Monday, August 01, 2016

Decomissioned dedicated-ethanol Kombi ambulance turned into a donuts stand

This used to be a Brazilian Volkswagen Kombi that had been converted into an ambulance when it was still brand-new, then donated to the Santa Casa de Misericórdia (Holy House of Mercy) medical center in my hometown. The company that donated the Kombi was involved on illegal gambling scams and got bankrupt, and then it couldn't be registered for traffic on public roads, so it spent its 20 years only doing short runs from the hospitals of the Santa Casa's compound to its morgue.
The extra filler cap on the left side, set lower and further back comparing to the right-side one, was due to the small auxiliary tank that held gasoline for cold starts. Now it has no engine, so it wouldn't even justify being called a food-truck, but became quite attractive as a donuts stand.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Why did turbocharging and direct injection not become so widespread in the hybrid cars?

I'm not really so excited about hybrid cars, but there's something about them that really caught my attention recently. Since the main motivations that have driven some people toward the hybrids were expectations of an increased fuel-efficiency and lower emissions, why did some strategies on their way to become mainstream for non-hybrids such as turbocharging and direct injection not find their way into most of the hybrids out there? Maybe we could take a look at the Ford Fusion and its European equivalent, the Mondeo, since the engine options for them has so many distinct options even though not all of them but the gasoline-powered 2.0L Ecoboost seem to be available throughout all the markets where it's available, either badged as Fusion or Mondeo. There is a 3-cyl 1.0L Ecoboost catering mostly to Europe, a 4-cyl 1.5L Ecoboost which finds its way nearly everywhere but South America, the above-mentioned 2.0L Ecoboost, and a recently-introduced 2.7L V6 Ecoboost for North American markets, all of them gasoline-powered and fitted with turbocharger and direct injection. The only naturally-aspirated engines available are the 2.5L Duratec in gasoline and flexfuel gasoline/ethanol versions and the 2.0L Duratec in a gasoline-powered version fitted to the hybrid versions of the Fusion for the Americas and the Mondeo for Europe, both using a regular sequential, indirect, port-injection. Regarding the 2.5L which is actually meant as an entry-level engine in spite of its displacement that would make it liable to higher taxes in some markets and tollerates better some lower-grade fuels the port-injection is not so pointless at all, but when it comes to the hybrid wasn't it at least supposed to benefit from the new trends that have been improving the fuel-efficiency of non-hybrids? In real-world conditions it doesn't seem so accurate at all...
A pratical advantage of a turbocharged engine that would benefit people who use their vehicles in locations above the mean sea level is their lower performance loss at higher altitudes, whereas a naturally-aspirated hybrid wouldn't be initially supposed to provide some sort of altitude compensation. However, the combined output of both the internal-combustion engine and the electric motor is usually lower than the numerical sum of their individual power and torque figures, and can set automatically to a higher proportion of the electric power in such conditions while the gasoline-powered engine would still be able to drive the on-board generator even at a lower power due to the lower concentration of oxygen in the air at the lower pressure associated to a higher altitude. With the vehicle motion starting in electric mode by default, the driver is probably not going to even notice such a difference in performance regardless if it's on the beach or in the mountains. On the other hand, the port-injection in conjunction to the "Atkinson effect" provided by a longer intake valve timing can actually provide some mild enhancement to the density of the mass air flow and therefore increase its oxygen concentration. The intake valve timing duration extending into the beginning of the compression stroke, in order to make it effectively shorter than the power stroke, leaves some air/fuel mix to return to the intake manifold where the gasoline vapours are going to cool the charge air much like an intercooler would do in a turbocharged engine. There is also a reduction in the effective compression ratio which, by its way, decreases the aerodynamic heating inside the combustion chambers and therefore leads to a lower amount of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) being generated. Since the gasoline also vapourizes more accurately than in a direct-injection which has the gasoline atomized into droplets but still in liquid phase, the surface area in contact with the oxygen in the air is increased, leading to a more complete combustion. Oily vapours admitted through the positive crankcase ventilation are also dilluted more effectively by the gasoline when it's port-injected instead of directly-injected, becoming also easier to burn accurately, which seems to match the "sustainability" approach surrouding the hybrid car market.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Kombi Lotação: a Brazilian-exclusive version with 6 front-hinged doors

