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Volvo 122s “Georgia Peach” Station Wagon Restoration – Part VI

The last feature on the “Georgia Peach” was in early January of this year, so an update on the restoration is in order. The rebuild of the engine transmission, and overdrive began in March the engine, transmission, and overdrive were removed and disassembled for rebuilding, but that is getting a bit ahead of today’s story.

  • The “Georgia Peach” ready to go and pick up the Christmas tree just before it was stored for the winter.

The Volvo 120 series was designed and styled in the 1954-1955 period and first sold in the home market and Europe in 1956 with future US sales in mind. The 122s entered the American market in 1959 labeled as a performance car equipped with dual carburetors when exhibited at the New York International Auto Show. The 120’s styling was by Swedish Volvo designer Jan Wilsgaard, who was partially influenced by American automobile coach work of the period.


  • An original Volvo 4.5 x 15-inch stamped, rolled and welded steel wheel with oval slots for brake cooling is minus the small center mounted hubcap.

Soft springing was used for a smooth and comfortable fifties type of ride, extra ground clearance was built in by using long coil springs to deal with driving on gravel roads, and snow on the country roads during the long Swedish winters. The very rugged front end features a stout removable cross member with conventional double parallel A-arms, ball joints, coil springs, and an anti-sway bar. The four-wheel drum brakes were followed by Girling disc brakes added to the front in the early-sixties.

The solid rear axle was built by the US based Spicer Manufacturing Co. which also had manufacturing plants in Europe. The model Volvo chose was also used by Jeep and some Studebaker models and is equipped with US-made Lockheed drum brakes; it and the front disc brake hubs share the same American 5 x 4.5-inch bolt pattern as used by Ford, Chrysler, and American Motors products. Volvo chose to use SAE inch-sized fasteners for the car and drivetrain with very few exceptions.

Six and Seven inch wide Volvo 122s Steel Wheels

  • 1969 Chrysler six-inch wide police car front wheel with early-1970s Volvo stainless center caps and chrome plated lug nuts. The paint that was applied here with a small touch up spray gun is period semi-gloss silver on the rims with gold centers which harmonize with the saddle-colored upholstery. Tires are Michelin 195/65/15 Premiers.

The soft springs, shocks, and a high center of gravity produce a smooth ride with a maximum cornering speeds that are very modest when compared with modern cars. In addition, the undersized Michelin 165/15 radial tires normally used on most of the cars here in the US would roll under at higher cornering speeds and contribute to excessive lean angles. In the interest of the of the extra power the Judson Supercharger will produce, and to be able to safely keep up with modern highway and road speeds a search for wider period-looking steel wheels began.

In the end, the original wheels and tires were stored away, and 1969 Chrysler “Cop Wheels” were selected as used on the 1974 Dodge Monaco police cars outfitted with the squad car package in the hit movie “The Blues Brothers” starring  Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. The ex. LAPD 440 c.i. “Magnum” V-8-powered Dodges were capable of a 145 mp.h. and the heavy duty police car wheels have six slots for brake cooling.

Volvo 122s Wide Steel Wheels

  • Rear wheels are 15 x 7-inch Chrysler with 205/65/15 Michelin tires. Volvo R Sport decals have been added to the center caps. Both front and rear tires are the same outside 25-inch diameter as the originals. The new wheels and tires have vastly reduced tire roll under and also improved handling and ride quality.

The original sixteen and a half-inch steering wheel was replaced by a fifteen-inch period Italian Nardi aluminum and mahogany wheel shown below; it improves entry and exit and also quickens up the steering.

When we return soon, other improvements added to the “Georgia Peach,” and needed parts found over the last year will be covered. At the same time, original Volvo station wagon design concept photos showing the influence of American styling will also be shown. The first five parts of this continuing feature on The Old Motor Volvo 122s can be found here.


33 responses to “Volvo 122s “Georgia Peach” Station Wagon Restoration – Part VI

  1. Those cop wheels look great. My only acquaintance with Volvo was as inboard motors for small boats where they performed very well and were popular for years.

  2. David, you do realize, by immortalizing these great cars here, you are driving the price out of reach for a common schmo on Social Security. Seriously, I’ve been looking for a 122 wagon,,,can’t touch ’em. Maybe there’s just not that many left.
    Question, I see your wagon has the shift lever in-between the seats, like my 244. Most 122’s I’ve seen have that long shifter under the dash. Is that something special you did, or did it come like that. Sharp looking car. I could do without the supercharger. I never thought of these cars as any kind of performer, although, put a “huffer” on anything, it will go.

    • Howard, Its not myself who has driven up the prices of these station wagons, but the passage of time has done it.

      Until a couple of years ago none of these cars were worth very much, because they were under valued, but that has all changed now.

      The station wagons are the rarest of all; out of the 600,000 plus cars that were built, only about 75,000 were station wagons were produced. I think in time they will approach the valve of the early VW Buses due to the number of 55 year old plus people that were around them or owned them while at college in the 1960s and early 1970s and also those that lived in the Blue states.

      The 120, 1800, and 140 series cars could easily be changed into performance, race or rally cars due to the availability of the right parts from Volvo Competition Services. The 122S won a number of SCCA races in its class and the 1800s cars won many the SCCA F Production class championships. Both are very competitive in vintage racing today.

      The 122S was also a great rally car that won the European Rally in its class, I think for a couple of years in row and also the very demanding African Rally.

      The shifter in the car was changed to a 1975 240 unit with the OD button on top of the knob when an overdrive was installed in it the 1970s. That and more will be covered in the next post.

