In 1955, Chevrolet released the first version of its Nomad, a ‘sport wagon’ featuring a 265ci V8 up front. In 1962, Volvo introduced the Amazon, a station wagon designed for practicality and comfort, packing a whopping 75hp from its 2.0L four-cylinder engine. Both the Nomad and Amazon shared some similarities, but of course they were also quite far removed from one another.
The Nomad was part of a line of ‘Dream Cars’ produced by Chevrolet in the late-’50s, which as you’ll soon see fits nicely with this story.
My knowledge of American cars from the ’50s is extremely limited, especially when it comes to the lesser-seen models today, like the Nomad. Living in Sweden, I’m definitely no stranger to Volvo Amazon wagons though.
Despite that, I definitely did a double-take when I first saw this Amazon in Mantorp Park’s paddock during the Gatebil Season Finale. It looked wild, and different.
The two turbo bumps, one on each side of the hood (not pictured in this post), sparked my curiosity, so I quickly hunted down the Amazon’s owner, Simo Kiviniemi, who was happy to share its story with me.
The Volvo wagon build came about when Simo’s previous track toy, a 1953 Ford gasser, wasn’t fulfilling his need for speed any more. He stumbled across the 1969 Amazon by chance, and perhaps just in time too. With so much rust in the body, its days were numbered. Despite that, Simo did what any crazy Swedish car builder would do – not only save it, but go crazy with the rebuild.
Simo’s vision for the Volvo involved some major work. First things first though, he stomped out the Amazon’s rust-eaten floor and set about designing a custom tube-frame chassis that incorporates an SFI-certified drag cage.
The Amazon’s rear end has been substantially modified. In fact, I guess you can say it has been ‘Americanized’ as this is where the Chevy Nomad connection comes in.
Simo’s dream was always to own a Nomad, but for financial reasons that plan never came to fruition. The next best thing? Modify an Amazon to look like a Nomad.
The b-pillar has been moved rearward, tilted and extended; the roof has been shortened three inches to tilt the hatch; and the c-pillar has been completely removed to get those longer rear windows. Once all the remedial and custom body work was completed, the wagon was resprayed in California White, an original and classic Volvo Amazon color.
The wheel arches were also modified to house the monster American Racing Torque Thrust wheels measuring 18×9.5-inch in the front and 18×10.5-inch out back, shod with Hankook rubber. Behind the front wheels are Jaguar S-type R brake callipers paired with 365mm brake discs, while there’s a Volvo 240 disc setup at the rear.
The custom tube work I mentioned earlier can be seen throughout the interior when you open up the doors, which came from a 2-door Amazon coupe.
But the very first thing that grabs your attention is the custom-made and sticker-bombed transmission tunnel, which shrouds a BMW 530 6-speed transmission paired with a Tilton triple-plate clutch.
Despite the interior being specced for racing, original Volvo items can still be found amongst the aftermarket parts, including the radio and speedo that goes up to 180km/h. I can imagine the needle trying to exit right out the side of the dash cluster when the car is pushed to the limit. Luckily there’s a digital tablet reading straight from the MaxxECU engine management system to provide reliable data.
Finishing off the interior is a Grant racing steering wheel, a custom-made pedal set, Mlimits ML Pro-X bucket seats paired with RCI 5-point racing harnesses, and a checker-plate steel passenger footrest.
In usual race car fashion, the fuel cell is located in the rear where the 4-link drag suspension setup with BC Racing coilovers and the Ford 9-inch diff is visible.
Back in 2016, the Volvo was powered by a blown small block V8 from Simo’s previously-owned Ford gasser. That motor eventually failed, but instead of trying to fix something that was unfixable, Simo dropped an all-new setup in the Amazon.
Intimidating, isn’t it? What you’re looking at is a Chevy 5.3L LM7 running gapped rings for better boost, LS7 lifters and 2,200cc injectors, pushing 800hp to the rear wheels. What drew me in, in the Gatebil paddock, were the twin Holset Super HX40 turbos that go bananas at 4,300rpm on 1.3bar (19psi) of boost.
A unique solution for the large intercooler pipes was required for this setup, and custom engine brackets and mounts were also fabricated to handle the physical size and weight of the engine.
Also, it sounds amazing.
Simo used the Gatebil Season Finale as a shakedown for the car, because although its primary use will be drag racing, the Volvo is seeing some drift action too. Next year, Simo will focus on improving the handling, but the end goal is to run a 9-second quarter mile.
Seeing this thing on track amongst all of the expected Gatebil builds was amazing. But the best thing is, it’s only going to get better.