Sunday, January 16, 2022

Yamaha XTZ 150 Crosser and the front drum brake

One kinda controversial aspect when it comes to small-displacement motorcycles, the availability of a front drum brake in some models used to be even more relevant in countries such as Brazil until a few years ago. Even when Yamaha released the XTZ 150 Crosser in 2014 as an eventual replacement to the XTZ 125, there were versions still fitted with front drum brake until at least 2017, in contrast to a front disc brake which was a standard fitment to the XTZ 125, according to Yamaha because in some parts of Brazil there was a demand for all-around drum brakes. Even though on motorcycles a drum brake tends to be most often mechanically operated, while the discs usually resort to hydraulics just like car brakes, the case against drums goes from its perception as "archaic" to the impossibility to be paired to the ABS system, which is not the case on cars which still use rear drums because of the hydraulic operation, or even trucks and buses which rely on air brakes to which all-around drums are not a problem to integrate the ABS. Had hydraulic drums been mainstream on motorcycles, maybe front drum brakes wouldn't be phased out entirely, even though the thermal conductibility of brake fluid eventually overheating and lead to a brake fading which is quite troublesome.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

5 cars which had been made in Spain and could've been well suited to a Mercedes-Benz OM636 engine

A rather crude engine, developed around the sidevalve gasoline-powered Mercedes-Benz M136 engine introduced in 1935, the OM636 was released in 1948 and introduced to some Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the following year, being fitted to a Mercedes-Benz car for the last time in 1958. Having soldiered on until 1976 on commercial vehicles, the Mercedes-Benz OM636 was phased out only in 1990, as it had a demand for other applications which included boats and agricultural machinery such as small combine harvesters. Even though some of its features such as the 3-bearing crankshaft, precombustion-chamber indirect injection and a gear-driven OHV valvetrain could already seem outdated in the late-'50s when Mercedes-Benz started switching over to chain-driven OHC valvetrains, the conservative mindset of a considerable amount of Diesel-engined car buyers leading both indirect injection and natural aspiration to keep some foothold until the Euro-3 emission standards could be favorable to an old-school engine like the OM636 for a longer time, even for cars and light-duty utility vehicles. As this engine had also been made in Spain under license, and fitted there mostly to vans and taxis, there are other vehicles that could eventually have been well suited to also resort to it, highlighting 5 among those:

1 - Suzuki Vitara: having also been made under license in Spain, where the local preference for Diesel engines into 4WD vehicles favored the fitment of Peugeot XUD9 and later DW10 engines, odd enough a more austere engine could still have its appeal among operators who were more focused on utility and ease of maintenance. Not having a timing belt to replace would be still regarded a desirable feature;

2 - Ford Escort Mk.5: even though Ford's own Endura-D engine within a similar displacement range had been available in some markets on both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged trims, and actually its power and torque ratings were slightly more appealing, the Endura-D it's undeniably a maintenance nightmare due to the timing arrangement. Having the injection pump driven by a crankshaft-driven belt or duplex chain according to the version, with the overhead camshaft driven from the injection pump through another belt, it adds a considerable amount of complexity which becomes quite annoying for a conservative operator. As the 1.8L Endura-D was itself developed from the 1.6L Dagenham/LT engine designed with some input from German Diesel engines specialist Deutz, and Ford has also resorted to assistence from other automakers such as the former PSA (now Stellantis) for light-duty Diesel engines, outsourcing from either Mercedes-Benz España or the former licensee ENMASA could be suitable to address the preference for a simpler, more reliable engine. Not to mention Ford resorted to Volkswagen engines for an overwhelming majority among regional variants of the Escort Mk.5 made in Brazil and Argentina, yet none was Diesel-powered;

3 - SEAT Inca: before the Volkswagen takeover, SEAT had resorted to license-made Mercedes-Benz OM636 and OM621 engines for some of its Fiat derivatives, so there would've been some precedents to an eventual fitment of the OM636 to models developed already under Volkswagen ownership just like the Inca. On a sidenote, during Volkswagen's buyout of Auto Union from Daimler-Benz, a part of the deal was the access to development of what would become the EA827 engines range which originated the indirect-injection 1.9D and the direct-injection 1.9SDI engines fitted to the SEAT Inca;

4 - Peugeot 205: sure it would sound hard to justify outsourcing a Diesel engine when PSA had been highlighted for its own powerplants, such as the XUD7 which was offered as an option for the Peugeot 205 either naturally-aspirated or turbocharged. As the XUD7 was also part of a modular engines range which embraced both spark-ignition and Diesel options, presumably the economics of scale would mean any other approach unlikely. On the other hand, basically the fitment of Simca Poissy engines to some Spanish-made versions of the 205 could suggest otherwise, as it was made at the former Barreiros Diesel factory in Madrid;

5 - Renault 12: its Spanish variants were made under license by the former FASA-Renault, only with gasoline-powered 1.4L Renault Cléon-Fonte engines. The absence of any Diesel variant of the Renault 12 or its derivatives elsewhere could've justified the outsourcing.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Brazilian vs. Chinese: what's the best approach to the small bakkie?

