Technical & Buying Guides

The Volvo Amazon or 120

Buyers Guide


The Volvo Amazon or 120 as it better known in the UK is one of the best all round usable Classic Volvo’s with fantastic spares availability. A large number are still being used as everyday transport and provide reliable safe motoring, with the benefits of Classic Motoring.

Brief History:

Back in 1956 Volvo was to call it the Amazon from the Greek mythology a female warrior, however a West German Motorcycle Company, Kreidler held the rights to the Amazon name. After some negotiations the Company allowed Volvo to use the name Amazon but only for the domestic market, although most owners around the world still refer to the car as an Amazon.

The Volvo 120 (Amazon) deputed on 1st September 1956 in Sweden and went on sale there in 1957. ALL Volvo cars built were until 1958 LHD even though they drove on the left. This was due to the large amount of American cars sold in Sweden. In 1957 Volvo exhibited at the London Motor Show at Earles Court and a year later Volvo Concessionaires, a subsidiary of Lex Brooklands imported the first RHD Volvo 120’s into Great Britain.

The 120 shared many of its mechanical parts from the earlier PV444 and these early cars used the Volvo B16 1583cc, which was basically a bored out B14, starting life in the PV444 of 1944! The body and suspension was however all new and a giant step into the future for Volvo.

The Volvo B18 1778cc Engine arrived in the 120 in late 1961 for the 1962 models. Although superficially it resembled it predecessors this was a very different engine with a 5 bearing crankshaft and being originally developed for the new P1800 Coupe from half of a B36 V8 Truck Engine!

By 1964 All 120’s had received uprated bakes in the form of Discs to the front and drums on the rear. A Servo was offered as an option and would not become standard equipment until 1967.

The 1965 Model year saw new slotted wheels and the ornate boot handle of the early cars was replaced with a more basic functional design. A grab handle on the passenger side was also added to the dash

In 1967 with the launch of the new 140 Series the 120 gained up rated rear suspension on saloon models with the ‘pressed arm’ mountings being replaced by 2  trailing arms.  A twin downpipe exhaust manifold was added to the B18 for all models

August 1968 saw the 120 gaining the B20 2lt Engine which was basically a bored out B18. By now only the 2Dr Saloon was available, the last car being built on the3rd July 1969.

A total of 234,209 4dr saloons, 359,917 2dr saloons and 73,196 Estates were built, 60% of production was exported.


Front Wings:
Rust can affect these particularly around the Headlights, the seam between the wing and the front panel and the lower section of the rear of the wing. The good news is that new Front Wings are still available and good S/H wings often come up for sale. Also the wings are bolted to the car so replacement is a fairly easy job, although removing the small bolts that connect the wing to the front panel below the headlight can be difficult if rusty. On poorly restored cars the seam is often filled, should this be the case check from the rear for corrosion as this may be full of bodyfiller

Front Panel:
Rust does attack this area particularly where the front panel joins the front wings. The panel is again bolted to the main bodyshell and does not take great levels of skill to replace. Remember that early 120’s e.g. B16 Models had a different front panel with a larger centre section. Later front panels are still available and will fit ALL models providing the correct grills are used. Note 3 types of front panel used – Type 1 B16, Type 2 Early B18 up to 1963, Type 3 Later Front panel from 1963 will fit all models.

Doors as on other cars are prone to rust at the bottom in both the skin and the door frame bottom. Good replacements are hard to find, particularly for the 2 Door models and rear estate doors. Repair Door Skins (Full and half) and repair sections for the lower door frame are available through the Volvo Enthusiasts Club Suppliers

Rust can sometimes be found in this area although some models did have galvanised outer sills fitted from new.

Rear Wings:
Check both the front (next to sill) and rear lower (under bumper) sections and the wheel arch edges. Repair panels are available for all these areas. Full replacement wings are not available. The inner wheel arch can suffer from rust. Check both inside the car under rear seat and in the boot.

Rear Panel – Saloon:
The rear panel does not in general suffer with rust.

