Saturday, January 04, 2020

5 reasons why I would not disconsider fitting a motorcycle-type V-Twin engine into some old Subaru

Even though some Subaru models such as the early Outback have a die-hard fanbase who is obsessed with the Boxer engines, it's far from being as perfect as it seemed to be. I must confess I have actually prefered the old-school Volkswagen air-cooled Boxer for a long time, which by the way can have its displacement increased with some performance kits allowing it to get figures similar to the EJ-series Subaru engines. Another kinda controversial option that I would consider to replace a stock EJ-series into a Subaru would be some V-Twin engine such as the ones traditionally fitted into custom/cruiser motorcycles. Among the reasons that would lead me to consider such option, at least 5 can be listed.

1 - fewer parts: since it would have half the amount of cylinders, depending on engine model it will lead to have around half the amount of moving parts, occasionally less than half considering most are either OHV or SOHC while the EJ-series engine had resorted to a DOHC valvetrain for most of its versions.

2 - availability of different displacements allowing enough power and torque: even though it may seem more likely to become underpowered with most of the stock motorcycle engines, there are some within the 1800cc displacement range which would already have enough power, not to mention all the aftermarket parts and even some entire engines usually based on older Harley-Davidson designs even surpassing the 2000cc range.

3 - setting the engine back: this would allow some improvement to the weight bias, since the Boxer only allows a longitudinal fitment ahead of the transmission.

4 - servicing eventually becoming easier: even though it may not be the case for every V-Twin out there, the access for some components such as spark plugs in the EJ-series is kinda hard.

5 - just for the experience: sometimes it's tempting to try some different engine configurations just for the sake of it...

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Diesel engines and downsizing: sometimes not the best approach

Modern generations of light-duty Diesel engines have followed an evolutionary path which departed from their essentially utilitarian roots, reaching a level of refinement comparable to gasoline engines. Disadvantages regarding mostly the specific power and engine speed gave way to such a complexity level that often leads to some questions regarding the extent of benefits obtained from this so-called evolution. It's worth to notice the displacement-biased tax brackets in markets such as the European Union, where Diesel engines ranging from 1600cc to 2400cc have already been heavily penalized and any higher-displacement one becomes too expensive even in some prestige models. It may not seem so harsh on those who could opt for the 2.0L Ingenium turbodiesel instead of the 3.0L V6 AJD-V6 twin-turbo in a Land Rover Discovery 5 as a reference, but there are still objectionable aspects regarding the push toward the downsizing.
While some countries such as the United States simply don't apply a displacement-biased tax scheme, others such as Brazil are amended to exclude certain vehicle classes such as 4WDs and trucks, which could already seem enough to discourage downsizing. Taking as references the 3.0L turbodiesel fitted to the Land Rover Discovery 5 and the inline-4 Cummins ISF3.8 with a single turbocharger usually found in commercial trucks such as the Volkswagen 11.180 Delivery, it's important to look at aspects such as manufacturing costs and ease of maintenance due do the amount of cylinders and valvetrain layout, but even the emissions compliance which is often pointed out favorably to downsizing becomes objectionable. Considering the gross vehicle weight rating for both models, and the gross combined weight rating regarding the Discovery while towing, engine speed differences at peak power and torque ratings won't prevent the larger-displacement ISF3.8 to fare even better at some conditions as it's able to sustain a comfortable cruising speed at a lower RPM. Since the ISF3.8 would be more understressed in a Discovery due to its GVWR only beating the kerb weight of the Volkswagen 11.180 for a margin lower than 10%, plus the trucks's GVWR being around 3 times higher, resorting to some high EGR load and decreasing the AdBlue/DEF consumption proportionately to fuel consumption wouldn't be so troublesome regarding an overall performance and aftertreatment efficiency in the SUV as it would be in the truck. While a smaller-displacement engine operating at a higher speed would be more overstressed, thus requiring a higher AdBlue consumption to keep Nitrogen oxides emissions compliant to the standards enforced.

Another relevant matter regarding how downsizing became pointless is the production of some SUV models from European-based automakers such as the BMW X5 not even taking place within Europe, which could be seen as an opportunity to circumvent the downsizing trend in overseas markets. Since the current generation of the X5 for example is only made in the United States, Thailand, Indonesia and India, it's worth to consider the different tax structures which may lead the downsizing to be not so desirable in the United States as it would be in Thailand for example. However, it's still relevant to look at a more modest amount of cylinders and valvetrain layout, which also have some advantages often neglected amid the attempts to make Diesel engines closer to the feeling of their gasoline counterparts instead of taking benefit from their efficiency-enhanced nature.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Peruvian-style tuk-tuk tricycle repurposed into a hot-dog mobile stand

Passenger tricycles are still quite unusual in Brazil, besides those custom Volkswagen-based ones that cater to a very specific leisure segment. A broader public often seen tricycles in general with disdain, even though their utilitarian nature may get highlighted once in a while. Regarding the Peruvian type, which is usually based in some random Chinese copy of the Honda CG 125 with the engine enlarged to 150cc in order to make its performance less unbearable, it's fitted with a simple canvas enclosure at the passengers area, while the cockpit is not fully enclosed in order to allow some ventilation for the engine and the fuel tank breather. They have been increasingly popular in some cities in the Brazilian West Amazon and in the Northeast, while in the South they're a rare sight and I spotted this one in Florianópolis city. This one has been turned into a hot-dog and churros (a Spanish treat which is more widely available in Brazil on its Uruguayan variation) mobile stand. Even though those Asia Motors Towner microvans which were frequently seen as a hot-dog stand are getting out of favor among street food vendors, and I have already seen tricycles being used as food stands, I really wasn't expecting to see a Peruvian-type tuk-tuk taking this role.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Honda CG 125 tricycle with shaft-drive

