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Project  Volvo Amazon Part 1
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 Jim Hekker's
1968 Volvo Amazon 122S Project History, Restoration, Improvements & Photos

Project Part 2  |  Latest Updates

I bought my one owner Volvo, a 1968 Volvo 121 in 1998, from a lady who had purchased the Amazon new while living in the UK. They emigrated to New Zealand in 1976 and brought the Amazon with them. This lady used the Amazon as daily transport but found it harder to handle when she got older, especially parking. Regretfully she had to sell it and I bought it for NZ$5000. Recorded mileage was 96,000 miles. 

For a number of years, I had been looking for a late model 2-door Amazon model, preferably a 1970 with dual brake system, and because they are really scarce in NZ (may be 10 roadworthy Amazons in total) one has to act quickly when one is up for sale. I had missed out on a few opportunities to buy one already. There are actually two or three Club members who are collecting the older models and you have to be quick. The Amazon wasn't perfect, but what can you expect for a 30 year old car. The body was basically rust free and structurally very good. The engine, a B18A with one carburettor, was a bit sluggish but OK, the tyres were brand new Michelins 165x15, the interior looked good for a car of that age, the black dashboard was cracked as usual with these cars.

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Engine + gearbox
taken out


Battery acid damage

Not much left now

Taking apart the front of the car started in early 1999, as shown on the photos, the battery must have been overcharged at one stage, causing quite a bit of acid damage to the paintwork, body work, bonnet and heater. Most acid damage wasn't visible at first but when I started sanding it down I exposed the real damage. Nothing structural, just surface rust. The body, although scarred by parking dents all around, was basically in a good rust free condition. The only rust was on the front wings, though not too bad.  The headlight cowls were badly rusted and were later replaced by new plastic cowls. I removed engine, gearbox, the sub-frame, heater, steering box and all components from the front of the Amazon cleaned everything and hand-painted the engine bay and spray-painted all suspension parts.  Everything was treated with transparent POR-15

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Engine + gearbox taken out the Amazon

Work on the Farm, taking engine out wrecked 142

The old B18 block and head

Engine builder with the new B20

Originally my Amazon had a B18A engine (1800cc, single carburettor)  which was in a reasonable condition. However I wanted a 2 litre engine with reasonable power and I had been looking for an old Volvo with a B20B engine for my Amazon. I found a Canadian 1974 Volvo 142 at a wrecker's yard in Auckland. All the good bits were already gone however the B20F (fuel injected) engine was still in the car, it also had a remote gear-change that I was interested in using in the Amazon. I brought the car home on a hired trailer and parked it in the orchard where my wife works (didn't want to upset the neighbours), where we removed the engine and gearbox in one piece with the help of a tractor and forklift. Nicolette, my wife, on the controls and myself easing the unit out of the car. I also cut out part of the tunnel with my newly purchased angle grinder. The tunnel cover was tidied up and later bolted in the Amazon to house the remote gear-change. The rest of the old 142 went to tip. Both the original B18A and the low compression B20F engines were stripped and delivered at Hart Bussas' workshop, the The Classic Engine Shop in Tauranga. He inspected the parts for possible use. Hart specialises in pre-1980 engine work and he loved to do work on my Volvo engine. He found that the B20 block wasn't in such a good condition at all, the "D" camshaft was worn and also its bearings, the cylinders were worn too, the pistons, crankshaft and conrods were OK. So we decided to use the B18 block, re-bore it to 2 litres, used the B20 head with the bigger valves, the old B20 pistons with new rings, 8 bolt crankshaft, conrods, flywheel, steel timing gears in the original re-bored B18 block.

All bearings, seals and gaskets were replaced. The felt crank seals were replaced by modern silicone seals used on later model Volvo engines, the housings had to be machined to fit the new seals, but that prevents oil leaks in the future. A new "K" camshaft and heavy duty oil pump were ordered from Brookhouse UK. The B20 cylinder head minus 1mm to increase the 8.7:1 compression a little to around 9.5:1, was used after a complete rebuilt with hardened valve seats. The injection holes were plugged. We ended up with a good engine which would be reliable with lots of potential for further tweaking, if we wish.