Rear Panel – Estate:
Rust can affect this area and the rear section of the boot floor

Rust in the bonnet frame is not common but can affect the front part of the frame where the lock is attached.

Boot Lid – Saloon:
Rust is not common in this area; good second hand boot lids are not difficult to find

Rear Tailgates – Estate:
The rear tailgates – 2 split horizontally in American style suffer very badly from rust. There are no repair panels available and good second hand tailgates are extremely difficult to find

Estate Rear Side Windows:
Rust can effect the lower edge of the side rear window Check with care for ANY signs of rust coming from under the seal. Repair can be expensive expensive.

Inner Front Wings:
Check the condition of the inner front wings, particularly around the battery box. Also check the chassis rail under the wing, above the road wheel, which runs from the headlight bowl to the bulkhead. – Repair Panel available.

Rust in the front floorpan is not common but corrosion may be found above front outrigger in the front foot wells and rear section in Estate Cars.

Boot Floor – Saloon & Estate:
Rust can affect his area but is not common. However the Spare Wheel Well on Saloon models is a common area for rust, as is the boot floor on the opposite side of the boot. Take particular care to check the condition of the floor in Estates as rust can affect this area badly on these vehicles.

Chassis Sections – Moving backwards from front panel:
1/ Front of chassis: Rust is particularly bad news here. Check around the steering box/steering idler and the anti-roll bar and front bumper iron mountings. A repair section is available.
2/ Radiator Crossmember: Check the condition of the radiator crossmember. A Repair Panel is available but can be difficult to replace. Replacement crossmembers are available to replace the member the front panel has to be removed and the new member welded into position. In extreme cases the front of the member can have totally rusted away.
3/ Engine Crossmember or Cradle: Rust can affect this major assembly - second hand cradles available. Check also suspension wishbones, corrosion
4/ Main Chassis Rail – rear of main engine/suspension cradle back to mid crossmember: this chassis section, particularly where the chassis kicks up the bulkhead is liable to corrosion. Check also the top section under the bonnet by bulkhead, which forms the front crumple zone.
5/ Front Outrigger: Situated under front floorpan between main chassis and sills. Repair panel available. Rust very common in this member, check where it meets sill and main chassis rail, also above – the floorpan.
6/ Mid Crossmember: Rust is not common in this area but check. The handbrake is attached to this member on the driver’s side of the car by the sill.
7/ Rear Axle Mounting and Chassis over the Rear Axle: This can sometimes be an area of major corrosion particularly on early cars.
8/ Rear Chassis - below boot floor: Check rear section of chassis against rear valance, where rear bumpers are bolted.
The above is only a guide to rust problems in 120’s. Care should be taken to check all parts of the car but do remember that all of these cars are over 35 years old and some nearly 50.


Lower rear section of front wings and seam between wing and front panel

Lower area of rear wings – front and rear of wheel arch

Front Panel/Front Wings – Area around headlight and front panel join.

Bottom of Doors – Skin and frame


Wheel arches,

Boot floor/Spare Wheel Well

Rear Tailgates - Estate

Front outriggers

Crossmember under radiator – check front edge of Chassis rail under front wing – top of inner wing, from headlight bowl to bulkhead

Front Chassis around steering box/idler, anti-roll bar mount and bumper iron mounting

Main Chassis Rail at Bulkhead Kick-up

Windscreen and rear screen aperture – check for any rust appearing from under the screen seal

Bottom of Front Windscreen pillar by where wing meets. Rust comes from inside out due to leaking windscreen seals

Front edge of Bonnet and lover edge of Boot


Early Interior hard to find in good second-hand condition – New interiors for later models in more common colours available but can be very expensive.

Some chrome trim no longer available new particularly for early cars

Check condition of Bumpers and Overiders carefully – replacements can be expensive and modern reproduction chrome items are often not of the same quality as original. Replating by a good Chroming Specialist can be a better option if required. Alternatively why not fit Stainless Steel? Stainless Steel Bumper sets are now available and the Volvo Enthusiasts Club can point Members in the right direction to get a great deal. 120 Saloon Sets come with new Bumper Irons, packing pieces and complete set of stainless nuts and bolts to fit. All this at a fraction of what rechroming and any repairs required would cost

Window winder mechanisms can cause problems. The mechanism is chain driven with a cable in front doors. If you discover problems in this area it could be a broken cable or the metal frame which connects the mechanism to the window glass has rusted away. Second hand parts are available.

