This is it right here. Pure, unadulterated car culture. This is what being into cars is all about. Working on projects, experimenting, learning along the way and at the end – after months or even years of hardship and tribulation – completing a one-of-a-kind creation. Looking at Filip Malm’s Volvo Amazon I almost feel like I’m cheating with my own car…
A few trips to Scandinavia and Gatebil events will quickly make you realise that there are two very distinct ways of building up cars. Suddenly, selecting upgrades out of a catalogue becomes trivial, almost akin to taking a shortcut to boost power and performance.
It was about 10 months ago that Filip got to work on his 1967 Volvo Amazon. He’s always liked these cars and actually built one up prior to this. But for this project he wanted to step it up and take it all the way. It took a while to source a base car that wasn’t peppered with rust, but after one turned up he quickly went to work. He set himself a bit of a challenge – the aim to finish it all before his wife would give birth to his daughter.
Okay, so that gave him nine months I hear you say – plenty of time to dedicate to a home-built project, especially if you take into account how long and dark the winters are in Sweden where Filip is from, right? Wrong. Because Filip is obviously a man that doesn’t like to do things the easy way. Having had a few issues with traction in his previous Amazon, he was quite interested in experimenting with all-wheel drive.
That would also free up the potential to go pretty wild on power too, allowing Filip to transform his car into the grip-oriented beast he’s always wanted. One peek through the Amazon’s grill and the two massive oil coolers hint that there is something quite interesting going on under the massively bulged bonnet.
Fast forward nine months and Filip had put the finishing touches on the machine he likes to call the Super Amazon – a powerful all-wheel drive Frankenstein of a car that he even managed to get road registered in Sweden.
No matter what angle you look at this Amazon from, there’s constant hints to the magnitude of this project. For example, look at the rear and you’ll notice that the radiator has found a new home underneath the lightweight fiberglass trunk lid.
The fiberglass fenders – again added to shave weight – are mated to big black over-fenders which boost the Amazon’s width by 14 and 16cm front and rear respectively, giving a seriously tough presence to the overall feel of the car.
Since I run the exact same Brembo brakes on my car, the gold callipers were something I actually noticed straight away, and instantly put two and two together.
Filip must have ripped the entire driveline and engine out of a Skyline GT-R – a pretty cool idea I thought – and one that would easily give him all the benefits of AWD, as well as the potential for big power.
However, out on track it wasn’t the sweet and familiar sound of a straight-six RB26 that I was hearing, rather something far deeper in tone…German Power, Japanese Traction
It wasn’t until Filip removed the fiberglass bonnet that it all made sense. Well sort of, as I still couldn’t quite put it all together.
With a little confusion I just had to have Filip explain what I was seeing, because even by Gatebil standards this is next level stuff. The need for decent power dictated that the engine would have to be pretty big, but at the same time reliability was also a concern. For Filip, the BMW M60 4.0L V8 seemed to fit the bill pretty well.
However, with the BNR32 Skyline GT-R driveline in place, figuring out where to drop the engine wasn’t quite so simple. To get around this Filip cut the front diff section out of the RB26 oil sump it’s usually housed in, and made up a separate enclosure to contain it all. The V8 fits right on top of this – separately – which is also why it sticks out a little above the bonnet line, and hence the 25cm increase to the Amazon’s bonnet bulge. This is the same engine that used to power the 540i and 740i – not the most sporty of motors – but silky smooth and decently torquey. A good start then, but one that required a little boost to reach the power figures that Filip was aiming for.
