These last weeks we have spoken several times about the same case. That of a country in full industrial development, but still hampered by technological backwardness. In this sense, During the XNUMXth century there are many examples of national factories working under foreign license. While governments or private consortiums finalized the production lines, the object itself became a reality from much more advanced foreign designs. This logic, applied to motor racing, has well-known exponents in Spain. From SEAT itself working with FIAT licenses to FADISA with Alfa Romeo. Also going through the history of Barreiros with Chrysler.
However, today we will not continue delving into the history of Spain but that of Brazil. And, after all, during the XNUMXs and XNUMXs their economies had similar characteristics. First of all, they both needed a strong boost. So determined that the precarious private capital could not yet do it, reserving the automotive leadership to the muscle of the state. Thus, if in Spain the ENASA of the first years of Franco was in charge, in Brazil it was the National Engine Factory founded in 1942 by Gétulio Vargas.
Under an interventionist creed, the Brazilian FNM began by assembling bicycles, but also airplane engines, trucks, and even ammunition. Everything necessary to provide the country with a minimum in terms of industrial transport, essential to launch the Brazilian economy beyond the paradigms of dependency. In that sense, the massive commercialization of diesel engines under the hood of all types of vans seemed normal and correct. A path that, years later, ends in an unexpected surprise: the signing with Alfa Romeo and the development of a national sports car with a curious resemblance to the Mustang. We are talking about the FNM Onça.
FNM. FROM TRUCKS TO TOURISMS
With technical progress, the same story always happens. First comes the mechanization of the field. An advance that frees a large number of jobs in the agricultural field, which are absorbed by the growing urban industry. At this point, towns begin to decline with the same intensity as cities to grow. A demographic change that, as urban growth settles, necessarily brings a more diversified economy. Just the point at which certain popular sectors begin to do better thanks to their incorporation into the service sector. Something that motorsports understands a lot about.
In fact, in Spain it was a car, the SEAT 600, the most recurrent symbol to illustrate the takeoff of the national economy and the emergence of the urban middle classes. A process that was also replicated on the Brazilian coast of the 50s, where the appearance of this population required the FNM to go beyond trucks and vans. An activity that had been developing since in 1949 he signed an agreement with the Italian Isotta Fraschini for the manufacture under license of commercial vehicles. After the disappearance of Isotta just two years later, in the early XNUMXs the agreement was signed with Alfa Romeo in the way that FADISA did in Spain.
However, and unlike in the case of the Alfa made in Avila, the Brazilian case went much further. And it is that, at the beginning of the sixties, the FNM began under license the production of a sedan to exact copy of the Alfa Romeo 2000 five doors of the moment.
In this way, and as in Spain, SEAT had launched the 1963 in 1500, the FNM successfully met the needs of a growing middle class with the necessary consumption capacity to afford a spacious, comfortable and useful vehicle for long pleasure trips. However, to the Brazilian engineers this was not enough. They wanted their own sports car.
FNM ONÇA. THE ATTEMPT TO CREATE A BRAZILIAN SPORTSMAN
In 1966 the FNM gave the bell with the presentation of a prototype to analyze with pause: the FNM Onça. First of all, what is most striking is the body line. A cheeky copy of the first generation Ford Mustang, released just two years earlier. A very American style on which the contrast made by the characteristic triangular grille in which the Alfa Romeo emblem is inserted stands out. Tribute made to the Italian house for two reasons. The first is because the mechanics of the FNM Onça are taken from the same Alfa Romeo 2000 that we mentioned before.
A heart of 1 liters, four cylinders and 9CV that animated this vehicle with very different proportions to those of any sports car made by the Milanese house at that time. And here comes the second reason. Because those of FNM wanted Alfa Romeo to give them its unexpected blessing for the inclusion of the Onça in the range not only of the Brazilian company, but also of the Italian, even if it was only to market it in South America. In order to cajole the Alfa Romeo, FMN manufactured about five prototypes, sending at least one to Milan for examination by the parent company. Exam that, obviously, was completely suspended by Onça.
It was not just aesthetics that posed problems. Also the chassis, the suspensions of a certain height and other details were in the antipodes of what Alfa Romeo considered really sporty. Also, the qualities were despicable, with serious aerodynamic problems that even burst the lining of the passenger compartmentas the air intakes directed it into dead-end gaps within the fiberglass body. Disappointed by the experience, the FNM abandoned the project. Also avoiding a more than certain demand by Ford as a result of the obvious copy of the Mustang.
Today, it is believed that only three remain of the five to ten prototypes built by the FNM in 1966. An interesting example of what the Brazilian Alfa Romeos could have been.