Monday, August 03, 2020

Volkswagen Up taxi: a highlight to some controversial aspects of most taxi regulations in a worldwide basis


Even though the extent of the success of Volkswagen's approach to feature the Up as a replacement for the Beetle is quite arguable, the few times I saw one in taxi livery it obviously reminded me the story of the so-called "táxi mirim" role the Beetle played in some Brazilian cities until it eventually took over a considerable amount of the market share for taxis to ultimately setting a new standard. Sure I would not hold my breath for the same happening with the Up, but its city-oriented design and small size may be a good asset for some taxi operators looking for better maneuverability on tight spaces and fuel economy. The small cabin and limited luggage capacity might become an issue, to which a more conventional taxi usually with a sedan bodystyle addresses more effectively, but it's not totally pointless to consider some minimalist approach which can also be related to the "autorickshaw" or "tuk-tuk" popularity throughout Asia providing some competition to taxis. Under some circumstances, a downsizing may turn into the most effective way to keep operating costs reasonable once the competition becomes fierce from Uber and other new modes of transport service, even though not reaching the same extent of compactness of a "tuk-tuk" for example. So, while it may not defeat a conventional taxi, a smaller car such as the Volkswagen Up might still have its effectiveness for both operator and customer depending on their priorities.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

5 French cars that could have been reasonably served by the Perkins 4-108 engine

It may sound quite strange to suggest an English engine as a good option for a French car due to all the rivalry between France and Great Britain, but it's not so pointless at all. Among the best British engines, the Perkins 4-108 deserves a special status even though automobile applications were not widespread, mostly concentrated on utility vehicles and light-duty vans. Since it was phased out in '92 it would not be available during the production run of some cars I believe it could've been a good fit, but I'm sure it could have lasted long enough to eventually find its way into at least 5 French cars from the '80s to early 2000s...

1 - Peugeot 309: this one had even been assembled in England, so a Perkins engine could not seem so outrageous at all. Sure the gear-driven cam-in-block and 3-bearing crankshaft design would be seen as too outdated compared to the 1769cc XUD7 engine which besides having more 9cc had a belt-driven overhead camshaft and a 5-bearing crankshaft, and also had a noticeably higher torque throughout all the RPM range, not to mention the 1905cc XUD9 which was offered in the 309 too, but when we take a look at the gasoline-powered engines the old Perkins may still fare better than both a 1118cc version of the Simca Poissy engine rechristened as PSA E1A that only started to get better torque than the Perkins after both engines surpassed 4200 RPM which is too close to the 4400 RPM rev limit of the Perkins and means any performance advantage would be negligible through most of the operating of both engines. Even the 1294cc Poissy rechristened as G1A would only beat the 1760cc Perkins 4-108 above 3200 RPM, so for most normal driving circumstances the "agricultural" nature of the Perkins would not be a problem at all;

2 - Citroën ZX: this model has been also made in Spain, where the Perkins 4-108 used to be a popular powerplant for taxis and light-duty utility vehicles, and assembled in Uruguay in a time when Diesel engines were more favored. The agrarian tradition of Uruguay, well-known for its high-quality beef, could be a good excuse to promote a higher acceptance of such a rugged engine which had been fitted to small farm tractors, while the reliance on imported parts would make it quite easy to assimilate the idea of a different engine for some Uruguayan-assembled versions of the Citroën ZX. And even though the Perkins 4-108 would eventually be outperformed by all the gasoline-powered and Diesel engines originally fitted to this model, it would not be absolutely underpowered;

3 - Citroën Xsara: the direct replacement of the Citroën ZX, which relied on the very same platform of its predecessor, among its engines the 1527cc PSA TUD5 was available in some countries where it was favored either due to a lower taxation for Diesel engines up to 1600cc while larger-displacement ones such as the XUD9 and its replacement the 1868cc PSA DW8 were subjected to a higher taxation and some budget-conscious international markets. Even though the TUD5 would need to surpass 4000 RPM in order to catch up to the old Perkins, the seemingly outdated technical features of the 4-108 could make it cost-competitive toward the TUD5 which not only had a 5-bearing crankshaft but also had its OHC head made out of aluminium instead of iron;

