By on March 24, 2013

The tail-end of the last century. I was living in Brasilia. In spite of the stifling bureaucratic nature of the city, officious, uninspired architecture and desolate, nose-bleeding, dry weather, I was very happy. Because of a car.

Having recently moved to Brazil’s capital, my wife at the time realized she had to overcome her fears and start driving again. A kind of Brazilian LA, Brasilia is known as the city with no corners and a car is of the essence there. After looking around we found the answer much closer to home: My brother’s 8 year-old Ford Escort. This was not just an old Ford, it was an XR3! I was 16 when my Dad bought it. It was simply the coolest car in Brazil. Now, it was mine.

It was a deep, rich red that Brazilians call Bordeaux, I still saw it with teenage eyes. I was in love again. Unlike almost all of his other cars, my brother had managed not to destroy it completely. The shell was perfect and mechanically it was fine. Except for that weird noise in the gearbox. Turns out my brother had been beach-bugging the poor Escort.

Inside and out the car was gorgeous. Large, comfortable seats, not too hard or soft with some aggressive side bolstering. A gorgeous small steering wheel with perforated leather at the points where you grabbed it. All kinds of gauges, idiot lights in profusion. Some called it the Christmas tree car for the propensity of those lights to light up without rhyme or reason.

After testing it out for a while and appraising it healthy, when vacation came, I decided to travel in the Escort in spite of my wife’s protestations. We had 30 days ahead of us and many miles.

We started off as the sun came down. The first half of that stretch is mostly straights and flat. I took advantage of the moonroof to watch the sky, the stars and that beautiful full moon. I also took advantage of my wife dozing off. I pushed the car. Kept it at 150km/h (94mph), sometimes more, other times less. Lost in my bliss, I didn’t see the Federal Highway Police Station until it was too late. I was still going at 140km/h (87mph) when I blew by. Sure enough, their lights were spinning, there was an officer on the side of the road. I could see the radar gun tripod. I go in reverse back to the station and the cop is grinning and asks me if I knew how fast I was going.

I said, “No officer.” He comes back, “you were going almost 140km/h”. I have no answer for that. I apologize. My wife, wakened by my hard braking is looking at me and asking me what’s going on with her blue gaze. I see the blue almost disappear as she hears the cop inviting me into the station for a “cafezinho”. No sir, I’m fine, let me sign the ticket and we’ll be on our away. He insists that I accept the coffee. I know this game. He’s not being polite, but rather asking for a kickback. The game goes on for a little more and I win. He lets me sign the ticket and my wife tries to stay awake and keep an eye on me. The monotony of the road gets the best of her. I’m free to explore the car’s limits yet again.

The nearer we get to our erstwhile home, the trickier the road. There are mountains and curves. The meaty tires and almost 90 horses permit lots of fun. I’m relishing it.

After a couple of days in Belo Horizonte, we head out to the Escarpas do Lago Resort on man-made Furnas Lake. Slightly under 300 km (186 mi.) away, we get there on state road MG-050. 2 lanes, sometimes an extra passing lane. Much narrower, much more traffic, trucks and little escape room. No incident at all.

After a week, we get back on the same road. To Divinopolis now, to see her folks. 170 km that should give us no trouble. But this time there was. Maybe the high speeds and long distances were getting to the car. All I know is that it starts to overheat. I notice the needle of the temp gauge reaching ever so slowly for the red zone. Despite the cold day (we are in the middle of winter), I turn on the AC. It helps, but not much. I soon pull into a gas station and buy several 1L water bottles. I give it to the my panting XR3. The temp falls. Then it rises again. Stop on the side of the road and wait a while. Pop the hood, pour some more water. Drive off again. After a while, the process starts again. Once, twice, we stop at least 4 or 5 times. Somehow, the car manages to make it.

The next day, we drop off the car at the mechanic. After a couple of days, he calls back and says he’s fixed the problem. Seems to have been a small leak under the car. Another couple of days and it’s time for the short trek to Belo Horizonte, my hometown. A city of 2 million, cars move slowly, up and down hills you wouldn’t believe.

After about a week, the last leg of our trip. Tiradentes. We get there using wider federal and narrower state roads. A historical hamlet, this city has managed to keep its charming colonial time architecture largely intact. It is home to fine hotels, inns and B&Bs, and wonderful restaurants that, mostly, specialize in the local hearty cuisine known as comida mineira. Lots of pork, beans, sausages. This leg adds another 222 km (138 mi.) to the Escort. No incident. Except for the speed bump.

