Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Quick reflection: are 2-valve cylinder heads in a Diesel engine so outdated at all?

Seeing a Ford Mondeo Mk.4 always gets me thinking about the way a 4-valve per cylinder engine is overrated. Considering the Diesel versions, which were available in 1.6L versions with the DLD-416 engine co-developed with Peugeot either in 16-valve until 2011 or 8-valve afterward, 1.8L with the DLD-418/Duratorq TDCi based on a Ford's own previous Lynx/Endura-D/TDDi engine series always with 8 valves, and the Peugeot 2.0L DW10 and 2.2L DW12 renamed by Ford as ZSD-420 and ZSD-422 always with 16 valves. As surprising as the reduction in the amount of valves might have seemed when it comes to the 1.6L engine, it was not pointless at all. The main reason stated for that switch was emissons-related, as it was implemented when Euro-5 rules became enforced in Europe, with the intake and exhaust porting and the lesser valvetrain inertia benefitting low-end throttle response. Nitrogen oxides emissions, which is the target for the most recent complaints about Diesel engines in general, also decreased due to the restriction on the mass air flow decreasing the internal pressure and aerodynamic heat from compression, thus leading to a condition not so ideal for NOx to form. The lower amount of vaporising latent heat available also reflected on fuel consumption, since a smaller volume of fuel could be injected at each cycle in order to provide a complete combustion.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Stretched canvas-top Toyota Bandeirante with 4 doors

There were times when Toyota ruled the 4WD market in Brazil with the Bandeirante, a local derivative of the 40-series Land Cruiser, but not every body configuration available in other countries was offered locally. One of the alternatives to fill this gap was stretching regular canvas-top ones in order to increase its hauling capacity for both passengers and cargo. This modification was mostly performed in Brejo da Madre de Deus, a small town in the countryside of Pernambuco state, with many of the so-called "Toyotão" (Big Toyota) used for intercity shuttle services.
Its role bore some resemblance to the Philippine jeepney based on military surplus Willys Jeeps, but the Toyotão was mostly based on civilian versions and, unlike the jeepney, there were no independent companies developing longer copies of the Bandeirante by their own. Full body enclosure also differentiates it, even though it always relies on canvas roof and doors instead of metallic roofs.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Hand-operated individual rear brake in a Gurgel X-12

One of the low-volume Brazilian automakers that relied on the Volkswagen air-cooled powerplant when imports were restricted, Gurgel found itself a comfortable position as a manufacturer of SUVs such as the X-12. The lack of a proper 4-wheel drive system required some different approach to increase the off-road capabilities inherent to the weight bias of a rear-engined RWD vehicle. The option regarded as more cost-effective was a manual brake control for each rear wheel in order to emulate the effect of a limited-slip differential and keep most of the torque output to the wheel in contact with a more stable portion of the terrain.
The levers were tied to the parking brake cable of each side, not requiring any rocket-scientist to implement it. The system is not only easier to fit, but also easier to mantain, because even though it might increase the wear on the rear brake liners it's easier to replace a brake shoe than to perform an overhaul in a locker differential.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Honda CG 150 turned into a cargo tricycle

A month ago I spotted at the Canasvieiras beach in Florianópolis city this '09 Honda CG 150 turned into a cargo tricycle. The conversion was made by the Brazcar company located in Patos de Minas, Minas Gerais state, which previously converted pick-up trucks from regular-cab to dual-cab but switched its business to focus on tricycle conversions for utilitarian purposes. The flatbed fitted to it, however, had a tag from Carrocerias Paraguaçu which is located in Palhoça city, south from Florianópolis.
It's important to remind that light-duty Diesel vehicles are forbidden in Brazil, so such motorcycle conversions became an option for small businesses to use as a cheap and fuel-efficient small hauler which is not meant to be babied, even though this one looked more badly worn-out and neglected than usual. A somewhat surprising feature was the rear disc brake, contrasting to the stock front drum brake.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Brazilian '82 Amazonas 1600 Volkswagen-powered motorcycle

Many people from other countries often express some curiosity about the Amazonas, a Brazilian motorcycle fitted with the Volkswagen flat-4 engine. This one is an '82 which served the Federal Roadway Police. It resorted to the 1600 dual-carburettor engine, and the transmission was a modified version of the stock one fitted to rear-engined Volkswagen vehicles, with a chain final drive. The model was meant as a replacement for the Harley-Davidson Shovelhead when imports became restricted from '76 to '90. Officially released in '78, the Amazonas was produced until '88.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Rear wiper in a sedan: unusual feature

Spotted this 2nd-generation JDM Toyota Allion with Paraguayan registration yesterday in the afternoon on Jurerê Internacional beach, in Florianópolis city, Brazil. Immediately the rear wiper, which is an unusual feature in sedans available through official sales channels in South America, caught my attention. It's often claimed that a rear wiper is redundant on sedans because of the aerodynamics preventing water and dust to accumulate while driving, but it might be actually worth, as it may help removing some small layer of snow when the vehicle is parked outside overnight, and also improving visibility while maneuvering in reverse.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Dacia Dokker rebadged as Renault Kangoo in Argentina and fitted with underbody-mounted CNG tanks

