Jan Wilsgaard's Amazon 164
and P1900 Rossi
Jan Wilsgaard’s impressions of the Ferrari-arrival got its expression in clay. Here is a sportscoupé with engineroom for six cylinders, Half-a-Ferrari; The Volvo Rossi.
Designer Wilsgaard and Volvo CEO Assar Gabrielsson wanted a sportscar to complement the Amazon. The exact expression of Bergman/Rosselini/Ferrari appearance impressed on Sweden..
Gabrielsson ended up asking Glasspar of California to come up with prototypes for a glassfibre sportscar. Glasspar’s cars had been in the style of the Jaguar XK 120, but the chosen prototype looked like Rosselini’s Ferrari 250 MM.
Among Volvo’s modifications to the prototype was a raised radiator opening. From Glasspar’s harmonius claymodel.
We got the rather gaping grille of the final car. This is modern today, but can only be understood as an accomodation for a possible six-cylinder engine. Glassfibre technique was too awkward at the time to imitate Italian steel craftsmanship.
The diversion in style in Glasspar’s proposals, can only be seen as a directive from Volvo to build a prototype in the style of the Ferrari 250 MM. This was a general shape found as early as the 1948 Siata Amica.
For the first time Volvo was riding the wave of popular culture. They were not into motorsport in any significant way, this was about culture, fashion, haute-couture and film glamour. Bill Tritt’s crew cut and Jan Wilsgaard’s rocker hair style and Italian fashion and elegance. Assar Gabrielsson must have felt like a father sending his boys to their first drink and dance party.
To underline Jan Wilsgaard’s fascination with Bergman and Ferrari here is what he did to the PV in the sixties. It was prepared for a longer engine, half-a-V12. This showed the need for a new car.
The Ferrari inspiration was the 1954 375 MM, “The Bergman car”.
The original Volvo PV was created by Helmer Petterson who testdrove the P1900. He was not kind in his report. The glassfibre sportscar was discontinued after only two years while Helmer Petterson and his son, Pelle Pettersson were allowed to continue with their project, the P 1800 for three years before production. The P 1800 was not a fast sports car because the much needed six-cylinder engine was not developed until 1968. The P 1800 was never developed to take an inline-six. Inner tensions in the Volvo company must have been strong and ultimately damaging to model development.
Jan Wilsgaard’s triumph came with his own design, the 164. It was his modern 140 series dressed with a six-cylinder B30 engine, the monogrille and some touring speed. A collector’s item to those who know, but unkindly seen as a Jaugar imitation too little, too late.
Here is Jan Wilsgaard smoothing away at his general concept, The Amazon 164 that never came to be. It would have held the Volvo name in glory as a classic car investor's object. Instead we got the P 1800.
The Volvo 164’s pedigree goes back to 1953, all at the hands of one designer, Jan Wilsgaard. Why did Volvo keep this covered up?