Small bakkies are a popular option for those who are looking out for a commercial vehicle with a lower total cost of ownership in countries such as Brazil, where traditional automakers with a strong foothold such as Fiat (now a Stellantis division) have a consolidated presence in this segment. Even though there has been a competition from Chinese automakers since 2007, when copies of the Suzuki Carry made by Changan were the first official imports of vehicles made in China to Brazil, the conservative profile of most Brazilian car buyers meant these ended up having a smaller appeal and strictly among commercial operators who were more concerned about the lower purchase price than anything else. The availability of replacement parts is often neglected by importers of those Chinese bakkies for instance, leading their owners into resorting to adaptations with components of some more mainstream model, yet a live-axle rear-wheel drive layout and body-on-frame design already lends itself better to some makeshift fixes.
In favour of the car-based designs more sought after in Brazil, which despite being mostly based upon a front-wheel drive unibody such as the Fiat Strada end up resembling an Australian coupé-utility, there is usually a better overall performance due to the fitment of engines better suited to deal with the GVWR, in contrast to the often underpowered copies of some random outdated Japanese engine and extremely low gearing often found on those Chinese copies of the Suzuki Carry. While the unibody doesn't render a Brazilian coupé-utility so easy to replace the stock rear tray for a task-specific bodywork compared to a body-on-frame, and the front-wheel drive is more affected by changes to the weight bias when loaded, the Fiat Strada often leads the commercial vehicle sales ranking in Brazil, not only among urban buyers who might prefer a smoothier ride but also for agribusiness-related duties. In the end, while commercial operators may become attracted to the cheap Chinese Suzuki copy at a first glance, the Brazilian coupé-utility is more cost-effective.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Spotted on the wild: dedicated-ethanol Brazilian Chevrolet Monza

Just like the American Chevrolet Cavalier, the Brazilian Chevrolet Monza was a regional variant of the J-body platform, even though its styling and much of its technical features bore a greater resemblance to the Opel Ascona C, most noticeably the belt-driven SOHC Opel-designed Family II engine available from 1.6L up to 2.0L according to the model-year. As the Brazilian market in the '80s favored ethanol as a motor fuel, naturally the Monza also featured engines capable to operate on it, even though they were not flexfuel, still resorting to a carburettor due to local content regulations which prevented electronic fuel injection from becoming mainstream. Even though it's quite uncertain if this '90 Chevrolet Monza SL/E with the 2.0L engine still runs on ethanol as the ÁLCOOL badge implies, since it became usual to convert older dedicated-ethanol cars to gasoline after the ethanol crisis between '89 and '90 when even methanol from the United States had been imported as a somewhat desperate attempt to keep much of the Brazilian fleet running, seeing a car of that period still featuring a sign that it had been originally ethanol-powered before the flexfuel systems became mainstream is quite interesting.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

5 cars other than air-cooled Volkswagens or Porsches that could be interesting to adapt an Australian Radial Motion engine

Even though the air-cooled flat-4 engine is highlighted as one of the most noticeable features of the VW Beetle, the recent development of a 3-cylinder airworthy radial engine by Bespoke Engineering catering to the light sports aviation market in Australia had also been noticeable for its perfect fit into Beetles or other Volkswagens with the Type 1 engine (which has the cooling fan mounted at a higher position than the one of a Type 3 "pancake" engine) and even into some Porsches. Available on either air-cooled or liquid-cooled versions, from 2.0L to 2.1L and the option for carburettors or electronic fuel injection, the Radial Motion engine can cover both classic cars and modern vehicles keeping up-to-date with current emission regulations in Australia and some other countries with similar emission standards for motor vehicles. Even though a radial engine may be as much of a challenge to fit into vehicles with transverse engine layout, leading it better suited to the ones with a longitudinal engine, at least 5 vehicles other than air-cooled Volkswagens or Porsches could be mentioned as temptint to try a Radial Motion engine swap had cost not been an issue, as these engines are far from dirt-cheap...

