Part Three: Family Saloons, Sporty Coupes, Little Estate Wagons, and an Interloper
By John-William Greenbaum
As I sit down to write this article, the variety of the past eleven models issued in Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil has really hit me. After switching suppliers for this partwork, I’ve been happily inundated with on-time and even ahead-of-schedule deliveries, which is in line with what many Brazilian hobbyists have reported on how quickly they receive the models, namely that a lot depends on your supplier. I have also been very happy, in a manner of speaking, that people noticed that there was no Brazilian Wheels Part III in the last issue of Model Auto Review. This was due to severe supply problems; the very supply problems that led me to change to my new supplier. As with Brazilian Wheels II, I plan on not only featuring the models supplied to me in the time since my last article, but also to focus on some of the cars I missed covering in the very first article. Below, you’ll see a focus on Ford and Willys Overland do Brasil cars that I missed doing the first time around. With that said, I think I’m getting ahead of myself.
We’ll begin with the eleven models that have been released since my last article in the order in which they were released. This means we’re going to examine the superb 1966 Aero Willys 2600 four-door saloon, the nicely-executed 1964 Malzoni GT coupe, the more flawed 1968 Volkswagen 1600 four-door saloon, the terrific 1980 Ford Corcel II, the disappointing 1988 Chevrolet Monza four-door saloon, the brilliant 1982 Miura Targa coupe, the wonderfully-done 1991 Gurgel BR-800SL city car, the seemingly-hurried 1990 Ford Escort XR3 three-door ‘hot hatch’, the 1985 Volkswagen Santana four-door saloon that is the titular interloper, the well-executed 1989 Chevrolet Marajó 1.6 SLE two-door estate wagon, and the solid 1991 Fiat Elba four-door estate wagon that really makes up for the dreadful Fiat Uno issued earlier in the collection. In short, we’ve had a mixture of the very good, some models that have ranged from disappointing to poor, and one model that doesn’t belong in this partwork.
I received the 1966 Willys Aero Willys 2600 and 1964 Malzoni GT together, as a part of my old supplier’s second-to-last shipment to me. It was running nearly a month overdue, so you can imagine my excitement at finally seeing the US Mail truck pull up to my front walk with the blue-wrapped package containing the two models. Eagerly tearing into it, I was not disappointed. The 1966 Aero Willys 2600, which was called a ‘1966 Willys Aero Willys’ on the display stand, was in perfect condition without the usual glue smears you see in the photos (If you’re worried about that, don’t be, as I do clean them off after photographing them). The Malzoni GT was likewise in perfect condition; at least it was, once I tightened down the screws.
Looking at the 1966 Aero Willys 2600, we’re not merely looking at a Willys saloon manufactured long after Willys had stopped making saloons and station wagons for the US market. We’re also looking at what was really the last hurrah for Willys Overland do Brasil before being bought up by Ford. As the brainchild of Studebaker stylist and Raymond Loewy associate Brooks Stevens (who was also famous for designing the Jeep Wagoneer), much of the Studebaker styling present in cars like the Lark from 1962 onward and the famous Gran Turismo Hawk can be seen on the Willys Aero Willys 2600. One notable difference, something that Stevens seemed to alternate between promoting and even outright condemning, is the car’s split grille. If you can remember back to the first article where I featured the Willys Rural station wagon, you’ll doubtless be struck by the similarity. Turn the car around, however, and you’ll be equally struck by the similarity to a 1964 Studebaker Lark Daytona, especially around the rear window.
The Aero Willys 2600 is so named, at least with regard to the number, due to its engine: a Willys F6-161 inline six, which came in three versions on the real car: one that put out 90 horsepower, another that put out 110 horsepower, and a third version that put out 132 horsepower. Sold as a full-size saloon for the whole family, it’s doubtful that the model is meant to have the 132 horsepower engine, which was typically reserved for the Willys Itamaraty. The Aero Willys 2600 had two main competitors. For the first half of its existence, it went toe-to-toe with the Simca Chambord, which has lived on considerably longer in Brazilian popular culture; there are no songs devoted to the Aero Willys 2600 that I’m aware of, for example. During the second half of its existence, it competed with and fared much better against the Simca Esplanada and, under Ford ownership, likewise held its own against the saloon versions of the Chevrolet Opala. What ultimately ended the Aero Willys 2600 was its old technology. It was little more than a rebodied Willys Aero-series car from the early 1950s, and with the acquisition of Willys by Ford and the introduction of the Corcel, there just wasn’t a reason to keep it around. I should note that as with the Itamaraty, the Aero Willys 2600 had a particularly large engine bay. When someone figured out a Ford V8 engine could be dropped in, I have no doubt that more than a few ‘sleepers’ wound up looking like this in addition to some hotrods.
As with the Willys-by-Ford Itamaraty that I featured in the last article, aside from the tyres being a little on the small side and lacking whitewalls, this one was, and is, really nice and true to real life. Especially impressive on a small scale are the tampo-printed Willys badges on the c-pillars. The Aero Willys 2600 is really nothing more than the car that the Itamaraty was based on and as such is very similar in most respects as both a real car and a model. If you’re not much for Willys, then you may only wish to buy one of these cars. The main differences are the side spear and its location, the steel roof, and most significantly the front of the car. Personally, I feel that the side spear is handled a bit more crisply on this model than the Itamaraty, but your experience may vary. On the flipside, I personally prefer the simpler grille of the Itamaraty, although objectively, you could make a good case that more work was put into sculpting the Aero Willys 2600’s grille. Some collectors may be turned off by the powder blue colour of the car and the shiny plastic hubcaps, but I assure you that the colour is quite accurate. As for the hubcaps, as you’ll see, they really have started to become a bit of a nuisance, though fortunately, Brazilian DeAgostini seems to have noticed that. If you really can’t stand them, just break out the paint and paintbrush.