As we approach the tiny town, my wife screams, calling attention to the mighty speed bump ahead. I brake hard. Out of the corner of my eye I see my wife hurtling forward. She smacks her head against the windshield, though the seat belt minimizes the damage. Her seat had come off its tracks. Tears wet her lovely baby blues.

On the trip back to Belo Horizonte, for a day or 2, before the long road back to Brasilia, she says she doesn’t want the car anymore. It’s old, she says, it’s not safe. I temporize, honey, we’ll just fix the seat and get back to Brasilia, the car can handle it. Her scowl, punctuated now by some ice in her blue gaze and seeing how she was struggling to keep her seat in place make me give up. Now, it’s my time to lose. In Belo Horizonte, I take the car on its last trip with me. The oh so short drive to a  friend’s shop where it would be sold on consignment.

We took the bus back to Brasilia. During the long, 12 hour trip, I had ample time to review our decision. I knew it was the right thing to do at the time, but even then I had a little voice in my head telling me to hold onto the car. Sometimes, I can still hear that voice.

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66 Comments on “The Ford XR3, Or Why My Wife Hated My Brother’s Ex...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Seat ripped out from a pothole? I think your wife did you a favor.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I got rid of a couple cars because of my wife. For those who might say it was time to change wives I would respond: She was right. Probably you do too but you are not required to like it.

    • 0 avatar

      hey! The problem of the Escort was twofold: it was an outdated car and it ran on ethanol. We had it at a time when cars were changing carburator for injection (the escort had a choke) so the desire was there to get something more modern. And we were the victim of th e flipflopping nature of brazilian energy policy. At the time it was not evident that it’d become a classic. In a rough comparison i had a ‘cuda and didn’t realize it

    • 0 avatar
      BMWnut

      About ten years ago I wanted to buy a boring Honda Civic but my wife talked me into a BMW 325i instead. It was very nice when new but turned into an unreliable POS after it was paid off. We still have it and I deeply regret not getting that Honda. Hindsight is so easy.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    My friend’s girlfriend (now wife of 25 years) bought something new and similar looking in North Carolina back in 1987. It was the Mercury Lynx XR3.
    I don’t think it was made to induce much nostalgia down the road though. Her’s didn’t have any power, and other than bigger wheels, tires and a more aggressive look, didn’t seem too different from a regular Escort. The big three were not exactly providing us with the same, but better, small cars they produced in the rest of the world. Their brilliant decisions back then really opened the eyes of buyers to imports. And the mediocre memories remain today to some extent. Even new, it and the Escort GT were jokes compared to my GLH Turbo or a GTI in terms of performance.
    When I saw the picture I was reminded of riding with my friend in her’s back around 1990. He said something funny and I threw open the door to spit out a mouthful of soda that was coming out my nose. The automatic seat belt immediately wrapped around my neck and in an instant had my face on the dash board. I paused a second to see if it had snapped my neck.
    Even with the faulty seat mounts, I bet your brother’s was a better car.

    • 0 avatar

      the xr3 had many improvements over the regular Escort in Brazil. The engine produced a little over 90 hp while the regular had slightly under 70. It had a sway bar in the back axle among other things. The interiorwas richer and it had that wing and extra set of lights. For its time it had all the goodies. In terms of performance some VWs beat it but their finishing was meaner and less refined in general. The XR3 inspired a generation of car nuts, but in the end it was what it was a symbol of the 80s, a time when Brazil was very closed off from the world. When the country opened up in the 90s, it underscored how behind it really was. No matter, the XR3 will live on in thememory ofthose who lived through those times. I’m glad that I had the privilege of having driven that pieceof Brazilian history.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Marcelo, you mad the right choice. Not because the car needed to go away; in reality probably had plenty of life left in it. No, you made the right choice because it made your wife feel that you put her first when she was in a time of emotional distress. Too many guys would have written her off as being illogical and ignored her input. You could have one that battle, but it would have cost you a lot in the future.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Marcelo,

    Tiradentes looks like is a cute little town I’d like to hang out in. Cobblestone streets and the homes show real pride of ownership. Google Street View gives you a taste of the everyday lifestyle, tradition, commerce and of course, how people get around.