1 - Ford Ranger (Americas model until 2011): as some trims of the Radial Motion engine outperform the 2.3L Duratec 4-cyl which was the base-engine for this model, even though it has a slightly smaller displacement and a pushrod valvetrain, it already sounds interesting enough to justify. The lower weight is also interesting, considering the gasoline-powered versions had a lower payload than the turbodiesel versions made in Argentina, so the weight bias would be improved while unloaded without detrimental effects while loaded;

2 - Chevrolet Opala: the Brazilian equivalent to the Opel Rekord C/Commodore A, was fitted with the 2.5L Chevrolet 153 engine (later 151) on its 4-cylinder versions, while the 6-cylinder had either a 3.8L 230 or a 4.1L 250 engine according to the model-year. Even though it's smaller than any engine fitted to the Opala and the 6-cylinder Opel CIH engines fitted to the Commodore, there are some versions of the Radial Motion capable of outperforming them all in stock form. Liquid-cooling might sound as a quite obvious way to go, but I must confess it would also be quite tempting to try an air-cooled;

3 - early Suzuki Grand Vitara: even the 2.5L H25A V6 can be outperformed by some versions of the Radial Motion engine, let alone the much more usual 4-cylinder 2.0L J20. A lower-weight and shorter engine such as the Radial Motion may also actually benefit off-road performance;

4 - Lada Niva: engine swaps are quite common for this model in my country, with Volkswagen EA827 engines being the most common option. As the Radial Motion is offered with a Volkswagen bolt pattern it might be another straightforward adaptation too;

5 - Alfa Romeo Giulia GTV: an Italian beauty which stock engine is a piece of mechanical artwork, but it would still be tempting to go one step further. Well, considering the carburettor-fed versions of the Radial Motion might at first seem more complicated due to having one more carburettor, it's also worth to remind it won't require any timing chain replacement as the Alfa Romeo "Nord" Twin Cam engine would, the Alfa Romeo had dual-barrel carburettors which are far from dumbproof. It's also interesting to compare the electronic fuel injections of the Radial Motion to the SPICA mechanical fuel injection which used to be fitted to US-spec Alfa Romeo models.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Argentinian-made '02 Ford Ranger with factory crew-cab and artesanal wooden high-dropside flatbed

Flatbeds are a quite usual fitment to work trucks in Brazil, and it's still a common practice using wood to manufacture these bodies. Most often a regular-cab would be seen with it, but once in a while a crew-cab also shows up featuring a wooden flatbed. It's the case of this 2002 model-year Ford Ranger, made in Argentina and fitted with a regionally-sourced International 2.8L PowerStroke 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Why could the Ford Ka Mk.1 be considered suitable to the role of a VW Beetle replacement?

Meant to be basically a compact runabout more suitable to the city traffic, while retaining performance levels which enabled driving on the road too, the first generation of the Ford Ka is probably not among those models which could eventually qualify as some sort of contender for the role of a replacement to the Volkswagen Beetle. Certified as a 4-seater on the markets where it had been avaliable, in contrast to the Beetle which is mostly recognized as a 5-seater despite being slightly narrower, the early Ford Ka is not meant to address the same riding conditions of the '30s in rural Europe, yet it's often praised for its handling which tends to be compared to that of a go-kart on a more spirited driving. Conveniently sized for urban commuting, yet with a less-than-modest luggage capacity while all the 4 seats are in use, there are a few similarities to the proportions of its design which lead the Ford Ka Mk.1 to effectively remind a few styling cues of the Volkswagen Beetle to a minor extent.
Naturally some technical differences such as relying on a front-mounted transverse inline-4 engine and front-wheel drive, which became the standard for most economy-cars in the '90s along the McPherson suspension up front and a rear torsion beam, highlight much of the changes within the motor industry and the focus on "manufacturability" increasing the parts commonality with other mainstream models for better economics of scale. Unlike the Beetle which turned out to be quite unconventional according to the standards of small cars at its release, and became a category of its own, the Ka followed a quite conservative approach considering the market conditions during its development and production cycles. So, despite the obvious technical aspects and marketing circumstances which each model was subjected at their respective times, it's not totally out of question to consider the Ford Ka Mk.1 one of the possible answers to the search for an eventual Beetle replacement.

