’60s Sweden Meets ’90s Japan: The 4G63 Volvo
Gearhead Friendship

As fun as they can be to participate in or even just to hang out at, track days aren’t necessarily a place you expect to find many ‘unique’ automobiles. Naturally, function comes first, and most track day cars are built with a similar end goal: to be fast and reliable. Being different is secondary. Because why worry about making a fashion statement or standing out from the crowd when you are having so much fun behind the wheel?

But that doesn’t mean you can’t build a fast and functional track day car that also happens to be unlike anything else running around the circuit. It’s just a bigger challenge.

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That brings us to a fellow by the name of Brian Block and his 1968 Volvo 122S Amazon, a car that we first saw during this year’s GridLife Midwest event.

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Like many who encounter Brian’s Volvo at a track day, we were deeply intrigued and wanted to know more.

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Brian has owned the Amazon for a long time, and right from the very beginning he intended to build it into a track car. But as it often does, life got in the way, and the Volvo sat in storage for seven years before Brian had the garage space and time to start building.

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Initially the plan was to take the car vintage racing, so Brian spent two years prepping the Amazon for that. In went a built Volvo B20 engine with a pair of Weber 45s and some other basic upgrades, and off he went to the track.

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Though it was underpowered, the Volvo was a blast to drive, and Brian spent two summers racing the car as much as his budget and time would allow. But after spending time at a few vintage race events, he realized it wasn’t really an affordable type of racing.

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Brian knew he wanted to keep racing though, and more specifically keep racing in his Volvo. He also wanted the car to be more powerful and quicker on the track, so he started to research potential engine swap options.

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Some of Brian’s good friends were longtime racers who drive 4G63-powered DSM cars, and they jokingly suggested that Brian consider one of the turbocharged Mitsubishi four-cylinder engines as the new heart for his Volvo.

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While the 4G63 isn’t really known for its use in rear-wheel drive applications, Brian did an online search and found that a guy named Bill Hichner from Toledo, Ohio, made a bellhousing that mated the engine with a T5 5-speed transmission. Coincidentally, this was the same gearbox that Brian was already using.

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In December of last year, Brian acquired a ’91 Plymouth Laser donor car and he and his buddies began to prep the Volvo for the swap. As these sort of builds often go, Brian soon found out the job would take a lot more work than he originally imagined; the Volvo’s engine bay was tight and a lot of fabrication would be needed to get the 4G63 to fit. But with a goal of having the car ready to drive in the spring of 2016, there was no option but to get stuck right in.

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Knowing they helped get Brian into the conversion, his DSM-loving friends, Warren D’souza, Jeremy Williams and Scott Glassbrook, all handled different parts of the project. CAD-designed intake and exhaust manifolds were built from scratch, a new wiring harness was made, and a remote oil filter system was fitted. The guys ended up missing their goal of having the car running for a track day in May, but perseverance paid off and soon the car was up and running with its new engine.

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Fed by a Precision Turbo PT5831 T3 turbocharger, the 4G63 delivers a stout 400 horsepower. And just as importantly, Brian says the engine has been tuned to deliver the same drivability as a stock Plymouth Laser.

A Different Kind Of Track Car
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The 4G63 is mated with the aforementioned World Class T5 gearbox, and out back sits a narrowed Ford Explorer 8.8-inch rear end that easily handles the turbocharged power.

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The Volvo’s suspension has also seen a lot of work during the time that Brian has owned it. In the rear there’s adjustable 4-link and panhard bar arrangement, Bilstein shocks all around and IPD sway bars to help keep the almost 50-year-old machine planted.

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Braking has also been improved with Wilwood 4-piston calipers and 2-piece rotors up front, and a factory Ford Explorer disc setup in the rear. The wheels are WedsSport TC005s measuring a modest 16 inches in diameter, while the tires are Kumho V720s.

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One of the coolest things about the Amazon is how the body has been kept all original. There’s no wing, no aggressive splitter – just vintage Volvo goodness. Call it a track-spec sleeper.

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With a Nardi steering wheel and a simplistic Auto Meter gauge setup, even the interior is subtle.

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The rollcage and pair of Corbeau Forza bucket seats do, however, tell onlookers this isn’t quite a stock Volvo.

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So far Brian has been very satisfied with how the car drives on the track. There’s wheelspin at corner exit – which is fun – but Brian is planning additional suspension work to help get the power to the ground. He’s also considering an IRS conversion in the future, as well as new body panels to help trim weight.

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But even in its current state, the Volvo is everything you could want from a homebuilt track car. Its fast, fun and guaranteed to be one of the most unique machines at any event Brian takes it to.

And the fact that he and his friends did it all themselves just makes the whole build that much better.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: japanifornia
mike@speedhunters.com

Photos by Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto
larry@speedhunters.com

Cutting Room Floor
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46 comments

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1

Really loved this page article. Great words acked by amazing photos.!

2

Good Swedehunting Larry!

3

The Lancer EX 2000 Turbo is a 4G63 turbo powered car with RWD. Why didnt he go for that drivetrain?

4

Now thats villanous

5

Darahan Because the EX 2000 was never available in the united states. A T5 can be bought anywhere locally in the US for 2-300 bucks all day and parts for them are cheap. No point importing an exotic drivetrain that you wouldnt be able to find parts for locally.

6

If a 60s volvo wasn't already awesome! Love the mixture of parts, wasn't expecting the use of ford drivetrain. Excellent build

7

It would only be cooler if it was a wagon. Love it!