Volvo 120 Estates – Like all Volvo estates they have generally had a hard life and as a guide anything Estate ONLY is difficult to find. This includes the Rear Tailgates, these are only available second hand and then very difficult to find. This is also the case for the rear interior trim and upholstery, although front is same as the saloon. Rubber seals for the rear side windows are not available new as are the stainless trims along top of doors and below side windows

120 2 Door – Body Seals for the opening rear windows are no longer available so if yours are perished the only answer is buying second hand and these are very difficult to find

Dash Tops – These tend to crack with age and sunlight. Replacements are available for later models (early cars the dash top carries on around onto the front doors) from Volvo Enthusiasts Club Suppliers but are not cheap. Pay particular attention for the 123GT Dash Tops as these are unique to the model, with a small coin tray on the passenger side included.



ALWAYS check that the car is fitted with a Genuine Volvo Oil Filter, other makes can cause problems with engine lubrication if they do not have the non-return valve fitted in them. A Volvo B18/B20 engine should cover over 200,000 miles without major rebuilding – although camshafts, valve guides and fibre timing gears may need replacement at around 100,000 miles.

Camshafts are particularly prone to wear at around 100,000 miles and can be mistaken by unskilled ears as Crankshaft Big End Bearing failure, more skilled enthusiasts will note the sound is only half engine speed – hence valve area. Fibre timing gears can be replaced with all steel gear sets – originals are one fibre, one steel. The originals are fine and give no problem but if you intend to up-rate the engine with a high lift cam etc, steel gears are a must.

Engines with high mileage’s can smoke particularly on start up of on over-run down hill. This will generally be caused by valve guide wear and oil running down valve into combustion chamber.
B16, B18 and B20 can be converted to run on unleaded. Original Valves fitted are already hard (Stellite) on B18 and B20 engines but valve seats will have to be replaced as they are soft (cast iron) – Unleaded head conversions are though the Club Suppliers – we can point you in the right direction for good deals.

Manual Gearbox:

The manual gearbox fitted to the 120 is robust, long lived, and should not cause any real problem. When driving cars fitted with the optional Overdrive it is best to ‘slip the clutch’ when engaging and dis-engaging overdrive. This helps to give a smooth operation and avoid damage to components. The use of the wrong oil can cause problems – Gear oil should never be used in gearboxes with overdrive. Oil is shared by the two units – checked and filled in the Gearbox using Engine Oil. Manual Gearboxes without Overdrive use Gear Oil. Check Workshop Manual for Oil Grades. Overdrive Gearboxes are often found second hand from rusted 1800’s. Reconditioned Overdrives and Spares are available through the Club Spares Suppliers and Specialists.

Auto Gearbox:

The Automatic Gearbox fitted to the 120 was made by Borg-Warner and gives little trouble. However if the vehicle has stood for a long period it may be worth having the box fully checked and serviced before use.

Rear Axle:

The rear axle is again almost indestructible; however, loss of oil can cause premature failure. Check for oil leaks down back of brake backplates (Half shaft oil seal leaking) and pinion bearing seal (where prop shaft bolts to axle). It is common on higher mileage cars to encounter differential whine, but this does not mean that the axle will not give further long service. Removal of the rear brake drums on the 120 models requires a Special Hub Puller, which can be hired by Members from the Club. Other Special Tools Available for members to Hire. The Club is always looking for Volvo Special Tools to purchase for Club Members Tool Hire.