Friday, November 26, 2021

PQ24-based Fox, probably the most underappreciated Volkswagen ever

A model designed in Brazil, where it was released in late-2003 with the ambitious goal of replacing the Volkswagen Gol (no pun intended), the Fox soldiered on until the 2021 model-year, having only a few minor changes through its production run. Based on the same PQ24 platform of the Mk.4 Polo, it had a smart design somewhat resembling the minivans, with plenty of room for its relatively small size, yet it was not enough to effectively take over the role of the Gol which was still a nameplate strong enough that it prompted the Brazilian branch of Volkswagen to develop a PQ24-based Gol which was released in 2008. Its design could be seen as somewhat unconventional to a consevative Brazilian market which used to be much more oriented to traditional hatchbacks, even though the Fox had good sales figures in Brazil and Argentina, having even been exported to Europe from 2006 to 2011 when the Up took over its role as the entry-level Volkswagen for the European markets.

More capable of actually meeting the requirements for a small family car than the Up, maybe the Fox is even more up to the task (no pun intended again) of fulfilling the role of a Beetle replacement, despite its Euro-spec variants being only 4-seater in contrast to the 5-seater layout of the versions sold in Latin America. Its relatively long production run with fewer minor upgrades, and being based upon the same underpinnings of some mainstream European-designed model also prompts to a comparison between the Fox and the Beetle-derived Brasília, which were both Brazilian-specific designs with only a minor international availability. Relying on already-proven underpinnings, and being suitable to the fitment of up-to-date engines such as the 3-cyl flexfuel 1.0L fitted to the 2014 model-year BlueMotion version, the Fox was a smarter design than its presence more concentrated on a handful of so-called "emerging markets" in Latin America could suggest.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Brazilian Honda CG 160 modded similar to a Brat-Style

Predictably the Honda CG, which is still a best-seller in Brazil, would also inspire custom builds, such as this one which resembles the ones modified by the Bratstyle shops in Japan and United States, with its mix of elements from the bobber and cafe-racer styles. This one was customized in Curitiba, by the Dream Machines shop.

Friday, November 19, 2021

3 cars made in Brazil which actually surprised me for never having ever featured a pushrod engine

In a country like Brazil, often pointed out as a harsh environment for the most up-to-date car tech due to reckless car owners who don't really seem to care about preventive maintenance, one aspect which does often amaze me is how some so-called "people's cars" never really featured some much simpler engine designs. Sometimes there is a good reason to take benefit from the economics of scale manufacturing a very same engine which can cater both to a no-frills small car and to something else one class above, yet the higher degree of neglect entry-level models often face may justify a more austere powertrain, such as an OHV (overhead-valve) engine, a.k.a. cam-in-block or "pushrod" engine. Among so many econoboxes which had ever been available in Brazil at some point, at least 3 do surprise me enough to justify being listed as a car which could've eventually benefitted from a pushrod engine:

1 - Ford Fiesta Mk.5: this was the first generation of the Fiesta to feature only engines with either a single or double overhead cams, benefitting from the development of the Zetec-Rocam engine range which relied on a chain-driven single overhead cam and had only 2 valves per cylinder. Even though it would most likely be out of question to start manufacturing the Endura-E 1.0L and 1.3L engines locally, Ford had previously made under license from Renault some derivatives of the Cléon-Fonte engine, with the displacement ranging from 1.0L to 1.6L exactly like the Zetec-Rocam. Sure the higher performance and more rev-happy nature of the Zetec-Rocam were more in accordance to the expectations of the average Brazilian budget-conscious car buyer during the production run of the Fiesta Mk.5 and its local facelifted versions, yet its sealed timing chain can be quite bothersome to replace once the engine gets a full overhaul;

2 - Brazilian Fiat Uno: unlike its European counterpart which had featured 899cc and 903cc versions of the 100-series engine, the Brazilian model resorted to a belt-driven OHC derivative of the 124-series and later to the FIRE engine. The early Fiasa engine was often plagued by timing belt ruptures and, due to its interference design, serious damage can occur if a valve still open gets hit by a piston. As a chain-driven OHV engine would be less prone to this issue, which plagued so many Fiats in Brazil until the FIRE engine already developed from scratch with an OHC valvetrain had a properly-designed belt tensioner was released locally, quite lately compared to the European market by the way, and in some neighboring countries were also offered versions of the European Fiat Uno still featuring the 100-series 903cc engine alongside its Brazilian counterparts, seems like a pushrod engine would not be so out of question regarding regional operating conditions;

3 - Fiat Palio: meant as a replacement to the Uno in Latin America, parts of Africa and Eastern Europe, having also resorted to the 124-series OHC derivative and the 128-series, also featuring the FIRE which became prevalent after the first facelift, the same harsh environmental conditions and often a precarious maintenance would justify an OHV engine. Even though the FIRE engine has often been regarded as a quite dumbproof engine, a chain-driven OHV valvetrain is often still more suitable to harsher operating conditions.