Member Profile - Sandy Will

Sandy Will died peacefully at his home on Thursday February 20, 2003. Sandy was 66 years old and had been fighting cancer for the preceding year.

Sandy worked as an independent Volvo Repair man at his home on Arcola Street near Kingsway in Burnaby since the early 1970s. He loved the early series Volvos, and made a deliberate decision to limit his repair services to the 120, 140, 160, 1800 and PV cars. This provided him a enjoyable living, and provided those discerning people who continue to drive the early cars, an immensely knowledgeable source of service. He had a loyal following of customers and I think that most of Vancouver's "old-Volvo-driving" public have driven, or been towed, down his driveway at one time or another.

Sandy was born in Portlith near Aberdeen on the North Eastern Coast of Scotland. He attended Inverness Academy, 100 miles away and completed his education at Aberdeen University receiving Electrical Engineering degree in 1958. On graduation he moved to London to work with the Atomic Energy Commission until about 1967 when he emigrated to Canada. His first port of call was Montreal where he worked for Marconi designing the "heads-up" instrument display for aircraft". While in Montreal he made the fateful step of buying a red 66 122S which he rallied and generally drove with great verve. After a life in the UK, driving the marginal British cars of the day, the Volvo 122 was a revelation. Fast, strong and agile. He placed an order with the Volvo dealer for a new 1969 122S, in a rare dark turquoise blue, only offered on the 120 series for 1968-9. Volvo was unable to find a car of that colour so he passed on the sale.

A few years later he and a mate from Marconi moved to Vancouver. They must have made an interesting spectacle as Sandy was driving a truck modified to carry a partially fabricated sail boat and his friend followed driving a 1932 Alvis. On arriving in BC, he obtained registration as a Professional Engineer in British Columbia and took a job with an electrical design company. After a couple of years the company closed their Vancouver operation and retreated to Toronto. Sandy was not about to move back east. He had always worked on cars, and had grown fond of working on Volvos, so decided to change careers and started the one we are familiar with.

Sandy's personal favourite Volvo model was the 122S, particularly the station wagon. He bought his '66 wagon in 1973, and he told me that no one but him has driven it since then. Second in favour to the 120 series was the 144 of 1969 or 1970. I know that he chose a 144 because he felt that any car with 4 seats should have 4 doors, but I am not sure why he preferred 69 or 70 other than he liked the chrome grill styling. Sandy's 122 wagon has been fed gas in more ways than any Volvo I know of. It came with dual SU HS6 carburettors which he later changed to SU HIF carbs. In the '90s it received D-Jetronic Fuel injection, then D-Jetronic fuel injection with the air fed through SU HS6 carbs, then CIS fuel injection and finally back to carburettors.

Sandy may have appeared gruff and quite, but was actually a very kind and generous man. He would often make repairs to his customers cars even though they did not have the funds to pay him. He was confident that they would return to pay him as soon as they were able. He never complained of bad debts, so he must have been a good judge of character.

By the late 1990s even the newest cars he worked on were over 25 years old. Many had been in continuous use on a meagre budget. Service on these cars no longer meant repairing everything that was wrong, but rather fixing enough to keep them mobile. One such customer arrived in the shop with a 122, sporting a neat pattern of brake fluid on the inside of the right rear tire. The rear wheel brake cylinder was leaking and on these single-circuit-brake cars that can mean no brakes very quickly. The customer said he couldn't stay and had to get home and could Sandy please do something to get him by until the next day, when he would return for a new wheel cylinder. Sandy obliged by clamping a pair of needle nosed vice grips on the rubber brake line to the rear axle, and the customer departed. A year passed and Sandy had long since forgotten that particular temporary repair when the same car arrived in the shop for some other service. While working under the car Sandy spied the rusting remains of a pair of needle nose vice grips still hanging from the brake hose. This time he replaced the cylinder. There are lots of great Sandy stories but I will limit it to just one.

Thirty years after Sandy started in business, the number of old Volvos in regular use was declining, and so was his customer base. Sandy always said he would probably peg out when the last of his customers moved to the "Dark Side" and bought 240 Series. Interestingly his business had started to grow again in the last few years and the work became almost seasonal. He was certainly seeing fewer regularly-driven cars, but he was now getting a growing number of restored cars to work on. Each spring there was a steady stream of shining old Volvos needing help waking up after their winter naps. Sandy was getting an unplanned, but well deserved, semi-retirement.

For those of you that did not know Sandy I will describe his wonderful shop. In my opinion it deserved to be registered and saved as an old Volvo historic site. Everywhere you look there are neat inventions. Half of the shop was powered by 12 volts. The trouble lights had H4 halogen bulbs and would light as they were removed from their cradles. A bank of auto headlights lit the engine bay area. Volvo Oil filters were dispensed from an inclined ABS pipe. The engine lifting devise was powered by a Volvo generator wired to act as a reversible motor. and travelled on a rail. Distributors were stored vertically on a slab of wood that looked like a giant crib board. And then there was the weird forest of differentials bolted to inverted wheel rotors and standing on end. On his tool racks were a wonderful collection of custom tools that Sandy fabricated for doing specific chores on old Volvos. The Volvo Corporation label their specialty tools SVO and in Sandy's shop that stood for "Sandy's Very Own".

Although Sandy is gone, he left us a valuable legacy. You may have noticed articles in the technical section of our newsletter attributed to the Anonymous Mechanic. Well that was Sandy and I have a collection of these articles that I will continue to include here. Think of him when you read them.

On March 8, 2003 we organized a wake for Sandy at a pub near his home. It was attended by his old friends from Scotland and Montreal as well as his "Volvo friends" and customers. He would have approved of the collection of cars in the parking lot. We gave him a heart-felt send off. Sandy will be missed. Particularly by me.

Gregg Morris