    Lots of Moped and Vespas as well as Euro/econ FWDs including FWD pickups and global pickups. After a minute I spotted an F-250 at 348 Travessa Antonio Teixeira Caravalho.

    Escort GTs were fun little cars I got to abuse when I worked at a Ford/Toyota dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Marcelo,

      Did you say you turned ON the AC to help cool off the overheating XR3?

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        It kicks in the extra fan for the condenser. I’ve tried the trick before and kinda works.

        • 0 avatar

          hola Athos. Thanks for the technical explanation. In my case this just something Brazilians ‘know’ cause they’ve been told many times. Guess it’s just something you pick up living in hot climes.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Turning on the A/C will force the electric cooling fan(s) to run continuously. You have to battle with the added heat rejection from the condenser but the constant air flow does help. Now if you can run the heater on high with the A/C engaged, you will be even better off.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Sorry for going a little off topic, which I try not to do, but a knowledgeable mechanic once told me that any car’s/truck’s AC should be ran at least once a month even during the winter, for 15 minutes to a 1/2 hour or so.

            …I believe he said this will help prevent seals or gaskets from becoming problematic in sealing properly.

            This was about 7 or 8 years ago. Does anyone know if this is actually true?

          • 0 avatar

            Hey DeadWeight!

            In most of my cars’ manuals there is that exact recommendation. In Brazil is not that hard to do cause even in winter there are days that turning on the ac is a need. The heater though, I think I’ve used it 3 or 4 times my entire life. In my cars’ manual there’s also the recommendation to turn off the ac five minutes before turning off the car to give the ducts time to eliminate humidity and not allow fungus to grow. They cause the bad smell in acs. This recommendation is much, much harder to follows!

          • 0 avatar
            Athos Nobile

            I forgot to mention, when driving an AE82 Corolla, I learned how to switch on the fan at will.

            I just disconnected the plug (single wire) from the temp switch, and voila.

            No need to turn the A/C on anymore nor improvise a switch into the cabin like people owning other brand FWD cars did.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Marcelo, thanks for the confirmation of this.

          • 0 avatar
            wstarvingteacher

            At deadweight: At one point in another life I was an AC/Heating contractor. There are systems in cars and buildings where the AC and Heat moderate each other to keep from overheating/overcooling. My 86 Lincoln used the AC for this purpose I am told and the O rings (seals) were exactly the reason. I am unaware what, if any, CAFE requirements might have stopped the use of AC if not necessary. I thought it was pretty dumb but when I replaced my compressor the seals were still perfect.

            I guess I am just saying that what you said was true for a while at least.

          • 0 avatar
            Athos Nobile

            It is true DW. Not only to prevent the seals to go dry, but also prevent internal corrosion of the system.

            There something about condensation and it mixing with the R134 that I can’t recall ATM.

            So yes, pay attention to the guy. what I’ve heard is around 10 min every week.

            I regassed my A/C this summer, so I’ll give the theory a go during this winter.

      • 0 avatar

        Tiradentes is great! You should come down to see it. In winter, in Brazil June and July, they put on a gastronomic and movie festival. Great fun.

        As to turning on the ac, the wisdom here is that it helps when it’s just a small leak problem,not something headgasket related. In that trip it did help.

        • 0 avatar
          daiheadjai

          I’ve heard turning on the heat also helps, correct?

          • 0 avatar

            I’ve heard it helps, too, though for some reason or other the AC is even better.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            In that situation, there’s no reason not to run the AC and also the heater. Or the AC set to blow HOT. I’ve melted my AC vents doing that in the summer. Or simply set it on DEFROST.

            I hate relying on or having to trust sensors. I’ll hard wire the main fan to run when the ignition is ON. It sounds ghetto when it kicks ON every time you go to start it, but it’s cheap insurance and one less thing to think about.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        My old Saturn SL had the temp sensor for ECU go bad (had a separate one that worked the gauge). Sitting in traffic you would see the temp start to climb but the ECU never knew the motor was hot and as such, never turned on the fan. Turning on the AC automatically had the ECU turn on both fans regardless of engine temp and thus, the car cooled off. I stupidly drove it like that for over a year thinking the sensor would cost a lot (I was a young, broke Sailor in those days). When I finally went to buy it it was all of 5 bucks and took like 10 minutes to change.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I say: good riddance!

    We got those in Venezuela. Ford only assembled them from 1988 to 1990. Didn’t sell many. They pretty much became toxic matter in the used car market. And our XR3i got injection.