      • Thanks, David, I know, I had my chance,( 20 years ago) like you say, that’s EXACTLY what’s happening. Due to the lackluster vehicles being offered today, many of us old farts want simple, dependable vehicles, like we had in days of yore. Too bad many are repurposed into toasters now (or whatever) I remember a lot of Volvo’s in salvage yards ( I bought my 1st Volvo, a 1958 444 from a junk yard) I do like that shifter, my 244 had the O/D on the shift knob too. It’s one of my biggest gripes, was that long shift lever.

    • Howard, if you are really interested in one, contact Joe Lazenby at Susqehanna Spares. (717-645-4723)
      He has many 122S wagons in all different conditions.

  3. David: I’m curious about your wheel width choice(s). Will the 205/65/15 tires clear at the front? My knowledge of suspension geometry is limited to what I learned from a big 3 chassis & suspension engineer. My understanding is that the front sway bar will help combat the understeer designed in originally, but conversely the wider rear tires will help put it back.

    I agree that going to wider tires overall is going to help no matter what, but if your rear tires will clear at the front, I’d be curious as to how that affects things.

    • Kevin, the 205/65/15 tires and 7″ wheels are on the rear and 195/65/15 tire on 6″ rims are on the front, the 205/65/15 tires and 7″ wheels will also work fine on the front. Both have no clearance issues at all because of choosing the correct back spacing that results in a limited amount of offset. A larger front anti-sway bar is slated to be put on when the front end is rebuilt soon. It was tested it in an unused parking lot and it only understeers at the limit now when quickly decreasing the corner radius at limit. When the worn out springs (190K miles) will be changed soon and a larger front sway bar it will handle closer to neutral. The larger wheels and tires were chosen for carrying four passengers and a load in the back, and because it may be used for towing a car to vintage races in the future.

  4. Never knew I had a collectible. I bought a new 122S Station Wagon for delivery at the factory in April 1967. Drove it all through Sweden and Norway and then had the factory ship it to New Jersey (For the princely sum of $50. Those were the days).

    Drove it from East to West coast where it was my daily driver for about a year. By then I had collected so many oddball cars that this seemed entirely too establishment for my taste and I sold it. I came out about $250 ahead on the whole deal.

    So perhaps it was a collectible.

  5. Ah, this explains why Art Riley was able to use Chrysler wheels on his P1800 which he raced in the 60’s. Always wondered about that.

  6. Ive seen belt drive lathes converted to electric motor using truck transmissions-
    Volvo truck trans are a popular choice.

  7. In the late ,50s my friend & I raced a 444 2 door in the northern Indiana and Illinois dirt race tracks. We were sponsored by a Dodge dealer on the south side of Chicago. For wheels and tires we used them from a ’58 Dodge. Our total performance for the 1st season was so-so, but nothing ever broke on the Volvo. With the season ending, the car was returned to the dealer, cleaned up and put back on the lot, for sale. That was one fun season.

  8. Man, this brings back memories!

    My mother bought a 1968 Volvo 122S Wagon just like this one for my sister back in the 80s. I drove it a great deal after she moved to a different car later on, and loved it for its reliability and “I pity the fool” ruggedness. It was a bit crude by the standards of the day, and the British hydraulics and SU carbs were bizarre to a young shade tree mechanic more used to American cars. I bent those odd sliding fuel jets trying to work on them and had to shell out a lot for a new set.

    But it was a ton of fun to drive and own, and I miss it now all the more now that I hear they are getting valuable. For a while it sat next to my 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado in front of the house. The two cars couldn’t have been more different in design philosophy, but they made an interesting pair.

  9. Sweet wagon; I had a ’67 122 back in the ’80’s. same colors as yours. Eventually it rusted out, but always a solid reliable daily driver. I had planned to upgrade suspension and add an Overdrive, but never got to it…

    • Thanks Adam, You know how great these cars are; yes many of them did eventually get rusty – it was usually because of very high mileage and after 10-15 years the sealant around the gaskets for the glass dryed up and allowing water to leak into the car causing rust, due to the sound deadening staying wet start rust would begin to start on the inside and work its way to the outside. As you know, often a 122S covered as much as two to three times the mileage as would be put on a domestically made car before it ended up on the scrap heap.

  10. Everyone seems to be using a smaller diameter tire on the Amazon wagon. The Volvo 122S sedan had 6.00-15 tires or later 165R-15 with a diameter of 25.4″ . The Volvo 122S Amazon wagon with the 4.56 rear end ratio originally came equiped with 6.40×15 tires mounted on the HD 4.5×15 steel wheels that had an overall diameter of 26.6″. A good modern day radial tire would be 185/80R-15 or a 195/75R-15 which has an almost the same diameter at 26.5″. A 165/80R-15 , 195/65R-15 , 205/65R-15 are all smaller in diameter which would make a 122S wagons engine realy scream at 65-70mph if it does not have overdrive.

    • “Everyone seems to be using a smaller diameter tire on the Amazon wagon”…….”185/80R-15 or a 195/75R-15 which has an almost the same diameter at 26.5″

      Fred that is because of necessity and the metric sized tires you mention are very hard to find and if found VERY expensive.

      The 205/65R-15 rear tires on this car are 25.5 OD which is the same size OD as the 165R-15 tires used on the sedan. It is equipped with an overdrive so this is not a problem.

      The 1800s coupe was originally equipped with 6.00″ x 15” of 165R-15 radial tires and has the same 4.56 to 1 gear ratio w/an overdrive.

  11. Thanks for posting the details of your work.
    I like the wheel choice and would follow your lead- Do you have a source you might refer to for the wheels?

  12. Hello David,
    Can you tell me the history of your Nardi wheel? I have one that is either similar or identical, with a single piece hub broached to fit an Amazon. It has clearly never been used, and is reputed to have been one of a very few manufactured by Nardi in the late 60s as sales samples. I wish I had better information about its history, but maybe information on yours could be of help. Thanks.

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