Thursday, June 01, 2023

Brazilian replica of the Porsche 356 Speedster

It's not so uncommon to see replicas of the Porsche 356 Speedster in Brazil, most locally-made with a fiberglass body and based either on a dedicated tube-frame for newer ones or on the floorpan of some early Volkswagen.
This one is fairly recent, made by a company named FerCar and better known by its beach-buggies.
Quite accurate, yet those headlamps gave me a clue that it was more likely to be a replica.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

'67 Triumph Spitfire Mk.III hardtop

Definitely unusual to see such a beauty in my hometown, but it's undeniably eye-catching. This might be the first Triumph Spitfire that I have ever spotted on the wild.
Well, maybe the most surprising aspect is the stock engine still being under that hood, instead of having been replaced by a Chevette engine which used to be a fairly common adaptation to small British cars in Brazil...

Monday, May 08, 2023

2004 Suzuki GN 125 styled as a bobber

A model which sold quite well in Brazil from 2002 to 2017, the Suzuki GN 125 is still quite common to see either stock or modified to different extents. Having become some sort of cheap option for the folks who would otherwise get a Harley-Davidson, it's easy to see many with modifications inspired by some of the most traditional styles enjoyed by the Harley-Davidson owners and enthusiasts. This 2004 turned into a bobber is a good example of how the Suzuki GN 125 became popular for what could be seen as a makeshift Harley-Davidson lookalike...
Having been rebadged in Brazil as Suzuki Intruder 125, there is a minor cult-following to this model in the local market, as one of the few "affordable" cruiser-inspired motorcycles with a reasonable support both by the local representative of Suzuki back in the day and mostly by the aftermarket now, unlike so many Korean and more recently Chinese copies of some ancient Hondas which faded away as fast as they appeared. And even though its performance might not seem like the most exciting for the highway, it's undeniable the Suzuki GN 125 was quite well suited to the bobber styling.

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Chevrolet-based Santa Matilde SM4.1 convertible

One of those Brazilian cars made during the times when imports were prohibitively restricted, and one of the few not resorting to a Volkswagen-based powertrain, the Santa Matilde SM4.1 had the Chevrolet straight-six as the standard powertrain available both in gasoline and ethanol versions, and a much rare turbocharged version with the Chevrolet 4-cyl engine derived from the very same basic project of the straight-six, with the turbocharging implemented by Santa Matilde and avaliable only in an ethanol-powered setup. This convertible is of the 1987 model-year, fitted with the normal Chevrolet straight-six engine in the gasser version, and a manual transmission.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Odd location of the fuel tank well visible in an Argentinian GMT400 Chevrolet Silverado

In contrast to the USDM GMT400 Silverado, which had a saddle-mounted fuel tank and left-hand filler cap in the front quarter of the pick-up box as a standard fitment, the Argentinian and Brazilian ones had a right-hand filler cap in the rear quarter. In order to save on tooling and reuse much of the parts for the previous generation of the C/K trucks which had already been made in Brazil and Argentina, the tank in the rear overhang was much easier to implement.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Communicating-vessel fuel indicator in a Harley-Davidson Sportster

Spotting a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is quite usual in my hometown, and they usually are fitted with some aftermarket accessories. One which has caught my attention was this 2005 Sportster 883, adapted with a communicating vessel to serve as a fuel gauge.
Proper fuel gauges in Sportsters were something I never seen so often, let alone in a carburettor-fed one such as this. Even though this setup has the advantage of not requiring any electrical wiring, unlike the fuel gauge kits often found as aftermarket units, I'm not so sure if a similar setup would be legal for use in other vehicles.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Brazilian Chevy 500 with a modular van roof

The popularity of the Chevette in Brazil, and the demand for small utility vehicles in the '80s, prompted the local branch of GM to create a coupé-utility based on the Chevette for the local market and regional exports. The needs and preferences of some operators for an enclosed loading bay also brought a good opportunity for a van version, even though it was simple to just slap a fiberglass high roof above the original loading bay. The former Varig flag-carrier airline had some for ground support, no wonder it's still possible to see few still roaming around in my hometown Porto Alegre, even though most had the van roof removed and turned back into a coupé-utility.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Is phasing out the Gol a smart move from Volkswagen?

A formrely successful nameplate, mostly in Brazil but also with some presence in the regional export markets and even some minor presence in other "emerging" markets stretching as far as China, the Gol was most likely of a greater importance to showcase Brazil as a development hub for cars targetting to budget-oriented regions. Even though it actually had 3 generations, with the second having 2 facelifts advertised as if they were different generations on their own, and the third and last going the same way, Volkswagen claims the Gol had 7 generations, with the last being the so-called 7th generation released in 2017 and produced until 2022 having featured the same 3-cylinder 1.0L and 4-cylinder 1.6L engines fitted to naturally-aspirated versions of the 6th-generation Polo since 2017, yet the 1.6L was phased out for the Brazilian domestic market in 2022 while it remained available for regional export markets where the displacement-biased taxation enforced in Brazil has no effect. While the recently facelifted Polo lost the naturally-aspirated 1.0L engine in Europe, it was retained in Brazil in order to retain a foothold with the austere buying pattern which kept the Gol relevant locally, which is essential for Volkswagen to try getting rid of the Gol and keep its Brazilian range more alligned with international markets.