    Escorts were kinda cool, sort of like a mini-Sierra (stretch your imagination a bit) and IIRC were marketed as an upscale option to what was available then from other OEMs. But I am stretching my memory 25 years too much.

    IIRC Ford didn’t try another compact until the launched the 323/Familia based Laser in 1993. That one sold decently.

    • 0 avatar

      hey Athos! Funny how those things turns out in different markets. Like when VW launched the Gol in Argentina. I could have sworn it’d flop as they have always preferredsedans, now the Gol is a leader there.

      As to the Escort let me tell you, selling it was not easy. As I explained in a comment above, by the time we sold it, it was not only old, but do to changes in technology it was outdated and to be honest, outclassed as well. Nowadays, one in good condition is worth good money.

  • avatar

    Was it wrong that I laughed when she bumped her head?

    It sounds like the car hated her as much as she hated it. Ever seen “Christine?”

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I’ve seen it. The Escort was not beloved by the ladies, that’s for sure. Something about the front suspension. It was na old design (though the geometry was the same as that of modern cars) that made it a little hard to control on acceleration and made the steering wheel heavy. Add to that a stiffer suspension than the norm, and it turned the Escort XR3 into a car that only people who care for cars like. All of those characteristics are usually turn offs for girls. When my Dad had it, my Mom basically refused to drive it for instance.

      We bought the car from my brother because it was cheap, we knew the procedence and knew that it was generally in good shape. We bought it for my wife, though I knew we were really buying it for me. Though officially her car (as she had put in most of the money to buy it), in the end I drove it all the time and she drove my Fiat Uno. My excuse was that the Uno was just a year old and thus more reliable. The reality was that I was living my fantasy. It made no difference to me that the car was, due to the fast changes of the times, outdated and looked down. Like I said in the article, I felt like a kid driving it. So cool.

      And LOL! Yeah I saw Christine. I don’t think it’s wrong you laughed, after the initial scare, so did we!

  • avatar
    threeer

    Saw tons of Escort XR3s while growing up in Germany…thought they were so cool, and was greatly disappointed in the US-spec Escorts when we finally made it back to the States in 1986. Where the Euro escort seemed somehow crisp and purposed, the American variant just seemed so, well, blah. I think somewhere in a shoebox somewhere I still have a few emblems off of an XR3 (don’t ask how it was acquired)…

    • 0 avatar

      Those items were under heavy demand in Brazil too. Glad that by the time I had it, it was too old to attract the attention of those who look for these kinds of things….

      The Brazilian car, except for the engine, was pretty much like the European. It was a dream car in its time. Though I don’t if in Germany it will acquire the status of classic and legend like it is in Brazil.

    • 0 avatar

      I just remembered, there’s a Top Gear episode in which they discuss the Escort XR3 against a Golf GTi (?). The Escort fans in Britain would be the rougher, more “manly” car guys while the Golf guys would be the more sophisticated, City types. That’s not exactly how it played out here in the Escort X Gol and later the Chevy Kadett GSI that jumped into the fray a bit late, wars. But these cars inspired passion here as well as in Europe. Sad Americans missed all of that. Another world, another time.

      • 0 avatar
        Autobraz

        Oh the Kadett GSI! Had forgotten about this one. My first car, a Kadett GL 2.0 had the same engine (or even better?) but with the completely stripped out interior, no AC, steel wheels. It was the last year run for the car. It could run! I remember going 180 km/h in a (back then) newly built road in Bahia. Completely unstable – the suspension was too soft – but I was too young and didn’t care!

        • 0 avatar

          oi! How could you forget the gsi? The convertible? But it stops there. I mean, except for the looks and top speed, even though it came later, it was always an also ran in the whole Escort Xr3 x Gol Gti melee. Maybe that’s why most people forget the Kadett.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Yeah..and what we got as a “version” of the Kadett here in the US was horrid enough to make this Opel fan openly weep (Pontiac Lemans, anybody? No thanks!)…I always liked the XR3 convertible. Again, something not deemed worthy to make it over here in America.

  • avatar

    nice article, Marcelo. my dad was a Ford guy and, after two Mavericks, a Corcel II and a Del Rey, he bought a black XR3 in 1989. it was the first XR3 with the VW AP engine where we lived and was fully loaded with aircon, sunroof and some other bells and whistles.

    and what a car it was. I was only 8 when the car was new but I felt like a king when I was riding on its backseat. my dad kept it for 15 years and then lost his car guy status. he sold the XR3 to buy a Palio and, later on, a Civic.

    there’s no nostalgia compelling me to buy a XR3 now (I’d like to go only German and British if possible), but I’m fond of my memories.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Palandi!

