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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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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