Our next model is the 1964 Malzoni GT, which was one of the most anticipated models in the collection. One could indeed make a legitimate case that it was the most anticipated model in the collection. However, before I go any further, I find it impossible to understand the Malzoni GT without understanding the men who designed it: Genaro ‘Rino’ Malzoni, Jorge Lettry, and Anisio Campos.
Rino Malzoni was born in 1918 in Salerno, Italy and emigrated to Brazil in 1930. Although a lawyer by profession, Malzoni was also a farmer and had a tremendous passion for fast cars. After World War II, he began experimenting with minor tweaks to his cars’ body designs, all the while seeking to emulate the performance cars that were springing up like grass in his native Italy. In 1961, Rino Malzoni built his first car, known as the Malzoni I. Whilst it had the underpinnings of a DKW-Vemag Belcar four-door saloon, the body was completely redesigned. Meant to be evocative of Italian designs of the period, Malzoni also experimented during this time with a car called the Casella I, which was based on the Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia. Due to weight problems with the Casella I, however, Malzoni found himself returning to the DKW-Vemag Belcar as a suitable base. After producing a prototype dubbed the Malzoni II, Rino found himself attracting a lot of attention from DKW-Vemag.
Around 1962 and 1963, DKW-Vemag was truly struggling to produce a racing car capable of even coming close to the formidable Willys Interlagos, which dominated the Brazilian racing circuit in the early 1960s. The Interlagos was actually a French design, based on the Alpine A108, which had financial backing from Renault and Willys Overland do Brasil. Reportedly, Vemag Racing Team manager Jorge Lettry was considering giving up altogether when DKW-Vemag announced that its racing car would be the DKW-Vemag Fissore, an Italian design that Lettry strongly believed was a waste of time. The Malzoni II changed all of that.
After seeing that Rino Malzoni had been producing his cars with the aid of Marinho and Milton Masteguin, the co-owners of noted DKW-Vemag dealership MM Comercial, Lettry realized that perhaps Malzoni could be convinced to work for DKW-Vemag. Lettry realized that although Malzoni’s car had minimal modifications to the engine, that the actual body was not only sound, but remarkably advanced. Lettry, via the Masteguins, convinced Malzoni that it would be in his best interest to work for DKW-Vemag. Although Lettry was more or less looking to keep his job at the time, he was quite involved with the first true collaborative effort between DKW-Vemag and Malzoni himself, which has alternately been called the Malzoni III and the DKW-Vemag GT. This car was featured and promoted nationally, and while it had a steel body, something Rino Malzoni had hoped to avoid in favour of fibreglass (GRP), it was also the first car featuring a Jorge Lettry-tuned engine.
Lettry’s engines may seem bizarre in today’s day and age. Capable of putting out 100 horsepower, they were DKW three-cylinder two-stroke models that were modified by dropping the compression ratio and modifying the engine head. Performance parts were also installed, but the compression ratio and engine head were the two most significant changes. Because the rules called for the same engine to be used in a racing car as in the DKW-Vemag Belcar itself, Lettry was somewhat handcuffed to using a three-cylinder, two-stroke engine.
It was around this time that Anisio Campos joined what would become the Malzoni GT’s design team. Campos had actually driven the DKW-Vemag GT prototype and was convinced of the need for a fibreglass body. A racing car driver by trade, Campos also knew a good deal about engineering, and quickly began advising Rino Malzoni on what he did and didn’t like about the DKW-Vemag GT. Campos’s most adamant suggestion was that the DKW-Vemag GT couldn’t win any races with a steel body; it had to be fibreglass. DKW-Vemag was nervous about backing the project, but Jorge Lettry assured them that the venture would pay off. Lettry, of course, almost certainly didn’t have any idea whether it would work or not. I should note that among the fibreglass engineers that Lettry encouraged Campos to bring in was a young man by the name of João Amaral Gurgel. Let’s just say you’ll be seeing a lot of that name further below.
The original three DKW-Vemag Malzoni GTs were ready in early 1964. A few more were built, but exclusively for racing purposes. Hoping to get his original vision of a car meant for both road and track, Rino Malzoni in conjunction with Marinho Masteguin, Milton Masteguin, and a car dealer named Luis Roberto Alves da Costa formed Lumimari to actually build the cars on 2 October, 1964. The name combined the first names of each man involved in the venture: ‘Lu’ represented Alves da Costa, ‘mi’ represented Milton Masteguin, ‘ma’ represented Marinho Masteguin, and ‘ri’ of course represented Rino Malzoni. Although Jorge Lettry initially chose not be part of the venture, he would eventually come on board in 1966.
