Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Driven - Volvo Amazon 122S

It's quite a sturdy thing, the Volvo Amazon. Built in an era of hefty-gauge steel and designed to withstand Scandinavian snow, it can best be summed up by the word 'solid'. But that's not to say it's not sprightly - the 122S SuckSqueezeBangBlow borrowed from the London arm of the Classic Car Club featured one or two underbonnet upgrades (its resolute unwillingness to idle in the cold suggesting some kind of aggressive cam to accompany the twin carbs), and was more than capable of keeping up with the traffic. This pristine example smelt just like my dad's old Citroën DS too, which is a good thing.

Quite odd to drive, though. Once you've worked out how to operate the seatbelt, which seems to be fashioned from some kind of archaic mountaineering equipment, you find yourself perched high on the bench seat with a huge near-vertical steering wheel pressed against your inner thighs. Pulling away into Old Street's rush-hour traffic is not quite as simple a task as one might have hoped. In fact, I looked a right tit. The action of the Amazon's accelerator is akin to pushing a stilletto into a cushion, with very little idea of how far the throttle is actually travelling, while the clutch acts like an on/off switch. Kangarooing, stalling and generally making an arse of myself, it wasn't a great show for the passing pedestrians. (Or maybe it was. Depends on your perspective, really.) Once on the move, though, the old Swedish barge was a lovely thing to drive. The steering was surprisingly direct, the damping soft enough to absorb speedbumps but firm enough to minimise wallowing in the corners and the gearshift much slicker than expected. A sense of tightness and precision could be felt throughout the car (besides the duff pedal actions, obviously), inspiring confidence and encouraging the driver to press on enthusiastically. It'd make an ideal daily classic for the discerning family man with a large flock to transport.

Would I buy one? No, probably not. But if a friend had one, I'd certainly pester them for the keys...

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