4 - Citroën C3 (2nd generation): it's not easy to compare the naturally-aspirated indirect-injection Perkins 4-108 to the turbocharged 1398cc PSA DV4 and the 1560cc DV6 which feature a common-rail electronic direct injection, also subjected to stricter emission requirements than the Perkins would have ever been. However, since both the TUD5 and DW8 engines remained compliant to Euro-3 retaining natural aspiration and indirect injection, it could seem reasonable to expect a slightly improved version of the 4-108 to have succeeded in the same target and still become a good option for countries with a less stringent emissions regulation through the production run of the 2nd-generation C3. Obviously it could not be a fair comparison in regard to performance with the Diesel engines fitted to it, but it would be reasonable to expect it to serve as a good option for those who would prefer a no-frills Diesel instead of both the 1124cc PSA TU1 and the 999cc PSA EB0 which would only overperform the 4-108 above 3800 RPM;

5 - Renault Kangoo (1st generation): with the lowest-grade gasoline-powered engine fitted to it being the 1149cc D7F and the entry-level Diesel option being the 1870cc F8Q with natural aspiration and indirect injection, the Perkins 4-108 could be eventually justifiable in countries such as Uruguay where it was assembled from CKD kits by Nordex under contract until 2002. While the D7F would only outperform the Perkins once it surpassed 4000 RPM, the F8Q actually does it at every RPM, even though the displacement which is 110cc greater and the OHC head clearly give it an advantage.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Brazilian Kombi of an intermediate model


Brazilian Volkswagens often have some differences from their German counterparts, and the Kombi is no exception. Instead of the split-window getting directly replaced by the T2, which is often refered to as "Clipper", there was a facelift made exclusively in Brazil between '76 and '96 with the front of the Clipper added to the same bodyshell of the split. Besides a handful of regional export markets in South America and Nigeria where it was assembled from CKD kits, a right-hand drive model with dual doors on the left side was developed for export to South Africa and Indonesia where it was sold along the Clipper as a lower-cost option. While in South Africa it's often referred to as "Fleetline" just like a last batch of splits which were assembled with Brazilian body panels after the Clipper started to be made in Uitenhage, it's often refered to in Indonesia as "Kombras" in order to differentiate from the German-supplied Kombis, even though it had been also refered to as a Clipper even in advertisements.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Why should Volkswagen have kept the air-cooled flat-4 engine for longer?

Premiered in the Beetle, the Volkswagen air-cooled "boxer" flat-4 engine is definitely a masterpiece of engineering, and expanded into a broad range of automobiles and light-duty commercial vehicles. However, plagued by the seemingly unjustifiable efforts needed to improve its cooling and emissions, such wonderful engine was phased out in 2006. Sure the prevalence of the transverse-engine layout in newer entry-level cars would render it more complicated to fit into a modern econobox, but it's not an excuse to have not extended the

A model which could've benefitted from a longer lifespan for the old flat-4 is the Gol, which actually had a 1.3L version of this engine at its beginning and subsequently 1.6L ones before receiving water-cooled inline-4 MD-270 and EA827 engines until its final longitudinal-engine iterations discontinued in 2013 which already had the EA-111 engine in 1.0L versions and the EA827 in 1.6L ones. Among the reasons for the air-cooled engine to have been still a better fit to the Gol are its smaller weight and shorter overhang, leading to a better weight bias and a lesser effort over the structure. On a sidenote, the lenght of the water-cooled engines required the radiator to be placed behind the left headlight in order to not increase too excessively the front overhang.
Having the engine front-mounted enhanced substantially the cooling in the Gol, which would already be a good reason for the air-cooled flat-4 to fare reasonably, even though water-cooling could be seen as an ultimate response to the increasingly tight emissions control for the Kombi which was the last of all rear-engined traditional Volkswagens having switched to water-cooling between 2006 and 2013 when a flexfuel 1.4L version of the EA-111 became the sole engine available. Even though it would be also challenging to say the least, eventually not being so exaggerated to qualify as an engineering nightmare, keeping the old boxer without significant improvements to the cooling was still evaluated by Volkswagen when Brazil switched from Euro-2 to Euro-3 on utility vehicles. Noise suppression is what actually pulled the plug on the old boxer.

As far as cooling and its side-effects on emissions go, sometimes it's quite surprising Volkswagen has seemingly not considered to apply a technical solution resembling Suzuki's SACS oil-cooling which was featured to some of its GSX motorcycles. Considering it allowed more compact engine castings as fewer cooling fins would be required, which was the main goal of Suzuki with its design aiming to sports motorcycles, even if Volkswagen would rather retain the old castings it's always worth notice a small oil cooler had always been a standard fitment to rear-engined applications of the flat-4, then it's not rocket-science to lurk about an eventual fitment of a larger one with some sort of thermostat for a more accurate control of the oil cooling which could be done either with a bypass valve (which still allows a minimum oil flow through the radiator in order to prevent it to be damaged by any vacuum formation inside its pipes) or some restrictor flaps surrounding the cooler.