It took a long time for Renault Argentina to phase out the 1st generation of the Kangoo, which was released in Europe in late-'97, started to be made in Argentina in '99 and lasted there until 2018. Instead of the real 2nd generation of the Kangoo which was released in 2007 for Europe, Asia/Oceania and Africa, the Dacia Dokker was chosen instead, even though it took 6 years since its European and African release in 2012 sourced from Morocco, and rebadged in Argentina as a new Renault Kangoo.
This one that I spotted in Florianópolis, Brazil, is fitted with a 16-valve 1.6L gasoline-powered engine, and was supplemented with a CNG kit. Underbody-mounted tanks can be clearly seen from behind, in a way that doesn't take too much space from the luggage compartment, requiring only the spare tyre to be relocated inside.
The 1.5 dCi remains available as a premium option for those who prefer a turbodiesel, but I haven't seen one of these yet. I wouldn't hold my breath for this model to be released in Brazil once the remaining stock of the previous-generation Kangoo Express panel van, but those compact vans remain popular in Argentina instead of being somewhat replaced by double-cab coupé-utilities and mini SUVs as in Brazil...

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Daihatsu Delta motorhome with a modified Toyota Hilux Vigo Champ front clip

This is one of the most impressive car mods I spotted recently, a Daihatsu Delta-based motorhome with an extensively-modified Toyota Hilux Vigo Champ front clip. I could only recognise it as a Daihatsu Delta because of the front badge and the stock windshield and door windows. It was clearly oversized to be a Hilux, and even if one was stretched enough for that body to fit.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Retro-styled Honda NX4 Falcon

Spotted yesterday this '02 Honda NX4 Falcon, which was modded to look like something from the '70s.
Tail light and instrument cluster were taken out of a '78 Honda CG 125, while the fuel tank is the one used in the CB 200.
Despite being badged as a 500cc, the RFVC engine is the 400cc one shared with the stock XR 400.
Maybe the rear-wheel disc brake, which was not so usual in the '70s, would be supposed to be an easy clue that it's a relatively modern motorcycle.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Is direct injection really so great when applied to spark-ignited engines?

Spark-ignited engines are often pointed out to have been less maintenance-intensive than a modern electronically-controlled turbodiesel, which has led some customers to consider them as an affordable option even in segments for which Diesel became the norm such as in pick-up trucks. An example in Brazil is the current generation of the Chevrolet S10, nameplate retained locally and in some regional export markets, with the Ecotec 2.5 SIDI engine as the sole non-Diesel powerplant and resorting to the direct injection not only due to the perspectives of a lower fuel consumption but also to ease the cold starting while using ethanol as fuel. However, it's not only advantages, especially if we consider the increase to the nitrogen oxides and even particulate matter emissions which were previously seen as an Achille's heel of Diesels, all highlighted by the unfair emission controls enforcement which has targetting Diesel-powered vehiches more strictly.
Even though the ability to run leaner on fuel at a higher compression ratio without knocks may sound tempting, sure the presence of direct injection in a spark-ignited engine has its own downsides when it comes to ordinary maintenance and eventual repairs with improvised resources. It's not so easy to simply replace the EFI for a carburettor under the shade of a tree as it may be for some comparable port-injected engines, a makeshift approach which remains somewhat popular in the Argentinian countryside and the villas miseria (slums/shanty towns/favelas) in the outskirts of Buenos Aires and other major cities. There are other aspects worth considering too, and the impact of improvements in other vehicle systems such as newer automatic transmissions may often be neglected, all while some overwhelm about mileage improvements may lead to the misconception that an engine alone always turns into a marvellous solution to address the needs of a broader customers' base.
Talking about engines with a Bolivian tourist this week, he got to praise the twin-turbocharged 3.5L EcoBoost engine fitted to the 13th-generation Ford F-Series as being quite fuel-efficient, but didn't even seemed to remind that a 10-speed automatic transmission and start-stop also play an important role for that matter. Maybe a simpler naturally-aspirated engine with port-injection and slightly larger displacement coupled to a transmission with the right gearing could lead to some comparable mileage figure and performance, all while operating with fewer stress under heavy loads and retaining simpler maintenance procedure too. Depending on other factors, even some modernized flathead engine with features such as a port-injection fuel system could at least get the job done just right and match the performance of the naturally-aspirated 3.3L engine which became the base engine for the F-150. It's also worth to notice direct-injection makes it harder to perform a CNG conversion, since the stock injectors would still require some gasoline (or ethanol in case of flexfuel engines) flow to keep it cooled in order to avoid damage from the heat it's exposed right in front of the flame spread.
It's a matter of suitability to operating conditions, and there is no way for an one-size-fits all approach to succeed. The claimed improvements to performance and fuel-efficiency might've been achieved, which was even more noticeable on turbocharged engines such as the EcoBoost fitted to the 13th-gen Ford F-150 Lariat as it doesn't require an enrichment of the air-fuel ratio at boost in order to prevent knock, but the expectatives in regard to emissions turned out to detour from the declared goals in real usage conditions, not to mention the cost and complexity which are not so negligible at all. In the end, direct injection applied to spark-ignited engines is eventually justifiable but is not really so great at all...