Sale of the Week

Is there a classic more practical than this Volvo Amazon?

by Stefan Lombard
27 October 2023 3 min read
Photos courtesy Bring A Trailer

The Volvo 122 had a long, complicated gestation before it ever hit the road. But even today, seven decades after its 1956 home-market unveiling, it’s clear the many not-quite-right iterations that finally landed 26-year-old designer Jans Wilsgaard his first masterpiece for the marque did not come in vain. The 122 has aged perfectly.

For some time now, enthusiasts have sung the praises of the objectively gorgeous 1800 coupe and later 1800ES two-door wagon of the 1960s and early ’70s, and today they are priced accordingly, with the nicest coupes now regularly fetching north of $75,000. Ten years ago, they were a third of that.

But even as collector interest spiked in the 1800, its 122 stablemate mostly flew under the radar. Mostly, but more on that in a minute. . . .

Our Sale of the Week, this two-door 1966 122S, is a prime example of a good car flying low, and on October 24, it sold on Bring A Trailer for just $7777 ($8166 with buyer’s premium).

The car is not perfect—far from it—and we’d rate it as a #4- (“Fair”) on the scale of overall condition. It is a driver with visible flaws. But other flawed driver-condition Volvo Amazons (so named for the female warriors of Greek mythology) have brought more. So, at this purchase price, what is the buyer getting, and what comes next?

This car came to Oregon via Arizona in 2014, though it’s unclear how long the Volvo lived in the desert. What is clear is that the amount of rust, which is effectively zero and limited primarily to underbody surfaces, is commensurate with a long stay in a dry place. The seller then recovered the front seats, fitted PerTronix electronic ignition, and replaced the valve cover gasket and a few other minor bits. In 2020, he treated the car to a respray in its original white, a scuff and shoot, if you will, as the door jambs, interior, trunk, and engine bay were left original. So was the weatherstripping, all of which is cracked or otherwise rotten. It lets down the whole car. Additionally, the washer fluid reservoir is wrapped in duct tape, and the suspension retaining straps on the rear axle are both broken. On the bright side, literally, all chrome and brightwork is present and shiny with just a few dings here and there, and none of the glass is cracked. The five-digit odometer shows 52,000 miles, which could just as easily be 252,000 or 952,000, but in the last nine years, the seller reportedly added only about 200 miles to the total.

Regardless of the mileage, in the start-up and idling videos accompanying the gallery, the 1.8-liter B18 four-cylinder, breathing through twin SU carbs, sounds delightful and just a bit throaty, with zero hiccups or unnerving noises. This Amazon is, as they say, an “honest” car.

1966 Volvo 122S head on

It is exactly the kind of car you’d want to own and drive and restore as you go. As one commenter noted, all of this car’s needs appear to be “driveway-doable.” Roughly $600 in rubber bits and retaining straps from IPD plus a $40 eBay washer reservoir will address just about all of the car’s most pressing issues, and the buyer will still come out below the $12,000 at which we currently value similar 122S two-doors.

It’s a #3 car then, and a weatherproof one at that. That’s a lot of added “driver” function for not much moolah. Even better, this is not a car the buyer will need to be delicate with. Amazons are stout, overengineered, under-stressed 95-hp machines, and with minimal care not much will go awry. It is as ideal for vintage rallies as it is for weekends puttering about, this car.

For many years, the Amazon market was represented by a long flatish line, but then it climbed, quickly, from $4700 in early 2021 to its present twelve grand. That’s a warm, warm market. These cars trailed 1800s for a long time, but they have their own head of steam now. They still trail many contemporary European counterparts, though. For how long is anyone’s guess, but we’d say this buyer got into a pretty, good car at a pretty good time and should be thrilled for what comes next.


  • Gary Bechtold says:

    To answer the question, Is there a more practical car? Sure, a wagon. I’m sure it will be loved.

  • Zmega says:

    I owned a 1966 122 wagon. Very practical. Two downsides. First, a servo brake boost unit that was not just unreliable but essentially un repairable. Second, tiny ignition keys and a stiff ignition cylinder, leading to frequent shearing off of keys.

    • Eric Knight says:

      I’d never been particularly interested in Volvos, but when my next door neighbor was moving into an assisted living facility in 1990, he talked me into buying his 1965 122S for $750. It turned out to be a wonderful car. He was the second owner. The guy who bought it new in 1965 had some kind of sales job that involved driving around to meet his clients. After he’d owned the Volvo a few months, his boss called him into his office and told him to “get rid of that funny-looking little car and go buy a Cadillac.”

  • JoJo says:

    Cheaper than psychiatry! Love that!

  • paul s murray says:

    If I’d graduated with a doctorate in philosophy and was teaching at some mid-west school, then maybe. But those SU carbs and I have never gotten along well.

  • Errol John says:

    Seeing those prices and estimates, I had better increase the insurance value on my 1970 Volvo122 B20.

  • Mike E V says:

    As a Volvo parts manager from 1971 to 1973, the “B” series engines were bullet proof. It still amazes me how many people came to buy parts for their 122’s which had various American V8 engines installed. Chevy was the easiest it appears. An aluminum power glide transmission was the gearbox of choice.

  • Johnathan Sievers says:

    Yes, a Volvo 240 Series is much more practical.

  • paul s murray says:

    Claire & Ken _ Putting oil in a four stroke engine carburetor seems intuitively ( ” knowledge a priori ” – Kant ) wrong .

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