Why I want to convert a Volvo

I found this crash test footage on Youtube while looking up Volvo videos and I thought they would be worth sharing considering the fact that these are very popular conversion candidates:

First Generation Geo Metro:

VW Beetle:

Renault Dauphine:

The second generation Geo Metro (1995+) doesn’t seem as bad thanks to added reinforcements but it’s still not exactly a Volvo:


I understand that Volvos are a very safe vehicle, but they don’t do that very efficiently. They are tanks.

And things like airbags and crumple zones are a waste of energy and engineering, in my opinion.

If you are concerned about saftey, just do what race car drivers have done for years and put a six point cage in your car with a 4pt harness.

Here are the reasons manufacturers engineer crumple zones and airbags into cars;

  • They are disposable. New cars are designed as sacrificial mechanisms. Because they are designed to be disposable, this means they can sell you another.

  • They are cheap. Airbags and crumple zones don’t increase the cost of saftey engineering in materials nearly as much as a factory engineered roll cage.

  • They don’t care about weight. If you’ve noticed in manufacturing lately, cars are generally heavier than they were some 20 years ago. This is because of everyone’s lack of will to give up creature comforts. The wiring harnesses in newer cars weighs upwards of 50lbs, not including the components it runs, like window regulator motors, airbag deployers, the array of sensors everywhere on the car, etc.

I’m willing to bet that there is at least 300 lbs worth of unnecessary electronics in almost every new car built today and even more in the metal and articles tied in with the designs surrounding those electronic devices.

Even a simple six point cage and basic, comfortable 4pt harness, even without a helmet will make any crumple zone/ airbag SRS system look like complete joke. And the truth is, it is a joke at best. Those crash tests are figured in at 40 mph to a 0 mph impact rate. Race cars hit walls at speeds above 200mph. Some salt flat top speed cars in excess of 300mph.

I have seen drivers hit walls head on at 80+mph and walked away from it. When was the last time you saw someone walk away from a 40mph impact in a modern SRS equipped vehicle?

Granted, race drivers wear 5pt harnesses, neck braces and helmets, but nobody will be going anywhere near those speeds on any DOT roadway.

If my many years of collision repair schooling has taught me anything, it’s that I will NEVER buy a new car.

A friend of mine was recently in an accident in his Pontiac Grand Prix GTP 2 door, he managed to keep his head back enough that the drivers side airbag didn’t hit him, but his passenger did get a bloody nose, some bruising and a few other injuries around his face and neck from the passengers side bag (that breaks and deploys against the windshield by design). Those were the only injuries sustained in that accident to him and his passenger.

A year before he bought the Grand Prix, he had a 1965 plymouth valiant 4dr sedan and was involved in a roll over accident in it. He was wearing a lap belt and he rolled six times and walked away with a scratch on his finger from cutting himself on the glass he didn’t see. This was after he got out, when he reached back into the glove box to get his insurance and registration for the police.

And I understand the concepts behind inertia, direct and indirect impacts. Worst case scenario is a head-on collision, but most head-on collisions are in excess of a total 40mph impact. The added speed of each vehicle is the XXX mph : 0 mph impact equation. And if you are still skeptical, take a look at how a car is prepped for a demolition derby.

I would suggest building the lightest vehicle you can with a multi-point cage. You’ll be safer in that than any driver of any new car could ever hope to be in an accident. Not to mention saving yourself hundreds or even thousands of pounds in wasteful weight gain, going to a lighter car. And if you’re smart about your bar locations, most of it can be hidden away for asthetics, if you are concerned about that.

I would take on ANY stock Volvo in a caged Geo Metro or Volkswagen Beetle with a 4pt harness without thinking twice.

I understand what you mean. It reminds me of a limousine crash test on “Fifth Gear”, a British TV show about cars, not to be confused with Top Gear. The middle/extended section of limos are made stronger than the rest of the original car body so during a collision it completely crushed the front stock section while remaining intact.

I’m willing to bet that there is at least 300 lbs worth of unnecessary electronics in almost every new car built today and even more in the metal and articles tied in with the designs surrounding those electronic devices.

With all of the failed electronics in my father’s 1989 760, I can surely understand. Additionally, people converting brand new cars are either spending tens of thousands of dollars on batteries, or getting horrible range on the proven lead acids. Even on racing simulators, you get the feeling that new cars are heavier and less responsive than older models, especially if you try out Acuras and other Japanese cars.