Presumably it might be quite risky to phase out the Gol, as it had a good reputation in countries such as Brazil and other regional markets where it had also been a best-seller, including Argentina where it was also made for a while and Uruguay where CKD assembly of the 1st-generation model took place for the local market. On the other hand it's important to notice the Gol emerged in the '80s in a closed Brazilian market where the earliest generations of both the Polo and the Golf were never officially available, and Volkswagen tried to use as much of the tooling for the 1st-generation Passat as it could, no wonder only the 3rd actual generation initially presented by Volkswagen in 2008 as a 5th generation was the only to finally replace the longitudinal engine layout to a transverse layout which went mainstream on its class in the meantime. Even though Volkswagen in Brazil used to be too much reliant on a more conservative customer base since the time of the Beetle, the reopening of the Brazilian market to imports in '90 was a chance to bring modern models as imports relying on a perceived prestige of overseas models, while it was still relevant to keep the Gol as a budget-oriented model eventually allowing Volkswagen to make a larger profit on the import range exactly because models such as the Golf tended to be always perceived as more prestigious than a Gol, and both the 3rd generation of the Polo brought to Brazil only in sedan bodystyle and the 4th generation made locally in hatchback and sedan bodystyles struggled to take the position of the Gol as a local best-seller, and so the 2008 Gol relying on a simplified variant of the very same PQ24 underpinnings of the 4th-generation Polo was an obvious choice for Volkswagen, soldiering on until 2022.

Even though Brazil still has a role as a regional export hub for the automotive industry, it's now facing a fierce competition from China and more recently India on export markets, so it may be quite predictable most efforts to develop models catering specifically to "emerging" markets would be more focused to meet Chinese preferences and accomodate adaptations to RHD markets with India in mind, while there was never any RHD version of the Gol not even when Volkswagen exported RHD Brazilian-made CKD kits to South Africa and Indonesia. Sure a car which still has a rather convenient size for city traffic like the Gol, smaller on the outside than many of its more modern contenders, could be a valuable asset also in the countryside where that very conservative customer base Volkswagen used to have experienced a difficult transition from the rear-wheel drive of the Beetle to the front-wheel drive as the Gol took over. But in the end, considering how the Brazilian customer nowadays may see "emerging" models as if they were inherently "inferior" to other models more closely alligned to international markets with a more advanced technological level, it might turn out to be a quite understandable move to phase out the Gol.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Volkswagen Transporter converted from van to pick-up truck in Brazil

Seemingly, this Transporter that I spotted some time ago in my hometown was originally a van, not sure if cargo or passenger (Kombi) van. The raised roof gives a clue, because it was never a stock fitment to the pick-up in Brazil, and the air inlet above the rear wheel well is much different from anything ever done by Volkswagen to the Transporter. The hatch for access to the underbody (sort of) trunk also looks different than the ones fitted to the original model, it even looks slightly bigger so to match the lenght of the sliding door which would be previously at the same location. Being a 2000-2001 model-year, when the last pick-up was of the 2000 model-year, says it all too...

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Volkswagen-based Polauto coupé-utility with the rare regular cab

A vehicle which used to be quite common in my hometown Porto Alegre, exactly where it was also made by the way, the Polauto had a fiberglass body assembled over Volkswagen rear-engined Typ1 or Typ3 frames, mostly sourced from second-hand vehicles such as Beetles, Brasílias or Variants, more often the Beetle or the Brasília also reflecting the need for a higher loading deck in order to clear the cooling fan housing. The coupé-utility had its appreciation not only because such segment was consolidated in Brazil between the late-'70s and early-'80s, but also due to a lack of competition within the local market as imports were nearly impossible from '76 to '90, and the José Sarney presidential term from '85 to '90 was plagued by controversial economic plans which failed, including an extra tax paid yearly which only commercial vehicles such as pick-up trucks were granted an exemption.
Access to the engine bay was provided only through a hatch on the loading bay floor, not exactly the most convenient one, and having only the rear wheel wells for air intake and cooling was also quite a matter of concern, no wonder it's so unusual to find a Polauto without any additional air inlet or outlet for the engine bay. Another unusual feature of this Polauto is the regular cab, actually the first one with this bodystyle that I have ever seen, even though the crew-cab model used to be quite popular and some were roaming around until a few years ago in Porto Alegre.
As it used to be made in a rather low volume and more oriented toward final customers who would use it as a private/familiar car, a much larger amount had the crew-cab, still with only 2 doors because it's Brazil and in the '80s the stereotypes about 4-door cars would drop their resale value. Trying to understand the Brazilian car market and its dynamics is frankly a challenge, and models such as the Polauto are there to remind how it used to be eventually harder to explain to a foreigner why some folks would rather get a fiberglass kit car instead of refurbishing a rusty Beetle, not to mention an older beaten frame donor car would appreciate in resale value after being converted back in the day.