Red Wagon: 1965 Volvo 122S Wagon

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The “the previous owner said the engine ran well when they parked it several years ago.” Hopefully this pretty solid-looking 1965 Volvo 122S Wagon can be brought to life again. This Amazon is listed on eBay with currently two bids totally just over $800 and there is no reserve. It’s located in Hoquiam, Washington and, as you can see from its current resting spot, unless you’re a magician, you won’t be driving this one home.

This is a nice looking Amason, or Amazon, or 122S. These cars started out as the Amason, a variation of the legion of female warriors in Greek mythology, but a motorcycle manufacturer had already snagged that name, so they agreed that if Volvo changed the name to Amazon they could use it, but only in Sweden. That wasn’t going to work so they came up with the idea to use three digits, and these cars were known as the 120-series. To further muddy the waters, as is often the case a “wagon” is known as an “estate” by most markets outside of North America.

You can see that for the most part this car looks very worthy of bringing back to life again. The seller isn’t giving out too much info, but they do say that, unfortunately the original “4 speed transmission was removed for another car a few years ago, but, I will include a rebuildable Volvo 4 speed transmission with the car.” Bummer. So, it just instantly became a fairly large project more so than just cleaning up everything, changing all of the belts, hoses, fluids, brakes, shocks, etc.

This is the only interior photo that shows the front seating area; weird. At least it looks pretty good up there, other than a split in the dash top and overall dirtiness and a driver’s seat that “needs recovered”, as the kids say. Hagerty lists a #4 fair condition ’65 122S wagon as being worth $3,700. A #3 good condition car is $8,500. There may be a chance to bring this car into that condition and still stay under that value if things check out, like rust work and any major mechanical issues.

Speaking of mechanical issues, or at least the mechanical bits, this 122S has a dual-carb, 1.8L B18 inline-four that would have had around 95 hp when new. The B18 has five main bearings compared to the already-tough B16’s three main bearings, ensuring that it would be a strong and reliable engine. It was replaced by a larger B20 in 1969. Unfortunately, this B18 isn’t currently running. Hopefully the next owner can troubleshoot this one and get this car back on the road again where it belongs.

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  1. HoA Rube GoldbergMember

    Oh, this is hitting below the belt. I’ve wanted a 122 wagon for years. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the knuckles anymore to bring this back, nor the cash to afford a driveable one. Wouldn’t take much, as stated. Great cars, but not very popular when new. Popularity surged later and not many examples. It wasn’t until the 140 came out, things really took off for Volvo. Super find. Shouldn’t be here long.

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    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      Ha, this one isn’t a get-in-and-drive car, Rube. Hopefully you can track one down someday.

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    • JoeBazots

      Wow – seems like every one I might be able to afford is always located in the Pac NW. Guess that’s where they were popular when they were new. Should make for a good project for someone, though I’d love the someone to be me.

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  2. SMS

    Most likely the original color was the light blue of the dash. They did not come red. Check the underside for rust. Floorboards are common rust collectors.

    Hagarty values are higher than what I have seen these sell for.

    Great cars. Can get a lot of stuff in the back. Handle well. An overdrive trans makes it much more comfortable on the freeway.

    Can get most parts easily. Some electrical, steering, and suspension parts are a challenge. Loved my 220 (122 wagon. Helpful when looking for parts.)

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    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      Nice catch, SMS! Thanks for the great follow-up information on these cars. This one is color (colour) 89 which was Light Blue for the 1965-1966 models. Color/colour 46 – Cherry Red – was also available in the Estate/wagon, but it may have just been for fire department use, according to a Volvo Amazon site that I found that dealt mainly in colors. I have seen supposedly original-paint Amazon wagons in red and a quick internet search shows a few.

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    • Wolfgang Gullich

      Cherry/ruby red (46) was available on all Amazons from 1962-70

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    Like !

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  4. brian

    Aside from the battery tray, the tail gates (hatch doors) LOOK (?) good. That would be the hard part to manage as most are rusted and gone. I’m not sure new ones are available… The floors on a car like this are easy and fairly cheap to buy. It’s the EXACT same floor pans that they used in the 4 door sedan, as are the doors, and so many other parts the same as the 4 door. The light blue was a fairly common color for the 220 wagon. A used M40 transmission can be found for about $50- That’s what I’ve seen, lately. These engines and transmissions (B18/ M40) were used in Facel Vegas as well, to attempt to save face. An M41 overdrive transmission is also out there to be found, with patience and discrimination. Some owners have altered the transmission tunnels on Amazons and put Ford 5 speeds in. But I think I would stay original. As has been noted, these were rare to begin with and getting more so. It’s SUCH a great car. I have a coupe.

    I’d be on this like a cheap suit, but I can not have any more cars…

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    • SMS

      The M41 overdrive trans bolts in place. Need to shorten the drive shaft.

      It is possibly easiest to get one from a 142.