That’s why tucked away on one corner, between the engine and firewall, sits a Garrett GT42RR mounted on a custom set of manifolds. The externally wastegated, race-spec turbocharger supplies enough boost to turn this V8-powered Amazon from something pretty interesting to something outright ballistic. Seeing the engine has been kept stock, Filip ramps up the boost through the gears so as not place too much stress on the internals, something achieved via the MaxxECU and its boost control function. Furthermore, there’s actually no intercooler – the Garrett’s compressor directly feeds the big throttle body on the 180-degree turned stock BMW intake manifold. Boost is limited to 0.75bar for normal driving and 1.2bar at the highest setting, and Filip says heat isn’t an issue. At those boost pressure settings this set up delivers 450hp/540Nm and 620hp/750Nm respectively – all figures measured at the Volvo’s rear wheels on a 2WD dyno. Power is channeled to the rest of the driveline via a stock BNR32 five-speed transmission along with a beefy upgraded clutch.
Here is a detail of the front structure and the boxed suspension top mounts. Along with the driveline, Filip swapped the GT-R’s front and rear subframes as well as its arms and links, all working in conjunction with a set of adjustable HSD Monopro coilovers.
And here’s a look down at the inside of the right-hand side front wheel. Yes, it’s pure Skyline GT-R under there!
As we saw further up, seeing the lack of space up front the radiator had to be relocated to the trunk where it sits in a slightly tilted position with its own shroud. At speed the airflow over the car is enough to keep a decent volume of air flowing over the core, but Filip also added a fan for when a little help is needed. Right in front of the radiator sits the fuel cell, from where two Bosch Motorsport 044 pumps send fuel up front to supply eight Bosch 1200cc/min injectors.
The Skyline GT-R’s ATTESA E-TS pumps and control unit – just like on the donor car – are also fitted in the trunk area and are easily accessible for checks and maintenance.
After finding out all the little secrets this Amazon hides underneath that one of a kind body, it all of a sudden takes on a whole new attitude. As you can probably tell by the chunky Hankook slicks, Filip has built this car for straight-up grip driving, although it could potentially rip some pretty mean four-wheel drifts too I would think!Not A Single Glitch
While Filip has registered the Amazon for the road in Sweden, Gatebil Rudskogen was actually the first proper chance he’s had to really push it. And despite only going out a few times over the course of the weekend he was very happy with how it all felt.
Along with the front and rear sections, the Amazon’s floor has also been completely custom fabricated, and it’s all connected to the roll cage to build some much-needed stiffness into the almost 50-year-old base car.
Behind the adjustable OBP pedal box in the driver’s footwell you can see how the surrounding transmission tunnel has all been shaped with sheet metal. It’s all been kept very minimalistic and functional in here, and the whole black-on-white theme of the exterior has been carried through into the cabin as well.
Seeing the way the engine and gearbox have been positioned, the shifter to the Nissan gearbox was never going to align with where Filip actually wanted it to be. But that was easily fixed with a nicely executed linkage.
Sheet metal was also used to sculpt the simple angular lines of the custom dashboard, which before being fitted in the car was flocked to make sure it wouldn’t reflect on the windscreen. I love the Swedish labels for the various switches dotted along the dashboard.
Hiding under the little carbon fiber instrument binnacle is a Samsung GALAXY Note II running a MaxxECU application which connects via Bluetooth to the engine management system to display a customisable variety of parameters. This nifty little application is even road legal in Sweden.
Aside from handling the fuel and ignition maps, the MaxxECU – as mentioned before – has also been programmed to ramp up boost through the gears, as well as control the torque split of the ATTESA system. This can further be adjusted by a simple dial on the dashboard.
Black Sparco Sprint buckets and belts were the final addition to the interior, helping keep driver and passenger tightly contained through the corners. One should never underestimate the grip an all-wheel drive car on slicks can generate!
Behind them, one can check out the rear section of the roll cage which also doubles up as anchor points for the harnesses.
It’s reached the point that we begin to take these crazy Gatebil cars for granted, for the sheer reason that there are just so many of them. Except Filip’s Super Amazon has truly stepped the game up in terms of both concept and execution.
And what about his daughter I hear you ask? Well, the car was pretty much finished at the same time as her arrival, and the car’s first track outing coincided with her first visit to Gatebil aged three weeks. Mission accomplished then, and what a project this old Volvo turned out to be!
Dino Dalle Carbonare