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A pert and shapely little Brazilian will always get my attention. Then add a healthy dose of seventies grooviness to the equation and things start to get really interesting.

At least in theory. Because this summer I wrote about precisely such a combination: the VW Karmann Ghia TC145. Disappointingly though, I found myself quickly concluding that the end result was rather underwhelming – to say the least. And I left it at that. Until just the other week where I was traveling through Europe making visits at both Retro Classics in Cologne and not least InterClassics in Brussels. I forget whether it was at one or the other exhibition where I ended up chatting with a German classic car dealer, and somehow our discussion turned to the rare and somewhat obscure VW SP2. Yes, that right. Another pert and shapely little Brazilian – and this one is just oozes sex! Surely, the most beautiful VW the world has ever seen?

Pardon me? Isn’t it common knowledge that the most beautiful VW ever produced is obviously the original VW Karmann Ghia Type 14? Well, you could easily argue so, as it is indeed a very pretty and well-designed little coupé. So much so that I too have been tempted by its elegant curves – if not quite to the point of considering one for my own garage, then perhaps at least as a rental summer flirt. But it is rather feminine, isn’t it? And thoroughly underpowered too! And with its roots well planted in the fifties, the Karmann Ghia is probably also just a tad too archaic for the masses of new enthusiasts which are entering our classic car scene. Remember, many of them are a lot younger than the grumpy and conservative old man writing these words…

Just as old hat as the curvaceous Karmann Ghia must have seemed in 1971, just as sharp and modern would the SP2 have appeared – both in shape, colours and graphics…

Enter the VW SP2 which was first presented to the public in 1971. It is in my humble opinion immensely well-proportioned: shapely yet sharp, and with a distinctly muscular stance. Furthermore, very cleverly complimenting the rest of the VW model range. Only, it didn’t actually have to…

…even if those graphics might date the SP2 somewhat, the rest displays a timeless elegance equalling even the best to come out of Italy during that period…

That is probably the reason why you might not have heard of the SP2 before. It was in fact (almost) only sold within the Brazilian market. Why such a decision was made, will forever leave me rather puzzled, as the prototype received plenty of positive appraisal at its launch. That was of course the very reason it even entered production the following year. But only in Brazil.

Traditional and well-proven VW-mechanicals were hidden under exotic lines (not unlike the original Karmann Ghia some 17 years earlier), and even though the SP2 was treated to the big 1.7-litre boxer engine, it hardly translated into sportscar performance.

…and do I even detect an element of Fulvia Sport in that rear design?

This lack of performance was largely – just as with the Karmann Ghia – down to the steel body. It may have been pretty, but it was also heavy. Or at least too heavy for the humble boxer engines which were found behind the rear axle. Equally, those steel bodies are also to blame for so few SP2s surviving today. Production ceased already in 1976 after a bit more than 10,000 cars had rolled off the Brazilian production line, and sadly, they had the same appetite for corrosion as did every other VW product of that era.

From certain angles, the SP2 even has tones of Monteverdi Hai, De Tomaso Mangusta and LMX Sirex. Nothing wrong with that!

As always, I am by no means obsessed with outright performance, as long as it’s made up for by other attributes. Yes, I confess: I find the VW SP2 hugely appealing! Strong, reliable and mass-produced mechanicals, big on rarity, and clad in exotic clothing. So what is it like from behind the wheel? I honestly don’t know. But when I squint my eyes, it reminds me of the De Tomaso Mangusta – which they all claim is rather compromised out on the open road. Okay, so it’s not a De Tomaso, and never will be. But perhaps more like a Brazilian LMX Sirex then? Regardless of whether you too can see the similarities, there’s no denying that this – contrary to the TC145 – is Brazilian done the right way!

Back then, the SP2 stood out in the VW model range, just as it does today as a classic car. Exotic but not fast, Beautiful but not a sportscar. I think I’m in love…

 

 

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6 Responses

  1. Tony Wawryk
    – I have to say I like this a lot, and it’s completely new to me, so I’ve learned something today. I’m really surprised VW didn’t market it in Europe, I’m sure it would have been a success, especially with a slightly more powerful engine to counteract the weight.
    It shares its front end “look” with the VW 412, but is of course much sleeker and sportier. None are registered in the UK, although there are three for sale on carandclassic.com, including a completely restored one in Brazil for £39,990 and two in Portugal, neither is complete, for £15k the pair, so massive rarity value – you’re very unlikely to see another if you turn up at an event in one. Very, very nice indeed!
    Reply
  2. GTeglman
    – I agree with you that the SP2 probably could be the most beautiful designed VW the world has ever seen, but it’s so under powered that the shape couldn’t possibly be further from performance..- and that’s a shame.

    As one of my German Pagoda driving friends says about the VW Karmann Ghia Type 14, “It’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and the main reason I don’t like it”.

    @tony-wawryk £39,990 sounds a little steep to me for a SP2 not matter the rarity and restoration.

    Reply
  3. Anders Bilidt
    While I knew of the SP2, I’ve never seen one in real life.
    Judging from pics though, I must confess that I quite like it.
    Amusing though with that loooooong bonnet when the engine is in the back. It almost has the same exaggerated sportscar dimensions as an E-type. I mean, not that it looks like an E-type, but the dimensions are similar with that bonnet which goes on for ever followed by a small rounded cabin. And Claus, you’re right about the rear treatment resembling the Zagato Fulvia.
    Cool and rare as it is though, I certainly wouldn’t be shelling out £ 40 grand for one…
    Reply
  4. yrhmblhst
    I became aware of these via Matchbox car…thought it looked nice, so I bought it. have never seen one in the flesh, but Im glad someone else finally sees – if you squint – a little Monteverdi in it besides me. Too bad its so underpowered – could be a low cost Porsche alternative if it wasnt so slow. Of course, i like 914s, so what do I know?
    Reply
  5. Tony Wawryk
    am with you on the 914, a damn good car, especially in 2.0 litre form – was on my shortlist before I decided on the 02 – I even like the styling, especially in the right colours (yellow being one, obviously).
    Reply
  6. Claus Ebberfeld
    There’s been one for sale here in Denmark and as I recalled it had a slightly modified engine. To be honest I think that’s what I would do my self, if I would take on one of these: Yes, I agree – even though I would never go for an SP2 as a sports car I would struggle with THAT little power.

    As I am not the only one wanting more power in these classic VW’s the industry will beasically sell you as much horsepower as you can afford. 100, 150, 200 horsepower is there for the grabs.

    Whether the suspension could handle that much more is then the next question. Not to mention the brakes. But who cares when the SP2 is all about looks anyway?!?

    Reply

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