The lack of further interest to improve the air-cooled flat-4 might also have something to do with the regulatory conditions in Brazil, where from the Beetle's first phaseout in '86 to a short reintroduction between '93 and '96 and from the Beetle's ultimate phaseout in Brazil to 2006 the Kombi was the only remaining vehicle featuring this engine not counting others from smaller automakers who sourced the engine from Volkswagen. Eventually the commercial failure of a water-cooled EA827 Diesel engine when fitted briefly to the Kombi was a deciding factor for Volkswagen to not apply any other water-cooled engine to this model for a while, and the stiff competition from Asian vans once the Brazilian market was reopened for imports in '90 could have led to its demise, but in '93 then-president Itamar Franco who was an enthusiast of the Beetle arranged for the 1.6L version of the boxer to be included under the same lower taxation scheme implemented for the water-cooled 1.0L engines, which was dropped as soon as the Beetle was phased out one more time in '96 when Fernando Henrique Cardoso was the president. Considering it took a while for Volkswagen to bring its own 1.0L engines to Brazil instead of sourcing them from Ford through the AutoLatina joint-venture which was also phased out in '96, it's quite surprising there was no attempt to apply for the very same benefit to be extended to other models at least as a stop-gap measure, to which eventually the Brazilian market where it's still quite common to point out an engine's displacement as a prestige feature would lead some customers to actually prefer the seemingly-outdated air-cooled boxer over its water-cooled 1.0L contenders.

The perceived resilience of the "Beetle's engine" is still highly praised by enthuiasts, and brings back memories of simpler yet effective engineering solutions pretty much forgotten on light-duty vehicles such as the gear-driven OHV valvetrain which has fewer failure-prone elements due to the absence of a timing belt or chain. In a country where the Beetle is still beloved not only by collectors who live in a big city, being also often regarded as a rural tool, this would be a good-enough argument in favor of this engine. And since water-cooled cars actually resort to anti-freezing fluid mixed with water, it's a matter of concern due to the risk of environmental damage after a cooling fluid leakage near some water course or storm sewers.

Even though most of those traditional buyers of the Gol who look at its utilitarian aspect more than for performance enhancements back in the day of longitudinally-mounted EA827 engines assimilated smoothly the transition to transverse engines started in 2008, since much of its ergonomics are often pointed out to not have departed too much from previous models it's nearly impossible to not wonder how a modern Gol would have been with an improved air-cooled boxer...

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

What would be my favorite engines to swap into a Jeep CJ-3B?

One of the American-designed vehicles I like the most, with features that contrast with most of those landyacht imagery from the full-size cars of its day, the Jeep CJ-3B has a convenient size which could still render it a good base for a daily-driver project. On the other hand, a stock 2.2L Hurricane F-head gasoline-powered engine was already quite outdated even by then when OHV designs prevailed. The first upgrade I would consider in order to make a CJ-3B a reliable and preferably more fuel-efficient all-around commuter is an engine swap, to which 5 engines could be favored by me.

1 - Perkins 404: available either in naturally-aspirated or turbocharged versions, this Diesel engine could be regarded as a natural evolution considering the usage of the Perkins 4-108 engine in some Spanish versions of the CJ-3B. All the 4-cylinder versions of the 400-series Perkins engines come in the a 2.2L displacement, just like the gasser it would be replacing, and it's also worth to notice the gear-driven OHV valvetrain and injector timing are not so failure-prone, so the maintenance would not be too significantly more complex;

2 - Yanmar 4TNV88: a comparable engine to the Perkins 404, it has been widely fitted not only to stationary/industrial applications and agricultural machinery to be also found on sailboats, to which once again the Perkins 4-108 had been widely used as auxiliary power. Available either with natural aspiration or turbocharging too, this engine has also been used for swaps into compact trucks even in the United States, even though some performance upgrades are frequently added in order to meet the requirements for these rigs which even in stock form are larger and heavier than a CJ-3B;

3 - Chevrolet 153: even though it's also an old gasser just like the Hurricane, the gear-driven OHV valvetrain is an improvement over the precarious intake-over-exhaust approach. This has actually been one of my favorite engines for a long time;

4 - Volkswagen air-cooled flat-4: even though it may seem quite weird, a "Veep" still attracts me. Even though the most usual approach for such swap was to replace the entire frame for a shortened Volkswagen one with a makeshift rear engine compartment, trying to fit the engine upfront would not be discarded immediately;

5 - Hatz 2L41C/2M41: even though a 2-cylinder Diesel engine may not seem so attractive at a first glance, its 1.8L displacement range is once again comparable to the Perkins 4-108, while the air cooling is also quite tempting. A major downside is the weight of those engines, even though the small amount of cylinders may fool someone to believe it would be a hassle-free engine swap...