Because of Lettry being a DKW-Vemag engineer while Lumimari was separate from DKW-Vemag, much confusion has arisen over what the car was actually called, or who produced it. Although sometimes referred to as a DKW-Vemag Malzoni GT, this moniker is only correct for cars made prior to the formation of Lumimari. In spite of the Auto Union badging, the car is correctly referred to in two ways: either as the GT Malzoni (A popular name at the time) or as the Malzoni GT. Indeed, the only road cars made were Malzoni GTs and were sold as such. Ixo reproduces the Malzoni GT in truly fine detail. Some collectors may have issues with the painted rear tail lights, but there aren’t any real errors to speak of. Further, much as with the Brasinca 4200GT Uirapuru seen in my last article, the shiny plastic hubcaps are indeed appropriate for this model, as the real car had them.
The real Malzoni GT was only produced in about 35 examples, and a majority of these were racing cars. Only a handful were the road cars that Rino Malzoni dreamed of. In 1966, Jorge Lettry joined Lumimari after watching Marinho Masteguin depart and very quickly became close friends with Malzoni. Lettry also believed that the buying public should have more access to the car, and indeed suggested a commercial name for Malzoni’s car: Puma. In 1967, the DKW Puma GT was briefly worked on before Puma broke free of any manufacturer, going on to become Brazil’s most famous domestic sports car manufacturer. If you’re interested in historical sports car firsts, or indeed sports cars with very strange engines, then the Malzoni GT is a no-brainer. The model that I received had both screws holding the baseplate very loose, but a quick tightening with a screwdriver fixed the problem.
Nearly two months after receiving those two wonderful cars, I got a package containing two more: this time the 1968 Volkswagen 1600 four-door saloon and the 1980 Ford Corcel II coupe. After getting an accompanying message from my contact that it would take him ten weeks to deliver the next package, I decided to switch suppliers. In the meantime, however, I was presented with two very interesting models.
The first of these two models was the 1968 Volkswagen 1600 four-door saloon. This was the Brazilian version of the Volkswagen Type 3 notchback and mechanically, it was very close. However, since it was meant to compete with the Willys Gordini, the brand new Chevrolet Opala, and to a lesser degree the Aero Willys 2600, it had to be a four-door saloon. To facilitate an extra two rear doors, the car was completely restyled. The result in real life could be best described as hideous and indeed possibly the ugliest car in Brazilian history. It had strange, irrational curves, ugly rectangular headlamps, and an odd, boxy shape that earned it the nickname “Zé do Caixão”, roughly translated as Coffin Joe. This name was derived from a Brazilian film character of the same name who was a sadistic undertaker and who generally looked like a cross between Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula and popular depictions of Jack the Ripper. Apparently, only a madman would style a car as the Volkswagen 1600 was styled, and its appearance jokingly inspired horror. Unfortunately for Volkswagen do Brasil, the car’s ugly styling led to its downfall in 1971. Fortunately, however, with the Fusca (Beetle) selling well and the Volkswagen 1600TL fastback and the Volkswagen Variant station wagon, both based on the Type 3, selling well, Volkswagen do Brasil was able to weather the storm, always being much more conservative in its styling after the 1600 debacle.
Although the model captures the general spirit of the infamous Volkswagen 1600 well, it’s not without flaws. Most notable among these is the passenger cabin being ever so slightly too small, which leads to a sense of the rest of the car being a bit oversized, especially around the wheels. The wheels themselves are also a tad off, though not by much. However, their look is exacerbated by the shiny hubcaps, which in this situation look quite inappropriate. Although I typically make excuses for models with visible ‘pupils’ on the headlamps, the Volkswagen Variant also featured in Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil has no ‘pupils’, despite having the exact same front fascia. Likewise, the hubcaps on the Variant are a dull grey colour, minimising their being slightly too large. Sadly, the Volkswagen 1600 must be put into the flawed category, although it is by no means a really poor model, and indeed, it represents a car that could best be described as Brazil’s Edsel. Painting the hubcaps grey and the headlights silver would likely solve a number of the model’s issues.
The second model I received in my package was truly stunning however, both as a real car and as a model. In 1978, Ford do Brasil finally decided to remove the popular Corcel from production and replace it with a modernised version: the Ford Corcel II coupe. Much like the original Corcel, the Corcel II was famously built on a Renault 12 platform, in spite of all kinds of American, British, and German styling cues. This was because when Ford do Brasil bought out Willys Overland do Brasil, they inherited a car called Project M, which was to be based on the locally-assembled Renault 12 saloon. Ford saw to it that the Renault 12 never arrived in Brazil, but that its platform did, if only to complete the highly-competitive Project M. Project M evolved into the famous Ford Corcel, which in turn became the Ford Corcel II in 1978. The Corcel II only came as a two-door saloon, officially, although it was generally billed as a coupe by dealers and also became a coupe in the minds of many buyers. Notably, the Corcel II was a lot lighter than any version of the original Corcel. Although at a theoretical speed advantage at first, the price of gasoline was skyrocketing in Brazil when the Corcel II was released. As such, its 1.4 litre four-cylinder engine was downrated from 75 horsepower all the way to 55 horsepower.