It's not unusual for people who never went to Brazil to rely on misconceptions about local variants of the classic air-cooled Volkswagen models, such as the Transporter which is more known locally just as "Kombi" regardless of version, including the pick-ups and panel vans. Some even presume that this 6-door version known as "lotação" (Brazilian Portuguese for "jitney", "share-taxi" or "marshrutka") was the rule instead of an exception. Well, while having all the doors hinged upfront, and even some offside passenger doors, became a desirable feature for the share-taxi service, it would actually become unfavorable to load or unload bulky objects when the vehicle had the rear seat rows removed and was used to haul cargo. Therefore, the Kombi Lotação had quite a limited market share compared to the regular model fitted with the split curbside door.

The 6-door "lotação" trim lasted until early-'80s when the Brazilian Kombi had already undergone the facelift that led to the introduction of the single-piece windshield and started to become outfavored by municipal administrations that started pushing minibuses as the standard for the share-taxi service. A T2b "bay-window" Kombi Lotação, since is less sought after by collectors, might have become even rarer than a split-window by now. It was quite a surprise for me to spot this '77-'78 one in my neighborhood a few months ago, currently used by a construction contractor. It was quite derelict, missing some door handles and the running boards, but still working.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Polauto Pagus, an old Volkswagen-based kit-car from my hometown

Volkswagen-based kit-cars held some popularity in Brazil when imports were restricted from mid-'70s until '90, and the Polauto Pagus was an option for those who wanted a small double-cab pick-up truck. Made in Porto Alegre, the fiberglass body was attached to a Volkswagen Type-3, usually a Variant. It could initially sound a little pointless, especially considering that a T2 Transporter pick-up was already available with double-cab option and offered a bigger cargo area, but the Pagus and other similar models were aimed at those customers who were looking to stand out of the crowd when an imported car was nearly impossible to obtain in a legal way, and more leisure-oriented than a Transporter which was still regarded as a workhorse. Another factor that led it to reach some popularity back in the days was the lower licensing tax for pick-up trucks when José Sarney was the president of Brazil. The canopy over the load bay was an aftermarket accessory.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Karmann-Ghia TC

Made exclusively in Brazil, the '70-'75 Typ-145 Karmann-Ghia TC (Touring Coupé) is not so known among air-cooled Volkswagen fans all around the world as the early Typ-14 and the Typ-34 are. Basically it was a local counterpart to the Typ-34 and had a more conservative design more suitable to Brazilian tastes at the time, even resembling more the Typ-3 TL than the Typ-34 Karmann-Ghia. The 1600 engine with axial cooling fan and two single-barrel downdraft carburettors allowed it to incorporate the dual-trunk feature, while the longer roof provided a little more headroom for back-seat passengers, making it also more practical.
I used to see this '74 light tan Karmann-Ghia TC regularly when I resettled in my hometown in 2008. Apart from the aftermarket sunroof and the absence of the original hubcaps, it was in a great shape for a 34-years old car, especially considering that many of the same model had already succumbed to rust at that time.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Beetle-based Brazilian strange-looking show-car

The Volkswagen Beetle's platform seems to provide an unmatched versatility that led to its popularity for beach-buggies, sportscar replicas, and so many other projects. This one, specifically, was displayed at a supermarket in my hometown some years ago, while being used to advertise loudspeakers and other sound system components.
The body was made out of fiberglass-reinforced plastic, which allowed the quite complex shape, and resembled the proportions of the classic British roadsters with a long front and a set-back cockpit right above the rear axle. It was not roadworthy, but still definitely attracted a lot of attention and that's what really matters for a marketing tool anyway...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

