Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Brazilian Ford Pampa 4WD

One of the Brazilian derivatives of the Renault 12, which was already scheduled to be manufactured in Brazil when the local branches of Ford and Willys-Overland merged in '67, the Ford Pampa was made from '82 to '97 is more often found on the same front-wheel drive layout of the Ford Corcel (Stallion in Portuguese), yet a now very rare 4WD option had been offered from '84 to '95 always with Ford's own spec of the 1.6L Renault Cléon-Fonte engine named CHT and more often ethanol-powered instead of gasoline-powered. Exclusive to the Pampa 4X4 was the dual-tank fuel system, with the main fuel tank placed midship under the loading bay floor and a secondary after the rear axle, each other with its own filling cap. While the standard tank had its filling cap right behind the driver's door, the secondary had it closer to the rear-end. Usually the main tank was only removed when a Pampa underwent some dual-cab conversions which were quite popular in Brazil, in order to clear room for passengers' feet in a rear bench seat when a raised roof section and taller mounting brackets for the seat were not fitted, yet this one caught my attention for retaining the regular-cab while only the rear filling cap was at its place. The differential housing and the rear wheels with clearance for the more salient hubs fitted only to the 4WD left no doubt, even though the front wheels were the same standard fitted to front-wheel drive versions. Unlike larger 4WD trucks which used to be rear-wheel drive by default and resorted to a transfer case, the Pampa 4X4 had the rear axle driven through a power take-off at the 4-speed manual transmission, which had been retained along the CHT engine even after other versions became available with a 1.8L Volkswagen-sourced EA827 engine and 5-speed transmission.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Honda CG 160 with a scrambler-themed customization

This beauty may look as it had been from the '70s or early '80s, even with drum brakes all around, but that's not the case. As the Honda CG is bread-and-butter for Honda in the Brazilian market, it's actually no surprise some examples feature interesting custom jobs, which usually enhance its appearance to the point the humble and strictly utilitarian appeal of a stock model become barely recognisable at a first glance. This one specifically featuring drum brakes all-around suggests it may be even based on the entry-level version CG 160 Start, yet the CBS brake was retained despite the front torque plate being of an earlier model in order to provide a mechanical feedback for the analog speedometer fitted to instead of the digital instrument cluster which was factory-fitted. It's worth to remind mechanical drum brakes are often still favored on harsh environmental conditions by some riders, who see hydraulic disc brakes as more prone to damage by debris on unpaved pathways. Knobby tyres enhance the classical scrambler appearance, even though the exhaust with a low-hanging muffler doesn't seem to match the off-road appeal so effectively from a more orthodox perspective. But one thing that definitely cannot be said about this beauty is to claim it lacks personality to get highlighted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The example of the Fiat Strada and why a compact car-based bakkie should be taken seriously

Small coupé-utilities based on the same underpinnings of any assortment of small cars available, such as the Fiat Strada which remains extremely successful in Brazil, may be not always taken seriously as a commercial vehicle, yet their convenience for inner-city small freight compared to their larger and more traditional body-on-frame counterparts is quite hard to ignore. The higher degree of parts commonality with basic runabouts, even though being often mistaken for "weakness" as if they did not also have to overcome the harsh riding conditions usually encountered in 3rd-world countries, is another highlighted aspect due to the lower overall costs of ownership throughout the useful operating life of a bakkie. Even though most economy cars nowadays feature front-wheel drive, which may sound detrimental for cargo duties at a first glance as the weight bias changes drastically according to the load, this does not prevent this segment from becoming a mainstay of the commercial vehicles market not only in Brazil but also to regional export destinations.
Popularity of bakkies as a personal vehicle dictated the need for improvements to the cabins, noticeably the option for extended or crew-cabs even among the car-based ones, allowing a single model to fare as a versatile tool not only for work and extending their capabilities to address a diversified array of needs and subjective preferences. A more compact layout enhancing inner-city maneuvering on tight spaces is another valuable asset for daily commuting, while some off-road themed models such as the Fiat Strada Adventure cater to customers who look at a bakkie not only for utility, but also to the image associated to the vehicles as more capable and rugged than an ordinary no-frills hatchback. Even though the small coupé-utilities retain most of the technical features of whatever runabout they happen to be based on, to the point of a seemingly gutless engine making its way even along the fanciest trim such as when the Fiat Strada had been supplied to South Africa with the 1.4L Fire engine combined with the Adventure trim instead of the 1.8L ones fitted to their equivalents meant for sale in Brazil, bakkies may often still be perceived as inherently more prestigious.
In a world where "multitasking" is highly sought after, it's no surprise the compact car market also had to provide a similar approach covering the greatest possible amount of needs and occasional wishes of buyers who would be otherwise unable to settle for either an affordable-to-own runabout or the bakkie they perceive as more attractive. And even though the Chicken Tax is more effective to repel the small car-based coupé-utilities in general from the American market than EPA/CAFE and NHTSA regulations would, their classification as commercial vehicles also often leads to occasional advantages pertaining to the displacement-biased taxations which are harsher over conventional cars in markets such as Brazil and most of Europe. Despite being often mocked for not being "real trucks", due to the unibody layout in contrast to a body-on-frame, compact car-based bakkies prove their point and should definitely be taken more seriously, eventually as an option to those Chinese low-quality copies of the Suzuki Carry available even in the United States as "off-road only" vehicles.

