1967. Custom metal work. 600-plus horsepower LS3. Tremec 5-speed. Adjustable Pro-Touring suspension all around. If reading those words causes images of Camaros to pop into your head, you’d be wrong. “80 percent of the people that don’t know what it is asks me if it is a ‘James Bond car’,” says Robert Jackson, whose company, Swedish Ops, built this Volvo Amazon into what it is now: The Volvo X. I caught up with Jackson at the Texoma Car, Truck, and Bike Show in Kingston, Oklahoma to learn more.
Classic, Offbeat Style With Modern Performance
“The goal of the Volvo X is to build a daily driver/track friendly car that has all the comforts of a newer car,” remarks Jackson. When asked, ‘why a Volvo?’ he replied, “They need a lot of support, and it is much easier to stand out in the Pro-Touring build community with an uncommon and awesome-styled car.” We’d have to agree with both those adjectives – the first thing that pops out is the color and smoothness of the car. It’s PPG Liquid Metal, a formula that is usually used exclusively for stripes or as a special effect added to other tints.
Jackson says, “I called PPG, and they said, ‘You’re not painting the whole car that color?!?’ I said, ‘yes we are!’” The paint shows lines well, and compliments the subtle touches of the car’s custom body work. Almost all the chrome trim pieces have been removed or painted, and the body as a whole has been smoothed and cleaned up.
The license plate bracket has been moved from the center of the trunk lid to the bumper, and both front and rear bumpers are now one piece. The headlights, which now house projectors and turn signals in the same assembly, and tail lights have been smoothed into the body, doing away with the chrome bezels. The grilles have been smoothed, as well as countless other tweaks.
Front suspension duties are handled by a custom cross member assembly with tubular control arms suspended by QA1 dual adjustable coilovers, with rack and pinion steering mounted to the assembly. Stopping duties go to 14-inch Wilwood drilled and slotted rotors clamped by six piston calipers.
The rear suspension is a custom four-link suspended by QA1 dual adjustable coilovers, centering a Mod-Lite 9-inch solid rear axle with 31 spline axles, 3.25 gears, and an Eaton Posi unit. Brakes out back are 13-inch Wilwood drilled and slotted rotors, and four piston calipers. Both front and rear assemblies are easy to install and can be ordered from Swedish Ops with many different options available to the customer.
Tire and rim choices are Boze Forged alloys measuring 18×8 inches in front, wrapped in Dunlop Direzza ZII tires in 225/40R18s, while the rears are 18×9.5 inches with 265/35R18s. To accommodate the 265-section tires, the rear fenders had to be widened one and a half inches at the top of the fender. “These old Volvo bodies actually start narrowing right after the doors, so the exaggerated rear flares still don’t stick out past the front fender flares,” Jackson notes.
Adding Power And Lightness
To power the Pro-Touring Volvo, Jackson replaced the factory four cylinder with a 600-plus horsepower LS3 V8 backed by a Tremec 5-speed. It is interesting to note that the aluminum block LS3 with the custom front suspension and cross member ended up lighter than the factory suspension and four cylinder. Topping the engine are custom-fabricated intake tubes that utilize the factory heater duct at the base of the windshield. “I used the cowl vent as a fresh air intake for the motor by building a filter box that attaches where the factory heater box did,” Jackson explains. This allowed him to fashion a dual intake runner setup that runs along the top of the engine from back to front, and curves into the front where it is solid mounted onto the front of the intake.
Jackson says, “I had my machine shop make a slide on the throttle body collar because I didn’t want to be stuck with the common rubber boot and clamp connection.” This cleaned up the intake as well as giving it a nice “all metal” appearance. The intake tubing being solidly mounted to the engine takes a flex point away that usually helps accommodate engine-to-chassis movement. To account for this, Jackson used part of the factory ventilation setup.
“I removed the firewall attachment ring from the old heater box, because it was attached with a rubber/foam gasket between it and the firewall, so it allows for motor torque and flex,” says Jackson. The cabin air vent, which now serves as the engine air intake, faces up at the base of the windshield. This would seemingly allow for water to enter the intake, but Jackson says the factory design has this potential problem solved. “I built the filter box on top of the factory attachment ring, because it has a water reservoir and drain made into it,” he explains. “The shape of the filter box keeps water out of the intake and lets it drain.”
The first place spent exhaust gasses go are a set of block-hugging Swedish Ops/Sanderson headers. From there, exhaust travels down the system through an X-pipe, then into dual MagnaFlow mufflers, and out just in front of the rear wheels through side exiting exhaust tips that came from a late model Pontiac Grand Prix. The tips are actually encircled in bodywork, and the tip-to-body clearances are so tight that Jackson solidly mounted the muffler and exit piping assembly to the body so there wasn’t any rattling. Any exhaust movement is handled by a section of flex pipe.
Looking Good At Age 47
After the car show we took a ride back to Jackson’s shop to check out some other projects. As I rode back, I noticed the fit and finish of the car. The doors opened nicely, and closed solidly. There was no flex, creaks or pops. Everything was solid-feeling and you couldn’t hear any air coming in around the windows; you could tell time was taken to seal gaps.
As for performance? Over 600 horsepower in a sub-3000 pound package was awesome to feel. Hitting the gas would break the tires loose at will. When traction was found it instantly planted you into the seat. Just hearing the car run, sitting inside or outside, gives little indication the engine is as strong as it is. It has no obvious camshaft lope, and it idles like it came straight off the showroom. There is no drone from the exhaust at highway speeds either.
The suspension settings weren’t overly rough, considering Jackson drove the car from his house to Texas Motor Speedway, competed in an Ultimate Street Car Association event, qualified for the 2014 OPTIMA BATTERIES Ultimate Street Car Invitational in Las Vegas, and drove home all on the same settings. That is a round trip of over 180 miles, not including distance during the event. All of this from a car that can be built at home from a kit that Swedish Ops offers. If you would rather just get in and go, a turn-key car can be had through the Swedish Ops Special Builds Division.
Robert Jackson set out to build a unique Pro-Touring hot rod, which anyone can put together in their garage, and be daily drivable. In the process he has provided aftermarket support for rarely used Volvo platforms, and is continuing to evolve the kits he offers. The Volvo X is the showcasing of what Swedish Ops can do with the Amazon platform as well as the P1800, as the kits offered work in both cars. The X stands out in a crowd of Camaros and Mustangs, and will no doubt be a formidable addition to the Ultimate Street Car Invitational.