The story of a few good men, and their love for Volvos.
So before we start this story, perhaps I should shed some light on my family’s history with Volvo.
In our lineup of cars, we have seen multiple cars come in and go, from Proton (the OG Saga) to Peugeot to Jeep to Renault. But one car remains a constant: a Volvo 940 Turbo.
Bought in the 1990’s, when I was just a wee lad, the 940 has seen its fair share of good and bad days, and was the car I practised my driving skills with. In fact, it still runs to this very day – more than two decades later, good for short drives around town… which can’t be said for a lot of cars.
Aside from common memes associated with the brand (its name short for “Very Odd Looking Vehicular Object; its reputation for tank-like durability etc.), Volvo has built a name for itself as the forefront in automobile safety, albeit aforementioned unorthodox aesthetic.
That said, for a group of Malaysians, their love for a particular Volvo stirs their hearts, culminating in the formation of Kelab Volvo Klasik Malaysia (or KVKM).
To become a full-fledged member of the club, one must be an owner to either a Volvo series 120 (of which the 122 is the most popular) or the 180 (sports coupe), both prevalent in Malaysia during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Owners of other Volvo models are still welcome to join, albeit as associate members.
“The Volvo 122 was reserved for a lot of the senior government servants and professionals, befitting its premium brand at the time. They were the first Volvos brought in to Malaysia, and it was popular with the professionals at the time. You still see these cars running, passed down to the generations.”
I managed to speak to its current President, Noel Chua during a vintage car show in Antara Putrajaya, where vintage car enthusiasts gathered and displayed their restored/modified rides.
“We’ve got about 100 members… It’s like-minded people coming together. We do a long distance run (about 1,000km) every year. The cars have been to Thailand – Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi… This is testimony that these cars aren’t just lookers, they’re runners.”
As the Volvo 122 is half-a-century old, I asked Chua about the extent of restoration.
“To get the car running, it’s not that expensive. Parts are still available, as they are still being reproduced by independent manufacturers in Europe. If we can’t source for new parts, our network of garages and acquaintances usually can help us with used parts… If the owner wants to bring it back to factory specifications, the sky’s the limit.”
Of the many 120 series vehicles on display, Chua’s is one of the most prominent (its black exterior with flames at the front) and extensively modified: Peer in and you’ll see that his 123 (a two-door sportier variant of the 120 family) is decked out in red, and is fitted with an audio solution.
I asked S. Dorai, a member who took us around Presint 5 in his Volvo 122, on his journey of restoring his 122.
“The Volvo 122 was my father’s dream car, and I’d like to carry on that legacy. I bought this car for RM 5,000 when I was 22 – it’s been 15 years now. I spent around RM30,000 restoring this vehicle to 90% of its original specification… my father was the one doing the car.”
The other 10%? An extra modern convenience – air conditioning, as the Volvo 122 wasn’t factory-fitted with air conditioning.
Chua then points me to the mechanical genius behind the restoration of most of the Volvo 122’s in the event – Joe Miranda, and asked him why this model in particular.
“I’ve been restoring 122’s for over 30 years. Some of the cars here belonged to me before I sold them.”
In fact, Joe’s station wagon comes with another modern convenience – electronic power steering, bringing its handling up to par with current automotive offerings. And it’s as smooth as butter!
Part of the 122’s lasting power comes from its simple construction. Without fancy schmancy electronics and diagnostic equipment to worry about, the mechanical engineering of the 122 makes restoration and maintenance a simple affair, since there are only a few areas of concern. One can’t help but think of current offerings are built with planned obsolescence in mind…
After listening to some of the members of KVKM, I look at the family Volvo – our daily driver for more than two decades.
Perhaps it’s time to restore it to its former glory?