Another option done away with on the Corcel II that was present on the original Corcel was a four-door saloon option. Ford do Brasil simply gave the two-door coupe (or saloon) very long doors in case anyone wished to use it as a small family car. The car’s station wagon version, the Belina II, was given a similar treatment with regard to its long doors, although no four-door option had existed on the original Belina. The car would go through various treatments from 1978 to 1986, when it was finally discontinued. Although nowhere near the powerful pony car that the original Corcel was, the Corcel II was and is certainly a Brazilian cult car with a great deal of interest in it; after all, despite its styling and being a Ford, the car is seen as distinctly Brazilian.
Given the Corcel II’s wide variety of variants and wide appeal, it’s interesting that Ixo chose the car they copied: a model offered only in 1980, judging by the chrome trim and front and rear bumper overriders. Remarkably well-executed, the Corcel II also takes us back to the dull grey plastic wheels that were well-received on earlier issues. A number of parts are shared with the Ford Belina II two-door station wagon from earlier in the Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil partwork. Since the only issue with that model was its rear badging, the Corcel II really turned out well. Just about the only complaint lodged against it were its black, vacant wing mirrors. Still possessing the recess necessary for someone to insert their own reflective surfaces, a touch of bright foil cut to fit the mirrors would make this car next to perfect. Personally, of the eleven models I’m writing about, I have to confess that this one is probably my favourite.
Soon after the package with the Volkswagen 1600 and Ford Corcel II arrived, so did my very first model from my new supplier: a 1988 Chevrolet Monza four-door family saloon. Now, you readers in the UK, US, and Germany are probably going to recognise this car as very familiar. It’s really nothing more than a rebadged Vauxhall Cavalier Mk II, Chevrolet Cavalier, or Opel Ascona C. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Chevrolet Monza received more of the same critical acclaim that accompanied the Cavalier and the Ascona C. This was a car that first appeared, a little strangely, as a three-door hatchback, but the four-door saloon body style proved far more popular. It was facelifted several times and had three different four-cylinder engines: the 1.6 litre and 1.8 litre that were familiar to were familiar to buyers of the Cavalier and the Ascona, and, beginning in 1988, a two litre version that represented the top of the line. The depicted model is the 1988 Chevrolet Monza 2.0, and is appropriately badged as such. But wait, you ask, didn’t I call this car disappointing? As a matter of fact, I did.
Another two partworks that share a number of components with Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil were launched first in Colombia and then in Chile. Both were much smaller in scope, but used the same moulds in many cases. Most Brazilian hobbyists assumed that the Colombian Monza, which was actually a model that predated 1988, was going to be in the Brazilian partwork. After all, the Colombian Monza was in reality a Brazilian-built car. It had dull grey, very nicely-executed hubcaps, highly-detailed taillights, a rich forest green colour, and reflective wing mirrors. After the Corcel II, it really wasn’t that hard to believe that we would see this model in Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil. However, we most assuredly did not.
The Monza we received was a lighter green with a later-style grille, both of which are perfectly acceptable. What isn’t acceptable, given the numerous and inexpensive Colombian models one could buy off eBay for less than $25 USD, were the hubcaps, the tail lights, and the wing mirrors. The tail lights, as you can see in the picture, are coloured solid red. Contrast this with the four-colour taillights fitted to the less expensive Colombian Monza. Moving along to the wing mirrors, you can see that while they have indentations for a person wanting to fit foil there, they’re not detailed. As with painting the red taillights, one can of course detail the wing mirrors with a bit of foil. The real problem was and still is the hubcaps. Not only were the hubcaps a fairly annoying loud shiny plastic not particularly suited to a 1980s family saloon, but they aren’t actually period-correct. These hubcaps were fitted to models made from 1990 onwards.
Normally, these would be minor errors that a collector could overlook. They would be fodder for nitpickers, of course, but a collector intent on having a Chevy Monza could probably overlook them if not for the presence of a car that was and still is actually about half the price of the sub-par Brazilian model. This isn’t a model that’s poor or even terrible. On its own, it’s actually a very good representation of the 1988-96 version of the Chevrolet Monza that you can still see on the streets of Brazil, and, by the time this article is published, some of you doubtless will have seen in Brazil thanks to going there to see some World Cup football. However, it is absolutely inexcusable to have a less expensive model released of the same car with more details and charging double for the ‘economy’ version that actually contains an additional error with the hubcaps. To me, that’s just being sloppy and cutting corners where completely unnecessary. I don’t and can’t recommend this model, although I heartily recommend either the Colombian or Chilean versions of the car, which are a darker shade of green and, because they’re a bit earlier, have the Chevrolet logo in the middle of the grille rather than atop it.
Following the decidedly sour experience with the Chevrolet Monza, I was really ready for a very nice model. Fortunately for me, I got one. The 1982 Miura Targa coupe is one of the nicest models in Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil to date. It depicts the beautiful Miura Targa; the shark-like, much more squared-off successor to the Miura Sport that was featured earlier in the partwork. Indeed, it’s really a very similar car when it comes to the underpinnings and size. However, it has been restyled in two very significant ways. First, it has lost a great deal of the Lotus Esprit influence on the actual bodywork, something that is still noticeable around the front end, but as soon as you hit the a-pillar, you’ve got a completely different car in terms of styling inspiration. Second, although the name indicates that it might be a Targa-type car, it’s actually a got T-bar on top (Something we Americans are used to calling a T-top.). Those two panels you see over each one of the seats are removable on the real car. Unfortunately they are moulded in place on the model, but I can see some enterprising individual cutting and sawing the roof and windows to get himself a really nice model. The name is actually meant to evoke the Targa Florio race, not the top of the car.
