Wednesday, August 10, 2022

5 reasons why a hot-rod could still be tempting to eventually use as a daily-driver

Naturally it might be easier to look at some ancient cars such as a Ford Model A as if they were nothing more than a historical curiosity, either stock or hot-rodded. Odd enough, as the time went on, it became way more common to see them with some modifications either for looks or for functionality, including the fitment of a more modern engine and other improvements to brakes and suspension for instance. No wonder such a beauty could be tempting to eventually still serve as a daily-driver, and at least 5 reasons could be pointed out:

1 - it may look cool: sure it's a more subjective aspect, but the classic appearance of a hot-rod has its fair share of beauty, and it's quite obvious that nowadays a Ford Model A Tudor for instance would stand out of the crowd;

2 - the owner may limit how "modern" the car could be: with so many technical changes within the automotive industry, newer features were becoming more widespread on new vehicles and increasing their complexity. And even though basically every modern body-on-frame pick-up truck may highlight the suitability of such improvements to some older body-on-frame cars, some owners may have their own preferences on how much of such features would be desirable to have, considering most of those were not mandated when the cars more sought after by hot-rodders were originally manufactured;

3 - engine/transmission options may vary: even though the most orthodox definition of a hot-rod has been focused on American V8 engines, with the corresponding toll on fuel-efficiency applying, other engine types can also be fitted. Also considering how a stock 4-cyl engine of a Ford Model A could be souped-up before the small-block V8 engines became mainstream across the Big Three after World War II, even something which could be seen as "unorthodox" such as either a 4-cyl turbocharged gasser or even a turbodiesel could serve just right. And automatic transmissions to improve comfort in town are also not out of question;

4 - crash standards may be less of a concern for some people: sure a modern car with many airbags and crumple zones has its advantages, but not everyone really cares about it. Had some vehicle without airbags and crumple zones not be roadworthy at all, motorcycles would've been forbidden already;

5 - the owner may have the chance to know better the car: unlike newer cars which have been too complex for the average Joe to perform maintenance at home, hot-rods have usually been way more engaging, and their owners more mechanically-inclined and willing to learn all the aspects pertaining to how the car works.

Monday, August 01, 2022

'42 Packard Super Clipper Special Club Sedan

A beauty which may be rare even in the United States, as the Packard Clipper had been introduced just a few months prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, this '42 Super Clipper Special Club Sedan is definitely a historical benchmark on its own. Also remarkable is the straight-8 engine with the crankshaft supported by 9 main bearings, while the standards of its era would deem 5 main bearings acceptable for a competitive straight-8, even though the valvetrain retained the sidevalve/flathead layout. Odd enough, Packard's straight-8 engine performed similar to the OHV V8 engines which were experiencing an increased popularity in the postwar.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Ragge California, a late-'80s Brazilian Volkswagen-based mini SUV

Brazil is well known for the long-time prevalence of Volkswagen in the local market, and when imports were severely restricted from the mid-'70s until the reopening in the '90s, makeshift models catering to customers looking for something to stand out in the crowd relied on Brazilian-made mainstream cars as a source for engines and other components. That was the case of the Ragge California, a mini SUV with the Volkswagen powertrain and a fiberglass body, originally released in '86 branded simply as Ragge and renamed in '87, soldiering on until '89. There was another derivative named Long Beach, released in '90 when it was less competitive due to the reopening of imports, and slightly longer as it retained the standard wheelbase of the Volkswagen backbone frame, instead of relying on a shortened frame. There were exports at least to the United States in form of kit-cars, as well as to Japan and Italy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

BG Truck, a Brazilian derivative of Chevrolet C-Series trucks

Besson & Gobbi, the manufacturer of the Volkswagen-basaed Miura sports car, ventured in the '90s in the "dual-cab" conversions for trucks, having released models based on the Chevrolet C-Series, which by the was had been one generation behind the evolution of its American counterparts since the '70s. A configuration which used to have its fair share of popularity in Brazil gave a sedan-like appearance to trucks, most often resorting to fiberglass instead of steel for the bodywork. Besson & Gobbi had some expertise with this material, which had been used for the body of the Miura range prior to the BG Truck series which was its last attempt to compete with imported dual-cab trucks and SUVs which took over the Brazilian market after the imports were reopened in the early '90s. This one that I spotted in Porto Alegre, my hometown and also where Besson & Gobbi was headquartered, is a '94 model-year the last year before Chevrolet full-size truck production moved from Brazil to Argentina.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Brazilian Fiat Tempra with the 2-door bodystyle specific to the domestic market