      See, even if you don’t want one now, your memory supports my thesis of how important these were in our history. Everybody who had one felt like a king. I remeber being so proud when Dad would take us to school in it (usually we walked, but I remeber me and my brothers and sister begging with him to take us to schoo in it).

      In our case it had the CHT. Hemi baby! Not so Strong as the VW AP, but more relaxed. I’ve driven of couple APs, but in my mind the XR3 will Always be CHT (even though it was Renault engine, hah!).

      Interestingly, my Dad was not a Ford guy though he did have a Cortina when we lived in Spain. I think those were the only 2 Fords he ever had. Even when we lived in the US, we always had GMs (though I personally until now have never had a Chevy, maybe that’s the reason?). After we got back to Brazil he had a 4 Santanas and Quantum, a Golf, from GM just the imported Astra wagon, 2 Fiats Marea Weekend and Uno Top (my first car!), but he’s also turned in his car guy card as the last cars he had were a Scenic, a Clio RT and a Sandero. Oh he also had 2 Nissans (Máxima and Pathfinder which he still has). Luckily, he has not gone CorollaCivic yet!

  • avatar
    vanwestcoaster

    Nicely recalled story. As threeer notes above, I was disappointed in the early 80s when the European Escorts (like yours) had a lick of sportiness while North Americans got the “mini-LTD-with-hatchback” version – that was when Ford’s “World Car” was strictly a marketing conceit.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember when I first started reading this site, I didn’t understand why Americans seemed not to like it. In Brazil it had always been held in high esteem. Then I started noticing explanations like yours and from others too. Who knows if Ford had introduced the real Escort to the US, maybe some pf the negative perception that small cars “enjoy” in América could be slightly diferent. Or probably not.

      Thanks for the compliment!

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @vanwestcoaster,

      You forgot there was a North American Escort EXP fastback

      zumann.com/photos/ford-escort-exp/09/

      • 0 avatar
        vanwestcoaster

        No I didn’t – but I’d like to. Another poorly conceived Ford North America “sports car” effort from the early 80s.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          I don’t know that the EXP, GT or XR3 were true “sports car efforts” or more like sportier efforts of their econo box twins. Were they really designed to set the world on fire in looks and performance?

          They were hardly much different or worse than the one’s conceived off the Civic, Sentra, Mirage/Colt or Corolla except for the MR2 and Fiero (Chevy Citation) for obvious reasons.

          • 0 avatar
            cargogh

            And Mercury had its version of the EXP for secretaries with nicer hair and nails–the LN7. My sister’s friend had a black EXP. I think Ford chopped the roof and lowered the seats, but the cowl was the same height. A precursor to todays’s car’s riding in a bathtub feeling.

          • 0 avatar

            hey DenverMike! In Brazil, as mentioned in the comments, the xr3 had improved suspension and an optimized engine over the ‘lesser’ cars. Mind you, it was not light years ahead but it did have that extra dose of imagination others didn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      “World Car” in name only. The US variant shared little (if anything other than the name?) with the European version. And the style of the US version seemed somehow soft…without feeling or purpose, when compared to the lines of the Escort in Europe. I got so excited when we came home to the States for a visit one year and when it came time to rent a car, I just about forced my mother to rent an Escort. Big disappointment…years later, my first G/F’s father had an Escort, and they hadn’t improved much over the years.

  • avatar
    Mark in Maine

    Hi, Marcelo, great piece. Also, thank you for the beautiful images of your beautiful country – we hope to visit some day. Escort story: as newlyweds, a long time ago, the bride and I owned an ’86 Escort. It looked similar to yours, but that was it. I was screwed together fairly well, but was cheap-feeling, inside and out – and slow. When the bride left a year or two later, she took the Escort with her. Didn’t really miss either of them.

    • 0 avatar

      hey Mark! Funny story, thanks for sharing. Everything is context but in its time the xr3 was considered the best finished car in the country. Even today it shames most local cars. In performance though even entry level cars can beat it. In its time there were faster cars. I guess that this car was more than that though.

      And yes do come. Lots to see and do and probably a good time to come as the country is prospering.