After reading what you said, I think the best thing would be to get a Volvo 240 or 740. According to many tuners, the boxy nature of these cars (combined with all of the swedish steel :D) give them a built in roll cage of sorts.

What you said about crumple zones reminds me of the time I went to a Honda dealer. I was leaning on a brand new fit, and I felt the metal bending inwards; something not observed on our old Swedish bricks, especially the 68’ Amazon. As a Volvo enthusiast, I hear loads of stories about people surviving crashes with only a couple of dents on the car, especially with 140s and 240s, but never with new models that are made to fold up like origami. In fact, my mechanic’s son got reared by a brand new Mazda in his 1987 740 Stationwagon. All he needed was a new bumper, while the Mazda owner needed a new car :smiley:

I really like your take on this. I guess I’ll convert a really old boxy Volvo one day… or a classic French car :D.

Whilst not wanting to be arguamentative, I have to take issue with a couple of points you made in this post, firstly, at least in the UK, the chances of surviving a serious crash have increased massively since the introduction of stiffer safety cells and airbags in cars compared to 20 years ago, it is simply not true that older cars, Volvo’s included were safer, they simply were not!

and secondly, if someone really was to impact an immovable wall head on at 80 mph in a vehicle with a strong roll cage and wearing a 5 point harness, they will almost certainly be killed by the force of decelleration destroying their internal organs!! Glancing off a wall or such is a different matter.

That aside, you are absolutely right about the additional weight, most new cars, even very small ones are far too heavy to make them a viable proposition for conversion to EV’s. as an example, the car I have in mind to convert, Skoda Favorit weighs in at 895kg and is VW Golf sized. My parents have a new Hyundai Gets, a much smaller car but kerb weight is almost 1200kgs!!!

Anyway just my 2 pence worth, don’t shoot me! :smiley:


I look at our 1968’ Amazon, which weighs significantly less than most new cars, and I wonder how come it takes so much more nowadays to accomplish the same thing that was done 40 years ago just as well (minus emissions systems and rust protection). I swear there are hardly more than four wires that go to the back of the Volvo Amazon for taillights.

Small cars aren’t that small anymore either. The new mini is much larger in comparison to the old one, same thing applies to the new Fiat 500 and VW new Beetle. Someone driving a Geo Metro or Chevy Chevette is getting much better mileage than someone with a Honda Fit, Chevrolet Aveo or probably even a Prius (considering the fact that the batteries are dead half the time and only in use at very low speeds).

Your 68 Amazon is a seriously cool car by the way…:smiley: I’ve got a 1955 VW Beetle in the garage, got to love the 50’s, 60’s curves…

[QUOTE=Favguy;2508]Your 68 Amazon is a seriously cool car by the way…:smiley: I’ve got a 1955 VW Beetle in the garage, got to love the 50’s, 60’s curves…[/QUOTE]

I agree! I always loved the 122. Have you given any thought to converting your 122 to an EV? :slight_smile: It’s 2500lbs, should be able to take a B18/B20 adapter… :slight_smile:

Back onto your original topic, I agree on the need for safety in a EV but just because it is a Volvo doesn’t mean it will be safe. Definitely safer the a VW bettle, but even the early 80’s Volvos wouldn’t be a safe as most mid 90’s vehicles. For me I am strongly leaning towards a mid nineties ranger for this reason. At 2900lbs it’s about 200lbs heavier then the lightest ranger but has a 4 star crash rating. In my opinion is worth it, considering some of the earlier trucks only got one star! Also keep in mind the bar for safety is always being raised. A 4 star rating today is significantly safer then 4 stars 10 years ago.

Finally I have to disagree with the thought of just adding a cage to an older vehicle to be just as safe. By the time you build a proper cage (BTW SCCA is a great resource for this) you will be adding hundreds of pounds that would better have been accomplished by a newer vehicle. Airbags and crumple zones go a very long way.

My .02,

I’m seriously considering it, but it’s my Father’s car. Every once in a while when I suggest getting myself a Suzuki Swift or something or other, he says I should convert the Amazon (and when I ask if I can convert the Amazon he tells me to do something else).

