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Volvo Adventures is an independent New Zealand based resource for the older Volvo models

Volvo 122S: Building a new 2009 Targa Tasmania car.
By Andrew White and Ashley Yelds

Retiring the original Targa 122SR

We have been running the original works-built 1967 122SR down at Targa Tasmania for some six years (2003-08). The car came equipped from the factory with 100 litre tank, close ratio box, 5.1:1 LSD, 100 litre tank, tacho, halda, sump guard, warm, torquey motor and some underbody strengthening. Its engine no is 2737 gearbox no 430476 chassis no 288942 manufactured 1/12/67 and "build card" - now on microfische with Volvo archives - has "racing car" stamped across it. 

The car was imported by Swedish Motor Importers in Mascot, Sydney and remained with them until sold to Ossie Jackson on 28/8/69 (free 1000 mile service completed on 18/9/69). The car then finished with a class win and 11th O/R in the '69 Southern Cross Rally; a tough event with international competitors in which John Keran drove the 142S to 6th O/R and 2nd in class to Andrew Cowan's Austin 1800. Ossie continued to rally the car and then it passed through a couple of owners before being ‘laid-up’ for over twenty years. George Minassian bought the car and did a lot of restoration work before I twisted his arm and my wallet and completed the deal in 1999. After some club racing the car entered a second career as a very successful tarmac rally car.

For the first two years at Targa the car was crewed by Darwin based Education Director, Andrew White and Insurance Executive, Bob Pettitt and then for the past four years with co-driver Ashley Yelds, an economist living in Washington DC. Across those years the car has been run as standard as possible with standard brakes and SU carburettors. We were not keen to undertake modifications beyond the original factory specs. 

We entered Targa Tasmania because it is the ultimate tarmac rally for both classic and modern cars utilising the most demanding and rewarding roads imaginable.

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 In the original works car (1) we have enjoyed good success with three top ten placings (10th, 7th & 6th) in the Classic competition (over 130 cars 1946 – 1992) across 2005-8.

In 2007 we made the decision to retire the original car, restoring it to its exact 1967 specifications, and to build a new car with modern safety equipment and exploiting more fully the modifications allowed in the tarmac rally regulations. We decided that the new car would be less restrained by concerns about originality but nevertheless will compete in the ‘Limited Modified’ class. Key developments would be 300mm ventilated discs and four spot callipers, overdrive added to the close ratio gearbox, 4.88:1 LSD, and a motor built by Gary Comerford – VOLPRO (with Webers).

The old car had its last run in Targa Tasmania 2008 and despite some nagging engine problems, managed to make the national news, ‘You Tube’  and Tarmac magazine by chasing down a Lotus Exige across the famous Sidling Stage capturing on video the Lotus’ demise as it rolled through a fence, slid upside down across a paddock and into a farmer’s shed! 

New car – new shell

We purchased a shell from Ray Andrech in Sydney who runs a Holden V6 powered 122 in the Variety Club bashes (crash test dummy theme). The shell had been prepared for painting and was to become a re-constituted 123GT. However, Ray had a re-think and offered the prepared shell for sale along with about two cars worth of spare parts! The 1969 model two-door shell was absolutely free of rust and accident damage. After careful inspections and a lot of help from Ray we managed to have the shell delivered to Rai Curry of ‘Fabraications’ in Mordialloc, Melbourne for the installation of a full 2009 spec chrome moly cage, (3) seam welding and the addition of strengthening and the necessary brackets. 

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Rai and his team are highly experienced car constructors and skilfully TIG welded a fully engineered cage within the shell that braces suspension pick-up points (4) to transform the torsional rigidity of the shell and provide an extraordinary level of safety to the occupants. Rai told us that this was the oldest car he had prepared to this standard. Photos show the bars running forward to pick up front suspension loads (5) and the twin A pillar bars and triangulation to the rear suspension pick up points. Also the seats are bolted to fabricated mounts (6) and the door capping and dash have been scalloped to wrap-around the cage. Note also triangulation though the roof, main hoop, rear legs to provide the required strength. The entire structure is TIG welded and is a work of art. 

After all welding was completed and holes were made for oil coolers, wiring and accessories, the shell was delivered to Murry at Imperial Finish Body Works who completed a high standard bare metal re-spray to the entire shell in a Volvo light blue (circa 1979) which is close to the original ‘Gulf Oil’ blue. Once complete the freshly painted shell was taken to Barry Brookes (Targa competitor in a Datsun 240Z) home garage (Thanks Baz!) where we were to build the car over an 8 month period whenever either Andrew was visiting from Darwin or Ashley was visiting from Washington D.C.!

