Curbside Classic: Volvo 122S – One Sweet Swede

A few car pics, and some memories.

There are cars we come across that flood our memories at first sight. The connection is immediate; the result of a deep personal relationship. Maybe it was a family car or that of a close friend or relative; with many rides to remember. Other times there are cars one has bonded with, but the details are fuzzy and distant. For me, such is the case with the Volvo 122S (Amazon). And this nicely preserved one unlocked some tightly guarded memories. Recollections from some sweet honey days. Literally.

Not that I had forgotten about my relationship with the 122S. I had always liked the model and knew of it since an early age. After all, one belonged to a friend of Dad’s with an eclectic taste in cars. A type of character that appears in just about everyone’s lives.

In our case, it was Ivan. A coworker of Dad’s with whom he constantly tried to start business farming ventures. As for Ivan, I only have vague recollections of him and his family. What I don’t have trouble with is picturing his car stable: first and foremost, a Volvo 122S, the family car. Then a VW thing, followed by a mighty Jeep Comanche whose brutal 4×4 force was indelibly printed in my mind in one of Dad’s outings (a story for another day).

Any old Volvo 122S always brings to mind Ivan, immediately. No surprises there. And I was quite glad to come across this rather nice one over the weekend, sitting rather pretty on a rare undercast day. Not many of these are around in these lands. Not by fault of the cars themselves, but mostly because they were never that common to begin with. Yet, their survival rate is high. A testament that ‘Amazons’ in the tropics performed just as well as they did up North.

But as I took the pictures, some deeply buried memories started to emerge. Did I have some sweet memories attached to the 122S I had forgotten about?

Very sweet memories, it turned out. The old Volvo was taking me back to the honey harvesting days of my teen years, about which I remember little. I do have general sketches and impressions in my mind, but it’s like putting together pieces of a past life. I remember the hot weather in the claustrophobic adobe house where we worked, the exhausting labor, and the down-to-earth demeanor of the folk around me. It was a particularly peculiar enterprise of Dad and Ivan (and they had their share), one to which my brother and I got dragged into from the beginning.

And so, for a few months in the mid-80s, Mom, Brother, and I traveled to the bee farm by the countryside to meet Dad and Ivan, who were already at work. As city kids, the trips were quite an experience, as all seemed rather alien to us. To visit the Salvadorian countryside was to discover life in the most rustic of forms (something that hasn’t changed much since). Of course, that was part of the interest of Dad’s; to show us a simpler mode of life.

It was during my teen years, in those trips with Dad, that I started to come to grips with the stark contrasts of living in the tropics. City dwellers prided themselves on the modernity of their shops, wide boulevards, and concrete buildings. Yet, any bit of land left on its own would turn into a jungle if left alone for a short while. And no matter how much we wanted to delude ourselves, nature was all around us, even in the city. Lurking, ready to sprout again. Filthy and contaminated, perhaps. But there, at easy reach.

And is that mix of rustic and modernity that’s played in my head ever since. And Salvadorian dwellings, in the city and in the countryside, are a clashing mix of the two to this day. Even if I had to admit that the ones in the countryside win on the charm department.

Back to Dad and Ivan. There are few things as nice as tasting fresh honey or chewing on a honeycomb stuffed with honey. That was the easiest thing to attain in the bee farm. And while the idea of being stung terrified my brother and me at the start, it never occurred (I would remember that). Admittedly, we never got close to the beehives on the outside. That was the beekeeper’s work. What we were there to do, and to help Dad with, was to process the honey. And that’s where the sweet fantasy world ended.

Talking about the clashing of the rural with the modern, Dad and Ivan’s honey harvesting had a lot of that. The final part of their process involved filtering the honey through a strange contraption of Dad’s. Some kind of gravity pressure concept, that didn’t really work. So instead of gravity pulling the honey through a fabric filter as he envisioned, human hands had to squeeze -hard- the honey to make it pass through. And that’s where my brother and I got involved.

It was grueling work. Particularly for a couple of teens more interested in rock music and whatever TV show was popular at that time. The Knight Rider, probably.

So instead of the precious moment Dad had imagined with his two sons, chatting away, enjoying honey harvesting in a postcard-perfect image; the reality was two irked teens who kept hiding away from work. Not that there were many places to hide on that farm. But we did try, believe me.

But well, the Volvo 122S was part of those days, usually parked next to Mom’s Hyundai pickup in front of the bee farm. I don’t recall Ivan ever complaining about his Volvo, and as I said earlier, looks like these Scandinavian wonders worked as nicely in the tropics as they did elsewhere.

Curiously, this one happens to be a gray import from the US; with a Volvoville badge from Amityville, NY. That might explain its rather original condition and the lack of curious embellishments our locals are fond of. That said, I wonder what this one’s story is. It is not like these Volvos are rare over here. Maybe someone who didn’t want to suffer the restoration process?

Here’s another one, captured about two years ago in a curious local museum about which I already talked about. And this one has the very same green tone Ivan’s used to have. None of that fancy two-tone schmancy nonsense.

My teenage self might have rejected the honey-harvesting life, but thankfully, I developed no ill will to honey or Volvos. Both of which I enjoy very much. And as life makes us a little wiser over time -or kills us while attempting to do so- I got involved with some of Dad’s later endeavors, and have rather nice memories of those. Let this text and 122S images be a testament to those mended ways.


Further reading:

Curbside Classic: Volvo 122S – The Cult Of The Amazon