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.

Monday, November 08, 2021

'83 Honda CG 125 on the wild

Leading the small-displacement utilitarian motorcycle category in Brazil since its introduction in '76, no surprise it's still quite easy to spot some older models of the Honda CG on the wild, mostly because the OHV engine used until 2009 with its gear-driven valvetrain is long-lasting and easy to service. This one is from the 2nd generation, which had the 4-speed transmission of the previous replaced by the 5-speed which had been previously used in a short-lived dedicated-ethanol version. Even though once in a while it's quite common to spot a 2nd-generation with the color-matching plastic front mudguard and a square headlight, this one still featured the original rounded headlight and chromed mudguard, and only a few parts such as the turn indicators and the hand grips are totally mismatching the '83 model-year while the smoked tail light lens matches the size and format of the original red one.
Even though it's clearly not babied, with some amount of rust clearly visible to an extention that would make it fail a roadworthiness inspection had such matter been effectively taken seriously in Brazil, the period-accurate graphics in such an utilitarian motorcycle that may eventually been subjected to harsher operating conditions is noteworthy. Seemingly quite easy to restore to a fully period-correct appearance, this '83 Honda CG 125 has its nostalgia appeal in a moment when there is a growing appreciation for its historical value, yet remaining somewhat practical instead for daily riding instead of being turned into a trailer queen to be only displayed at antique car and motorcycle events. And truth be told, its austere appearance remains quite pleasurable to see.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Brazilian replica of a Ford F-650 "super pick-up"

Brazil is on many aspects not so easy to explain to first-timers, and it includes the local car scene. Many factors such as fuel costs, initial purchase price and concerns about maintenance result on vehicles often similar on the outside to actually have much more substantial differences to their overseas counterparts, including this locally-built replica of a Ford F-650 "SuperTruck". Relying on a much more austere 4-cyl Cummins ISB3.9 turbodiesel engine and a 5-speed manual transmission as fitted to a Class-5 version of the Ford Cargo, unlike the original American model which resorted to a 6-cyl Cummins ISB5.9 and had an automatic transmission, the leisure-oriented purpose ends up being pretty much the same. Noticeably larger than mostly any other private vehicle registered in Brazil, with a commercial driver license being required to drive this beast on public roads, it's a great mobile billboard for businesses, and a powertrain from a strictly commercial truck which used to be among the best-sellers of its class became suitable to this replica, also leading to a better availability of replacement parts locally.

As the Brazilian equivalent of the F-650 was phased out in 2005, according to a former Ford engineer because transitioning from a mechanically-governed engine to an electronically-controlled one could be deemed too costly by customers with a more conservative profile, the Cargo range took over the role as Ford's only medium-duty truck for South American markets until the company retreated totally from the truck market in the region due to the closure of the Taboão factory in São Bernardo do Campo in 2019. The coachbuilding was done by Tropical Cabines, a company specialized in crew-cab conversions for trucks when it was not a much common factory option even for the light-duty ones in Brazil, going out of business after Ford phased out local truck manufacturing. This one is a 2010 model-year, and in the meantime a few others were made, some resorting to a Class-7 Ford Cargo chassis and even featuring a 10-speed single-clutch automated-manual transmission.