Worlds by Paul Webster & Photos by Ecrismoideslueurs – Published in Hayburner Issue 33
In Brazil, the VW SP2 is loved by all. But it’s only over the last few years these odd ball sports cars have started making their way on the on to the European VW show scene. During the 1970’s, Brazil as a nation almost entirely banned importing cars in to the country in a push to boost the economy by forcing car manufacturers to set up vehicle production in Brazil.
VW Do Brazil was set up for this reason and ended up cornering over two thirds of the Brazilian new car market. Various schemes such as this brought new wealth into the country and luxuries like Sports cars were in demand. The ban for imported sports cars was still in place and small companies attempting to fill the market started popping up such as the VW based Puma and Willy’s Interlagos. A conversation between one of the directors of Brazilian sports car maker Puma and the head of VW Brasil that got the new project off the ground.
The director of Puma, Rudolph Leiding, had suggested that a Puma sports car should sit on the Volkswagen stand at the 1969 Motor Show as it uses so many VW parts. But the head of VW strongly disagreed and started formulating his own plan for an all new affordable Brazilian sports car.
The only stylish coupé that VW Brazil were making was the TC Karmann Ghia, but this was due to be phased out. Described as looking “dated” by the automotive press as soon as it was unveiled. Leiding made sketches and appointed Mr. Schiemann to make his idea a reality and called it “Project X”.
The car was properly designed by Marcio Piancastelli and he decided to roughly base it around the Type3 “Variant” so having torsion bars and a pancake motor producing 75bhp. Piancastelli had done an internship with Karmann so knew the ropes and could give the project a little Italian flair. His influences were the Toyota 2000GT, E-Type Jaguar and C2 Corvette. Whilst building prototypes, they were quite happy with the Type3 foundation.
The SP was made in two models. The SP1 was the entry level model and the SP2 was the more up-market model (Only 88 SP1s were made soon after the launch). The “SP” name had originally been intended to stand for “São Paulo” where the car was designed and made. However, Brazilians pretty soon the “SP” was said to stand for “Sem Potência” which translates as “without power”. That being said those who owned the SP2 seem to have a great affection for them, despite the lack of horsepower. The SP2 was kept in production for three years with the last cars rolling off the production line in 1976 after a fairly respectable 11,123 had been made. It is said to this day the SP2 had a great influence when it came to Porsche designing the 928.
Unfortunately, when Leiding moved to Germany to work at VW, he didn’t bring the SP2 to market with him. The car didn’t fit in with the company’s new front-wheel drive, water-cooled direction and required too many modifications to be sold in other markets compared to Europe’s Scirocco.
This particular SP2 is in the hands of 39 year old Hervé from France. Hervé has been passionate about all things Volkswagen for the past 17 years – He’s owned several air-cooled models including Beetles and Type2’s but he had a hankering for a more exotic model. He wanted something different. At the time, he was still the lucky owner of a Beetle and a 1985 Audi UR Quattro but a small old school coupé would be the welcome addition to his collection. After searching various For Sale pages, 2 models caught his eye and they both hail from Brazil.
The Puma and the SP2.
After researching different aspects of ownership, such as availability of the vehicle and how easy it would be to find the parts once the car was in his possession, he was swayed towards the SP2 because its overall aesthetics and its yellow livery. He loved that at the time the European market were going Porsche crazy, the Brazilians had their own ideas. The other attraction was the little sports cars rarity – with only 11,000 made very few SP2 and even fewer survive today – partly because they were rarely exported to other markets, but also because they suffered a great deal from rust.
Hervé ended up importing this 1975 model powered by a fully refurbished original 1700cc, 75 horsepower motor using a homemade stainless steel exhaust. He agrees with the legends of the car being underpowered and is currently fitting a duel carb set up amongst other mods to bring it up to 100-110 bhp which should help the old girl keep-up with modern traffic.
The SP2 has been lowered simply by moving the arms at the front and a couple of clicks at the rear, but the 7×16” 5×130 Fondmetal Porsche wheels fill the arches nicely giving the car a more slammed look.
To finish it all off, a front blade from Golf GTI was fitted and the headlight contours were painted in black which give the front of the car a more aggressive look.
Although the car as it is is fun and usable Hervé plans to undo some of the work it has had over the years in Brazil and will undertake a full restoration of the bodywork to make it one of the best surviving SP2 examples.