With a production run that went through '90 to '96 in Italy, '90 to '99 in Turkey, and '92 to '98 in Brazil, the Fiat Tempra had two options unique to Brazil, which were the 2-door bodystyle offered until '94 for every trim of the 2.0L engine either with 8 or 16 valves, and the sporty Turbo version from '93 to '96 in 2-door and the 4-door Stile in '95 which was renamed Turbo Stile after the 2-door body was phased out. Spotting a Brazilian Fiat Tempra is not so easy anymore, as many succumbed either to neglect due to a more criterious maintenance it demanded when Brazil was still reopening to the imports or were beaten the hell our ot, and the 2-door version is reported to be the last developed specifically to Brazil in a car which was meant to be marketed locally as somewhat upscale, until the 4-door bodystyles became more sought after in the mid-'90s. As crazy as it may seem, the prevalence of 2-door cars in Brazil even in the mid-size segment can be traced back to the influence of the Volkswagen Beetle...

Thursday, June 02, 2022

GMT400 Chevrolet Silverado with the fuel cap in an odd position?

With a short production run in Argentina and Brazil between '96 and '01, the GMT400 Chevrolet/GMC full-size pick-up trucks had some regional differences. Available only on 2WD with a 5-speed manual transmission, the engines available were either a multi-port injection version of the 250cu.in. straight-6 for the base model or some regionally-sourced Diesel such as the 4-cyl naturally-aspirated Maxion S4 and the turbocharged MWM Sprint 6.07T without intercooler. Local equivalents of the 3500HD were only available with the Diesels, while a short-bed 2500 regular-cab featured the gasser from '97 to '00. A noticeable difference of the Argentinian and Brazilian GMT400 Silverado, and an incorrectly named GMC 3500HD which in fact was the same 2500 with the turbocharged MWM engine, the fuel cap is located at the right rearmost quarter of the pick-up bed, with the fuel tank at the rear overhang instead of saddle-mounted in parallel to the left frame rail with a filling neck on the left front quarter.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

VW Beetle former taxi from my hometown

It may seem shocking to find out 2-door cars in Brazil had been used even as a taxi, but it's not easy to understand how things work sometimes. Even before the oil embargoes of the '70s, some cities already had Beetles operating as the so-called "táxi mirim", when bigger 4-door cars usually from American automakers were the rule for the service, soon losing their leadership to the Beetle due to its lower cost and easier operation.
Sure it was not the best option when it comes to interior space and luggage capacity, but the Beetle had a considerable presence in the Brazilian taxi segment until the early-'90s, and even other models with a more modern design were still more common in 2-door bodystyle because this feature was perceived as easier to retain resale value, certainly influenced by the widespread presence of the Beetle in Brazil and the perception of 4-door versions of other cars as rendering them more suitable to taxi or fleet usage.
Access to the rear seat in some 2-door taxis was facilitated by the removal of the front passenger seat, which became an usual practice when the Beetle ruled the segment. It's always worth to remind the usage of seatbelts was not so strictly enforced in Brazil until '99, and little to no effort used to be done by traffic enforcement to prevent carrying passengers in a luggage compartment as long as it was closed, then it was OK to eventually carrying kids in that luggage space right behind the rear seat of a Beetle for instance...
To make it easier for the driver to close the passenger door of a Beetle taxi, the most usual method was to tie a rope at the armrest, while the other extremity of the rope was placed at a convenient location to be simply pulled with little effort. This would seem extremely unlikely to happen nowadays, when most if not every city in Brazil requires only 4-door cars to be used as a taxi.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Why is it a good move to transfer the production of the Chevrolet Joy from Brazil to Colombia?