Friday, April 09, 2021

1st-generation Honda CG 125 turned into scrambler

Popularity of the Honda CG 125 in Brazil since its 1st generation is no surprise, due to the ruggedness of the OHV engine it featured. Even though this engine had already been phased out by Honda, there is a widely-available aftermarket support, catering not only to those who still resort to its utilitarian aspect but also to its enthusiasts who look at a CG 125 as a reliable base for custom modifications such as this scrambler.
The shorter and straight exhaust pipe with its end raising higher, usual on motorcycles aiming to a more off-road operation, is one of the features easier to spot on a scrambler, along the slightly higher front mudguard which is also more open to the sides in order to not trap so much mud and debris. Since many enthusiasts of the scrambler style actually ride their motorcycles on paved pathways, changes to the suspension and the usage of knobby tyres in order to improve off-road ability may not be present, not to mention the dependability of the early Honda CG 125 which rendered it popular even in rural areas.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Brazilian DKW-Vemag Fissore

Based on the very same chassis of the DKW F94 made under license in Brazil by Vemag, the Fissore had a more upscale approach targetting the imports. Made from '64 to '67 when Vemag merged with the Brazilian branch of Volkswagen, this model had low production figures despite its then-modern look and the simple underpinnings which led to an ease of maintenance. Unlike the German DKW F102 which resorted to an unibody structure and evolved into the Audi F103, the Brazilian Fissore didn't get a direct replacement within the local Volkswagen range, even though a few had been repowered with Volkswagen EA827 and Renault Cléon-Fonte engines.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Could the Brazilian Chevrolet Corsa Pick-Up/Opel Corsa Utility have been compliant with American regulations?

It's no surprise the Opel Corsa B had a considerable popularity, including its Chevrolet derivatives from Brazil and Mexico which were available in most of Latin America and even in Africa and Middle East, but none of its versions had ever been available in the United States and Canada. When it comes to regulations, which may be quite stricter and expensive to get the EPA, DOT and NHTSA certifications, all those Suzuki and Daewoo rebadges have shown it would not be so pointless to consider the Corsa. When it comes to engines, at least the 1.6L one which used to be the only option in Brazil and Mexico had some versions of the same Family 1 engine range EPA-certified for other models during its entire production run. Not even the preference for automatic transmissions in the United States or the Chicken Tax should've prevented it to catch some attention from American customers, as some versions of the Corsa with other bodystyles had automatic transmission available as optional equipment and Mexican assembly could enable it to circumvent the Chicken Tax through the NAFTA. And also considering the GM4200 platform served as the underpinnings for models meant to developed markets such as Europe, Japan and Australia, even though their safety regulations are not the same as the ones enforced by the NHTSA, the 2-seating configuration could've made it easier to certify the Corsa Pick-Up in the United States than the hatchback or even the sedan bodystyles.

Monday, March 08, 2021

How did Fiat get it so right with the Argo?

It may seem quite pointless in Europe, but the Fiat Argo was launched in 2017 as the replacement for both the Punto and Palio in Latin America while also attempting to fill the gap left by the absence of the current generation of the Fiat Tipo in countries such as Brazil where it's made. Besides the "emerging" approach similar to how the Fiat Palio used to be positioned in markets outside Western Europe, a need to compete both in the Brazilian "popular" segment and remain somewhat attractive for customers who would be more inclined toward the next size class for which Fiat was left without a contender in Brazil after the Bravo got phased out demanded its design to not appear of a much lower cost than the larger European Tipo. Engine selection also had to include a 1.0L option for Brazil, with the 3-cylinder variant of the Global Small Engine (GSE a.k.a. FireFly) which shares the basic design features with the 4-cyl 1.3L offered as the base engine in regional export markets such as Argentina and Chile, with the top of the range featuring the E.torQ in a 1.8L variant. Fiat is often pointed out in Brazil as more "specialized" in small economy cars since it started local production in '76, not being so much of a strong contender in more prestigious segments, then it's quite understandable why it decided to concentrate efforts on this stopgap model catering to regional needs. Even though the one-size-fits-all approach may not usually be so effective when it comes to the automotive market, Fiat got it right with the Argo because it doesn't look impoverished for an entry-level model (disconsidering smaller offerings in the Brazilian Fiat range which are too compromised regarding design and interior space), while an "emerging" approach doesn't effectively prevent it from being suitable to some customers with a more conservative profile within the segment immediately above who considered a downsizing in order to adjust their budgets in the middle of some disastrous economic policies which were implemented not only in Brazil but in neighboring countries too.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

2nd-generation Honda CG 125 with a café-racer themed custom trim

One of those no-frills utilitarian motorcycles which used to be quite widespread in developing countries such as Brazil, the second generation of the Honda CG 125 is getting more appreciation than it used to get until a few years ago when only the earlier model effectively started to become more sought after by collectors. While it may not seem to attract so many enthusiasts for its plain utilitarian design, resorting to the very same rugged engine makes it an interesting option for a custom job without any compromise to its functionality. And honestly, the café-racer style fits it right.

