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.

Thursday, April 07, 2022

150cc Yamaha motorcycle with trailer

Utility trailers for motorcycles have been quite usual in my country for a while, mostly in smaller towns and sometimes the outskirts of bigger cities, even though they were illegal until some years ago. Now subjected to stricter regulations, they're slowly appearing more often in my hometown Porto Alegre.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

'89 Ford Pampa with a crew-cab conversion

One of the most popular Brazilian coupé-utilities of its time, the Ford Pampa was made from '82 to '97, based on the same underpinnings of the Corcel and Del Rey which were local variants of a project from a joint-venture between Renault and Willys-Overland. As the Brazilian branch of Willys-Overland had been taken over by Ford in '67, so was the project which resulted in the Corcel for the Brazilian market.
Though a double-cab was never a factory option, there were some aftermarket conversions done either by specialized companies or smaller businesses, with different degrees of craftsmanship involved, and once in a while some distinctive feature. This one is just 2WD, but in order to clear the footwell for the passengers of the rear bench seat it had the fuel tank relocated to the rear overhang, where an auxiliary fuel tank would be featured in the 4WD versions which soldiered on from '84 to '95.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Brazilian Chevrolet S10 with underbody CNG kit and roof-mounted spare wheel

Compressed Natural Gas is the most common gaseous fuel for street-legal motor vehicles in Brazil, and Liquid Petroleum Gas is actually outlawed for such use, and for some it's easier to retain the stock cargo space fitting the CNG cylinders under the body. This is quite usual for body-on-frame trucks such as the Chevrolet S10, with the cylinders installed where the spare wheel is originally located, yet only smaller ones would fit there. Usually the CNG cylinders are placed transversely, yet once in a while I see some with them mounted longitudinally. Such position would be more favorable for a vehicle with a longer wheelbase where the cylinders could be saddle-mounted in parallel with the frame rails, which wouldn't be much rocket-science considering how the stock fuel tank is positioned in parallel to the driver's side frame rail.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

3 reasons why it could make sense to use a copy of the Suzuki F10A engine in some versions of the Opel Corsa B

One of the most iconic cars of the '90s, the Opel Corsa B was available with at least one variation of the Family 1 engine on each market where it was sold, even in Brazil where the 1.0L was offered before its European counterpart offered a 3-cylinder engine within that very same displacement. So it was quite predictable even the version assembled in China from CKD kits from '93 to '96 rebadged as Jilin Jiangbei Meilu JJ7090 would retain some other Family 1 engine with a larger displacement, in that case the 1.2L which had been the base engine in Europe until the '97 model-year. It actually does intrigue me some random Chinese copy of the Suzuki F10A engine had not been fitted to the Chinese-assembled units. At least 3 factors could be favorable to the Suzuki F10A engine copies:

1 - easy availability: many Chinese factories still make copies of the Suzuki F10A engine, which used to be widespread in the early days of entry-level car manufacturing in China and retain a foothold in the light-duty commercial vehicle market;

2 - torque output not much worse than the Brazilian 1.0L engine: even when Chinese copies of the Suzuki F10A engine resorted to carburettors, the torque rating was roughly the same as the Brazilian 1.0L engine which resorted to a single-point electronic fuel injection at the same time;

3 - ease to overcome the more stringent rules enforced against the Guandong-based CKD assembly operations: with such an essential component being sourced inside China, qualifying for a lower taxation would remain possible for a longer time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Custom-built trail rig resembling a somewhat oversized flatfender Jeep

Looking interesting to say the least, this custom-built model is clearly oversized in comparison to stock Jeep "flatfender" models, from which it takes styling cues. Built around what seems to be the frame of a first-generation Toyota Fortuner, known in Brazil as Hilux SW4 or more recently just SW4, features the 3.0L 1KD-FTV turbodiesel engine, with full-time 4-wheel drive and automatic transmission. Fitted with an independent front suspension and a solid rear axle with a Panhard rod, being coil-sprung all around is likely to provide a much smoother ride than the old-school rides with leaf-springs and solid axles on both ends.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Honda CBF 250/CBX 250 Twister converted into tricycle for a disabled rider

The lower running cost of a motorcycle is attractive to many people, even some who may not actually be phisically able to ride one without some adaptations, such as the tricycle conversion fitted to this Brazilian Honda CBX 250 Twister also known in some export markets as CBF 250. The attachment of a rear subframe, replacing the stock swingarm, doesn't seem to be so much sophisticated, which means it's quite cost-effective, despite the conversion from a rod-operated rear drum brake for a hydraulic disc acting on both rear wheels. Even though it became slightly wider than the original motorcycle, the rear track remained narrow enough for the lack of a differential not be so detrimental to the handling.

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.