The Ingrid Bergman Amazon
December 4th 2013
© Gunnar Jacobsen
Espen Valand Stange
Volvo made sensible cars until one day Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rosselini drove their Ferrari from Rome, Italy and arrived in Stockholm, Sweden. They were a sensation when they married and they were a sensation when they arrived in Sweden in her Ferrari. Volvo’s Jan Wilsgaard, a young designer lured from his studies in Art and Design, understood the opportunity he had been given. He knew all about neoclassicism and the Renaissance and had observed Italy's fabulous postwar car designs. He was pregnant with Ingrid's Swedish Growling Baby. If Volvo could give the Swedes a car like Ingrid’s they would sell on the wave of enthusiasm for her. They needed a strong model name and there was no stronger than Amazon, the female warriors as they were perceived at that time.
Volvo virtually cut Ingrid’s Ferrari in two, made a saloon of the rear half. The Amazon was born. This idea came about from reading
The conservative board of directors thought the car looked like a pin-up model. How succesful the young designer was!
Volvo never used the Ingrid name, they chose Amazon. Was it the z in Enzo that changed Amason into Amazon? There was an earlier Italian-built prototype code-named Elisabeth (The Other Actress, Taylor), surely to be renamed Ingrid.
The Volvo Film Documentation
Not transcribing, but picking from these films, here are some exhibits from four Volvo commercials. "Lithe like a panther, beautiful like a Venus, what lines, what grace, temperamental, and what an attitude, what stature. She’s got style". This is no ordinary woman but a collection of male descriptions of a female star. There is the theme of him and her, exchanging complements. He is the strength and comfort, she is the elegance, and appreciative of the car, like Ingrid "loved" Ferraris. The female is the star of the commercials, along with the female Amazon. "Upholstered details, an extraordinary elegance, an inner security and strength. Pleasant to encounter, beautiful to look at, the charming Amazon". The charming Ingrid. The woman is veiled. Ingrid described.
Medieval French romantic literature has Amazons as brave female riders. The Amazon was marketed as an international touring car.
The heady days are over and I suggest a black and Grigio Ingrid-grey remake of the twodoor Amazon by that name; Ingrid. No Volvo safety seats, of course, but grey leathers like the fifities Italian car. Slim bumpers and wire-wheels. Six-cylinder engine tuned for touring as would be the suspension. For sheer bravery I would use Jan Wilsgaard’s favourite, the central tall grille to accomodate the six-cylinder engine. The race and rally-version would be called Rossi. I pity their divorcées, but they were trumped by flying style. The Scandinavian/Mediterranean hybrid.
Here is Ingrid's car in an immature Ferrari-red/beige upholstery. Motor-Klassik drove a rebuilt but not finished restoration of the car, see this article in Motor Klassik
The roadtrip from Stockholm to Lappland is the perfect mirror of the trip from Rome to Stockholm. The woman is the central character in all the commercials. The man represents trust and reliability and is of average looks, she is the extraordinary. Volvo's own marketing shifted its focus later though the elegant woman theme remained.
"Race and grace, a Swedish beauty acquired for its looks alone. As if carried on the wind" («Gone With the Wind», 1939, another iconic couple, Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh) "High average speed for touring, powerful brakes, beauty, comfort and built-in security". The man and woman leave the scene and the Amazon is left in the picture, not alone but with a Renaissance sculpture. The Italianness of it all. Volvo's Renaissance.
Generally the man is ordinary and the woman is a beauty ready for the film studios.
The Ferrari arrival of the Rosselinis in Sweden combined the Mediterranean and Scandinavian, a theme exploited in Dolce Vita where Anita Ekberg was the fascination of Marcello Mastroianni.
So there’s looks and there’s allure and marketing of a car that was brought before customers three years after the Great Arrival. The Amazon inherited all its technical bits from the old PV, hence the reliability claims. What Volvo had made was a female body with a female name.
The older reliable PV Man and the excited woman on her toes, the Amazon.
His earliest intentions was to use a single grille. He did not get his will until the fine 1969 model year Volvo 164 was launched with its single 6 engine. That is how strong the first impression of Ingrid in her Ferrari was.