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Mechanical Restoration Begins on the “Georgia Peach” Volvo 122

Two months have passed since the “Georgia Peach” was purchased for “The Old Motor” and the restoration shop. Not much actual work has been accomplished yet due to other commitments. What has been done however is straightening out and tuning the twin-SU side draft carburetors on the 1800cc (110 c.i.) pushrod actuated o.h.v. engine, diagnosing and eliminating a vapor lock condition, road testing and locating the parts needed for the mechanical rebuilding and the installation of a new exhaust system.

Before going into all of that thought, I should take a minute to let all of the readers and old car friends know why I like these cars. Like many of us, we tend to want to have a car that made an impression on us when we were young and in my case it goes back to about 1965 when I was ten years old with a 1963 Volvo.

My cousin Dwight went into the Army in the early 1960s, was stationed in Europe, and while there learned about all of the various British and European automobiles and watched the 1964 Ford GT 40’s run in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He liked the Volvo 122s models because they were very much like a scaled down version of an early-1950s American car and were rugged, reliable, faster and safer than most of the smaller passenger cars that were available there. Watch the classic 1963 Volvo television commercial above which was part of the automakers advertising campaign at the time to see just how tough and quick these cars are.

He brought a 1963 122s two-door sedan home with him in 1965, showed and explained to me all of it’s features, and gave me rides and Volvo sales literature. Shortly afterward a neighbor’s daughter and son-in-law began visiting on occasion with a brand new 1968 station wagon (the last year of importation) with navy blue paint and a dark red interior. The fit and finish on these cars were much higher that on domestically built cars and this one was always clean and polished like a jewel. Yours truly would spend hours checking it out it in the driveway and wait for them when they were due to arrive or leave to see and hear it in action.

Georgia Peach 1

  • It went up on jack stands a week ago to install a new exhaust system and for other work.

Fast forward to 1976 when Dwight’s brother Jonathan gave me the tired out and dead 1963 hand-me-down sedan with 275,000 miles on the clock. With minimal work, it was running and road ready and used it to move from Connecticut where I was born and raised to the beautiful State of Vermont. Along with it was two-hundred dollars in my pocket I had saved, my clothes and a small Craftsman tool box filled with tools my relatives gave me as a high school graduation present. My restoration shop opened soon afterward in a rented rundown addition with no heat to a circa 1875 carriage house behind a three-story Victorian home.

The Volvo served very well, and another one-hundred thousand miles were racked up on it until it was totally worn out from front-to-rear and so rusty (courtesy of Vermont road salt) I was worried my dog would fall out through the rotten rear floor; the next one was a 1966 station wagon and more followed. By the late-1980s it was getting very hard to find a good one without a lot of rust, and in 1988 after buying a building in the country for the shop another vehicle was needed. A four-wheel-drive pickup truck was next as it was a much more sensible choice of a vehicle for the restoration shop and Vermont winters in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Volvo 122s Coolant Hoses

  • All new coolant hoses and other parts will be installed when the radiator is removed for cleaning and repairs. All of the new parts in this series are being sourced from VP Autoparts Inc. a Swedish Volvo parts supplier that carries the highest quality parts and has US warehouse in North Carolina.

When we return next time to this series, the history of this Volvo will be shared with you. Below are photos of the Judson Supercharger, a new Abarth exhaust system, and more information.

Judson Volvo Supercharger-1

This is the Judson supercharger (above) that was reported about in the last installment. It was purchased all apart and other than a few nuts and bolts it is complete with all the hard to find pieces. This view shows the finned cast iron blower body, the end caps, the manifold, and the Holley 1904 single barrel carburetor Judson chose for this application; it was originally used on a 223 c.i. Ford truck engine – twice the size of the Volvo engine.

Note the glass float bowl cover, the throttle linkage and the rare Stelling and Hellings Co. air cleaner to the left. The unit is in excellent condition and only needs to have the blower housing honed, new bearings and seals for the rotor, new micarta vanes and a more detailing. The vanes are made of a composite of a thermosetting plastic reinforced with linen; it is also used for “fiber” timing gears. Learn more about the Judson supercharger in the last installment. 

