A press release issued fifty years ago today announced the first true Volvo station wagon. Two days later, the new car made its debut at the Stockholm Motor Show.
Before the Amazon 221, called the 122 in the U.S., there had been window versions of the Duett, a commercial vehicle derived from the Volvo PV544 but it wasn’t really designed for comfortable family outings. The Amazon 221 took the amenities of the Amazon sedans and added a fifth door and more cargo space.
As the company described it, “The new estate is a new Volvo model, for which the existing components of the Amazon have been used to the largest possible degree. The result is a fast and roomy passenger car with an extremely good load capacity. Four doors and a split tailgate enhance the positive character just as the design, the quality, the road manners and the overall economy. The aim has been to create a spacious family car for long-distance travelling and leisure needs – a functional car which can also be used professionally. It is called the Volvo 221 Amazon.”
Back in 1962, the Amazon wagon sold for the equivalent of about $3,200. It came with Volvo’s 75-horsepower four-cylinder, single carburetor B18 that gave the Amazon a top speed of not quite 87 miles per hour.
Passengers enjoyed features like fold-down seats, allowing a couple of adults to sleep in the car, and of course, like all Volvos, the Amazon wagon was built like a tank.
For only the first year of production, a special mist green paint was offered in combination with brown fabric-and-vinyl seating. However, customers seemed to prefer white, beige and blue.
The Volvo wagon was visually almost the same when it was replaced by the new 145 in 1969, but it wasn’t unchanged: in 1964 disc brakes replaced the front drums; seats were upgraded; the horsepower was bumped up to 115 in the dual-carburetor version. In the last year of production, the B18 engine was replaced by the new B20.
For a half-century, wagons have been a significant presence in the Volvo line but we won’t be seeing any more new ones, at least in the States; we don’t like station wagons. Faced with shrinking sales, Volvo has pulled the V50 from the U.S. lineup.