What’s really remarkable about the Miura Targa, though, at least to me, is how they went about making a silk purse out of a real sow’s ear. This car was powered by a four-cylinder, 1.6 litre Volkswagen engine. Granted, they gave it a Weber two-barrel carb, but still, it’s really the same engine you’d find under the bonnet of a Volkswagen Passat B1. The horsepower output is up, though. You’ve got 87 horsepower propelling a car that has a kerb weight of just over 2,000 lbs. The result, of course, is that your car can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 12.8 seconds. That’s not spectacular, but given the engine and a bit of tuning, I have no doubt that time could be improved upon. Likewise, you’ve got a top speed from the factory of just over 106 mph. Did I mention this car has front-wheel drive and in stock configuration gets 28.6 miles to the US gallon and 34.3 miles to the imperial gallon? Miura was going for fuel efficiency when they built this car. Tuning it and sacrificing a bit of that fuel efficiency to give it a higher top speed, more horsepower, and better acceleration was something that was apparently done to these cars with some pretty impressive results.
Unlike the Chevrolet Monza model, the real Miura Targa really did have nice-looking shiny hubcaps, which are recreated in brilliant detail on Ixo’s model. A ‘blink and miss it’ detail is that the wing mirrors really do have a reflective surface, which is unfortunately a moot point due to them being silver in the first place. The badging, taillights, and even the fog lamps are all there, wonderfully detailed. If there were only one thing I could change about this model, it would of course be a working top with detachable inserts, but this being a partwork, we beggars can’t afford to be choosers and the rest of the model is brilliant enough.
Understandably, the Miura Targa was a very difficult act to follow, but somehow, Ixo did manage a very nice follow-up in the 1991 Gurgel BR-800SL city car. The Gurgel BR-800SL was the brainchild of Brazil’s most internationally-known and most controversial automotive engineer: João Amaral Gurgel. Whether one believes the man to have been a shyster, someone ahead of his time, a brilliant engineer who was simply very much out of touch with the rest of the world, or even all three is something I’ll leave up to you. Much as with the Malzoni GT, however, one must understand the man to understand his car.
João Amaral Gurgel was by trade an engineer, and a very good one at that. Prior to working in the automotive industry, Gurgel had been a plastics engineer and he gained a great deal of experience with fibreglass and how it could interact with steel. Indeed, Gurgel worked briefly as part of the team that built the Malzoni GT fibreglass body, although he had no part in designing it. Regardless, the Malzoni GT was truly an inspiration to Gurgel, who both loved cars and loved Brazilian cars. By that, I mean he had a bit of a nationalistic air about him. To Gurgel, the Malzoni GT versus the Willys Interlagos represented the Brazilian David to the Interlagos’s Franco-American Goliath. Gurgel didn’t actually start designing cars until 1969, which is when he designed the Gurgel Xavante buggy, previously featured in this partwork. After half a decade of success with Xavante and its new technologies such as Plasteel and Selectraction, Gurgel decided to focus his energy on building a Brazilian everyman’s car. The result was the Gurgel Itaipu E150, the very first electric car built in Brazil. Unfortunately for Gurgel, the vehicle was of terrible quality and reliability, and he didn’t attempt another vehicle of the same class until 1981. Powered by a more powerful and more orthodox Volkswagen 1.6 litre engine, the Gurgel XEF was an awkward, tiny vehicle that presented even more problems. Gurgel again took a significant time to develop an SUV known as the Gurgel Carajás, which employed many of the principles used in his Xavante buggy, as well as something known as the Tork Tubing System to transfer power from the engine to the transmission while better balancing the vehicle. However, the Carajás was considered by most to be a failure, only succeeding because it had no competition, thanks to Brazil’s strict protectionist policy when it came to imported cars, or, rather, complete lack thereof.
João Amaral Gurgel loved the protectionist policy both as a nationalist and a businessman. With the Carajás to his name, he set out to finally develop a completely Brazilian-designed everyman’s car. Project CENA began in 1986, with the acronym standing for Carro Econômico Nacional, or “National Economy Car”. Declared finished in 1987, Project CENA produced a car called the Gurgel 280, but it was quickly named the Gurgel BR-800. The ‘800’ referred to the bizarre two-cylinder engine, which was almost literally a Volkswagen four-cylinder engine that was cut in half! Many internal parts could actually interchange with the Volkswagen engine, and Gurgel, never a man to waste an opportunity to give something even marginally new a creative and futuristic name, dubbed it the Enertron. This joined the vehicle’s body, which was made of Plasteel, a mixture of fibreglass and steel, and the vehicle’s suspension, which was made of a high number of stiff, synthetic components and called Springshock. Presumably, the vehicle’s four-speed manual transmission didn’t do enough to deserve its own outlandish name.
