These days, it’s rare to be truly surprised at a custom car show. Thanks to social media, so many builds are chronicled as they come together, that a real-world sighting after completion can be a bit of a non-event. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all cars that are shared over Instagram prior to being finished, and it’s not always a bad thing either.
I like to keep a close eye on happenings in Sweden’s modified car community via social media, so while attending the 2021 Oslo Motor Show, I was surprised – in a good way – to see two new amazing builds I’d never heard about before. A quick chat with Sture Balsberg, the owner of this Amazon Estate, and Johan, his son who has a special Volvo of his own followed, and plans were made for a shoot.
Let’s start with Sture’s build, which leans more to the restoration side of a restomod.
As the 2021 Oslo Motor Show was held in October, I had to wait a good while before I could make the drive down to South Sweden and meet the Balsberg family again. Fast forward to this past summer, and I found myself in Kristianstad, roughly 550km from Stockholm.
Sture knows a thing or two when it comes to customizing cars. It was his first car, a 1973 Volvo 140, that got him into the modifying scene, and he exhibited that car at the Vallåkra car show (which just turned 40 this year) way back in 1984. The 140 had everything you’d expect in a modified car of the era in Sweden – matte black details, rear window shutters, Gabriel HiJackers air shocks and slot-style mag wheels.
In the years – decades – since the 140, many cars have passed through Sture’s hands, each one receiving his custom touch. But in 2020, Sture finally got his hands on something he’d pined over for a very long time – a 1965 Volvo Amazon Estate.
The Amazon was an abandoned project that had been left to gather dust since 1998. Some work had been done, but it was obvious to Sture that a lot of it would need to be redone. Despite that, it was everything he wanted in a base for his ultimate Volvo build.
Looking at the car today, it’s not something that screams ‘modified’ to me, but that’s part of its beauty. Sture has brought the Amazon up-to-date in some areas, while restoring others to a better-than-new standard. ‘Elegant’ is a more fitting description.
I’d hate to think how many hours were invested into the bodywork alone, but the result is stunning. The entire body was taken back to bare metal, tin-filled, epoxy primed and painted inside, outside and underneath. Every single chrome detail was painstakingly refurbished, and all of the glass is new, as are the rubbers. The headlights received a complete overhaul, while blue-tinted reflectors were fitted for a more modern look.
Something we’re seeing a lot more of these days is OEM wheels being converted to 3-piece splits. It’s a great way to keep a factory appearance, but with a more contemporary look, and opens up scope to run modern performance tyres and bigger brakes.
In this case, the Amazon’s original wheels have been stepped up to 17-inch and stretched out to 7.5-inches wide in the front and 9.25-inches wide at the rear.
Volvo Amazon Estates were never designed to be driven flat-out, and Sture is fine with that. “Of course, it is an old car with old construction, so you have to drive accordingly and keep your distance from other drivers,” he says. “When you drive this, you are not in such a hurry, but you enjoy nature and sitting in a fantastic car that everyone turns towards and gives a thumbs up.”
So while performance wasn’t really a concern, the comfort was. If you’ve ever sat in an old Amazon, you’ll know just how soft their seats are, so Sture was keen to retain that fact.
The Amazon’s interior was in such a bad state though, that Sture had to rework it from the floorpan up. All the wiring was tucked away, sound deadening was brought up to a modern standard, and the floor was neatly dressed in blue suede.
Pairing all the custom re-trim work (in a color that matches the car’s exterior) with a Luisi Italy Mugello Classico wood-rimmed steering wheel results in a combination that’s hard to beat.
Taking a closer look reveals details some might miss, like the wooden (and customized) Nardi shift knob, re-trimmed door cards and Pyrene fire extinguisher.
The clean style continues in the rear of the car. Normally, a spare wheel would be found in the recessed area beneath the trunk floor, but here there’s an Air Lift Performance 3P air suspension system with dual Viair 444C compressors. The custom enclosure features a plexiglass window, so it’s on show but no cargo space is lost.
I’ve saved the thing that initially drew me towards this car at the Oslo Motor Show till last – the engine bay. As previously stated, performance was not on Sture’s mind when he rebuilt the Amazon, but the work he’s done under-hood dropped my jaw to the floor.
I don’t think a Volvo Sport B18 engine has ever looked as good as this one, which Sture says is outputting around 130hp.
Keeping things original, many of the parts were sandblasted and powder-coated, while all the nuts, bolts and fittings (amongst other things) have been galvanized or painted.
My favorite details are the brake booster on the right side and the twin SU HS6 air filters on the left. The copper brake lines are a nice touch in the highly-detailed bay.
With 123Ignition electronic ignition and a progressive electric steering servo, the Volvo “drives like a dream,” as Sture likes to put it. It sounds great too, thanks to a free-flowing Ferrita exhaust system.
The multi-award-winning Volvo seems like the perfect car, but Sture is not quite done with the custom work yet. He says a new sound system (not that the car needs it) will be installed sometime in the future.
Speaking of awards, at the beginning of this post I also mentioned meeting Sture’s son Johan and his Volvo at the 2021 Oslo Motor Show. The two have really inspired each other with their respective builds. “We have slightly different views on solutions. I’m a bit ‘old school’ and my son has a bit of new-thinking about solutions. This combination means that we arrive at really good results in the end,” says Sture.
Johan’s Volvo Amazon Sedan has become a bit of a benchmark build in the Swedish modified car scene. Stay tuned for that feature, coming soon to Speedhunters.