      Thanks for reading!

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    I think the XR3 holds a place in Brazilians’ imagination like the Corvette or the Mustang for Americans. Maybe I am exaggerating a bit but the 80′s were awful and the XR3 was a ray of automotive sunshine.

    There was a family, neighbours in my condominium, who had a convertible XR3 with remote engine start. Talk about being completely jealous! My father probably had a sedate Monza (ethanol too) at the time, like most everyone else who could afford it in São Paulo. Boring!

    • 0 avatar

      everything you said is absolutely right. Gol x Escort was the talk.

      Mine didn’t have the remote start. In about 92 or 93 one of my friends got a 2.0 Escort XR3i. This one did have the function. I remember at break time while we were in the university, people would gather round to see him demonstrating it. It would draw quite a crowd. Good times!

      A note on the xr3i, it’s funny that though a much better cars, especially in performance terms, it never attained the legendary status of the 80s xr3.

  • avatar
    notsure_whattoregister

    marcelo… let me tell you that you just brought back some of the greatest memories of my life. I was born in Brasilia (or BsB for short as you know it) and even though i don’t agree with your comments about the city’s makeup you are dead on about the need to have a car there. it is the most america-like city in Brasil with its wide roads, crazy traffic during rush hours and many crazy drivers.

    My first car was the same you mentioned in the article. however, I owned an electric blue 1.8 model with the AP VW engine. mind you that since I lived in brasilia – a driver’s license was optional (hahahah) and my grandfather bought me one so he didn’t have to drive me to school (I got into college at 16) or to parties, friend’s homes, etc. I was uncharacteristically responsible for an hormoned-crazy teenager and was very afraid to lose my driving rights, so i cruised along in the means streets of Lago Sul.

    Long story short – that car was the biggest chick magnet of all time… not only the girls at my university (University of Brasilia – Unb) thought I was 18 because I drove car, but also they thought I was a really cool 18-year old driving the best impersonation of a sports car Brazil could offer. My car had a freaking sunroof and AC!!! Nobody had AC in brasil hahahah turning on the AC in brasil meant – Open you windows hahahaha at that time.

    Well… after 2 great years of service, and much hard work in College, I asked my grandfather to buy me a brand new Uno Turbo 1.4 – that one from Rubens barrichello fame. Now… that’s an unforgetable brazilian car you should write about… Love the column and responses from my fellow brazilian friends!!!! CHEERS

  • avatar
    infinitime

    Is that a Corcel-II in the first picture, parked next to the XR3??? I’ve always found that to be a rather stylist looking 80s coupe.

    I know it was not sold in Brazil, but the old Ford Falcon from Argentina always seemed special, in the same way that a contemporary Soviet Volga GAZ-24 did. That would quite the comparo, totalitarian government cars on either end of the political spectrum. Volga vs. Falcon, which would you most likely NOT to ride as a passenger…

    Anyhow, sorry to hijack your article. But as I said, the Corcel was very cleanly styled for a 1980s Ford.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    @Marcelo de Vasconcellos
    Excellent story. I have read a lot on Brasil and seen several documentaries on Brasilia. From the documentaries I thought Brasilia was attractive. The planning and the structured sense of organisation, a new beginning for an expanding country.

    Your description of driving must be familiar to many of us in our youth, no matter what country you come from, or what you drove.

    Youth was great, but its a pity about not keeping the car:)

    You learn by experience, I suppose.

    Do some more adventures and write, you should become a writer:)

    • 0 avatar

      hey Big Al, thanks for the compliments! Later I’ll comment on Brasilia.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Big Al!

      Brasilia…Where can I begin? I think the idea was good, to get the country looking more into its isolated midwest and Northern regions. That much worked out. The Brazilian mid-West is now a powerhouse and prosperous. The North has been better integrated into the rest of the country. But Brasilia has always presented major drawbacks.

      Do you know how much it cost to build Brasilia? Neither do Brazilians. The government didn’t doctor the books on the construction of Brasilia, they just didn’t keep any. Imagine.

      Second, its far off location coupled with the fact that for much of the city’s existence everybody who lived and worked there depended directly on the government. That led to a situation that the city was cut off from any direct pressure from the population. Like Greek gods in inaccessible Mt Olympus, the pols could reign without too much thought of opposition. No wonder Brazilians called and sometimes still do, Brasilia the Isle of Fantasy. Nowadays, communications are much better, but getting there was na adventure for most of the 60s, 70s, expensive in the 80s and 90s.