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Electrics and Interior

A wiring diagram was developed utilising the most efficient placement of switches and accessories throughout the car. The wiring was initially laid out through the car in clothes line string and then completed on the kitchen table back in Darwin. We utilised readily available trailer wiring harnesses making up five looms for the front lights/horn, engine, instrument sensors, rear lights and dashboard. Connections were made using wiring blocks (8) sourced from a drag car fabricator which allows testing of circuits throughout the car. Where wiring passes through bulk heads screw-in fittings provide effective sealing. Wiring is kept minimal and neat and all looms come back to major distribution blocks underneath the dash. The circuit board containing all 20 fuses and six relays (Car Builders Solutions UK) is attached to the underside of a hinged panel that covers the hole where the heater normally resides (10). A centre switch panel between the front seats houses the battery cut off, ignition, start, hazard and interior lights (11). A separate circuit supplies power to the twin fuel pumps and their relays directly from the rear mounted lightweight battery (12).

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On the dashboard a full set of Classic gauges (inc speedo, tacho, water temp, oil press, oil temp, volts, fuel and clock) (13) are arranged in an orderly way and, for 2010 sequential shift lights are being added to the top of the dash for an improved and intuitive indication of engine revs. Switch gear on the dash (14) includes lights, wipers, demist fan (operates small ceramic blow heaters), brake balance knob, fuel pumps (two way), overdrive, and for the co-driver - headlight flash, single wipe, navigation instrumentation, intercom and video camera. 

The dash mounted overdrive switch was found to be difficult to find and operate (required at about 155kph when all movements need to be instinctive) and so a gear shift mounted slide switch is being fitted for next year’s event. The steering wheel is a Momo and pedals are covered with super-grippy skateboard ‘sandpaper’. The standard ashtray houses spare fuses and some special tools and the standard grab handle is retained. All interior trim (including dash top) is a vinyl-look light-weight material attached with screws. Standard door hardware is retained and map pockets (15) were added to the lower doors. The seats are Sparco FIA approved fibreglass competition seats with five point harnesses (16). Harness mounts have been welded in optimal positions on the floor for waist and crutch straps; the shoulder straps are wrapped around the ‘taxi bar’ element of the cage. 

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Drilled alloy foot rests are provided for driver and co-driver and the floor mats are thick foam pool surround mats. The cage is covered in strategic areas with self adhesive rubber used on ocean racing yachts! Camera mounts and intercom systems are mounted in the roof as is an additional interior light. The boot contains twin fuel pumps and a 60 litre fuel cell (17). A two way switch (glows red/green) on the dash operates twin relays and fuel pumps with circuits protected by a engine oil pressure switch to automatically shut off fuel when the engine stops. The spare is stored in a quick release alloy frame (18) and the wheel well has a hinged alloy cover and stores spares and recovery gear. A two level fabricated alloy tool box houses basic and specialised tools for on-the-road maintenance (19). 

Engine and Drivetrain

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Under the bonnet is a 1950cc B 18 engine built by expert Volvo engine builder Gary Comerford of Volpro. To date we had built our own engines which proved reliable but didn’t realise a lot of horsepower, Gary’s expertise supplied a ‘knife-edged’ lightened and nitrided crank (20), polished rods, forged pistons (1950cc – just within 10% extra capacity allowed in the regulations), (21) strengthening bracket to uprated oil pump, baffled sump, big valves, ported head (exhaust ports totally re-shaped to landscape rather then portrait), shims to rockers, double valve springs, (22) and steel timing gear, The sump was modified to take an oil temp sender and the head to take an electric fan switch. The oil pressure gauge and warning light senders are connected to the engine by a remote braided line as is the oil cooler (with alloy scoop housed behind the fibreglass bumper). (23) The standard windscreen washers, radiator and overflow tank are retained. An oil catch tank and cold air intake ducted from the windscreen vent have been fabricated (the regulations don’t allow additional holes to duct cold air through radiator support panel) (24). The radiator has an electric fan operated automatically from a switch in the cylinder head (with over-ride switch on dash) and the alternator has a beefed-up mount to the engine. A small electric horn has been added in keeping with the light-weight theme.

A standard Volvo clutch transmits torque to a close ratio 4 speed box with standard casing and long throw gear lever. The close ratio gear set (same ratios as factory competition box) is manufactured by Albins in Victoria who specialise in off road competition transmissions. 

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The gearbox was Mike Batten’s spare but when Mike discovered the Albins ‘solution” he didn’t need the spare any more! At the back of the gearbox a rebuilt and upgraded ‘J’ Type overdrive (The Healey Factory) with a 0.797:1 ratio (30).

The rear axle ratio is 4.88:1 and fitted with a brand new Torson-Gleeson style Tru Trac LSD normally fitted to Jeep front axles. The diff has been ‘tightened’ for a rear-wheel-drive application. This combination of gearbox/O/D/diff provides five speed close ratios with speeds in gears at 7000 of 65, 103, 138, 163, 205kph giving an extra gear to play with.

