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

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Works Amazons

What many people don't know is that the older Volvos were very successful
in rallying and touring car races in the 60s,
just read on and you will be surprised

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1963 Rally
Monte Carlo 

Volvo won the European Rally Championship in 1963 with a special 122S. In 1963 a 122S driven by Tom Trana finished a very close second to Jaguar in the European Touring Car Championship. 

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East African
Safari Rally 1965

Swede Tom Trana had become the first driver to gain honours with the Amazon in motor sport at the end of the 1950s. The Amazon originally benefited from the developments made to the PV overhead valve, four-cylinder engine which was already very successful in motor sport. The five main bearing 1,778 cc engine (B18 designation) was added in 1962, and it improved performance as well as reliability.

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Six Hours 1963.

Right: carnage just after the start of the 1800 class at Nürnburgring Volvos everywhere

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Amazons at Spa '64

Later versions of this engine were "tweaked' to produce even more power. Success in motor sport created demand for similar performance on the road. Attracting private racing and rally drivers was the task of local importers and wasn't controlled from Gothenburg. 

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Team Volvo 64 Acropolis Rally
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2.2 Litre 180hp
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Carburettor set
Solex type 45
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2 Litre 170hp

In Germany, the Frankfurt dealership offered a special model called 122SR in 1963. Suspension and engine were modified.

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Restored 1964 Rally car owned by Carl-Magnus Skog former factory driver for Volvo. The car is build with some options and a lot of the same reinforcement as the real factory cars. Photos taken by Tage Johansson at VROM 2002, Sweden

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Competition dashboard 122S
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In May 1964, Car and Driver magazine road-tested a 122S competition in full race trim. It looks like that this particular car was built by Volvo in Frankfurt. The engine, a 1860cc unit with a compression ratio of 11.0 to one, two Weber side draft 42 DCOE/8 had an output of 120bhp @ 6000rpm. Torque 127 lb-ft @ 3600rpm. The suspension was improved by lowering and stiffening and shocks were replaced by Konis, two degrees negative camber on the front. Wheels were 5.5 " steel Dodge with Dunlop SP 165x15 tyres. A special 25-gallon fuel tank with a wide filler neck was also installed. The instrument panel was replaced by a special panel with great VDO dials.

Tuning of Amazons in Sweden was very popular and every mail-order specialist offered versions of conversion kits for road and track. Specialist performance tuners sprung up with names like Speedman in Gothenburg, TG in Malmö, Bertils Motors in Västeras, Hedlund, Timos Motor in Stockholm.

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In 1964 Ruddspeed, a performance conversion company based in Sussex, UK offered a number of conversion for the Amazon. Ken Rudd's cars all came with lowered suspension, Konis, radial tyres, Rudd's own camshaft, gas-flowed heads, stiffer valve-springs, special exhaust manifold, etc. In its stage three form a Ruddspeed 122's could top 127mph. Even an estate given the 'treatment' could reach 100mph.  These Amazons are now very much sought after.

In 1964, competition from the Lotus Cortinas and later in 1965 the Alfa Romeos GTAs made the Amazons un-competitive on the circuits.

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1966 Magazine articles about Tom Trana's Amazon supplied by Tage Johansson, Sweden (If you can read it in Swedish)

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Tom Trana in
1000 Lakes Rally Finland.

1966 Magazine photos supplied by Tage Johansson, Sweden. On the right
photos of works service crew at work in South Rally of Sweden. 
The 122 service car was a works rally car following the rally. Compare this service car with today's service teams !
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Grahame Ward and the early Volvo 122S competition in Australia

Grahame Ward has been a motor racing fan from an early age and first officiated at a race meeting at Bathurst’s Mount Panorama circuit in 1957 as a Flag Marshal at Forest Elbow. Grahame continued to officiate at Bathurst and elsewhere until eventually becoming a competitor when he raced a FIAT 1100 at Hume Weir, Tarrawingi, Bathurst and the Gnoo-Blas circuit at Orange.

In Australia Volvo 122S commenced rallying in Victoria in 1963 with a B16 122s driven by the Hartigan brother in a car owned by distributors Regent Motors.

Grahame Ward purchased his 122S B18 in March 1964 and first competition appearance was later the next month (April) when he finished fourth outright and third in class in the inaugural Lowood 4 Hour race. He was partnered by Bruce McPhee. In actual fact they finished third outright but as there was no difference in prize money thee did not protest the result.
In June 1964 Bruce and Graham teamed up again for the Ampol 6500 mile trial and finished 20th with a loss of 143 points. Three other Volvo 122S entered driven by the Hartigans, who finished equal 12th, with a points loss of 95, and Harold Goodwin who finished 14th loosing 97 points. Jack Forrest retired his 122S with suspension failure after early on being with a clean sheet on points lost.

Graham continued to rally his 122S and in 1965 won the NSW trials championship, and then entered the car in the Armstrong 500 race at Bathurst. They finished 10th overall and sixth in class against special Ford Cortina GT 500 and Studebaker Lark V8. He continued to rally the Volvo until he sold the car in 1966.

From November 1967 Graham was employed by Swedish Motors (the then Volvo national distributors) as National Sales secretary, and rally team co-ordinator with drivers such as John Keran. He navigated for John Keran in his personal 122S in the initial Southern Cross Rally. Keran won the Southern Cross later and spent all his own money on his Volvos. Navigated by Max Stahl, Keran won the first New Caledonian Safari in 1967. This was the first win by an Australian in an International Rally.