      THe problem with the architecture of the city is its wash, rinse, repeat nature. Many of the streets, buildings are exactly the same as the next. Boring and to me suffocating. Another problem is that in much of Oscar Niermeyer’s work, the buildings may or may not be beautiful to look at (that depends on your eyes), but they are difficult to inhabit. Its not an organic kind of architecture, the constructins are not people friendly.

      Finally, the climate. For 4 mnths of the year Brasilia is a desert. That beautiful green lawn you see in its picture becomes gray and brown. It’s dryer than the Sahara! My ex, who suffered from a slight case of sinusites in our home state, in Brasilia literally saw her nose bleed due to the weather. I, who tthank God never had any health issues, would suffer terrible headaches as the day Drew to a close. The dust, the dead vegetation, the smoke from forest fires…The first year we were there, we went at the end of the dry season. When it rained, I saw people going out of the office to relish in the rain. Seeing this, I thought they were crazy. Let me tell you this, in our second year there, after no rain for after 4 or 5 months, when it did rain, I too went out in the rain to feel the blessed water on my body.

      Anyways, as we say in Brazil opinions are like “bundas, todo mundo tem a sua”. Talk to another Brazilian and he may have a very different opinion. This one is mine.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Marcelo de Vasconcellos
        Thanks, you seem not to like Brasilia. It still seems facinating, the story behind the city.

        Where I live the same weather no rain for 7 months, literally no rain. Then 1 700mm in a few months.

        Our capital Canberra is a planned city as well. Here the people either like it or don’t.

        Thanks again.

        • 0 avatar
          notsure_whattoregister

          Big al,

          i love and respect marcelo’s opinion as he is bringing us his adventures in Brasil and in no way shape or form I want to write something that will make him shy away from giving us his thoughts on the wonders of “brasilianismo”.

          However, let me provide you a dissenting opinion from what Marcelo wrote above.

          Reveries aside, Brasilia is an awesome city. I was born there completely by accident. My mother’s family all worked for the government and lived there, but my mother lived 150 miles away in the capital of the state of Goias – Goiania. It so happened that my mom’s doctor was in Brasilia for his middle of the week rounds and she had to be rushed to Brasilia fearful that another doctor would “screw the pooch” – The wonders of modern medicine…

          Anyways, I digress – I ended up moving to brasilia as a child and came to appreciate the benefits of living in a planned city:

          1. Wide open spaces everywhere. The largest park within an urban location is not the central park – it is the Rogerio Pithon Farias Park in Brasilia.

          2. The opportunity to meet people from pretty much everywhere in the world. I was friends as a teenager with people from Cuba, Haiti, South Africa… all of these nationalities mix well in Brasilia and for some reason they do not frequent special schools or anything. That’s really awesome about the city.

          3. The South Lake – an artificial lake dammed to mitigate some of the harshness of a dry winter. it doesn’t work as advertised, but there is nothing better than hanging out waterfront enjoying a beer and people watching. If you are into boating, the lake is large enough to acommodate some mid size boats and sail boats. It’s just awesome.

          4. Economy – one of the things that make brasilia an anomaly is that unemployment is lower than everywhere else in brasil and that all people working for the government get paid a decent wage. Government jobs are all the rage in brasil as job stability and a good wage are hard to come by everywhere else in the country, mind you. In brasilia, the cost of living is high, but there is a reason for it at least.

          5. Architecture – i cannot disagree more with marcelo on the issue of architecture. Yes, Oscar Niermeyer overindulged a little bit, but the public buildings in brasilia are well-recognized masterpieces. The city is considered a World heritage site by Unesco – there must be a reason for it. If you like the crazyness and insanity of Sao Paulo – brasilia ain’t for you. I love both – but Brasilia’s orderly structure is very attractive. Read more about the International Style in architecture and you will know exactly where the madness originated – Blame Le corbusier and his masterpiece Ville Savoye.

          Anyways, Brasilia is not a great tourist attraction like Rio – the most beautiful city in the world in my humble opinion – or any of the cities in the Northeast – but it does a damn good job at being the most awesome capital city in the world.

          • 0 avatar

            Hey notsure_whattoregister!

            It’s great to have a dissenting opinion. And a well based one at that! That’s the heart of this site, healthy, well-informed debate that, from time to time, dwell into subjects other than cars. It’s more than fine by me.

