Over the last few months I’ve taken a look at a few oddball Volkswagen do Brasil creations that were popular but never appeared here. Most recently was the Karmann Ghia TC, before that was the legendary and fantastic SP2, and first but mostly forgettable was the Brasilia:
1978 Volkswagen Brasilia LS
But the Brasilia’s rather humdrum existence was spiced up by an aftermarket producer known as Puma. Puma Indústria de Veículos SA’s roots were actually in producing rebodied front-engine DKWs in Brazil, but they managed to make the kit work with some refinement first on the Karmann Ghia and later on the Brasilia. The result was the Puma GTE – a pretty slick budget Ferrari Dino knockoff which somehow managed to work when so many VW-based customs didn’t. Puma added a convertible version called the GTS in the 1970s and then renamed that model the GTC for 1980, two years before the Brasilia shut down production. Sold as complete cars in South America and later South Africa, some kits were sent to North America – but this one is an original build and import:
I’ll assume if you’re into this site you’re pretty familiar with the Type 14 Karmann Ghia even though I don’t talk about them much. Basically, it was the original Scirocco – taking the ‘pedestrian’ underpinnings of the Beetle and creating a sporty persona to mask them. If you’re a real fan of VWs, you’re probably also familiar with the second, upscale Karmann Ghia – the Type 34. I took a look at one last year:
1966 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34
With only 42,500 sold compared to the nearly half million Type 14 Ghias produced – and never officially imported to the U.S., most people are fairly unaware of this model even though it’s arguably one of the prettiest Volkswagens made.
But there was an even more rare third Karmann Ghia. This was the Type 145 produced by Volkswagen do Brasil. Styled by Giugiaro and with the stretched Type III chassis underneath, a scant 18,000 of the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Touring Coupe (TC) were produced solely for the South American market:
Here’s another alternative air-cooled Volkswagen from Brazil. We saw the Brasilia recently – Volkswagen do Brasil’s answer to the Golf platform and intended to extend the life of the Beetle platform. Here was their attempt to modernize the Karmann Ghia – the infamous SP2.
‘SP’ referenced São Paulo where the SP and SP2 were produced. The early model had a 1.6 liter flat-4, while the SP2 moved up to a 75 horsepower 1.7 air-cooled flat-4 mounted in the rear. The proportions of the body styling seemed to suggest the opposite though, with the long, low hood and hatchback GT profile looking more like a traditional sports car than any VW had before. Other period designs were borrowed – the Volkswagen 411, the Porsche 924 and Audi’s 100 Coupe S all had similar angles. But it was probably Volkswagen do Brasil’s own Karmann Ghia TC (Typ 145) that looked the most similar.
Only about 11,300 of these ultra-rare, Brazil-only SP2s were produced. They’re about as legendary as air-cooled VWs get in the U.S., so when one pops up for sale it’s worth a look:
Do you ever wonder ‘What if VW had decided to make the Golf platform develop from the Beetle rather than the Audi 50?‘
Me either. But it’s an interesting thought exercise, and what’s interesting is that we actually have an example of what could have been. That’s because Volkswagen do Brasil did produce a hatchback successor to the Beetle, and here it is – the Brasilia. The Brazilian branch of VW utilized a Karmann Ghia floor, a 1600 cc Beetle motor and borrowed the styling from the Type 4s to create a small 3- and 5-door hatchback.
It was reasonably successful, too – Volkswagen do Brasil reportedly sold somewhere north of 1,000,000 of them over a ten year production cycle from 1973-1982. They were sold primarily in Central and South America, never making it past the Rio Grande officially, but kits of the Brasilia were also sent to Africa. The Brasilia remains the only mass-produced air-cooled rival to the Beetle, amazingly. Today, an absolutely pristine example is up on eBay:
I’m always intrigued by the variety of market specific vehicles that Volkswagen has produced over the years. From the myriad of Citi Golfs I’ve seen all over South Africa to the SP2 of the Brasilian market, this is a company that’s been very adept at making niche models for regional tastes. Case in point this 1975 Karmann Ghia TC for sale in SÃ£o Paulo, Brasil. Produced from 1970 through 1976, this coupe was based on the Type 3 chassis and used the 1600cc “pancake” flat-4. This was the direct successor to the Type 14 Karmann Ghia and was sold only in South America. Just over 18,000 copies were ever produced.
The 1975 Volkswagen SP2 we featured back in February has been relisted and curiously carries a slightly higher price tag this time around. Did the frenzy over the Ventura that Carter featured earlier this month catch the seller by surprise?
The below post originally appeared on our site February 13, 2014: