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…
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…
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.
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.
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!