I met the owner of this Honda CG 125 tricycle when it still had the stock fuel tank and chain-drive. Besides adapting the tank of the Honda CB 400 from the '80s, in the meantime it had also been converted to shaft-drive.
Enabling the coupling of a driveshaft to the secondary drive is an auxiliary gearbox that not only turns the sense of rotation in a 90-degree angle but also provides reversing. It's a common feature in many Chinese tricycles, but only recently it became more widespread in Brazilian conversions.
Originally converted by a company that is now defunct, it was basically rebuilt by its owner who made an entirely new rear subframe suitable to the fitment of an Asia Motors Towner/Daihatsu HiJet rear axle which also had to be narrowed and having the differential pumpkin relocated closer to the left edge of the axle in order to be properly alligned with the driveshaft.
Final drive ratio is now lower than what was used when it still relied on chain-drive, decreasing the top speed, but for a strictly urban usage on short distances it's still suitable.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Chevrolet Advanced Design and its Brazilian restyling

Motor industry in Brazil used to follow a slower evolutionary path compared to its counterparts, which reflected in some older designs retaining a longer production cycle locally. A good example is the Chevrolet Advanced Design truck series, phased out in the United States in '55 when the Task Force series was introduced. Even though the Task Force had been available in Brazil through imports, the production of Chevrolet trucks in Brazil started with the Advanced Design and a local restyling to keep its appearance more up-to-date with the foreign models. Both the original Advanced Design and its Brazilian facelift featured here were at an old car show, with the "Chevrolet Brasil" mildly customized even though it retains most of its basic design making it easily recognisable. The taller front fenders and the engine hood wider at the front edge do lead its cowl to resemble more the Task Force, but the cabin is undeniably the same of the Advanced Design series.

The pick-up box retains more of the original style of the American model, with less curves on the rear fenders being the most noticeable difference.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Nissan D21 with a sedan-like conversion

The trend of converting pick-up trucks into some sort of oversized sedan in Brazil, which had its days of glory in Brazil during the '80s as a step ahead of the more utilitarian approach of a simpler double-cab into something more aspirational, didn't fade away completely once imports were resumed in '90. Even though more focused on locally-made models, similar setups were also often applied to imports such as the Nissan D21 Pick-Up. This one, presumably converted by Tropical Cabines, had a similar treatment to what was applied to local full-size Ford and Chevrolet trucks which were the most often converted.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Argentinian-made Chevrolet D-20 with a Brazilian sedan-like conversion cab

Brazil might be a surprising country when it comes to vehicles, mostly due to the previously closed market which led to the development of local makeshift aftermarket approaches to address the lack of options from the major foreign-based automakers such as Chevrolet. Among such offers were some crew-cab conversions for trucks which ended up turning them into something closer to an oversized sedan. One of the most known companies focused on truck-based coachbuilding is Tropical Cabines, which resorts to fiberglass on its conversions such as this Argentinian-made '95 Chevrolet D-20 which had a 3-door cabin and a sedan-like rear trunk instead of the usual open truck bed.
The fact that some restrictions based either on cargo or passenger capacity are enforced against the usage of Diesel engines in Brazil, originally meant as a deterrent to its application on private vehicles in order to relieve the fuel demand for utilitarian purposes, has rendered such conversions quite popular before the imports restricted in '76 were reopened in '90, even though much of its market-share became extinct with the arrival of more conventional crew-cab trucks and the SUV trend.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Brazilian '02 Chevrolet Blazer with underbody CNG kit

Natural gas is quite popular in Brazil as a motor fuel, even though its availability is not nationwide. However, one of the most mentioned side-effects besides occasional decreases on the performance is the space usually taken by the tanks when they're mounted inside the luggage compartment. Some vehicle such as the 2nd-generation Chevrolet S10 Blazer, which by the way was the only generation of this model to be made in Brazil, the fitment of the tanks under the floor is an option much sought after because of its lesser impact over the load volume. However, in the Blazer a removal of the rear sway-bar is required in order to get clearance for a pair of CNG tanks and their braces to fit in the space where the stock spare wheel rack is fitted.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Brazilian Ford F-1000 from late '80s to early '90s converted into some sort of mix between SUV and van

It may seem odd at a first glance, but the full-size Ford trucks range in Brazil didn't follow the same evolution path of its American/Canadian/Mexican and Argentinian counterparts, with local variants of the 5th generation being introduced only in '72 when it was already being phased out anywhere else, with a subtle facelift which led to the introduction of a plastic grille and 4 square headlamps, and soldiering on until '92 when a switch to the 8th generation was on course. Unique to the local market was the F-1000 which was basically an equivalent to the F-250 with the short-bed bodystyle of the F-100 and a regionally-sourced 3.9L MWM D-229-4 Diesel engine later also available with turbo, or the Thriftpower Six imported from Argentina in a dedicated-ethanol version specific for the Brazilian F-1000 or in a regular gasoline-powered version only in '90.

It used to be quite common to see many aftermarket conversions for full-size trucks in Brazil, which were also somewhat of an attempt to fill the gaps left by the restrictions against car imports between '76 and '90. Among those, there were some bodyworks halfway between an SUV and a full-size van, often leading to such vehicles being mistaken for a Mexican Ford B-100 or similar conversions which also used to be performed in Argentina where they're often referred to as "F-100 carrozada" or "F-100 rural". What might surprise Americans and Canadians the most is the resemblance to the panel vans based on older generations of the F-Series, but the absence of the Econoline vans in other markets by then has led to such conversions having their popularity, even though in Brazil they were more often seen as a recreational vehicle than as a workhorse.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Beetle with a matching trailer

I'm not really into matching trailers, but this one I spotted at a car show caught my attention. Not sure if it resorted to a chopped Beetle floorpan or a dedicated frame.