A truly tiny vehicle, it was intended to be spacious inside despite its size and was marketed as a city car. However, Gurgel believed that in time, with the proper marketing, he could achieve the same thing Volkswagen had done in Germany with the Beetle! One sneaky marketing tactic was the very system by which one could obtain a Gurgel BR-800. Advertisements boasted that the BR-800 was the cheapest new-production car in Brazil. It retailed for the equivalent of about $5,000 USD, whereas the Chevrolet Chevette, the previous holder of the title of ‘cheapest new car in Brazil’, cost $7,000 USD. However, there was a catch. To promote its image as a ‘people’s car’, one had also to buy 750 shares of Gurgel stock in order to obtain the car itself. Those 750 stock shares cost another $5,000 USD, making the car’s true cost double the advertised MSR. Although it was a one-time-only fee and if someone’s Gurgel BR-800 failed and they bought another new, they did not have to pay for a further 750 shares, it was still essentially lying about the car’s price. Regardless, the car also had the lowest tax rate of any car in Brazil.
The Gurgel BR-800 had a lot of problems, however. For example, nearly everyone, even Gurgel, believed the car to be underpowered. It put out just 32 horsepower and had a top speed of only 68 mph. Furthermore, the Springshock suspension system, while economical and reliable, was also horribly uncomfortable. The stiffness inherent to Springshock made the driver and passengers feel every bump in the road. From a safety point of view, the car was too small and the windows, which were made of flat glass to make up for the expensive body, were incredibly dangerous if broken. Taking a dim view of it, I suppose that if something like a Volkswagen Passat B1 or Alfa Romeo FNM 2300 came along and wiped out a BR-800, the passengers probably wouldn’t have to worry about the glass, anyway. By July 1990, with sales and production slow, Brazilian President Fernando Collor drove what was essentially the first nail into the BR-800’s coffin by equalising the tax on all Brazilian cars with an engine smaller than one litre. Collor shortly afterward drove another nail into the car’s coffin by removing the entire protectionist system on Brazilian cars. Although an imported car often carried an 85% tax, it was at least possible to get one into the country.
Reeling from the automotive reforms introduced by Collor, Gurgel countered with the BR-800SL. At last given a more powerful engine, improved styling, and better quality control, it was too late. The BR-800SL sold terribly in both 1991 and 1992. Between the two cars, only about 4,000 were made, an average of 1,000 cars per year of production. Gurgel attempted to replace the car with the more conventional Gurgel Supermini, but his efforts were in vain. Nearly $1.2 billion in debt, Gurgel finally went under in 1994, and its popular inventor died in 2009.
Ixo have reproduced the little BR-800SL beautifully, at least if one considers the BR-800SL a beautiful car. Perhaps ‘well-modelled’ would be a better term, as the BR-800SL truly gives the Volkswagen 1600 saloon a run for its money in the ‘ugliest car in Brazil’ department. As with the Miura Targa, the BR-800SL is extremely well-detailed. It also has a better fit and finish to it than any other car in the partwork that I feature in this article. Small details like the strange little release handles at the back of the doors as well as the mould lines in the Plasteel panels are recreated wonderfully. The BR-800SL’s hilariously small boot is also recreated very nicely, the headlamps, taillights, and turn signals are all wonderfully reproduced, we get actual reflective mirrors, and the only complaint some may have are the shiny plastic hubcaps, although the shape is captured perfectly.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Miura Targa and BR-800SL were very hard acts to follow. Indeed, the act following them received a mixed response amongst collectors: a 1990 Ford Escort XR3 1.8 three-door hatchback. Much as it is in Britain and Germany, the XR3 is the ‘hot hatch’ version of the standard Ford Escort. Understandably, this made it a very popular sports car in gasoline-poor Brazil and an excellent seller for Ford. The actual mould for this model seems fairly good and captures some American features in the car’s front fascia and rear bumper not present in the British and German XR3. I also liked this one, because the car I grew up with was my father’s 1989 Ford Escort LX Station Wagon, a four-door estate car version of something very similar to this car. However, there were three issues that were controversial amongst collectors.
The first feature seen as problematic was the model’s sunroof. Although tinted nearly black on the real car, many collectors felt that the black tampo-printing on a special background wasn’t adequate for capturing the look of the sunroof. The illusion actually does work well, until you pick up the car and look upwards at it. Coming in second was the car’s lack of fog lamps. Although I was able to find a few identical cars by searching a number of Brazilian automotive sale websites, I could count them on one hand. Why the model lacks fog lamps is absolutely beyond me, especially since Ixo was starting with a new casting and was looking at pictures of cars that primarily had fog lamps. They were optional to delete, but most people didn’t delete them. I hereby posit the theory that, given the lack of a sunroof as well as fog lamps, that Ixo was simply planning a regular Escort until very late in mould development until the people at Planeta DeAgostini changed their minds and wanted an XR3. Some people really had issues with the complex hubcaps being given the chrome plastic treatment. The general feeling was that the hubcaps were far too shiny, to the point where they actually detracted from the look of the car. Proponents of the model pointed out that it the hubcaps were at least palatable and that Ixo had also given the car detailed wing mirrors and tai llights, in addition to correct badging. Naysayers pointed to quality control issues with the car’s base, which in my case was so bad that I changed my usual policy of showing how the car arrived and compressing the base in padded vice jaws to straighten it out. However, everyone agreed that the next car was, while a solid model, completely inappropriate for the partwork.