Your 68 Amazon is a seriously cool car by the way… I’ve got a 1955 VW Beetle in the garage, got to love the 50’s, 60’s curves…

Thanks! :slight_smile: There’s someone in my neighbourhood with a 56’ Beetle parked in their car port imported from BELGIUM :slight_smile: with the European side marker lights that stick out of the sides when signalling.

I absolutely adore 50s + 60s curves too (in fact, I don’t really like new cars to be honest) and this reminds me of an episode of Top Gear when Jeremy Clarkson test drives a 60s Jaguar with brand new mechanical, electrical and suspension components installed by a company that specializes in such conversions. He finished the video by saying that 60s styling combined with 21st century engineering is an unbeatable combination. I have to say he was right.

I’ll do my best to convert the Amazon :), but this is over a very long term basis. Luckily, by living and studying in Québec, I benefit from a fairly inexpensive college education. In fact, I got my letter back today saying all I owe is 222$ for the first semester (minus books).

All that’s left is to get 6,000$ for a good DC kit and another couple of thousands for the batteries… and then to actually build it :P…

Here’s a picture of the Amazon:

An 80mph collision will not kill you. It can hurt you, but the G force alone will not kill you. I know someone who survived an estimated 120mph impact.

He was driving on an interstate and an elderly woman fell asleep at the wheel and came at him head on. He corrected by crossing over to the other side of the highway and slowing down to about 50mph from the 70 that he was going. When the woman woke up seconds later, she corrected and hit him head on. I’m not sure what the other woman was driving, but he was driving a fullsize 1980’s ford F-150.

I’m sure that her age and lighter vehicle was what killed her, but my only point is that collisions at ranges around 100mph will not kill you out of G force alone. If that were true, dragster drivers and airforce pilots would die. You might pass out, but that amount of G force alone will not kill someone in normal health.

The 80mph collision that I saw was a relatively direct hit, but not all of the inertia was stopped. He did spin and come to a sliding stop. It knocked him out for a brief moment, but he did get up and walk away from it.

Older vehicles aren’t safer than newer ones. I’m just saying that any vehicle prepped with a cage will hold up better and be safer in an accident against the same with a modern SRS system.

I’ve used mandrel benders and have built cages that are NHRA approved. Most are made from chromoly, which is slightly lighter than steel and stronger as well as having better damage resistance characteristics (will not bend as much), but NHRA as well as many other associations require the welds be inspected and corrected after a certain amount of usage, due to the vehicle twisting under engine torsion.

But for a street car, it doesn’t matter, because you aren’t emitting thousands of foot pounds of torque to the cage to weaken welds. You add about 200lbs at most in a full multi-point cage when using mild steel.

NHRA requires a cage made of .125" thick mild steel, or .083" chromoly. This is because chromoly is twice as strong as mild steel.

Most full multi point cages use about 95 feet (roughly 30M) of .125" thick 1 5/8" steel tubing, which weighs in at approximately just under 2lbs (1.97lbs) per foot, plus any flat stock, welds, etc. When you do the math of a full cage, even at 100 feet of tubing used, that’s 197lbs made of heavy mild steel. and this would be a full racing, multi point cage. A basic six point cage would weigh significantly less (maybe 1/2 to 1/3 of the weight) and do just fine under higher speed indirect collisions and certainly almost anything you could dish out at 40mph or under. Even if it were made out of mild steel. Going to chromoly, because of the thinner material requirements, would come in at about 140lbs for a full racing 12 point cage, but mild steel is easier to work with.

Between the weight savings from fewer electrical devices (I’m willing to bet that depending on the vehicle, you are looking at 600-1000lbs average of electrical junk) and losing the heavy powerplant, the gains made in weight from a cage are insignificant to it’s benefits. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t see race car drivers use them, where every ounce matters, literally.

That Volvo would be such a sweet car to convert. Most older Volvos don’t weigh that much. The newer ones weigh upward of some full size trucks or more.

Thanks for posting such a constructive message (and to everyone else who did as well).

The newer ones weigh upward of some full size trucks or more.

Like the C30 :stuck_out_tongue:

My friends S70 has a GVW of 5200lbs.

My '72 Dodge D100 Adventurer SE with cruise control, air conditioning, LWB bed and standard cab has a stock GVW of 5100lbs! hahahaha…