Monday, May 25, 2020

5 vehicles from the '90s which could've been well served by a Perkins 4-108 engine

Once a popular powerplant for European vehicles, also widely used for other applications such as marine and stationary/industrial, the Perkins 4-108 was a development of the 4-99 engine originally released in '58. Discontinued only in '92, it could eventually be perceived as somewhat archaic by then due to the 3-main-bearing crankshaft and overhead valve layout with a gear-driven camshaft in the block, even though it could still fare reasonably compared to modern overhead-camshaft rivals with a 5-bearing crankshaft which started to appear in the '70s. At least 5 vehicles which were highly successful in the '90s and fitted with some OHC engine for their Diesel versions would actually be not bad with the seemingly-outdated Perkins.

1 - Suzuki Vitara: even though it was launched in the late-'80s, the 1st-generation Suzuki Vitara was highly successful through its production run which spanned until '98. Diesel engines from Peugeot and Mazda were available on selected markets, including Spain where it used to be locally assembled by Santana Motor in order to circumvent import quotas on Japanese-made vehicles. Considering the Perkins 4-108 used to be also made in Spain by Motor Ibérica under license, it seems quite surprising this engine which was already well-proven didn't get a chance to have its value highlighted in what was then a modern compact SUV;

2 - Fiat Brava: one of those models which served as a billboard to highlight the transition from the indirect injection and natural aspiration on light-duty Diesel engines to the turbocharged common-rail layout which is now widespread, such situation might seem to justify views that a Perkins 4-108 would still be suitable. Since the naturally-aspirated engine with indirect injection featured on the Fiat Brava was basically a makeshift based on an older gasoline-powered engine series, unlike the newer turbocharged ones which were developed as part of a modular series providing for both gasoline and Diesel versions since day one, outsourcing from Perkins for the simpler trims wouldn't be so bad at all;

3 - early Fiat Palio: originally released in Brazil and Argentina in '96, the Palio had some Diesel and turbodiesel engine options developed in-house by Fiat. However, since its assembly in Morocco was performed by Somaca and in South Africa it was built by the local branch of Nissan under contract, it could sound as a good excuse for an engine outsourcing;

4 - Ford Escort Mk.5: considering the Brazilian versions relied on a 1.6L derivative of the Renault Cléon-Fonte engine and on the 1.8L and 2.0L variants of the Volkswagen EA827 for higher trims, it would not really surprise me if Ford approached Perkins for some improved version of the 4-108 in order to keep it up with the same emission standards its troublesome Endura-D engine had to withstand. The gear-driven camshaft and injector pump of the old Perkins were so much better to deal with than the combination of a duplex chain-driven injector pump and a belt-driven camshaft of the Endura-D;

5 - Opel Astra B: even though the Isuzu engines featured on this model were praised as bulletproof, it's undeniable the Perkins 4-108 was suitable to some rough operating conditions which would have made it feel at home on certain regional export markets supplied by the Brazilian production of the model rebadged as Chevrolet Astra.

Friday, May 15, 2020

2nd-generation Toyota Tacoma, possibly a good receiver for an engine swap

Even though the 2nd-generation Toyota Tacoma actually looks good compared to the Hilux Vigo that was released around the same time, the absence of a Diesel engine rendered its appeal quite restricted to a smaller amount of export markets. Surprisingly, it had a grey-market presence even in Paraguay where Diesel-powered truck are usually prefered, which may suggest a Diesel engine swap could be considered. While the 1KD-FTV or the 2KD-FTV fitted to the Hilux Vigo could seem to be the best for a cleaner and more factory-look install, or even the modest 5L-E still could serve for a focus on a more extreme reliability even with poorer-quality fuel, other options such as the Cummins ISF2.8 and the R2.8 may be an interesting alternative too. Larger and heavier engines such as the Cummins B4.5 could also serve, but would be likely to require upgrades to the frame.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Ford Del Rëy, the Brazilian makeshift visually inspired on the European Granada

Brazil is not for beginners, and it's been that way for a long time. Among those Brazilian somewhat hard-to-explain features, the car market with its long-time distortions which remain in effect even nowadays has led to the emergence of models such as the Ford Del Rëy, which was an attempt to take the outdated Renault R12 platform which had been license-made by Ford as the Corcel since late-60s and use it as some sort of replacement for the ill-fated Maverick. Even though it was arguable that the Maverick platform would serve better for something more upscale than the Corcel by then, Ford was having a hard time to justify its Brazilian operation and not so keen to make any risky investment, so it seemed easier to concentrate on a higher-volume platform and engine range to eventually increase the chance to such an interim model developed in an economically-challenging period to succeed. Sure the extremely restricted market in Brazil from '76 to '90 favored such a makeshift. Due to another condition unique to the Brazilian market, a 2-door version outsold the 4-door one for a large margin, so a 4-door in a pristine condition is a rare sight nowadays.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Should ABS brakes become mandatory on small-displacement motorcycles in South America?