Following the 1990 Ford Escort XR3 was a car that purported to be a 1985 Volkswagen Santana four-door family saloon. These were very popular in Brazil during the 1980s and clashed with the Chevrolet Diplomata and Ford Del Rey for sales. Aside from a slightly high ride height (thanks to oversized tyres), blank wing mirrors, and shiny hubcaps, it should have been a good model. Unfortunately, one look at the car’s silver-coloured bumper tops tells one all they need to know about this car: it’s not Brazilian. Instead, it’s Chinese. Perhaps the problem of designing and building a model in China is that if a model differs in a minor detail on a Chinese vehicle that’s otherwise identical, the Chinese just might recreate that detail. The car we see here is an extremely early Shanghai Volkswagen Santana 1.6L four-door saloon, and a pretty good model of one, too. I hope we see this car in the French Taxis du Monde series, as a Shanghai or Beijing taxi given the huge number of these cars still in service as Chinese taxis. However, when you’re producing a Brazilian partwork and promising a Brazilian car, it might be a good idea to deliver a model of the Brazilian version of the Volkswagen Santana, instead of the Chinese version.
I suppose I’m unique in my liking for the Shanghai Volkswagen Santana. It was the People’s Republic of China’s very first successful ‘joint venture car’, in which it launched the famous Shanghai Volkswagen joint venture. Though it lacks Chinese badging, the earliest Santanas in China likewise had no external Chinese badging. Famous in the PRC as one of the country’s longest-lasting cars,made locally from 1985-2013,only one 1:43 scale promotional model of it has been made so far that has actually been called a Shanghai Volkswagen Santana, with the Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil model being the second 1:43 Shanghai Volkswagen Santana marketed under any name. As such, we have a woefully under-represented car finally seeing the light of day in 1:43 scale, but in the wrong partwork, representing the wrong country. Regardless of its status as the partwork’s sole interloper (The Fiat Uno Mille and Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia really did have some Brazilian-only features, such as badging), I really like this car. It’s too bad that it had to come about like this.
Expectations of Brazilian collectors were perhaps understandably low for the next model, the 1989 Chevrolet Marajó 1.6 SLE two-door estate wagon, but the model turned out very nicely. It represents the last hurrah of the Chevrolet Chevette in Brazil. The Chevette itself had been discontinued in 1988, but its estate wagon counterpart, the Chevrolet Marajó, remained in production for one more year. The Marajó 1.6 SLE represented the top trim level and engine level available in that final year, and also shows the car’s last grille: a very plain affair without the Chevrolet badge. Intended as both a family car and a utility wagon, the Marajó was just bit more expensive than the Chevette proper, and while inexpensive, was in general very well-liked. Interestingly, the first car that I am not featuring in this article, due to lack of time, the 1991 Chevrolet Ipanema, replaced the Marajó as Chevrolet’s small family and utility wagon.
The model is a good one, and replicates the 1989 Chevrolet Marajó 1.6 SLE very nicely. Dull grey plastic wheels finally made a return on this model, which oddly features no hubcaps. Although this is of course realistic for a car that has been driven around a bit, it is somewhat surprising to see on a model. The grille, headlamps, tail lights, turn signals, wing mirrors, and even the rear view mirror on the inside are detailed nicely and present the image of a nice working man’s estate wagon that is just as likely to be hauling around trade goods as it is the man’s family.
The final car I’m featuring in this article, and the second estate wagon, is a curious choice, but also a good one: a 1991 Fiat Elba four-door station wagon. Basically, this was the Fiat Uno as an estate car. Ignore the bit about ‘1986’ on the display plinth. The model represents a 1991 Fiat Elba; the 1986 model had a black-coloured grille, square headlamps, and different bumpers and trim. Very much in stark contrast to the Marajó 1.6 SLE, the Elba four-door station wagon is clearly a family car and both the internal and external details reflect this. Powered by an ethanol engine, the Fiat Elba was built for economy and the interior provides a stark contrast with that found on the Chevy Marajó 1.6 SLE.
The actual model of the car does a good job on the whole. The wing mirrors are correctly detailed. The tail light detail is a bit off, but the lights are at least shaped correctly. Likewise, although the hubcaps are made of dull grey plastic and well-detailed, they represent aftermarket replacements that, while common, they don’t represent the car as it came from the factory. Still, both of these are easy for me to swallow. The ill-fitting grille emblem is in my mind the greatest concern, although the rest of the model is fine. When viewed side-on, it really is a nice contrast to the bombardment of two-door estate cars we’ve been seeing in Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil. I would certainly recommend it if you’re okay with the grille emblem, the tail lights (which can be repainted anyway), and the aftermarket hubcaps.
This brings me to the second part of the article: a brief overview of Willys Overland do Brasil and Ford do Brasil products featured prior to this series of articles, and which I could only briefly touch upon in my first article. Namely, these are the 1968 Willys Rural Willys estate wagon, 1974 Ford Maverick GT coupe, 1982 Ford Del Rey Ouro two-door saloon, 1978 Ford F100 Pickup, 1965 Willys Gordini four-door saloon, 1970 Ford Corcel coupe, 1967 Ford Galaxie 500 four-door saloon, 1980 Ford Belina II two-door station wagon, and 1963 Willys Interlagos coupe. I was strongly considering an overview of Volkswagen products, but then I remembered the intense World Cup football rivalry between number two-ranked Germany and number three-ranked Brazil and decided to save it for the next issue.