Judson Volvo Supercharger-2

Judson Volvo Supercharger-3

  • The divided alloy intake and blower manifold, the intake is on the bottom and the pressure side on the top where the mixture enters the cylinder head through the manifold runners.

Volvo Judson Supercharger Housing

  • The cast iron supercharger housing; the intake mixture enters diamond-shaped slots at the bottom, and exits 180 degress later at the top after being compressed at up to 7 psi.

Judson Supercharger-4

The aluminum blower rotor and high-strength alloy shaft above is supported by ball bearings. The four quarter-inch thick by 2 inch wide micarta vanes sit in the slots and are forced against the housing bore by centrifugal force. A marvel mystery oiler set at one drop every four seconds and the fuel mist lubricate the slots, the sides and tips of the vanes, and the housing bore to help prevent wear.

Judson Supercharger Drive Pulleys

  • The crankshaft pulley on the left and the supercharger pulley on the right overdrive the rotor to a speed of close to seven-thousand rpm at the engine redline speed of 5500 revs.

Volvo 122s Abarth Exhaust System-1

  • What goes in must come out – a new old stock version of one the famous free-flowing Abarth exhaust systems made in Italy was found in Europe. It, like the supercharger bolt on without any alterations to the car.

Volvo 122s Abarth Exhaust System-2

Your Editor is looking for a red on black 1967 Volvo P1800s with straight side trim strips as seen below. It is a sports touring car version of the 122s, and both share the same drivetrain and other pieces. It and the 122s sedan with modifications won many races in the SCCA National Series in the period and continue to take class wins today in vintage racing. Irv Gordon made the car famous after covering three-million miles in his 1966 P1800s recently.

I am looking for a never rusted or accident damaged example, that does need not need to be running. The cars completeness, condition of the body, trim, interior and history are more important than the mechanics. Contact me here if you can help.

1967 Volvo P1800s

18 responses to “Mechanical Restoration Begins on the “Georgia Peach” Volvo 122

  1. Dave, I totally understand the car of one’s 1st love. (Mine was a 40 Plymouth coupe). Good luck and best to you with this project.

    • Thanks Bill, actually “one’s 1st love” in my case is a 1924 Model T Ford with an original York station wagon body that my did bought just after I was born. He gave it to me about 1982 and I need to do some work on it and feature it in the future.

  2. One of the first engines I overhauled was for a Volvo “hump” sedan (544?) in 1968. A buddy and I pulled it using a swing set as a hoist (we bent it; his daughter was not amused). After a backyard overhaul, we took the car out and intentionally tried to grenade the engine, but it just stayed together and ignored our stupid abuse. I salute Volvo for making great cars–and for still making station wagons!

    • Frank, One of the few ways I have seen that will cause a B18 or B20 engine to blow up is when people run them totally out of oil and keep driving after the rod bearings go and start knocking. Eventually a connecting rod will not be able to stand the torture and will exit out through the slide of the block.

  3. David, this is a very cool post ! Any of us, from antiquers to hot rodders, benefit from stories like this, so thank you ! I love the elderly Volvo’s as well, and if I can ever get the old gent here in our little community to sell me his P1800, I will let you know of my score ! The only thing better would be the glass back P1800es, but we haven’t seen one of them over here on the island yet. Again, thanks and looking forward to ALL your daily stories, no matter what they are about ! ….. oh, my 1st car was a 56 Chevy wagon, but I don’t want another one of those, ha !

  4. Great post that brought back some great memories! Aside from a ’59 Chevy Apache, I grew up driving and loving those round-fendered Volvos. A ’63 544 in high school (my dad still owns and drives it almost every day), in college I drove a ’66 122S 2-door that my brother-in-law converted from an automatic to 4-speed transmission with great results, and I currently enjoy my ’71 1800E. All were fun to drive, featured top notch build quality, and are easy to work on (sometimes even fun!).
    I’m looking forward to more awesome pics and reading about your adventures. Thank you!