4-door Brazilian Type-3 Volkswagens

With a short production run from '68 to '70, the Volkswagen 1600 4 portas (4-door in Portuguese) was meant as an option for those who praised the simple mechanics of the traditional Volkswagen Beetle but required the practicality of a 4-door bodystyle, such as taxi drivers. However, the square design led to the nickname "Zé do Caixão" (Coffin Joe), in a reference to the filmmaker José Mojica Marins. Another nickname for the model was "saboneteira", soap-dish in Portuguese. The door handles were pointed to resemble the handles used to carry a coffin too. This one in the pictures is a '69 and had been subjected to some alterations, most notably the '99-'02 Ford Fiesta wheelcovers and the Chevrolet Opala "donkey ass" taillights.

More successful was the Volkswagen 1600 TL, with a production run from '70 to '76 and also available in a 2-door bodystyle, more favored by the Brazilian market than the 4-door at the time. TL standed for "Touring Luxe", but it was often nicknamed "Tereza Louca" (Mad Thereza). The low-profile engine cooling fan allowed it to have two luggage compartments, one in the front and the other above the engine bay.
In spite of the limited availability in the Brazilian market, where the 4-door TL catered mostly to taxi drivers, police forces and a few government offices, it was a valuable asset for Volkswagen in regional export markets in other South American countries. This derelict TL is a '74 model. Introduction of the Passat to the Brazilian market in that very same year led to some fierce competition for the TL.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Brazilian Chevrolet D-10 with an aftermarket crew-cab conversion and a wooden flatbed

Brazilian versions of the Chevy full-size trucks had some very specific features. Automatic transmissions and V8 engines were never offered on them, relying on the Stovebolt Six as the base engine for most of their production run, except for a brief period between the '70s and '80s when the 4-cylinder 153cu.in. and subsequently the 151cu.in. Iron Duke were offered as a desperate attempt to save fuel after the oil crisis. For those who prefered a Diesel engine, the Perkins 4-236 was carried over from the 1st generation to the 2nd generation (which is related to the American 3rd generation), and remained the only engine option for the D-10, D-20 and D-40 (as the Diesel equivalents to the C-10, C-20 and C-40 were officially named in Brazil) until getting replaced by a Maxion engine in early '90s. The D-10 in the picture above is from the 1st generation, which had a more conservative design compared to its American counterpart. The crew-cab was an aftermarket conversion and retained the 2-door layout, despite the lack of practicality brought with this choice.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

SR Ibiza, a Brazilian equivalent to the Ford E-Series

From mid-50's to early-90's, the van market in Brazil was dominated by Volkswagen to a point that competition was virtually wiped out during that period. However, independent coachbuilders offered vans based in truck platforms from Ford and Chevrolet with fiberglass bodies. Among the models based in the Ford F-Series, the SR Ibiza was highlighted by its design. Unlike other models that looked more like a copy of the American Ford E-Series, the Ibiza looked less boxy with a slightly more rounded and elongated nose. The tailgate is a hatch-type, instead of the barn-door prevalent in American vans, following a trend prevalent in European and Asian passenger vans at that time. Engine and transmission options were much restricted to what was available for the Ford F-1000, a Brazilian equivalent to the pre-'98 F-250, basically a 6-cylinder gasser and a locally-sourced MWM 4-cylinder Diesel either naturally-aspirated or turbocharged, and only manual transmissions.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Ford Mondeo Mk.2 station-wagon with fender mirrors

Though they're an usual feature in older Japanese cars, and still popular in certain commercial vehicles in Japan, it's not usual to find Western cars not meant to be exported to Japan fitted with fender-mounted mirrors, like this Ford Mondeo Mk.2 station-wagon with Argentinian plates. However, as it retained the door-mounted mirrors, the fender-mounted ones can be optimized to eliminate blind spots resorting to convex lenses.