Engine Types Fitted to UK Spec Vehicles:

B16A – 1583cc Single Carburettor 121 Models 1956 -1962
B16B – 1583cc Twin SU Carburettors 122S Models 1956 - 1962
B18A – 1778cc Single Carburettor 121/131 Models 1962 - 1968
B18D – 1778cc Twin SU Carburettor – 122S 1962-68
B18B – 1778cc Twin SU Carburettors – 123GT + some 122S models 1968 - 1969
B20A – 1986cc Single Zenith Carburettors – 131 Models 1968 - 1970
B20B – 1986cc Twin SU or Stromberg Carbs – 132 and 133 Models 1968 -1970

Tuning your Amazon,
The Amazon can easily tuned/uprated by its owner, from simply adding Twin Carburettors to a 121 Single Carb model to adding an overdrive gearbox often donated from an 1800S. Also adding a Brake Servo makes a lot of difference.

Suspension can be improved by adding Poly Bushes or better Shock Absorbers such as Koni or Bilsteins. Wider standard Volvo  wheels again from an 1800S or Amazon Estate can add to better ride and road holding. After market steel 5 1/2 J wheels are now available from our Suppliers plus also many owners have fitted repro Minilite Alloy wheels to their vehicles

Engines can be uprated, changing engines from a B18 to B20 is just a straight swop and if you are going to rebuild your B18 you can also bore it to 2lt for new pistons, the main other block components eg Crank, Con Rods etc are identical in both engines – you will need a B20 Cylinder Head. Those used in the Injection Cars and last of the 140’s (no holes for injectors) have large inlet valves (44mm) and are the choice of many tuners – known as the ‘Big Valve Head’, obviously the injector hole need to be blanked off before use.

IPD in the USA have for many years provided owners with a range of tuning parts but other suppliers both in UK and Europe can provide more specialized parts e.g high lift Camshafts, Steel Timing Gears, Sports Exhausts etc

Volvo Enthusiasts Club Technical Co-ordinator’s will also be able to help should you need advice.


Volvo 120’s For Sale generally can generally be divided into  five groups

For Restoration:
For a car to use as a basis for a total restoration

Running but require work:
Running but in need of some major work in near future e.g. Front Wing replacement-

Cars generally in good condition:
Cars generally in good condition but may need minor work to improve appearance – good useable car with no major faults or corrosion

The Best Cars:
The best cars – not concours but having only minor faults

The Very Best Cars – Concours Winners & Rebuilt:
Cars, which have been fully restored or are Concours standard, depending on all round condition of the vehicle. Interior, chrome, originality, and low mileage will add to the price, as does documented history of the car, original bill of sale etc.

Be prepared to pay more for a 123GT or 120 Estate – rarity means they are often more in demand

IS IT A 123GT?

The rarest and most sought after model is the Volvo 123GT, a 2 door Amazon with the 1800S Sportscar running gear. Only 1500 123 GT were built between 1967 and 1968. These demand the best price but be very careful if you choose this model as there have been a number of cars sold which were found to be only copies.

Main features of the 123GT are:

123GT Badges – Front Wings and Boot Lid
‘GT’ Steering Wheel
Servo Brakes as standard
Overdrive as standard
Alternator as standard
Dash top with small tray on top – passenger side
‘F’ and ‘G’ Registration Only – 1967 and 1968 production
B18B Engine with twin SU Carbs from the 1800S
Twin Front spotlights with covers
Special Front reclining seats
Pod Smiths Rev Counter on top of dash
Wide Wheels 4 ½ J x 15 from 1800S – Standard 120 wheels 4J x 15
Chrome Wheel Embellishers


The Volvo Enthusiasts Club offers a wide range of Technical Information on the 120 Amazon and other Volvo models.


Members are able to hire a range of Volvo Special Tools from the Club. A list of tools available appears on our Web Site. The Club is always interested to here of any Special tools that are surplus to requirements to add to our stock. If you have or know of any available please contact Kevin – Email


Please Note: This Buyers Guide was originally produced by Christina Stadden and updated by Kevin Price. It is the Copyright of the Volvo Enthusiasts Club. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without prior permission, in writing from:

Kevin Price, Volvo Enthusiasts Club, 127 Kidderminster Road, BEWDLEY, Worcestershire. DY12 1JE

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