In the late sixties Grahame’s officiating capacities were extended to include Stewarding at major events such as the Southern Cross Rally. Over the years Grahame has competed in just about every discipline of motor sport and has also experienced several ventures to Europe. ‘Gemini Racing’, a Queensland success, owes its existence to Grahame who, along with Barry Nixon-Smith, co-founded the ‘Queensland Gemini Racing’ series of events and Championships which continue to this day and which is arguably the longest running single-make series in Australia. In recent times Grahame has participated in Targa Tasmania, Classic Rally and the East Coast Targa, and has been honoured to co-drive and navigate for Sir Jack Brabham and John Goss. 

Grahame Ward continues his involvement in motor sport in a variety of ways including as Chairman of the Scrutineering Advisory Panel and as a Delegate to the Queensland State Council. 

Amazons were raced and rallied in Australia successfully by drivers like Max Winkless, Gerry Lister, David Seldon, John Keran, Graham Ward, David McKay, Ron Porter, Bill Brown, Barry Ferguson, Bill Nolan.


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Tom Trana 1965
Acropolis Rally

During the Acropolis Rally in 1965, two Volvo service crew members were killed and Volvo changed its attitude to motorsport and withdrew in 1966 from official factory competition but continued to support privateers. Tom Trana continued to get factory support as a privateer but in 1968 he switched to Saab and that really marked the end of the works Amazons

The Canadian SHELL 4000 across Canada attracted several Amazons for a number of years, they were driven by Dick Pepper, Arno Hansen, Klaus Ross and John Bird.

Was a special rally version ever produced for the street? Yes! Find yourself a 1967 123 GT. This two-door sport model packed a few goodies: 115 horsepower engine, 7,000 RPM tachometer, rally suspension and shocks, revised gear ratios and special fog lights.

Even today, Amazons are very popular cars in Historic & Classic Rallies and Touring car races all over the world.


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Andrew White's ex-Works Rally Amazon 
(Darwin - Australia)

The car was brought into Australia to compete in the 1969 Southern Cross International Rally and is in original condition apart from cage and driver's seat. the car came equiped 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. 

Engine no 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.

Some of the major Amazon successes were:

1959 - second in Swedish Saloon Car Championship, Tom Trana (S)
1960 - first, 1600cc class in Swedish Saloon Car Championship, Tom Trana (S)
1961 - first, 1600cc class in Swedish Saloon Car Championship, Tom Trana (S)
1961 - first, Swedish Ice Championship, Tom Trana (S)
1961 - first, German Touring Car Champion, Josef Maassen (D)
1962 - second, Tulip Rally, Gunnar Andersson (S)
1962 - second, Shell 4000 Rally, Canada
1962 - second, Argentine Gran Premio Rally
1963 - third, Tulip Rally, Gunnar Andersson (S)
1963 - class wins, 6-hour and 12-hour races at Nürburgring, Jochen Neerpasch (D)
1963 - equal on points, European Touring Car Championship, Tom Trana (S)
1963 - class win, 6-hours Brands Hatch, Tom Trana / Skogh (S)
1963 - class win, Grote Prijs Limburg, Zolder, Belgium, Tom Trana (S)
1963 - class win, Zandvoort Trophy, Netherlands, Tom Trana (S)
1963 - first, European Rally Championship, Gunnar Andersson (S)
1963 - first, European Ladies Championship, Sylvia Österberg (S)
1963 - second, Acropolis Rally, Gunnar Andersson (S)
1963 - third, Acropolis Rally, Skogh / Berggren (S)
1964 - first, Shell 4000 Rally, Canada, Klaus Ross and John Bird (CND)
1964 - class win, Sandown 4 hours, Gerry Lister (AUS)
1964 - second, 1000 Lakes Rally, Finland, Tom Trana (S)
1965 - first, Shell 4000 Rally, Canada, Klaus Ross and John Bird (CND)
1965 - first, RAC European Touring Car Championship
1965 - first, World Championship for Manufacturers
1965 - first, Acropolis Rally, Carl-Magnus Skogh (S)
1965 - first, Syd Rally Sweden, Tom Trana (S)
1965 - second, Swedish Rally Championship, Tom Trana (S)
1966 - third, African Safari Rally, Joginder Singh / Bharat Bhardwaj (Kenya)
1966 - second, 1000 Lakes Rally, Finland, Tom Trana (S)
1966 - third, RAC Rally, Tom Trana / Solve Andreasson (S)
1966 - third, Monte Carlo Rally, Tom Trana / Solve Andreasson (S)
1967 - fourth, African Safari Rally, Joginder Singh (Kenya)
1967 - second, Finnish Rally Championship, Hannu Mikkola (FIN)
1967 - third, 1000 Lakes Rally, Finland, Hannu Mikkola (FIN)
1967 - first, New Caledonia Safari Rally, John Keran and Max Stahl (AUS)

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Photos by:
Bengt-Åce Liljevind
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Tage Johansson
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Fuel Tank

Tage's Website >>

Compiled by Jim Hekker

Sources & Links:
Andrew White 2007 Targa Tasmania website with video

Historic Acropolis Rally

FiA Historic Racing

The History of European Touring Car Championship
World Rally News, History

Damon Green's UK 122S Rally page © 1999 - 2021