The Volkswagen SP2 Is A Beautiful Piece Of Brazilian History
Photography by Alvaro Pinzón
If you’re a car enthusiast visiting Brazil and hope to find something unique to this country’s car scene, then you owe it yourself to find an SP2. It’s not that well known in the international community, but in the country it was designed for it’s become more than just a cult classic. While I was in town I knew I had to get in touch with an owner of one of these cars to get a better sense of their history and current place in the classic car world down here, so I contacted one of the members of Club SP2 do Brasil named Claudio and agreed on a time and place to meet.
In South America I don’t think there is a more interesting car scene as the Brazilian domestic market diehards. Due to constraints on imports in the past, this country had to choose only between those cars and trucks produced inside the borders. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, there were only limited domestic options, and very few sports cars to choose from such as the Puma GT, which has its own dedicated following.
VW do Brasil, (VW of Brazil, more of less) decided to enter that niche and started on a project X of sorts, to be designed by Marcio Piancastelli and led by Senor Schiemann and Rudolf Leiding. They presented a prototype in 1971 where the car was shown in the German fair in São Paulo and shared attention with the Mercedez-Benz C111 prototype.
A year later, in June of 1972, the car was launched with the acronym “SP” that stood for the city where it was produced, São Paulo. The first version was the SP1 with a VW Boxer engine of only 1584cc and 65hp; people criticized the lack of power for this so-called sports car, and the heavier weight in comparison with the fiberglass Puma didn’t either. The SP2 had a larger flat-four (by about a tenth of a liter…), but it was not a big sales success and only a few hundred were exported, with most of the cars staying in Brazil.
As Claudio was telling me the story, we went for a ride around the Cinemateca Brasileira in the city, a very historic place in the center of São Paulo for some photos.
Only 88 SP1s were made soon after the launch, and later the SP2 replaced it to upgrade the specs a bit—the engine now had 75hp, and according to a period test the 0-100km/h sprint took about 16 seconds, and top speed was only 160km/h. Not the quickest, but a very good-looking car, it didn’t fly out of dealerships, and in all a total of only 11,123 cars were produced until 1976. The interior space is pretty cramped but overall comfortable once you get situated, and since the SP2 is built on the frame of the VW Variant (another Brazilian VW) the car also borrows some design cues from the VW 412 and Audi 100 coupe, and the taillight design of Porsche is easy to see.
By the time in the late ‘70s Claudio bought a silver SP2 like this one, but as his family grew over the years he had to sell it to make space. After more than 20 years he decided to start the hunt for these great memories by buying and restoring another one, and he finally got his hands on the right project, which he has since restored to the condition it presents in today.
As we were traveling along after our photo session, I noticed that the car feels more comfortable than its looks would suggest, however the straight-line performance is pretty uninspiring. It’s not really the point though, for the car was always more of a looker than a mover. Claudio informs me that this car sits lower than the Karmann Ghia and the 914, and after looking up at everyone else’s door handles during our drive I believe him when he says it was the lowest car built here.
Without a doubt, the car has its downsides when it comes to its mechanicals, however it’s a car that has a charisma once you stop worrying about the power output and let yourself enjoy the experience of a piece of South American history.
Thanks to Claudio from the VWSP2 Club for taking the time to share his car with me