Friday, February 05, 2021

5 engines that would be interesting to swap into a RWD-converted Subaru Impreza

Even though much of Subaru's marketing nowadays has been associated with the boxer/flat engine and the all-wheel drive, its mechanics are not the easiest to struggle with. Even considering how the AWD may be a good sales point for the off-road themed XV/Crosstrek trim, which is the only available with the hatchback bodystyle in my country nowadays, it not being usually taken to serious off-roading may render such feature effectively useless for the average Joe. And honestly, due to the longitudinal engine position which is a must for a boxer, it may sound tempting to replace it with something else while also converting to rear-wheel drive only. I would at least take a look at 5 engines if I were going to do such:

1 - Cummins ISF2.8/R2.8: as it caters to Asian utility vehicles with engine bays quite cramped, even though a rear-wheel drive setup would also be required to ease the task of overcoming clearence issues in a Subaru, the Cummins ISF2.8 or its aftermarket-oriented R2.8 derivative available in the United States and Canada would be among my possible choices. I am quite partial to Diesels, and since the R2.8 is meant as an option to the gasoline-powered ubiquitous small-block V8 engines more frequently swapped into nearly everything, it seems quite down-to-earth compared to other engines which would require major structural changes to allow a clean-looking installation;

2 - Chevrolet small-block V8: an engine that nearly everyone loves. Either some first-generation one or the latest designs with some newer tech incorporated, the relatively compact packaging makes it a cost-effective option for high output;

3 - Nissan TB48DE: this straight-six masterpiece, which currently has a limited availability along the Y61 Nissan Patrol, has a strong aftermarket scene in the Middle East. Even though it usually has a quite conservative tune, turbocharging and other tuning allow it to exceed 1000hp with some reliability;

4 - Toyota 1GR-FE: not exactly a favorite of mine, but it also has some aftermarket support overseas which is also interesting when it comes to a performance enhancement. Toyota being a stakeholder on Fuji Heavy Industries also makes it sound more reasonable at all;

5 - Chrysler Hemi Hellcat: one of the most exciting engines in recent times, sure the Hellcat would be a good option too.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Why going too sophisticated for a light-duty turbodiesel engine while a medium-duty follows a seemingly simpler approach?

The availability of a 3.0L straight-6 turbodiesel with a chain-driven DOHC valvetrain in the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, holding the distiction of being the sole powerplant available officially in some export markets such as Paraguay, has led to questions such as why not going bigger in displacement in order to keep a simpler (and presumably cheaper-to-manufacture) configuration. The usual marketing approach, highlighting features such as towing capacity, may eventually justify some interest on technical features of engines fitted to medium-duty trucks such as the Brazilian Volkswagen Constellation 23-230 with its 4-cylinder 4.6L MAN D0834 engine which often has to deal with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than the gross combined weight of a Silverado coupled to a trailer at its maximum tow rating. There are other aspects to take into account, such as the amount of cylinders being often pointed out as a premium feature even in a lower-displacement engine, and how customers of different segments may expect the power and torque curves to adjust to their effective needs.

While the Duramax LM2 fitted to the Silverado is rated at 277hp at 3750 RPM and 624Nm from 1500 to 3000 RPM, there are conflicting claims for the power and torque figures of the MAN D0834 LOH63, so it may be tempting to consider the LOH64 spec which is compliant to a stricter emissions regulation and has pretty much unchanged ratings even though the peak RPM bands presented are less conflicting with 220hp at 2300 RPM and 850Nm from 1300 to 1800 RPM. It's relevant to notice the magnitude of the differences between peak power and torque RPM which are roughly 63% greater for the Silverado, even though the displacement of the MAN engine is around 53% bigger. Considering the torque output of the Duramax is roughly 73.4% of what is claimed for the D08 in the trim fitted to the Volkswagen, if a 1.63:1 intermediate gear could be fitted at the flywheel of the smaller engine as an attempt to match a similar RPM output the multiplied torque would be around 19% higher at 1016Nm, which sounds quite impressive as the weight difference from the 212kg of the LM2 which is somewhat featherweight when it comes to a turbodiesel to the 510 or 530kg for the D08 which renders it 140 to 150% heavier.

While both engine configurations have their own tradeoffs, how the buying patterns on each segment is more or less willing to accept such issues also plays an important role at the strategy of manufacturers, and then it's understandable that a Silverado gets an aluminium block and chain-driven overhead cams in contrast to the vermicular graphite-iron alloy resorted by MAN which relies on a single gear-driven cam-in-block and overhead valves. It's worth to remind a light-duty truck is weight-sensitive not only due to strictly technical concerns, but also regulatory aspects such as the maximum GVWR allowed for holders of a car driving license and a minimum payload which could be required in order to register a Diesel-powered vehicle in countries such as Brazil unless it's either off-road capable or a minibus. In the end, even though a greater sophistication might seem excessive at a first glance, it's justifiable under some not-so-specific circumstances and actually crucial on more specific ones, and to a lesser extent it may even sound quite tempting to take one step further into the downsizing...