Motorcycles are often used not only for leisure in South America as they are in North America, being also a popular workhorse and daily commuter. For such reason, small-displacement models are quite widespread, with the Honda CG 160 retaining the sales leadership in the Brazilian market with nearly 30% of the total sales volume of new motorcycles in 2019. With so many motorcycles often fulfilling the role of a small car for its owners all year-round regardless of weather and other conditions which may increase the risk of an accident, it's surprising to figure out ABS brakes which are mandated for all the new cars sold in Brazil since 2014 are neglected on motorcycles with a displacement below 300cc for which the so-called "CBS" (combined brake system) applying both brakes simultaneously even if the rider selects either the front brake lever or the rear brake pedal is allowed instead. It might be a matter of concern that so many customers still opt for simpler versions such as the Honda CG 160 Start which has front and rear mechanically-actuated drum brakes, effectively impossible to fit ABS while a single-channel system can be applied on hydraulic brakes such as the front single disc used in the CG 160 Fan for example.
Besides the usages for light cargo and personal transportation, in some cities there is also a moto-taxi service which highlights the overall utility of the motorcycle in a context of urban mobility that might not be neglected. The increased demand for small-displacement motorcycles not only for private uses due to their lower price and running cost compared to a car, either a jalopy or something newer, it's a matter of concern that safety is not being taken so seriously under the false premise of economy while accidents take a toll of deaths and injuries at a higher cost compared to what an eventual mandate of ABS brakes at least on the front wheel of motorcycles below 300cc instead of the mostly uneffective CBS could represent. Considering a similar measure already implemented in Thailand and Indonesia for 125cc motorcyles, where a front disc with ABS became the standard for the small-displacement motorcycles even though the rod-actuated rear drum brake remains due to budget reasons, a similar approach wouldn't make the price of new motorcycles skyrocket in Brazil and other regional markets as it could sound at a first glance, not only due to the simpler hardware compared to the fitment of discs all-around with dual-channel ABS but also due to the economics of scale on models already available with either front drum or front disc according to the trim.

It's worth to notice the Brazilian Honda Biz 125 which is mechanically-related to the overseas Super Cub C125, but despite the more modern appearance it lacks the much-desirable front ABS brake that could be especially beneficial for its public that often includes unexperienced novice riders who look at a small motorcycle mostly due to the urban mobility aspect which is somewhat deficitary in thrird-world countries. Even though the economics of scale could dictate switching from the current 220mm front brake disc similar in size to its foreign counterpart, eventually changing to the 240mm disc with ABS now fitted to the front wheel of the Honda XRE 190 which on a sidenote is fitted with a 220mm disc rear brake without ABS, there is not so much of a valid excuse to neglect the need for increased safety on small-displacement motorcycles throughout South America, and even a single-channel ABS would greatly improve this aspect considering the highest load while braking is usually applied to the front brake. Trying to retain a "premium" aura surrounding the ABS brakes restricting it to something that could be seen as more aspirational for the average small-displacement motorcycle buyer in South America is pointless when there is technical and financial viability to increase its availability.

It's also worth to take a look at how electronic fuel injection went mainstream in Brazil, to the point that even the most stripped-down Brazilian Honda which is the Pop 110i features it despite keeping the kick-starter and resorting to a low-fuel warning light as a replacement for the 3-stage fuel tap of its carburettor-fed predecessor instead of switching to a more accurate fuel level indicator. EFI used to be seen as rocket-science, and in some parts of Argentina even nowadays it's not unusual to replace it with a carburettor in case of failure, but it has surpassed initial concerns regarding the maintenance cost and reliability through the time and doesn't require an excessive detuning to an engine which has an inherently low output in order to keep the compliance to the stricter emission standards enforced. Even though an introduction of ABS brakes to entry-level motorcycles could be seen as frightening due to the greater complexity and initial costs, it's impossible to neglect the example of how EFI has once proven its suitability to replace a simpler and cheaper carburettor to the point of not displacing other low-budget approaches such as the kick-start and low-fuel warning light while other resources could seem to be an obvious addition.

