence its name. Great colour.

  30. Joe R

    Neat car, congrats on the find. It’s fun to be different.

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