8

Awesome build. Not a huge 4G63 fan but there is no doubt its a power-plant that just works. Great build..

9

Track days aren't racing. It's a really cool car but that has to be said.

10

Like the EVOLVO sticker

11

Rapid_Butterfly Autocross, Time trials, and 1/4 mile all get dealt with.

12

I do all of them. I just hate the track day champion mentality

13

It's that sort of tongue in cheek, self aware humour that can really finish off a car and give it character IMO. It makes the car more.... Accessible? Personal?

14

This is yet another car that I had seen on Instagram (previous one is the Ecotec powered Datsun 510) , and I must say I was blown away by the engine choice ... my first instinct was asked the owner about the transmission & rear axle he choose , haha .

Maybe some fender flare next to have wider tires ?

15

Darahan 
The reason why DSM sourced 4G63T + Ford T5 + Ford Explorer 8.8-inch rear axle is all because that is what they can get at states side , plus those parts are more commonly found .

16

Rapid_Butterfly You know a lot of racers use track days for testing, right?

17

Including me. This car has no series to race in, i don't think. So...you were saying?
Testing isn't racing.

18

Rapid_Butterfly Rubbing is racing! But what are we arguing about, I can't find racing in the article :(  Can we talk about stance?

19

Ear[y in the article, racing is mentioned, and it says the builder wanted to keep racing. Then he built a track day car. A very cool one. But not a racer.

20

Fender flares? Tub it. Why ruin a great shape?

21

Stock Plymouth Laser driveability.
I'm sorry. ;p

I kid I kid. It's awesome seeing people doing 4G63 swaps. It's one of those engines that people hate on for seemingly no reason other than it being made by Mitsubishi.

22

Volvo Amazon is such a lovely looking thing, to bad you don't see them around as much now days. 

Nice build!

23

YES!!!! TREE SPROCKET. Met this fella at the dsm shootout. Very nice guy and uber creative build.

24

250 degree water temp and 0psi oil pressure... seems safe.

-Alex

25

ChrisHenniker
Well , if you needs wider tires , what else can you have ?

26

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27

A stock LS3 makes more power than that and has mad potential to make way more power, modern reliable power, not '91 Plymouth reliable...  

Besides, it would require way less fabrication and CAD this and that.  I'm sure it's a matter of preference, but no one can deny how good the sound of a LS3 sounds while being wrung out!

I'm sure all the LS swap haters will retort in some sort of anti-American V8 bowshit wha wha wha, but how many of them has one and wishes they didn't??  Unique and different, yes, but why?  If he's going to track it, I bet he'll be under the hood a lot more with that current mash-up.

Not hating on dude, I just don't get people going to such extremes for sub-par options.

28

Roman64  I love LS's too, sounds bad ass and works great in many ways in like a 240sx, but calling this car's engine choice "sub-par" is just too biased. If you read the article you will know the own had trouble fitting a little Japanese 4-banger into the Volvo, an LS would look impossible other than having a completely re-engineered custom front suspension. Then there is the weight issue, we all know the LS is aluminum and OHV therefore is relatively lightweight in the V8 realm at 400-something lbs dry, but compare to the 270lbs 4g63 turbo mill, that's possibly extra 200lbs sitting at the least desirable location of the otherwise featherweight old Volvo. LS is a great great engine on its own, but not a great choice for a little 50 year old Volvo, and an old EVO engine is certainly not "sub-par".

29

RDS ChrisHenniker TUBS the guy above you literally said the other option smh

30

Narrow the back axle, tub the back end, then put wider tires on the back. The front could be stock width, or slightly wider. This is the pro street treatment.

31

my Aunty Molly recently got a nice six month old Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Coupe just by parttime work online.


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32

Roman64 Simple. To each his own.

33

ChrisHenniker 

I would love that in a cars that are already wide (like American Muscle) to start with , but for a Amazon that is only 1,620mm , the owner might have thoughts to increase the wheel track to change the handling characteristic too .

34

KevinDeHart so true

35

Candidate for one of my all-time favourite features. And I'm not easily swept off my feet, This is the business! Well done Brian, gorgeous build.

36

@roman64 We're speedhunters not glory hunters. Being under the hood builds a better long term relationship than being at the front of the pack. We love our cars and their unique characters not ourselves.
You are correct, I do not have an LS and I wish I did but do you not think a LS3 might be overpowered for the Volvo? And what about weight in the front end? Perhaps the owner might want a well balanced track car? Just cos the LS swap works for you doesn't mean that it works for everyone or vice versa. These builds are published to broaden our minds and give us ideas.

37

I have the honor and pleasure of working the Gridlife events, and it's always a blast! This was actually one of my favorite machines from this year's Midwest Event. Seeing this thing in person was an absolute treat! A message for anyone who doubts the choice of powerplant: don't. This thing was going about as quickly as the tires could handle around the Gingerman Circuit; it's fast, REALLY fast! Brian's done a solid job with the car, and I look forward to the next chance I get to see it in action!

38

Dustyn Martin Saw this car right after it was finished at the Okemos / Greater Lansing area Cars and Coffee back in May. Very cool car. Warren has built some amazing cars.

39

Roman64 seriously, did you see how much room is in the engine bay? the 4G63T barely fits in there....I'd imagine the LS would be even tighter....

40

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41

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42

my Aunty Bella just got a stunning metallic Volvo XC70 Wagon from only workin parttime on a home computer.

43

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44

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46

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