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Rhode Island Amazon: 1966 Volvo 122S

1966 Volvo 122S

Submitted by John M – Just recently while driving around northern Rhode Island my eyes were drawn to a Volvo that I had been curious about for several years now. So I finally decided to stop and ask about the car and to see if it was a simple elegant classic example of Swedish engineering worth saving or just too far gone. So upon pulling into the secluded yard, in which it had resided for many years, thoughts of what could be began to flow like the Mississippi through my mind.

Unloading Volvo 122S

It looked even better the closer I got. Remembering that I was TRESPASSING, I decide to go to the front door and ask if the owner was home. A kind, skeptical woman answered the door. I went on to explain my interest in the car and she told me to return an hour later when her husband was home. So I returned exactly an hour later to meet with her husband. He explained that it was an all original 1966 Volvo 122S “AMAZON” that he purchased several years ago. He told me how he drove the car from Massachusetts without problems the day he purchased it. I have to admit I was pretty skeptical, but intrigued nonetheless. I asked him if he thought the car would ever run and we briefly checked to see if it was holding oil, which it indeed did, and he replied with a swift “give me just a second” and walked away.

Volvo 122S ProjectHe returned a few seconds later with a battery he found on the side of his garage and said “Let’s try it”. So he gave the pedal a few priming taps and by the third attempt at turning the key she coughed back to life – running like a dream. It was at this moment that I knew that this car would be the next addition to our collection. So I told him “I’ll be right back” and returned home to pick up my grandfather to show him what I had found. We returned to the owners house and gave him a briefing of the car with the pros and the cons. So we shook the owners hand, took down his number, and told him “we’d be in touch very soon”. The second we arrived back home, my grandfather and I discussed the good and the bad about the car, as well as a possible game plan. So with plans in mind as well as a budget for our intentions, I called Paul (previous owner) and told him our top price of $500 and with a brief sigh he replied “Okay let’s do it before I change my mind”.

Cleaned Volvo 122S

The following day I returned to his house with a flatbed and the cash. As soon as the car was home, I immediately began spraying degreaser over the dead fauna remnant covered paint. This allowed us to get a better idea of what we were working with. I discovered that overall the car was in great condition considering how long it had sat unprotected from the elements. The car had the usual rot scattered in/around the rear wheel wells and front fenders. But the rest of the car was rot free.

Volvo 122S Interior

The interior of the car is in great condition other than the predictably cracked dash pad and a few bad stitches on the seats. The bottom of the car was undercoated years ago preserving the floors, chassis, etc. keeping it all in pristine condition. The motor is in pristine condition as well. Another exciting find I discovered inside the glove box was the original owner’s manual complete with info about the first owner who bought the car new at a dealership in Massachusetts, as well as the warranty booklet, and also the tool pouch complete with all tools, hub cap remover and all.

Volvo 122S Manuals

Once all the dust and debris was cleaned off, we began to see the true potential of this beauty. We have since made a new set of plans for her. We moved away from the idea of trying to flip the car for money to doing a simple restoration of the paint, and interior and making the ultimate driver out of it. We are currently in the process of choosing a painter, as well as finding all parts to make the car complete. We will try to send in updates as we embark on our first barn find journey together. Thanks for reading!

P.S. if anyone has parts for this car, they will surely be needed. Please contact me here by email with any tips or parts.

Volvo 122S Motor

Thanks for sharing John and we all wish you luck with getting her back on the road! Personally, I’m glad to hear you’ve changed your plans and are going to keep her as a driver. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Just be sure to keep us posted with your progress! So does anyone have any advice they would like to share with John?


  1. Anthony Br. Anthony

    This is what I have been looking for up here in Alaska. Nothing fanch, just good old transportation.

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  2. Rich G

    Great find! Always liked these cars. Good luck with the project!