I actually did devote quite a bit of time to two of the above-mentioned models in my first article: the 1967 Ford Galaxie 500 four-door saloon and the 1968 Willys Rural Willys estate wagon. At the time, I wrote that they were in my top five models that we’d seen so far for the partwork. Nothing has changed that for me. The 1967 Ford Galaxie 500, which is nothing more than a 1966 US-spec Ford Galaxie 500, was Brazil’s executive car for nearly a decade and a half. The model reproduces it brilliantly and really doesn’t have any problems. As for the Willys Rural, this was Brooks Stevens’ reworking of his initial, quite famous Willys Jeep Station Wagon for the Brazilian market; hence the split grille for a bit of uniformity with the Willys Aero Willys 2600. Again, you can’t go wrong with this model.
You may of course be wondering why I’m featuring Willys Overland do Brasil and Ford do Brasil together. As mentioned, the latter acquired the former and, in the cases of the Willys Rural, Aero Willys 2600, and Willys Itamaraty, just kept on producing the cars unaltered. However, there have been two ‘pre-Ford’ Willys designs that have been featured so far. The 1965 Willys Gordini four-door saloon is, in my mind, the best representation of the Renault Dauphine in 1:43 scale. Essentially, what Willys did was to order a bunch of Renault Dauphine complete knockdown kits, modify the bumpers, and rebadge the car as the Willys Gordini. The Gordini was in the process of being withdrawn from the market and replaced by the Renault 12 when Ford do Brasil took over and famously turned the Renault 12 into the Ford Corcel.
The other pre-Ford Willys product so far in Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil is the 1963 Willys Interlagos coupe. Basically, this car is an Alpine A108 rebadged as a Willys, with the name derived from the Interlagos race track. A rear-engined car, it dominated the Brazilian racing circuit almost unopposed until the Malzoni GT came along. It was very much a European-style sports car. Ixo’s model of the Interlagos solves the problem found on the Norev model of poor ride height and overly flared rear wings. Unfortunately, the front wings on the Ixo model are a bit too open and somewhat misshapen. Because neither model is perfect, I would say to just go with whichever is less expensive and more available for you.
The 1974 Ford Maverick GT, 1978 Ford F100, and 1982 Ford Del Rey Ouro are all really, really nicely done models. However, you can probably get them without spending an excessive amount of money on shipping thanks to the fact that Premium X Diecast has made all of them. The Ford Maverick GT is generally considered to be Brazil’s king of the road during the mid to late 1970s, and featured a 302 cubic inch Ford V8 engine. Available in yellow and blue from the Premium X Diecast line and orange from Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil, some of the latter have two of the same tail lights fitted, with one inverted. It’s actually not really noticeable unless you’re looking for it, but for that reason, I recommend the Premium X diecast version, even if it does come with incorrect US number plates.
The 1978 Ford F100 pickup is nearly identical in design to the US 1972 Ford F100 and can easily pass for it, making it a must for an American pickup truck collector. The Premium X Diecast versions are white with no cover for the cargo bed and orange and white with a cover. The partwork version of the pickup is red and white with no cover. If you’re going to buy one from the Brazilian partwork, however, just be careful to watch for the rear of the cab to be fitted properly. Apparently, the blue and white trucks found in the Chilean and Colombian partworks have better quality control, but I can’t speak for that first hand.
Finally, the 1982 Ford Del Rey Ouro was a two-door saloon, meant to compliment the Ford Corcel II coupe, which lasted into the early 1990s. The Del Rey Ouro, the highest trim level, has a large number of styling features in common with the Corcel II and can be had either in bronze from the partwork or in grey from Premium X Diecast. Note that I recommend against the Premium X Diecast police version, as the livery is completely incorrect. While a somewhat boxy and boring car, the styling is typical of late 1970s Detroit and I’m sure a few readers will be able to detect the Ford Granada in it. It was also Ford’s main offering in Brazil during the 1980s.
That leaves us with the 1970 Ford Corcel coupe and the 1980 Ford Belina II two-door estate wagon. Both are derivatives of the Renault 12-based Project M that Ford inherited from Willys Overland do Brasil. The 1970 Ford Corcel was basically intended to fill the market niche that was filled in the US by first the early model Ford Mustang and then the early model Ford Maverick. It wasn’t really a Pony Car, per se, but it was sporty and had pretty solid performance. ‘Corcel’ in Portuguese literally means ‘charger’, as in a charging horse, so the link was certainly made between the Corcel and the Mustang and despite having a four-door saloon version and a two-door estate version, the two-door Corcel coupe as Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil issued it is very much evocative of the ‘Brazilian Mustang’ image that came to be attached to the Corcel coupe. It is an excellent model and I would highly recommend it.
The 1980 Ford Belina II was the station wagon version of the Corcel II featured earlier in this article. A bit more subdued, it can represent a wider variety of cars thanks to having bumpers without any over-riders. Well-executed in almost all ways, it shares a great many parts with the Corcel II as a model, like the real car. Really one of my favourites, it only has one flaw, and that is the badging on the rear not being quite right. If you can put up with that, then I have no doubt you’ll enjoy this car as much as I do.
So, we’ve finally come to the end (I’m sure you were wondering) for now and I sincerely look forward to more cars, more photos, and your feedback. Keep on collecting and I’d love to see anyone who has purchased a Carros Inesqueciveis do Brasil model or Premium X Diecast equivalent email a comment or two to Model Auto Review on how you think the direction of the partwork is going and also, what you think of the model or models you purchased. Thanks very much!
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