However, we had some problems with the machining of the B20 head to install the hardened valve seats (Lead free petrol in NZ) and decided not to use this head. We actually used another B20F head, which already had hardened valve seats, out of an US 1975 Volvo 245 - Thanks Hans. Hart Bussas rebuilt this head to a good standard, free of charge.

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Removal of the B20F head from a 1975 Volvo 245

Front suspension

Negative camber for better cornering

Front suspension and braided brake  hoses

Special Bilstein shocks, which perform very well with the ipd lowered springs, have been installed on advice from Cameron Lovre, salesman at ipd and vclassics team member. All suspension rubbers front and rear have been replaced. Also most of the ball joints were replaced.  Changing an equal number of shims on each bolt on the upper A arms changes the camber. We added shims to achieve 1 degree negative camber for better cornering. For more details about front end alignment settings check out the vclassics Archive. A new water pump was installed, the main radiator rebuilt, the heater radiator leak fixed, the heater painted and re-assembled. The existing aftermarket brake booster was leaking and after a detailed examination of the parts I decided to buy a new booster, another $375. I'm still considering to install a dual brake system. Brake master cylinder and Clutch master and slave cylinders were re-slaved, all brake hoses were replaced, the front hoses by steel braided types from ipd. 

I bought a set of used original SU carburettors from another club member and had them rebuilt with new shafts and Teflon bushes. This set included an aluminium intake manifold which, after a good cleanup, looks really good on the engine. The exhaust manifold came off the old 142, which had a separate inlet manifold for the injection. I painted the exhaust manifold with heat-resistant POR15. On advice from Phil Singher, editor of  magazine, I had already ordered a set of SM size needles from Swift Automotive in Christchurch (SU agent who stocks 830 different type of needles). This combination worked perfectly. K&N aircleaners were ordered from ipd in USA to complete the set, they have a lifetime guarantee.


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The rebuilt unit goes
back into the car

K&N aircleaners

Leather steering wheel
 and recovered dash

An Italian 14" leather steering makes a lot of difference, it feels good, and now I can look over the steering wheel rather than through it as was the case with the old one. On the photo you can see the remote gear lever, taken from a Volvo 142 and it works perfectly, the remote unit fits on the existing M40/41 gearbox where it replaces the top cover.

As you all know, black dashboards absorb a lot of heat and eventually they start to crack. My Amazon's dash was no exception. I removed the foam filled dash and sent it to a specialised dash restoration business in Auckland for repairs, but I found that they couldn't fix it without having the steel backing plate to ensure that the dash wouldn't deform during the process. LHD dashboards are readily available but new RHD dashboard are scarce and although moulds are available to produce new ones, nobody is prepared to order the minimum 1000 dashboards to make a production run economical. 

Brookhouse Volvo had a small number of dashboards available at 195, which is still around NZ$700 landed. Amazon Spares in Melbourne has some available for A$850. In the end I went to a local auto trimmer who has fixed the cracks, and recovered the dashboard with black vinyl for $80, the result is very good and a lot cheaper than buying a new one. 

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The standard 4" wide Amazon wheels were widened to 6" by  Road Wheels NZ  a local wheel restoration business. The original wheel centres were used with new 6" wide rims. I specified a wheel offset of 20mm. The standard 4" wheels had 25mm offset. So comparing the standard 4" wide wheels and the new 6" wide setup, I have now 30mm extra width on the outside and 20mm extra on the inside of the total extra 50mm rim width. No clearance problems. The backspacing is now 107mm. The result is amazing, good roadholding and a pleasant drive! The existing wheel hubs fit nicely. 

Originally I had the wheels built with zero offset, so all the extra 2" width was on the outside - increasing the "track" by 100mm - but this caused so much bumpsteer on the uneven NZ roads and it put so much more stress on the bearings, steering (and not to forget my arms) that I had them redone to the above specification.

The wheels were painted in silver finish and I got a set of Dunlop Formula W10 directional 195/60 x 15 tyres. They look great. They tell me that the NZ Police is using these tyres on their patrol vehicles, so they must be good. 

More about wide Amazon wheels and other technical information in  Archive.

195x60x15 on 
6" rims

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What is: Offset
Rim Width
Wheel Diameter

Project Part 2
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Many more photos and details 1999 - 2021