  5. I believe I will be acquiring the same NOS Abarth exhaust system which I plan to use on my ’64 122 2 door coupe. Wondering if you’ve noticed any performance change with the Abarth system. Love following this blog. Good luck with the build.

  6. Rebuilding cars are a lot of fun with occasional “I’d gladly pay someone to haul this damn thing out of here & out of my life.” But in the end, it’s usually well worth the work & aggravation.

  7. For engine parts, the Aquamatic (sterndrive) AQ 130 used the same engine base. The A , C and D series were 130 HP, running a mild cam and twin Solex carbs. Maybe a good supply of B20 B parts. A very strong engine with blocks and heads actually cast in England. Al

  8. My Uncle Leonard Dickinson bought a used 122 in the ’80’s from one of his Model-T collector buddies. The car outlived him and my Aunt drove it until she was 92 without a bit of trouble.

    Micarta was invented by Westinghouse to replace mica as an insulator when electrical equipment got too big for mica to be practical. It’s proved to be very versatile stuff.

  9. I’m confused. You’re all over the place with this thread.( there’s more about the supercharger than the 122) I too am a true vintage Volvo fan. My 1st car was a 1958 PV-444. I bought it from a junkyard in 1971 for $50 and it had a bad coil.( which was why it was in the yard) It took all the abuse a 17 year old kid could dish out. Over the years, my brother and I have had several more, a 140 and a 244, all great cars. I would like to find a 122S wagon too, for all the reasons you state, and nothing offered today interests me.
    Which leads me to your 122, and the supercharger. Just where exactly are you going to put that thing, and if on the Volvo, why? I don’t have much experience with superchargers, except at the drag races, and maybe it’s my age, but I would think the SU’s work just fine. The Volvo 4 cylinder didn’t get the best mileage, and I’d think the “puffer” would drop it even more,( only because you’re bound to use it) plus driveability would be compromised. ( I’d think a turbocharger would be a better add-on, as it doesn’t suck horsepower when not being used) I like things simple, and the 122 is about as simple a car as you can get. I liked the B-18 ( and 16) for it’s dependability and never thought of it as a high performance motor. ( although, I have seen some runnin’ Volvo motors) I’d be interested how that works out. ( unless I’m way off here and the supercharger is a different matter altogether)

    • Howard, Yes it is going on the Volvo, and it replaces the original intake manifold. I am using it for two reasons: I have always liked high-performance cars, and am doing what would have liked to when I was younger.

      A 122s in good tune gets about 25 mpg and period press coverage showed an average drop of about 2 mpg w/the Judson. The car at the most will only be driven about 2500 miles a year between April and when the snow falls so the fuel mileage will not be a problem. Yes, a turbo would provide more power, but this project is going to be done with only period correct performance parts that will be transferred to a P1800 if I ever find a good one.

      It will also be more comfortable and fun to drive instead of a four wheel-drive one-ton pickup that really is only needed to tow a good-sized car trailer and get up the Vermont hills in the winter.

  10. I cant help but notice that the p1800 slightly resembles kinda-sorta a Karmann-Ghia.
    Did Volvo use an Italian studio for the body design as well?

  11. Love Volvo ‘s. I had a ’61 PV544 while I was in high school, bought a 240 sedan, then an 850 Turbo later on.

    My favorite was the ’66 P1800s in light green that was in perfect condition, only 97,000 miles. I spent many hours with Irv Gordon talking Volvos and found that my car was only two chassis numbers from his 3million-miler. How dumb was I to sell that car? Guess we all have had those cars we regret selling.

  12. In 1966 I bought my first car, a 1959 Volvo P544, from the Volvo dealer in Englewood, NJ. I was not 21, or even 17, the age NJ would let me get a license. I paid the dealer $200.00 cash and the dealer parked it on the side street next to the dealers driveway. I drove it for a while and sold it to a friend for $250.00. I then bought a 1961, four door, 122S. It was great in snow. I worked at the local VW dealer and I would take my top box tool box and load it on to the back seat. There were some big storms that year and the Volvo drove through them like the road was cleared. My mom drove it for a while and then bought a 1967 122S which she drove until 1979 when she bought a brand new Honda prelude.

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