Feb 20, 2001 update to the Volvo 122s project car

Taking stock of our Swede

Fan and new radiator. Note 1/4" mesh screen to protect fragile radiator.
New headlight relays and thermostatic fan switch.
Here's a picture of the toasted #2 cylinder. Note lack of exhaust seat.
The intake valve on left has been back-cut, while the right one has been swirl polished as well.
Things don't look bad from this angle...
but this is lurking right beneath. This is looking from the driver's side toward the passenger side. Front of car is to the left.
Here's a picture of John's custom springs, they start out at 250 lbs./in. and progress to 500 lbs./in. Also shown is a 1-1/8 IPD anti-roll bar that Per sourced from his uncle Charlie's P1800ES project.

The goal of the project is to make a fun, funky and fast vintage race car that still can be driven on the street. This goal may seem impossible to those used to the typical high-strung British, German or Italian vintage racer, but should be possible with this Swedish brick.

We have recently acquired something a little different. Call us crazy (“you’re crazy!”), but we think old Volvos are cool, in a funky way. They also happen to be exceedingly simple to restore and tune for vintage racing. This car was purchased for the grand sum of $1400 and is surprisingly solid. It has already been updated with new brakes, alternator, waterpump and even a newer B20B 2.0 liter powerplant, in place of the original 1.8 liter B18B that was in it originally

The goal of the project is to make a fun, funky and fast vintage race car that still can be driven on the street. This goal may seem impossible to those used to the typical high-strung British, German or Italian vintage racer, but should be possible with this Swedish brick.

The first step will be to get the car running reliably. While it did make the trip from Baltimore to Daytona without a hitch, the engine and the cooling system both appeared to need some serious attention. Smoke appeared from the exhaust while slowing down, and a temperature gauge that was always near the top of its scale.

The radiator was the original copper core unit and while these are rebuildable, an estimate of $250 was near what a NOS Volvo radiator would cost. So, RPR was called and a brand new Volvo radiator was sent. As this was going in, a thermostatically controlled electric fan was a cheap upgrade (<$80) to the belt driven unit. It was installed “pusher” style in front of the radiator where there was much more room.

A compression test indicated that the #2 cylinder was down from the rest of the gang, so the decision was made to pull the head. With complete gasket sets being available really cheaply from such sources as the Revolv Store or the granddaddy of all Volvo suppliers, IPD, it was an easy gamble. With the head off and the valves removed from the head, it was easy to see what it needed… cars don’t run really well without any valve seats to speak of! Years of unleaded gas getting sucked past the non-hardened seats had taken its toll. #2 had no seating surface whatsoever on its exhaust valve, while the others weren’t too far behind.

A complete set of exhaust valves, guides, seals and gaskets were ordered and the head was taken to Ron Brothers at Performance Diesel (386-253-0383). Ron agreed to not only rebuild the head to better than new standards, but also machine the head to bump the compression up from the B20B’s original 8.7:1 compression ratio and also give the very restrictive exhaust ports a good polishing. In addition, a high quality 3-angle grind will be given to the intake valves and a fully radius grind will take care of the exhaust side.

After the engine is buttoned back up and the twin SU HS6 carbs are given a good tuning, we are going to turn our attention to the small amount of rust that it has on the driver’s side floor. Duane Matejka, who races a P1800, sells replacement steel panels for certain pieces of old Swedish iron. His company, Foreign Autotech, mostly concentrates on the P1800, but since the 122 has essentially the same chassis and drivetrain, some parts work on both cars.

After these new panels are stitched in, we are going to send the car over to Stu at BSI Racing for a legal and safe rollcage. We are still debating whether or not we want to go the full cage route, or if we would feel safe enough with a simpler “Solo I” style rollbar with lots of bracing and supports.

Suspension-wise, we are going to enlist the help of another vintage Volvo P1800 racer, John Parker. His shop, V-Performance, has developed a pretty strong repertoire of suspension goodies, including progressive rate springs and custom valved shock to help the 122 handle less like a brick. Stay tuned for more details!

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