One of those economy-cars which may become a valuable asset for its manufacturer, despite the SUV madness which took over the world, the Chevrolet Joy began as an entry-level variant of the Brazilian 1st generation of the Chevrolet Onix after a facelift, which it only received when it became a model of its own after the release of the 2nd generation of the Onix. Having been phased out from the Chevrolet range in Brazil in early 2022 as it was uncompliant to recently implemented emission regulations, even though demand on regional export markets remains sustainable, in April there were announcements of a move of its production base from a Brazilian GM factory São Caetano do Sul to the Colombian plant of GM Colmotores in Bogotá, which is actually a more logical move than it would appear at a first glance. After the recent retreats of GM from India started in late-2017 with the end of local sales, leading to its export-oriented business being ultimately phased out around 2020 when manufacturing and sales were also phased out in Thailand and Indonesia, setting a base to manufacture an affordable car is much more important to retain a foothold on some budget-oriented and conservative markets, also eventually being desirable in regions other than South America and the Caribbean once the Chevrolet Spark still made in South Korea gets phased out which is scheduled to happen in October this year.
Having both the hatchback bodystyle which seems to be more viable for other regions where entry-level Chevrolet models are currently sourced mostly from China and to a minor extent South Korea, and also a sedan formerly named Chevrolet Prisma which would most likely fall under the friendly fire from the SAIC-GM joint-venture despite its simpler engine rendering it more suitable to harsher environmental conditions and poorer maintenance, the Chevrolet Joy may be just marginally more expensive than the subcompacts formerly sourced from India. The transfer of its production base to Colombia may render it relevant for Chevrolet to secure its foothold in Latin America, where in 2018 the Joy still named Chevrolet Onix and available with an optional automatic transmission was the best-selling car in the entire region, despite being unavailable in countries such as Mexico and some island nations in the Caribbean partly because of the GM Caribbean operations having mostly mirrored the Mexican range even in strictly-RHD markets such as Trinidad and Tobago while the Onix and Joy are LHD only. Now that manufacturing operations in Mexico and South Korea are more oriented toward SUVs and mostly bound for export to the United States and Canada, and the São Caetano do Sul plant is also becoming devoted to light-truck and SUV manufacturing for the Brazilian market, and the regional exports which are also likely to increase due to the GM retreat from Thailand where truck manufacturing was the core business, it's worth to consider the GM Colmotores as a suitable site for the Chevrolet Joy due to a sustainable demand claimed to be around 35000 units yearly with 70% of the volume bound for the regional export markets in South America such as Argentina, Ecuador and Peru, even though it could be desirable even in countries with a Pacific coastline in other regions such as the Philippines where a geographic proximity is supposed to render the Korean Chevrolet Spark more competitive than a Chevrolet Joy hatchback while the sedan would eventually struggle harder to set a foothold.
While the Chevrolet Joy had a 1.0L engine in Brazil due to tax advantages, in contrast to the 1.4L fitted to export-bound units which is not actually much more expensive to manufacture, eventually bringing back the automatic transmission option could appeal to former buyers of the Korean Chevrolet Spark in regions other than South America while keeping the Colombian manufacturing even more sustainable. Sure there would be some arguments against switching the production site because the president of GM for South America is the Colombian Santiago Chamorro, but it's a smart move to consolidate operations at the GM Colmotores plant which is currently underused as a CKD assembly site for Isuzu trucks and bus frames imported from Japan, so even an affordable car which is supposed to be unprofitable makes sense both at a local level and occasionally beyond South America, considering some other markets are nearly as conservative and budget-conscious. In the end, this is a great opportunity both for GM to keep competitive and for Colombia to become a more important player as a car manufacture and export hub.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

2001 Ford Ranger with a Brazilian old-style double-cab conversion

Much have already been said about bureaucratic restrictions preventing the fitment of Diesel engines to most light-duty vehicles in Brazil, with a few excemptions granted to trucks or other cargo vehicles tied to a minimum payload of one metric ton, off-road capable vehicles with a dual-range 4WD system, or a minimum capacity of 10 seats including the driver which enables registering vans or SUVs as a minibus in order to ensure the legality of a Diesel engine even when the payload in a 2WD model is smaller than one metric ton. Argentinian-made versions of the Ford Ranger used to have different payload rates for a gasoline-powered model, more similar to their American counterparts, and the turbodiesels which had a higher payload within the Brazilian rule either for a 2WD version like this one or a 4WD which would be legal with a Diesel even if the payload remained the same as the American counterparts. Despite the availability of a factory-built double-cab bodystyle since the '98 model-year, the Brazilian tradition of a more leisure-oriented aftermarket conversion retained a strong foothold for a while. Converting a truck into a sedan-like model was an usual approach to eventually circumvent restrictions against the fitment of a Diesel engine to a "normal" car, which may justify examples such as this 2001 model-year Ranger XLT which was originally a regular-cab, with the 2.5L Maxion HS turbodiesel sourced regionally, and 2WD. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Beer-vending Volkswagen Beetle

One of the most iconic vehicles ever, the Volkswagen Beetle becomes quite a great mobile billboard for different businesses. Either stock or modified, it's one of the easiest ways to bring the spotlights on.
This specific Beetle, a Brazilian model presumably from the mid-'70s was turned into a mobile stand for the sale of craft beer at events. This was not the first beer-vending Beetle that I have seen in my hometown Porto Alegre, but its partially-removable roof contrasts with other setups which retained the fixed roof.
I didn't even try the beer which was being sold at this Beetle, but I'm sure it's a great marketing tool.