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  3. Brian

    I once had a ’65 122s, very much like this one. It was given to me by a neighbor whose brother had ask him if he could store it in his backyard for a few months, five years later, the brother was still saying “just alittle longer”. My neighbor, and his wife, had enough of looking at it. When I got into it, the fuel pump, clutch master cylinder, and slave cylinders had frozen up so a quick rebuild, a hot battery and a Jerry can gas tank and I drove it the two blocks home. I can’t say enough good things about these cars – they’re distinctive to look at, fun to drive, and built like a tank! Parts, especially mechanical, interchange with many newer Volvos, so they are easy to find and reasonably priced. The biggest downside are the two SU carburetors. Mine were running perfectly one day and not at all the next! No amount of rebuilding and fiddling ever got them running right again! My plan was to toss them for a progressive Weber 2 bbl, power loss be damned, and have a reliable fuel system that I could count on. Before I got to into it, life got in the way; we were moving across country and there was no way to bring the old Volvo along. So once again it was given to someone who actually did get it fixed up and drove it. I have since lost track of it, but on days like today, I wish I still had it – or could find another for the price of that one!

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    • Jim

      I hate to see you toss those SU carbs. They are really very simple and work like a dream once you understand them. In my younger years I took a lot of pride in the fact that I was one of the only people around that could properly rebuild them and balance a set of them. I can still remember the thrill of getting my dads 4.2L Jaguar XKE running perfectly and the three SU carbs balanced. The car was an absolute nightmare to drive before I did it and a sweet dream afterwards.

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      • Dave Wright

        You are absolutely correct. These are great carbs but work very differently than typical American tubes. There are few mechanics in this country that really understand how they work but they are equal to the Webers when properly set up by knowledgable mechanics. The only thing about them that is a challenge to repair can be the throddle shafts and those can have bushings installed when worn out of tolerance.

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  4. Dave Wrigth

    These are wonderful cars, the mechanicals were the same as the 142S I bought with the proceeds of the sale from my Lotus 11 race car. I had a buddy in photography school that raced a 122 like this in auto cross and did quite well. Very popular cars here in the northwest. These iron engines were just little tractors, they lost quality when they started moving to Aluminum heads and other exotic engineering although the early fuel injected 2.0 was a good engine…….then they partnered with Pugeot……..what a disaster that was,

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  5. Robert J

    I love my ’65 122s. I really like how they feel like a big ’40s Mercury inside while still getting 26mpg. I put Megasquirt on mine.

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  6. Dave

    Great find! Keep us updated on progress. Would like to see more pictures too.

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  7. Elizabeth

    Awesome story!
    Hope you will keep us updated with your progress.
    Good luck!

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  8. Peter Thibeault

    I lived in RI for 14 years. There was a great cult following for these 122’s (and 544’s) in those years. If you were living in RI with a vintage Volvo in the Sixties and Seventies, you had to know about the Meadus Brothers. Two guys that grew up on the East Side of Providence and serviced Volvos in their two stall garage at the side of the house. Often when picking up your car at the end of the day you were invited inside the house for some home made wine. John and Babe were the only ones around who could tune those twin carbs to perfection. I had a dark blue ’67 122S wagon and a white 121 wagon (single carb). I loved those cars and drove them for over 15 years. Several of my fellow cult friends thought that since that thick engine block could be bored out many many times, the cars could, with proper care, run for decades. I thought a great name for a business to restore them would be: “ReVolvo”.

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  9. Dolphin Member

    These are built like a tank. You pretty much can’t kill them by ordinary means.

    Many decades ago when R&T did a story on them, the reporter asked the Volvo engineer whether they were as rugged as Volvos are supposed to be. The engineer and reporter got in the car and the engineer took the engine up to redline in 1st gear and kept it there for a while. When the demo was all over, the engine ran quiet and smooth, like a Rolex.

    Rugged? You bet.

    Partly as a result of that story, I had a 2-door ’66 Amazon like this, but dark gray with a 4-speed, as my first ‘adult’ car. Drove it across the continent and it took whatever I threw at it. Sold it on the West coast for 3 times what I paid for it in the East. Then I had a 122 wagon, which was more beat up, but still took everything I threw at it.

