2016 Rio Olympics: The Cars of Brazil

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
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2016 rio olympics the cars of brazil

I’ve been glued to various screens watching The Games of the Thirty-First Olympiad, much like many of you, I assume. Streaming some lesser-known sports, such as kayak slalom, which resembles a water autocross save the distinct lack of Tilley hats, has helped me get through slow days at the office.

But like any other time I’m watching a broadcast from another land, my petrol-addled mind wanders to the streets outside the televised event’s venue. I daydream about the cars parked there. What are those people driving that I can’t get here?

Brazil is especially intriguing, as the country’s overwhelmingly protectionist tariffs on automobiles, combined with requirements for locally sourced components, make importing cars into the country remarkably expensive. Some sources place the overall impact of these taxes at 80 percent of the value of the vehicle once it’s finally sold at retail. These brutal taxes make local production paramount, which means the country spawns some unique vehicles.

Armed with Google Translate, Deep Woods Off!, and my blue Ayrton Senna Nacional hat, I set out to find some of the most forbidden (automotive) fruit prowling the streets of Rio.

Troller T4

This deserves a place here on TTAC simply because of the name. As I covered back in March, this rugged body-on-frame SUV has quite a following throughout Brazil. Some have suggested, as Troller is part of Ford, that this should form the backbone of the revived Ford Bronco. It is, after all, based on the current Ranger platform. It’d be a great way to reclaim some of the cheap off-roader market that Ford has ceded to Jeep over the years.

Fiat Toro

As Steph covered in March, Fiat is building this compact unibody pickup on the same basic platform as the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X, and there is some speculation that it could make it to these shores as a low-cost alternative to midsize pickups from GM, Nissan, and Toyota. Whether it comes north as a Fiat or as a Ram, if at all, is a big question, but it’s a handsome little truck that may prove popular here.

Obvio! 828

Now here is where we get weird. A two-seat electric sports car with vertical doors, developed in concert with Westfield (of Lotus 7 replica fame) and Lotus (of Lotus 7 original fame), and built in Brazil. The Obvio! website is short on details and long on superfluous exclamation points, but the claims of 121 horsepower and a 400 km (250 mile) range seem rather optimistic, especially in concert with a claimed two-hour recharge time. It’s an interesting looking runabout, though, which looks quite handsome in the British Racing Green with yellow stripes.

Super Buggy

No, this is not a reference to TTAC on a day when the advertising is particularly obtrusive. No, this is another vehicle built on the Platform Chassis Variable platform that underpins the Obvio! 828 above. The Super Buggy, however, is a Volkswagen petrol-powered roadster that somehow seats four. Much like the Obvio!, I have my completely uneducated doubts that the Super Buggy would meet U.S. crash standards. But in the Super Buggy, I’d have a smile on my face when I die, and that has to count for something.

Renault Sandero RS

Longtime readers of my column know that I’m a Francophile, which I’m certain would be cured almost instantaneously upon actually needing to rely on a French vehicle. Still, a hot French hatchback has plenty of appeal, and the Renault Sport badge has long been the marker of Gallic performance. Now, the Renault Sandero is available with the RS badge in Brazil. Top Gear fans know the Sandero (badged as a Dacia) as a cheap, cheerful hatch popularized by James May and derided by the show’s other hosts. With only 148 horsepower, the Sandero RS isn’t particularly quick, and we have to wonder how well it actually handles as it shares much with the Nissan Versa — but my desire for a Renault Clio Williams colors my mind when looking at this Sandero.

Certainly these aren’t the only cars haunting the roads around Rio, but they are quite likely the most intriguing. I won’t be booking any southbound intercontinental planes anytime soon, but the thought of some cool rides give me pause.

[Images: Header, By National Olympic Committee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Troller, Ford Brazil; Fiat Toro, Fiat Brazil; Obvio 828, Obvio; Super Buggy, Wake Motors; Sandero, Renault Brazil]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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4 of 41 comments
  • TCowner TCowner on Aug 12, 2016

    I made 20 trips to Brazil between 2012-2014, renting cars most of the time so got to sample a lot of the local vehicles. The largest size rental car I ever got was a Ford Fusion, which was deemed "Luxury". Full size was a Fusion or a Renault Fluence. The Trollers are really cool vehicles. Ford has a small ute called the EcoSport that is quite popular. There are a dizzying array of micro cars with 1.0L engines to have the lowest tax rate. I even got to have a dealership experience, going with a business partner when he helped his son buy his first car, a Ford Fiesta. I'd love to have one of the turbo Diesel Rangers.

    • JMII JMII on Aug 12, 2016

      Based on my 1 trip to Sao Paulo they all drive VW Polos along with various scooters, motorbikes and small motorcycles which beep their horns constantly. But the gas stations have Ayrton Senna posters still up, so its hard to not love their passion.

  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Aug 12, 2016

    The shot of the Troller looks very Landcruiser 70s Series when the front was moved out to accommodate the V8 diesel. If Ford could make a version of this into a Bronco, with a 3.2 diesel it would be a fantastic vehicle. It appears to have live axles front and rear, which will make it good off road and maybe not so good on road. But the XJ Cherokee was okay on road with it's live axle front end.

    • CV Neuves CV Neuves on Aug 13, 2016

      Troller T4 is as 5 cyl, 3.2l Diesel with 200 hp, 6 gears, 4×4, costs ca. 32K USD in Brazil. Fibreglass body, 2.140 kg. 4.09m long, wheelbase of 2.58m. 135l trunk ;).

  • Art_Vandelay It's not like everyone is topping their ICE vehicles off and coasting into the gas station having used every last drop of fuel either though. Most people start looking to fill up at around a 1/4 of a tank. If you constantly run the thing out of gas your fuel pump would probably be unhappy. If you running your EV to zero daily you probably bought the wrong vehicle
  • ToolGuy Imagine how exciting the automotive landscape will be once other manufacturers catch up with Subaru's horizontally-opposed engine technology.
  • FreedMike Oh, and this..."While London likes to praise its own congestion charging for reducing traffic and increasing annual revenues, tourism has declined..."The reason London's tourism numbers are down is that the city has resumed its' "tourist tax." And why did the tourist tax get reimposed? Brexit. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/tourist-tax-cost-millions-myth-hmrc-survey-foreign-visitors-spending-uk-b1082327.html
  • Dukeisduke Eh, still a Nissan. Nope.
  • Kosmo "And, indeed, there remains a big screen atop the dash in the 2023 Nissan Z"Not the best look, but far safer while driving, when compared to lower in-dash units.Nissan blew it on so many levels with this, but I'd still enjoy one (though I'd certainly buy the Mustang instead).