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Why is it not so pointless to compare the Cummins ISF2.8 engine to the Volkswagen 3.0 TDI

It's impossible to deny the Cummins ISF2.8 is quite a crude engine, as it caters mostly to commercial utility vehicles for which cost-cutting measures are given a higher priority than utmost sophistication. Due to its marketing approach more focused on the so-called "emerging" markets, being fitted to light trucks such as some versions of the Volkswagen Delivery trucks range, at a first glance it might seem quite pointless to compare it to something way more complex within a somehow closer displacement range, but once we look at a simpler engine with a different perspective it may highlight a handful of features which would otherwise remain overlooked. Even though some lower states of tune usually applied for the sake of improving reliability may render it easier to underestimate an engine like this, there are some reasons to consider the viability of some higher-output approach to render it suitable to fancier vehicles.
Considering their displacements as not too far to the point of rendering a direct comparison unfair, the Cummins ISF2.8 may look inherently disadvantaged towards Volkswagen's own 3.0L variants of the V6 TDI which is fitted to the Audi Q8 among other models. While the 4-cylinder Cummins resorts to iron block and head, a wastegated turbocharger and a chain-driven single overhead camshaft (SOHC) valvetrain, the TDI gets a pair of aluminium cylinder heads with double overhead camshafts (DOHC) accounting to a total of 4 camshafts and an electronically-controlled variable-geometry turbocharger. Besides the inherent weight penalty of an iron cylinder head, the smaller amount of camshafts already provides a decrease on inertia and internal frictions which could be already beneficial, and since both engines feature 4 valves per cylinder it would be pointless to point at the ISF2.8 as disadvantaged to what the intake and exhaust flows might concern. When it comes to bore and stroke, which are often pointed out as extremely relevant to how rev-happy an engine may become, the Cummins with 94mm bore and 100mm stroke for a 0.94:1 R/L (radius/lenght) ratio could seem not so unsuitable to operate at higher RPM bands because it's less oversquare than the TDI which 83mm bore and 91.4mm stroke lead to a 0.91:1 R/L ratio. Undersquare engines have a bore smaller than the stroke, square ones have identical bore and stroke, while an oversquare features a bigger bore, usually leading to an ascending order of how rev-happy an engine might be even though it's not unarguable.
Sure the turbocharger also plays an important role when it comes to the aptitude of an engine to reach a broader RPM band with the fixed-geometry one fitted to the ISF2.8 requiring a smaller size in order to avoid a turbo-lag even though it leads to some flow restriction at higher engine speeds. Meanwhile, the variable-geometry turbocharger fitted to the 3.0 V6 TDI has adjustable blades on the exhaust side leading to a quicker low-end response and setting peak power and torque to higher RPMs which may allow the engine to proportionately increase its performance. Even though the Cummins rated at 153 hp at 3200 RPM and 430 Nm between 1500 and 2400 RPM may not seem so attractive compared to a TDI with 228 hp at 3250 RPM and 500 Nm from 1750 to 3250 RPM, it's still worth to look at some eventual advantages from the 4-cylinder layout which could be conciliated to a different turbocharger configuration in order to remain competitive against a high-end V6 within a similar displacement class.

