Meet the amazing Volkswagens from Brazil
Cool sports cars and Beetles that ran on alcohol. Are Brazilian Volkswagens cooler than German ones?
To be honest, I can’t think of a single Volkswagen I would like to own, apart from the Karmann Ghia. The Golf is too common in my country that I’m fed up with seeing them, the Passat is just a Skoda Octavia in a fancier suit, and the rest of the cars are just boring to look at. If only Volkswagen had made the Nardo W12…
But, there are some VWs that seem really cool and fun…and they are from Brazil. With over 50 years of partnership with the German company, this country was the birthplace of some very unusual “people’s cars”. Observe!
Type 1 and Type 2
During the 1950s, Brazil banned the import of assembled vehicles, so the famous German manufacturer opened an assembly line in the municipality of São Bernardo do Campo. The Volkswagen do Brasil was founded in 1953., but the first car rolled of the line 6 years later. They started making the famous T1 or, as it was known in Brasil, the Kombi. The production expanded with the addition of the iconic Fusca (Portuguese for Beetle). Brazilians were making these two cars longer than anyone else; the last Fusca was made in 2003 and the last Kombi in 2013. But, the love for these cars in Brazil was very remarkable.
In 1986, Volkswagen do Brasil stopped making the Fusca, which left a big hole in their car market. Six years later, Brazilian president Itamar Franco opened the market for imported cars, but quickly saw that foreign cars were very expensive to import. So, he ordered for Fusca to be revived…with some minor alterations. The new/old Fusca got an ABS and an interior from the 1990s Beetle. Volkswagen do Brasil even developed a new 1.6-litre boxer engine that ran on ethanol, a fuel that is made from sugar canes. Yup, the same thing used for making many alcoholic drinks.
The same treatment was given to the Kombi, except that this model had a 1.4-litre straight-4 engine. But, apart from the new ethanol-powered engine, there were no changes on the Kombi. It stayed the same for 60 years, because no other vehicle offered so much practicality for that price. However, Kombi’s life came to an end in 2013 due to something called “safety regulations”.
VW Kombi. Credit: Spiegel.de
Made between 1972 and 1984, the Brasilia was the only successful rear-engined Beetle successor (not counting the Porsche). Made between 1973 and 1982, Brasilia was a local interpretation of the iconic Bettle.
Credit: Volkswagen Utah
The car was developed using a chassis from Karmann Ghia and putting a 1.6-litre flat-4 Beetle engine in it. The total output was 53 horsepower which were sent to the rear wheels, and it was able to accelerate to 100 kph in “just” 23 seconds.
VW do Brasil made over 1 million units of the Brasilia, meaning that it was one of the VW bestsellers. But that is probably not surprising when you realize that they made around 40 prototypes for testing and designing processes. This just shows that, when a company is really dedicated to a car, it will bring great results.
The last car on this list is pretty special. Why? Well, during its lifetime, VW do Brasil made some very cool versions of German models. But, in 1969, they decided to go one step further and independently develop a new Volkswagen. However, the company did not have the funds to cover all costs, so they had to make the new car on an existing platform. The, so called, Project X was based on the VW Type 3 and in 1971, the first prototypes were revealed to the public.
The first public reveal of the SP2. Credit: Silodrome.com
One year later, the production began, and VW do Brasil was very happy with their latest project. Now bearing the name SP2, this low-slung coupe was designed to look timeless. The long front and short rear brought a proper sportiness in this creation. The SP2 featured a 1.7-litre 75 HP boxer engine from a Type 3, meaning that it was sporty…for Brazilian standards. At the time, the rest of the world had a Scirocco, which could perform much better than its Brazilian cousin.
Credit: VW newsroom
In total, 10.000 SP2 left the factory, and only a handful of them left the Brazilian borders. However, many people claim that this is the most beautiful VW ever made (even surpassing the gorgeous Karmann Ghia) and the SP2 became a global collector’s dream. If you want one, they are quite costly; some of them cost 2-3 times more than a Karmann Ghia.
So, there you have it. If you want a funky car with a VW badge, get a Brazilian one. They come in different shapes and size, all attractive and sporty.