            It’s not that I hate Brasilia. I just question the need for it, and the conseuences it brought. For example, Juscelino Kubitsheck, the President who built Brasilia, was a dreamer and maybe a bit crazy. But sometimes it does seem that it’s the crazy people who make the world move. I just wish he’d been a little more careful with the public purse. BTW, it was also he that built a lot of the federal roads that now criss-cross Brazil. That I think is na unmitigated success.

            Take Goiânia. A planned city too. Organized and different from Brasilia. It has more “character” than Brasilia. I think JK should have just moved the capital to Goiania, change the name and call it good. Would have saved a pretty penny and have the same effect as Brasilia. Not to mention the weather there is not as extreme as in Brasilia. BYTW, I love Goiania. VEry beautiful and friendly girls should you ever visit.

            As to the architecture, I recognize Niermeyer’s work. Who wouldn’t? But maybe it was just too much. The Esplanada dos Ministérios (shown in the pic) reminds me something out of Stalinist Moscow. The march of block shaped buildings. The Quadras and Entre-Quadras all the same. I studied at UnB. It was impossible to have class inside the buildings they were so hot. Now there are very nice buildings in Brasilia. The Congress buildings, the Cathedral even the Alvorada Palace. The museum of JK’s house is very interesting as is the museuam in the Congress. There was also a nice car museuam, but I don’t know if it’s still open.

            The Lake is a nice place to spend the time as it is to live. There are nice gated communities (have they all been legalized?). The economy… We’ll have to agree to disagree there as I believe the level of life there is guarantedd by the work of all other BRazilians, but that’s besides the point and too specific and parochial to dig into much here. There is also that ring of poverty that surrounds Brasilia and is kept back by force, Cidade Ocidental, Luziânia, Guará, Gama.

            It does have its moments. People who move there from São Paulo and Rio usually adapt very well and don’t want to leave. People from Minas (like me), well what they say of us is true, being Mineiro is to be always leaving and always wanting to return. The truth of the matter is that Belo Horizonte, though poorer than Brasilia, Rio or São Paulo, is still a city of manageable size that offers a good quality of life for those who can find their way here. It has a local vibrant culture, a peculiar cuisine, a way of speaking, a culture and heritage that is unique among Brazilians. Often, when I talk about the city and the State, I tell the Italians from Fiat that they’re not living in Brazil, but rather in Minas Gerais. It’s different from the rest of the country.I think that’s why I was not that impressed with Brasilia.

            Brazil is like that. Many countries in one. Rio, São Paulo and Brasilia are more national in character as people from all over the country have settled in tose places. The South, Minas Gerais, the Northeast and even the North are different.

            end of rant!

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            If you want a slanging match, nothing better than getting Brazilian males onto futbol!

            When I retire I want to go to Rio and Santiago in Chile.

            If I get the time I’ll go to Brasilia.

            The documentaries spent a lot time discussing the lakes/green zones, architecture and the bland office blocks etc. I was a visionary experiment.

            All countries have much to offer the world including Brazil.

            Thanks again both of you for your perspectives. I have an open mind.

  • avatar
    alvaro74

    Hi Marcelo!!!
    Since I’m from Uruguay I know your country quite well, especially when it comes to cars. Although I haven’t been further than Florianopolis-SC (driven there from home in Montevideo in two occasions)I must recognize the strong influence that Brazilian auto industry has had in our little market. Cars such as Fusca, Brasilia, Gol, Monza, Uno, Palio just to name some, have been tried, trusted and loved by our people. About the Escort XR3, well it has been a consumer’s dream during the early 80′s, but we got the German one (with the sohc 1.6 CVH engine) during those years and the Brazilian version came in very reduced numbers later on that decade.However, the non-sporty models such as 1.3L, 1.6 GL and 1.8 Ghia sold very well here in Uruguay, and all these ones came from Brazil. Yes, the Escort in general was seen as a modern, trendy and desirable car, yet that came at a price: it wasn’t cheap at all!!
    And we had the Verona too, both the first one (2 door only) and the newer, which was only 4 door….funny how in the 90′s Autolatina managed to make four cars out of the same platform/body: 2 door Logus, 4 door Pointer, 2 door Escort and 4 door Verona!!!
    Parabens Marcelo!!! Sorry my Portuguese is even worse than my English!!!


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  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
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