Keith’s Blog: Volvo Immersion Weekend

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The SCM 122S “Amazon” rolled off the carrier last week and was immediately pressed into service.

I’ve been surprised at what a good car it is, given some of my previous “sight unseen” purchases. The seller, Jim Perry of Wisconsin, races an 1800S, and this was his street car.

Before taking delivery, I had him install an overdrive transmission (sourced from Chris Horn in Portland) and go through the car completely, including charging the factory a/c unit.

It fired right up for me, and the overdrive—a necessity for today’s freeways—worked perfectly.

Our first stop was the annual IPD Volvo swapmeet and show-and-shine, held at their Portland headquarters. The number of Volvo fanatics in attendance surprised and impressed me, and the “tuner” Volvo scene was particularly strong.

This younger generation of fanatics is completely missing from the classic sports car world of Alfas, MGs and the like. I would guess that this is because Volvos are still in production, whereas MGs stopped in 1980, and Alfas ceased coming to the U.S. in 1995. The established base of Volvos continues to grow, and obviously the tuner crowd has found the drivetrains and electronics to be modifier-friendly.

I scored a set of used IPD performance springs from an enthusiast named Jon Johnson, and those will go on the 122S this week. Also, founder and czar of the PDX Round-Fendered Volvo Club, Dean Koehler, volunteered that he had a rear sway bar, new in the box, that would fit the 122.

The car is easy to work on. The idle was a little high, and once I found the two separate screws I had to adjust, it dropped just enough. Luckily, the SUs were properly synchronized to begin with.

My list of things the car needs is short. At the top is having the seats rebuilt by Guy’s Interior Restorations. The covers are fine, but as with so many old cars, the stuffing has completely broken down.

At the same time, I will have shoulder harnesses installed in the rear. For the moment, Bradley gets to ride in the front seat, and he is marveling at the fact that he has radio knobs to play with (most of our old cars have no radios, he noted) and an a/c temperature control to fiddle with (this is our only old car with a/c).

I am surprised at how much friendly attention the Amazon gets. Unlike a Porsche or a Morgan, it’s a visually accessible car, and everyone seems to have a memory of one from his or her past.

It’s not a the sports car that an Alfa Giulia Super is, but it’s a very nice example of an interesting classic car — and it performs well enough. Here’s hoping the ownership experience continues to be a positive one and that we can simply build on what is already a good car to make an even better one.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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