Monday, June 15, 2020

5 vehicles which would be tempting to swap a Toyota 1FS industrial engine into

A somewhat unrefined engine, featuring a gear-driven OHV valvetrain and with its peak power and torque RPMs being somewhat low for modern automobile standards, the 3.7L Toyota 1FS engine is more easily found on forklift trucks and other special equipments. However, many factors could turn into a reasonable motivation to fit such a crude and seemingly unsuitable engine to a modern vehicle. At least 5 examples could be highlighted as tempting to swap the 1FS into:

1 - Chevrolet Colorado (current generation, renamed S10 in selected markets): for those who aren't into Diesel engines, the 1FS doesn't seem to mismatch a more utilitarian approach. The absence of a timing chain makes it a good alternative to the Ecotec 2.5 SIDI while the port-injection is easier to implement a gaseous fuel conversion than the direct injection fitted to the Ecotec which is harder to convert to run on CNG retaining the capability to operate on regular gasoline;

2 - Chevrolet Equinox: besides the direct injection and chain-driven DOHC valvetrain, the Ecotec 1.5L and 2.0L engines fitted to the current generation of the Equinox are also turbocharged. OK, the 1FS might seem excessively large for the low specific power and torque, and its overall narrow RPM band may seem at a first glance to not be so suitable for a decent overall performance not even when it's compared to the smaller engine, and the lack of some altitude compensation provided by the turbo is going to charge its toll on some routes. However, both the lower amount of failure-prone parts and its low-revving configuration make it tempting for an engine swap in countries where a displacement increase wouldn't make it subjected to higher licensing fees;

3 - Ford Ranger (current generation): even though the Diesel engines are highlighted on most markets, the gasoline-powered 2.5L Duratec is still available in some countries and is actually the only engine officially available for the Ranger in Bolivia. Once again, the ruggedness of the 1FS and the higher peak torque from a lower RPM make it quite tempting for a work truck as a replacement to the Duratec;

4 - Toyota Land Cruiser Prado J150: considering the reputation of the Land Cruiser range among the most reliable off-roaders, the ruggedness of the 1FS could be justified while comparing it to the 2.7L 2TR-FE which is the basic engine offered in markets where gasoline-powered vehicles are still common on its class. Avoiding a timing chain and keeping a lower-revving nature enhance the dependability on harsh environments;

5 - Nissan Frontier/Navara D23: even though the turbodiesel and twin-turbo Diesel engines are the most highlighted ones, the 2.5L QR25DE has been carried over from the previous generation and remains available in some markets throughout Latin America, Africa and Middle East. Even though mismatching the engine manufacturer in a Japanese vehicle may be more usual on motorsports than in utility vehicles, it doesn't seem so outrageous.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

5 engines which could be a good upgrade to a VW Beetle

One of the most iconic cars, the Volkswagen Sedan/Käfer/Beetle/Fusca is recognised among many features for its flat-four air-cooled engine. However, it's a suitable platform for engine swaps which are likely to improve its performance, fuel-efficiency and provide auxiliary power for some comfort features with fewer stress than the old Boxer would. Among some engines which could be a good option, at least 5 can be highlighted:

1 - Renault K-Type engine: since it shares the bellhousing pattern with the old Cléon-Fonte and the "Energy" engines, and the Cléon-Fonte had some derivatives fitted to Volkswagen models in Brazil from the late-'80s to mid-'90s, a K-Type engine swap doesn't seem so much of a rocket science task;

2 - Volkswagen EA211: just like its predecessor EA111, the EA211 is a more compact alternative to the EA827 and its subsequent replacements. With the 3-cylinder 1.0L versions available either with natural aspiration and port-injection or turbocharging and direct injection, while the 4-cilinder takes the 1.2L to 1.6L range with the same availability of either natural aspiration and port-injection or turbocharging and direct injection, there are plenty of options from a more frugal to some spirited power and torque figures;

3 - GM Family 1/Family 0/Small Gasoline Engine: tracing from the use of  Chevrolet 153 engines for swaps into Volkswagens in South Africa to the present-day downsizing trend which renders some turbocharged variant of the smaller engines available on newer Chevrolet cars and crossover SUVs suitable to perform basically the same duties the old 153 would perform, it wouldn't really surprise me to see some random Chevrolet engine ranging from 1.0L to 1.8L also either naturally-aspirated or turbocharged being considered as a suitable option to swap into a Beetle;

4 - Toyota TR engines: tracing from the usage of the Y engines for repowerings into Kombis in South Africa and some Asian markets, with the TR being its replacement for some applications, it's no surprise the 2.0L 1TR-FE would be an interesting option for performance and long-term reliability while the 2.7L 2TR-FE could seem quite overkill yet tempting for a sleeper;

5 - Fiat FIRE engine: ranging from 0.8L to 1.4L and with turbocharged versions available within the largest displacement, it's also widely used with alternate fuels such as ethanol, Natural Gas and LPG. Requires an adaptor plate to be coupled to the original VW transaxle, but it's no rocket-science.

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.