Monday, April 20, 2020

2011 Honda CG 150 with a high front fender and knobby tyres

The popularity of the Honda CG range in Brazil makes it highly sought after not only in big cities but also in the countryside, even though a dual-purpose "dirt bike" motorcycle could cope better with the rural environment. No wonder in some smaller towns it's possible to see them upfitted with a high-mounted front fender which prevent mud to stuck between it and the front tyre, and knobby tyres for enhanced traction on rough surfaces. Drum brakes are also often favored by some rural customers, as it looks more protected from damages which can be caused by debris.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Chevrolet Tracker: one-size-fits-all that could actually work

With the SUV craze on a worldwide level, GM phasing out the operations on RHD markets seems to be an enormous mistake, considering the new Chevrolet Tracker and its suitability to many different markets. Currently made in China and Brazil, it's available only with gasoline-powered 3-cylinder turbocharged engines ranging from 1.0L to 1.3L in China and flexfuel ones with a similar layout in 1.0L and 1.2L versions in Brazil. Even though it caters mostly to emerging markets, while in other regions left behind by GM such as Europe and Australia where fancier SUVs with a higher degree of sophistication would seem more desirable, the downsized engines which may be taken with a grain of salt by some traditional customers could benefit from lower tax brackets usually enforced in Europe.
The absence of 4-wheel drive versions could be considered a downside in markets such as Australia and South Africa, where the pereceived ruggedness and off-roading ability have been a valuable asset due to the harsh environment, despite the higher riding height being often enough to captivate a lot of former buyers of sedans and station-wagons. The strict right-hand drive requirement in those markets could seem to not justify the development of versions with such configuration due to the low sales of new Chevrolet (and Holden for Australia and New Zealand) vehicles there and in Thailand or India, but it's also worth to remind the Thai initiatives toward lower emissions favoring the downsizing and a more widespread use of ethanol. The increased demand for SUVs in India, where FCA shifted its strategy to concentrate efforts on the Jeep brand while retiring the mainstream Fiat models, would've been another good reason to consider an introduction of the Chevrolet Tracker there, also considering the still strong demand for manual transmissions in that market as a factor which could make it easier to incorporate a turbodiesel option. Even if it would've sound like a waste of time and resources to develop from scratch only for the Indian market a turbodiesel small enough to fit into an engine bay where 3-cylinder gassers are featured, outsourcing from local companies such as Greaves Cotton which currently manufactures a 1.0L 2-cylinder and a 1.5L 3-cylinder wouldn't be a bad approach.

After being the standard to be followed by non-American automakers which were still looking for a global foothold, GM has fallen due to some management errors which included an excessive focus on SUVs when they were nothing but an excuse to circumvent emission and fuel-efficiency regulations at its American domestic market. Ironically, the best way to recover would've been exploiting the way other markets also embraced the SUV bandwagon, even though body and engine size might still play a more relevant role regarding a wider acceptance among customers with a more traditional profile. So, even though it's quite underestimated and confined to LHD emerging markets, the Chevrolet Tracker still had the potential to save a global foothold for GM.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

3 reasons to still like the VW Kombi

Hate it or love it, the Kombi has set its footprint on the roads of history. From simple utilitarian roots which evolved to a cult-following associated with other rear-engined Volkswagens, there is no way to deny its significance and how it influenced other vehicles with a similar bodystyle despite they often featuring a different engine position and driveline layout. Among so many reasons why it's still one of the nicest vehicles ever, at least 3 can be easily highlighted.

1 - one size fits all: with a relatively small footprint, the Kombi provides enough space for many commercial duties while also being suitable to serve as a family hauler or to provide better accomodation than a camping tent;

2 - good traction on harsh terrain despite being 2WD only: the engine compartment may become a clearance issue while attemptint to load a Kombi from behind, but the rear-engine and rear-wheel drive layout keeps the weight bias more concentrated around the drive axle under most of the load conditions, enhancing its grip on some challenging routes;

3 - simple mechanics: its air-cooled engine with a gear-driven valvetrain has few parts which can get worn out and need a replacement along the extended useful life, and the absence of a liquid cooling system leads to fewer concerns regarding suitability to go through different weather conditions;

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Beetle-engined Simca 8

This beauty used to belong to an uncle of mine who has bought it in late 2007 or early 2008, I don't remember so clearly. It's a 1950 Simca 8 body rebuilt around a Volkswagen Beetle chassis with the wheelbase shortened. The fuel tank cap on the left side of the split front bonnet was adapted from a Honda CG 125 motorcycle, with the fuel tank being mounted in a longitudinal position just like the stock engine used to be, in opposite to the transverse position of the tank when it's fitted to the Beetle. With the engine now mounted where there used to be the trunk, and the lack of openings to improve the air flow for both intake and cooling, it may seem surprising not only that such mods were fairly common in Brazil but also that they actually worked. It could seem to be just a desperate makeshift attempt to keep an old French jalopy running when stock replacements were scarce due to some import restrictions during the '70s and '80s, but considering the endeavour to replace a front-engined ladder-frame for the Volkswagen platform required a good bit of craftsmanship that is unfortunately gone nowadays...