Brakes and Suspension

Braking is substantially upgraded with front Nissan Skyline callipers (25) mated to 296mm DBA 27mm ventilated discs. Discs are mounted to the standard hubs using fabricated aluminium hats. Alloy brackets were fabricated to mount the new callipers to the standard fixings. The backing plates were modified to fit the larger discs and alloy scoops added to increase cooling to the discs and callipers (26). The rear brakes are later 142 discs, callipers and integral (drum) handbrake mounted to a Dana 30 axle. Twin master cylinders (front and rear circuits) are arranged under the dash (27) and operated through a fabricated pivot assembly with bias adjustment. This system has proven difficult to bleed and so we are currently relocating the cylinders to a more conventional arrangement. Brake lines don’t clutter the engine bay but run more directly through the inner guards to braided lines. A shielded fuel line runs within the prop shaft tunnel and then through an adjustable fuel pressure block to the Weber carburettors.

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Suspension has standard pick-ups points and components (some seam welding and strengthening) using poly bushes. Front and rear anti-roll bars were fabricated and are adjustable by selecting a series of holes to vary the length of the moment arm. Front bar is 28mm with the rear at 21mm. Poly bushes and rose joint links connect the anti-roll bars to body and suspension mounts. Kings Springs are used and to date we have run 440#” (220#” effective) rate front and 170#” rear lowering the car by 25mm. New springs are being tried for 2010 with 600#” (300#” effective) rate front and 225#” rate rear and these will lower the car 50mm in total. Shockers are very special ‘big-bore’ race Konis with special valving (from sponsors – Toperformance). 

Steering is standard with 3 degrees negative camber (thick alloy spacers made up) and 3 degrees of caster (spacers to the cross member). Upper ‘A’ arm bushes are poly with lower arm bushes standard rubber. Rear suspension is all poly sourced from IPD in Oregon, USA. 

Finishing touches

The body work is standard apart from minor mods to present the car as a 1961 model. All badges, boot handle, etc are as for a 1961 model. New badges, trim pieces, headlight buckets (plastic), rubbers, grommets and a host of other genuine Volvo parts were sourced from Mikael at CVI Automotive in Sweden. The standard fuel filler has been covered as the tank is now filled from inside the boot with a ‘frying pan’ splash shield. The rear windows have been modified with ‘sprung’ hinges to allow them to be fully opened to give access to the rear seat area, Dzeus fasteners are used for quick release and new profile (and thinner, lighter) toughened glass panes were manufactured. The windscreen air vent now provides cold air to the carburettors and also houses a remote pull handle for the battery kill switch. Standard wipers are retained.

We have made the car as light as possible. Within the regulations we are allowed to run 5% under the standard kerb weight. If we take that as 1070kg then we can be as light as 1020kg but in reality we can’t get anywhere near that. We are not allowed any lightweight panels, toughened glass needs to be retained, the interiors have to remain trimmed and holes cannot be drilled. We have removed headlining, mats, seats, bumpers, trim, tank, battery, heater and where necessary replaced them with light-weight alternatives. The chrome-moly cage (and all brackets) is made from very thin high tensile steel and weighs no more than the previous car’s ‘Bond’ cage despite having almost twice the length of material. The car - ready to start – with all tools, spares, some fuel – weighs in at 1120kg. In race trim without passenger seat, spare wheel, etc we can get that down to 1050kg.

The light blue paint scheme is complemented with a 200mm orange stripe down the centre of the car and 100mm side stripes aligned at fibreglass bumper height with the bumper painted to match. ‘Volvo 122S’ lettering ‘apeing’ the Porsche 911 ‘Carrera’ signage and small blue and white prancing moose stickers have a go at some of well-heeled competitors for whom the 122 has become their worst nightmare! Orange highlights the boot handle and also the standard polished alloy interior switch bezels. Sponsor and event signage adorn the car including Toperformance (Koni Shockers and King Springs), Volpro (engine), Imperial Motor Body Works and Fabraications (shell preparation and cage). 

New Car finished – 2009 Targa Tasmania

The car was completed at the very last minute for the 2009 Targa rally with no time for testing. Every time we took it for a short run we seemed to have problems. Even when we fronted the day before the event to a sponsors’ ride day at Symmons Plains race track we had handling, steering and oil leak issues. We were up till 2pm in the massive Silverdome sports centre with the 300 other entries replacing the steering box to try and improve our driveability. We approached the event with some trepidation given we were starting with an untested and brand new car... but that’s another story...

Andrew White
Ashley Yelds © 1999 - 2021