      Have to agree with Brian. These are great cars. I wouldn’t be surprised if you cleaned the carbs and this thing would fire right up. A tractor motor has nothing on the robustness of these puppies.

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    • cameron lovre

      Rear passenger doors are not the same as those on the 4 door sedan.

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    • Doug

      They are great , virtually bulletproof cars !
      Back in the mid-70’s, I bought a 122 4dr with 131,000 on it for $100 – the roof had been dished in by neighbor kids jumping on it, but it ran OK. Got it home, and one hard thrust with a toilet plunger fixed the roof ! At about 136,000, it started making a noise like a rod knock, but oil pressure was still good, so I pulled spark plug wires one at a time to identify which cylinder was the culprit -no difference in sound. Using a stethoscope on the block didn’t help until I got to the timing cover. Turns out, the fiber cam gear had separated from the steel center and was wobbling against the cast aluminum timing cover. Replaced the fiber gear ( the steel one showed no wear ) and drove the car for another 40,000+ miles and sold it for $700, still running perfectly. Bought a 142S which I drove until a tailgater destroyed the car at 187,000 miles…..I put 42,000 miles on that car in just over 6 months, towing a small flatbed tilt trailer to races from Hayward, CA to Sears Point , Riverside and other tracks every weekend, with no issues.

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  5. BOP_GUY BOP GuyMember

    Man, I’ve wanted one of these for years! In the late 80’s I bought a 1978 242GT. Solid as a tank, and the engine and 4 speed w/overdrive gave good power and freeway cruising speed. I really miss that car. Volvo really built great cars back then. Treated right, these engines will go for many 100k’s of miles. If I didn’t already have three others I’m working on, I’d buy this in a second!

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  6. Beatnik Bedouin

    There are great cars and I hope this one goes to a loving home.

    A B20/Overdrive swap would be a great option, assuming the body’s solid. Add some suspension tuning and modern rubber and you’d have a comfortable, economical cruiser.

    I’ve always liked the 120-series Volvos; they’re almost non-existant in NZ due to low numbers being imported and the dreaded tin worm.

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  7. On and On On and OnMember

    Had the B18 motor in a 1964 PV544, a 2-door humpback sedan. Once you figured out the carb tuning and syncing them they ran perky and strong. Also gave back 25+ mpg on the highway. Weird thing was that when it rained it ran noticeably stronger? Maybe denser air intake???

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  8. Will Owen

    A decent mechanic (or two) with some kind of a lift and proper tools can swap out an engine, a transmission or probably both in a couple of hours … or that was my experience with a 544, which offered maybe a little less easy access to stuff under the hood. Of course both of those items were a heck of a lot easier to find in the Sixties … as were mechanics who knew them backwards and forwards.

    122 wagons are a lot higher on my Want List than the sedans, and it’s either too bad or kinda good that this one is not someplace nearby. Thanks, Barn Find, for disturbing my day again!

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  9. JohnM

    That’s not the shade of red that was originally available on Amazons, agree that the dash is the original color. Build plate says 89 which equals “horizon blue.” 511-519 decodes to black vinyl which as you can see is still original.

    Rear doors are indeed unique to wagons. The fuel filler had been monkeyed with and that’s another 220 specific part. Would’ve come with a driver’s side mirror, which has been removed and the holes filled.

    There were a few mid 65 running changes to the brakes and suspension–nothing major, but this is a late build one for when you go to source parts.

    Great cars. I’ve had a bunch of them over the years and still have a 64 220 which can do legitimate daily driver duty. Could probably get this one up and running in an afternoon. Very much worth saving. I don’t even need to see underside pics to be able to tell you it’s okay. If there were major rust issues underneath you’d be able to see major bubbling everywhere else from 50′ away.

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  10. chad

    just a (very small) tad small…

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  11. Billy

    A few of us visiting a buddy’s welding shop one afternoon 25 years ago got to talking about a long abandoned 122 coupe with the key left in the ignition in the field next to the shop. A ‘68 122 wagon had been my first car in 1981 and as I profesised about how little effort it took to keep it running, a beer infused challenge grew to get that coupe started and running. A charged battery, a gas can, fuel line and very little wrenching had it running and doing circles in the fielding in under an hour. The clutch was on the floor, but you could start it in 1st gear and run it around. My buddy’s landlord left it there long after he had moved his shop to a larger building. The old 122s are great cars!

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  12. Rich Nepon

    I had a few 122 wagons & sedans. All cracked at the front from the firewall up the inner fenders. Other issues were the fenders rusted but were welded to the front piece. I lost the rest on a wagon when the straps broke that held them in place. But I loved driving them.

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  13. Pete

    I agree this is probably a pretty solid body. If the tin worm did have it’s way with this one you would see it where the fenders bolts up on the top underneath where the edges of the hood rests. For some reason that is where the salt and dirt wants to collect on the inside of the wheel wells.

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