Friday, March 27, 2020

5 cars that I would eventually consider retrofitting a single-cylinder 250cc motorcycle engine

At a first glance, it may seem that a 250cc single-cylinder out of some motorcycle developed for an emerging market, such as the Yamaha XTZ 250 Lander or the Honda CB Twister, could be unsuitable to a car. Sure it may not be a perfect one-size-fits-all approach, but under some circumstances it can be a reasonable and cost-effective option. At least 5 cars could actually be quite interesting with one of such engines in case their original powerplants become damaged beyond repair.

1 - Volkswagen Beetle: even though its basic engine layout is considered nearly indestructible, and has remained nearly unchanged through its entire production run, nowadays the cost of replacement parts skyrocketed due to all the posers who just want an ancient car for showing-off, not to mention all the witch-hunting against internal-combustion engines that also tends to target ancient vehicles. So a small motorcycle engine, which may often provide performance levels comparable to an early 1200 Beetle engine, may cater both to those who still rely on one as a daily commuter or even a handful of collectors who would be forced to upgrade to an engine certified on a more strict emission regulation. On a sidenote, the lower weight of a 250cc thumper might open way to move the battery from under the rear seat to the engine bay, keeping the weight bias closer to stock while also decreasing the risk of a short-circuit which could happen when some metallic component of the seat structure touches the poles of the battery;

2 - Asia Motors Towner: the Korean microvan which was a licensed derivative of the Daihatsu HiJet used to be quite popular on some export markets such as my homeland Brazil, where its imports were finished in '99 due to the bankruptcy of Asia Motors, even though Kia resumed its production for a while. Replacements became scarce, rendering the model subjected to many adaptations in order to enable an extended useful life. With so many of the engines usually retrofitted to them being heavier than the stock 0.8L 3-cylinder, presumably a 250cc single-cylinder out of a motorcycle can decrease the impact over the weight bias. It may also be possible to resort to an aftermarket reversing gear usually fitted to motorcycles converted into tricycles instead of working around to keep both the transmission integrated to the replacement engine and the stock one from the vehicle undergoing the repower, due to the front-mid engine and rear-wheel drive layout;

3 - Suzuki Samurai: the small Jeep-like rig has actually been available with many different engines, including some naturally-aspirated ones within the 550cc displacement range formerly enforced for the Kei cars in Japan that could be seen as somewhat underpowered, so a modern 250cc motorcycle engine is not so likely to become effectively unsuitable for a swap. Due to the 4-wheel drive, even if the motorcycle engine could be coupled to a reversing gear, it would require the output delivered to the transfer case instead of directly to the rear axle. That said, unless it also gets converted to 2-wheel drive only;

4 - Renault Dauphine/Gordini: not so widespread as the Beetle, but with a similar rear-wheel drive and rear longitudinally-mounted engine configuration, it could eventually fare better than the Beetle with a 250cc repowering. Its stock water-cooled 0.85L Ventoux engine is also harder to find parts, so it makes even more sense to consider a swap, even though it wouldn't make so much sense to do so if the vehicle is in a mint condition, also considering the possibility to fit other Renault engines;

5 - Gurgel Supermini: this Brazilian attempt to replace the Beetle resorted to a front-mounted 0.8L water-cooled flat-twin engine and rear-wheel drive, resorting to a 50-50 weight bias transferring most of the weight closer to the rear axle while loaded either partially or fully, increasing its traction even in harsh terrain conditions without the need for 4-wheel drive. Replacement parts for its stock engine are getting quite scarce, especially the crankshaft, even though it's been reported that half a Beetle crankshaft can be repurposed to serve it, and then an engine swap becomes a nearly obvious approach. However, most of the engines retrofitted are heavier and longer, moving the weight bias to become heavier at the front axle. Since a 250cc motorcycle engine tends to be lighter, it may decrease the side-effect observed in other engine swaps more prevalent in this model.