SCM’s 1967 Volvo 122S has finally returned home after relaxing for a couple of months in the care of Swedish Relics, Volvo expert Cameron Lovre’s new shop.
I had Lovre do a few things that, strictly speaking, weren’t necessary for the car to be driven, but that were necessary for me to be able to enjoy the car.
I’ve spent more than $3,000 tweaking the driving characteristics of the Amazon.
The list includes: putting a custom bend into the shift lever so that it doesn’t collide with the under-dash dealer-installed a/c unit, installing a power brake booster, calibrating the temperature gauge and putting a new bronze bushing in the shift linkage to improve the feel of the shift lever.
Installing the booster required a magician’s touch, as the engine compartment wasn’t designed to easily accommodate both the a/c compressor and a booster. That’s where the expertise of a specialist like Lovre comes into play. He knows his way around the engine bay of a vintage Volvo and was able to make everything work.
Prior to that, I had the cooling system completely gone through, as the car was overheating in weather over 95 degrees.
Was Any of This Necessary?
Let’s be clear about one thing — the Volvo already ran and drove very well. Donald Osborne drove it on the Forest Grove Tour d’Elegance, and Doug Hartman, Bradley and I took it on a 600-mile weekend Alfa Club tour that went all the way to Pendleton, on the eastern side of Oregon.
During those different events, I noticed that the brake pedal seemed soft, the temperature was running high and the shift linkage seemed loose.
You would think I would have just left well-enough alone and lived with the car and its minor imperfections. But that’s never been my nature. While I am not interested in having a car look better than new, I am interested in it driving as well as it did during the first couple of years of its life.
I get most of my pleasure out of the mechanical side of my cars — the visceral sense that each provides as it motors along. Cars from the ‘50s and ‘60s each have their own distinct flavors, but sloppy linkages and suspensions change those flavors completely. I just don’t compromise when it comes to how a car starts, shifts, corners and brakes.
Consequently, I end up burying myself in my cars. After all, I had already put IPD front and rear sway bars and springs on the Volvo, along with Bilstein shocks. The money spigot has been opened frequently.
This all begs the question — just how good do we want our cars to be? Is it necessary that they behave like they did when new, or should we just learn to accept the vagaries of their suspensions as a “part of getting old,” like buying reading glasses or sans-a-belt pants?
Just what constitutes a “road ready” vintage car? You’ve got my opinion. I look forward to hearing yours.