The Amazon shared both the wheelbase from its predecessor, the PV, as well as its tall posture and high H-point seating — while offering three model configurations: 2-door sedan, 4-door sedan and wagon. In 1959 Volvo provided front seat belts as standard equipment on all the cars, including the export models, becoming the world's first manufacturer to take this step — later becoming the first car featuring three-point seat belts.
When introduced, the car was called the Amason (with an 's'), which derives from the fierce female warriors of Greek mythology, the Amazons. Kreidler, German manufacturer of motorcycles had already registered the name, and the two companies agreed Volvo could only use the name domestically (i.e., within Sweden), modifying the spelling to Amazon. Subsequently, Volvo began its tri-digit nomenclature and the line became known as the 120 Series.
The Amazon was originally manufactured at Volvo's Lundby plant in Gothenburg and subsequently at the company's Torslandaverken, which began operating in 1964. By the end of production, 234,653 four-door models, 359,917 two-door models and 73,220 station wagons had been produced, 60% of them for export — for a total of 667,791 vehicles.
Styling and design
The Amazon sedan's ponton genre, three-box styling was inspired by American cars of the early 1950s, strongly resembling the Chrysler New Yorker sedan and the Chrysler 300C hardtop Coupe. According to designer Jan Wilsgaard, the Amazon's styling was inspired by a Kaiser automobile he saw at the Gothenburg harbour.
Notably, the Amazon featured strong articulation front to rear, pronounced "shoulders", and slight but visible tailfins. These features became inspiration for Peter Horbury when reconceiving Volvo's design direction with the V70 — after decades of rectilinear, slab-sided, boxy designs.
During construction, the Amazon's bodywork was constructed of phosphate treated steel to improve paint adhesion and with heavy use of undercoating and anti-corrosive oil treatment.
The station wagon (estate) version was introduced at the 1962 Stockholm Auto Show, and Volvo manufactured 73,000 examples between 1962 and 1969. The Amazon estate featured a bi-parting tailgate, a lower section folding down to provide a load surface and an upper section that hinged overhead. The vehicle's rear license plate, attached to the lower tailgate, could fold "up" such that when the tailgate was lowered and the vehicle in use, the license plate was still visible. This idea was used by the original 1959 Austin Mini. In recent years a similar arrangement was used on the tailgate of the Subaru Baja.
Notably, the Amazon platform was used as the basis for the P1800 and 1800ES.
HistoryUnder prototype designation 1200, following the PV444's internal designation as the 1100, the Amazon was released in the press in February 1956, with production initially set to begin in July of the same year, and deliveries commenced in August 1956 — under the now modified internal designation 120 series.Further iterations included the 121, the base model with a single carburetor 66 bhp (49 kW) engine, the 122S introduced in 1958 as a performance model equipped with a dual carburetor 85 bhp (63 kW) engine, and the later 130 (two-door sedan), 120 (four-door sedan) and 220 (4-door estate wagon) models. The Amazon's handbrake location outboard of the driver's seat, was intended to accommodate subsequent bench seat models with column shift transmissions — which never materialized. Buyers began to receive the first cars in February 1957, and initial models were two-tone red and black with light gray roof, light grey with a black roof, followed by a dark blue with gray roof in 1958.
In 1966 the Volvo PV ended production, replaced by the Amazon Favorit, a less expensive version of the Amazon, without exterior chrome trim, a passenger-side sunshield or cigarette lighter, and with a three-speed rather than four-speed transmission — available in black with red interior and later white or black with red interior. The newer Volvo 140 was becoming the company's mainstream model, and the last of the four-door 120 saloons were produced in 1967. In 1967 came the 123GT that was a 130 with high compression B18B engine (from the Volvo P1800), M41 gearbox, fully reclining seats, front fog and driving lights (on some markets), alternator, fender mounted mirrors, special steering wheel, dash with a shelf and tachometer, and other cosmetic upgrades. In 1969 the displacement of the old B18 engine was increased and the engine was called the B20.
The last Amazon was manufactured on July 3, 1970.
Original specifications for the Amazon included Volvo's new B16 engine, a 3-speed manual gearbox (H6) and rear-wheel drive. In 1958 the sport model, Amazon Sport, was released and later the same year the Amazon became the first series produced car with a three-point safety belt in the front seats as standard. In 1962, Volvo introduced a two-door version, a five-door wagon, and the new B18 engine, deleting two-tone paint and upholstery. In 1965 the Amazon color-coordinated embossed vinyl upholstery and door panels became available. The new gearbox selections were the three-speed M30 (briefly offered with an automatic electric clutch), the four-speed M40 and the M41 with four-speed and overdrive. The M31 gearbox was also introduced in 1961 but was only available that year (a three-speed fully synchronized gearbox with overdrive on both second and third direct gears). Gearbox options on the 121 were the M30, M31 and M40 while gearbox options on the 122S were the M40 and M41 gearboxes. In 1964 the Borg-Warner BW35 three-speed automatic transmission also became available on the four-door and two-door. From 1967 to 1968 the BW35 was also available on the five-door wagon.