    These are special cars, and I’m glad that John M is happy. Just keep in mind that it will be a lot of work, so best get acquainted with the old-Volvo specialists who can supply parts and advice. And if you do it up nice, it will need to be a labour of love, not to make money.

    Best of luck with it!

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  10. Dan Halfhill

    Ahhhh….Swedish steel. There’s nothing quite like it!

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  11. Richard Nepon

    Check for cracks in the front inner fenders. I welded up quite a few back in the day. As to SU CARBS, the secret is the butterfly shafts wear and leak air so you get either a good idle but a lean running car, or a bad idle and a good running car. New shafts and re-bushing the body is the cure.

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  12. DT

    Dont let me catch you snooping around in my driveway!

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  13. Carl W French

    John, keep checking Craigslist in Maine for 122 parts. Midcoast Maine is a 122 Mecca. often times cars and parts get mentioned. Also look in http://www.unclehenrys.com up here for the same items. Great car. I would live a wagon some day to add to my 240, 740, and 940 wagons.

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  14. ConservativesDefeated

    $500.00 bucks for a car….THATS what I’m talking about!

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  15. John

    There is a classic Volvo sales & service shop in Grants Pass, Oregon called “ReVolvo West”.

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  16. leavesAbadTaste

    And we wonder why so many people sit on these rusting classics and say “NOT FOR SALE”. This fella bothers the owners for a measly $500 with the initial intent to simply flip it for profit. I was reading this at first thinking “Wow, bless him for being a Volvo lover and wanting to save an oddball car that most would pass up. Sadly, isn’t the case. So you decide to save the car now… great. Good luck with the project.

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  17. Darren

    I recall a light milky blue-gray on one of these at a show that looked spectacular. I highly recommend the color.

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  18. Thomas B

    These cars were the bread and butter on Swedish Roads when I grew up in the sixties and in the seventies when I started driving legally there was plenty of these around us youngsters (though I never had one myself, opted for a Ford Cortina Mk 1 as my first car and later a Mercedes-Benz 200 Diesel (110 series)) but the first car I drove (at the age of 13 in 1970) was my fathers Volvo 121 (or Amazon as they were called in Sweden) from the year 1960. The 121 (I´m a bit uncertain what it was called in the export markets) was produced from autumn 1956 to autumn 1961, had a smaller 1583 cc, 60 hp engine (there was also a “Sport” version of this engine that deivered 85 hp) and more elaborate styling (different grille, interior, paint scheme (ours was dark blue with a white roof) and a lot of other differences). From autumn 1961 on these cars got the 1780 cc engine of 75-115 hp depending on year and model. The styling was simplified year by year and when the 544 was discontinued in 1966 there was even an absolute “basic” model called “Favorit” from 1966 to 1968. For the last 2 years of production (1969-1970) it was delivered with the 1986 cc B20 engine of 1986 cc and 90-118 hp. The Amazon still has a great following among Swedish old car enthusiasts and there is even some reproduction manufacturing of hard to find parts…

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  19. jorge Carlo

    Marvelous bar find!!!!!!

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  20. Wayne

    My dad bought a ’66 122s 4-door new in September of 1965. Four of five kids learned to drive manual in that car and, ultimately, I ended up with it and sold it in Virginia in 1991. 270,000 trouble-free miles on the care – and I wish I had it still.

    What’s interesting is that this is an Amazon and I got to see a specimen in far worse shape in Iquitos, Peru – right near the Amazon – several years ago.

    Gawd, I miss that car.

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  21. Bob

    This is so cool. I would love to find one of these. You know who is one of the best volvo repair guys around? General Colin Powell, maybe he will come and help you! In one of his biographies he talks about he love of Volvo’s and working on them as therapy.

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  22. RJ

    Do not consider swapping in a manual trans – you’ll get a couple of nasty surprises. Rather, buy the conversion adapter to use the bullet-proof AW-71, the overdrive auto from the 240/740 series.

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