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Volkswagen Brasilia. The Beetle variant with more interior space for the American market

A few years after the Second World War, Volkswagen had already become the European automobile company with the largest global presence thanks to its consortia in countries such as Mexico or Brazil. But also because of the versatility and robustness of the Beetle. A global model that, in Brazil, wanted to be improved with the appearance in 1973 of a variant with more interior space: the Volkswagen Brasilia.

By the mid-XNUMXs, Volkswagen had already become the European car company with the highest turnover. A success that may surprise many, since in reality its range was not one of those very nourished. However, this did not seem like a serious problem to the brand's management since its benefit was in serving expanding markets beyond Europe. Places for which they had the perfect products: the Beetle and the T1-derived vans. Two products that are as robust as they are inexpensive. Ideal for agricultural countries.

Thus, Volkswagen expanded its production capacity throughout the world. Installing factories through consortiums in countries like Mexico, Argentina and even China. Place where about 100.000 people are employed according to data from the past 2019. A figure that reflects the great importance that the German brand has given to expand in other continents, which had its foundation in 1953 with the founding of Volkswagen do Brasil. A company that currently continues to have five factories, representing around 20% of the production capacity worldwide for the group.

Furthermore, along with the Mexican factory in Puebla, Brazil is the spearhead of the group in America. The country from which most of the exports are made to markets such as Argentina, Uruguay, Chile or Venezuela. All of them characterized by the enormous success of the Volkswagen Beetle. Model that was produced without substantial changes compared to the original in Brazil until 1996 and in Mexico until July 30, 2003. A life of almost seven decades that confirms the Beetle as the most successful model in the history of motorsport, with variants as interesting as the Volkswagen Brasilia.


Thanks to its simple and effective mechanics, the Beetle -Fusca in Brazil- was an extremely popular model in all kinds of countries. However, the truth is that by the sixties it was already beginning to be outdated in many aspects. A fact that, together with an increasingly wide and segmented automotive offer, was separating it from the top sales positions in the European market. In any case, in countries with worse roads, a more obsolete fleet and a less predominant middle class, the Beetle remained the best option. Even more so if we have its affordable price and low production costs.

However, at the end of the sixties the management of Volkswagen do Brasil decided to create a variant of the Beetle focused on this market. For it they set out to improve the mythical Beetle in a specific point: the interior space. Just the one in which he gave more complaints. For the tough Brazilian trails the Beetle's perennial frame chassis and four-cylinder boxer engine remained valid despite the years. Mechanical base on which up to forty prototypes were developed, finally choosing one of those designed by Marcio Piancastelli.

Responsible for design at Volkswagen do Brasil and author of such interesting and attractive models as the SP2. A sports car based on the Type3 that saves with the Volkswagen Brasilia mounting the same headlights. And is that for the Brasilia, they wanted to wrap the mechanics and chassis of the Beetle with a completely new bodywork. Visually prepared for the new times, but also much more spacious and bright. Just the two most repeated characteristics in the advertising of the Volkswagen Brasilia. With various advertisements that emphasize the great habitability of this model presented in 1973.


Thanks to the design of Marcio Piancastelli, the Volkswagen Brasilia had an excellent interior space in relation to the size of the chassis. A quality that, added to the practicality and economy of the Beetle used as you know, made this variant a bestseller in the region. So much so just one year after being presented in Brazil, production of the model also began in Mexico, reaching almost 80.000 units. Of course, much less than those manufactured in Brazil. Where until the end of the model in 1982 more than a million copies were assembled. Dedicating the majority to the national market, but exporting more than 100.000 to the Argentine, Bolivian, Paraguayan and even Philippine markets.

In fact, such was the success of the Volkswagen Brasilia that came to have an African version made in Nigeria under the name of Igala. Certainly an international achievement for this variant of the Beetle with developing countries in the spotlight. Sold in both three and four doors with the idea of ​​serving as a daily car to the incipient middle-class families that, little by little, were appearing in the urban areas of those countries.

A type of public that in Europe already saw models like the Beetle or the FIAT 600 through the rear-view mirror of history, but that in Brazil continued to enjoy the reliability of the four-cylinder 1600cc and 60CV boxer powered by a Solex 30 carburettor mounted on the Brasilia. What's more, at the beginning of the eighties a model of 1 liters powered by Ethanol appeared. A most normal fuel in Brazil, as in fact the version that FIAT Brazil took out of 147 to work with this mix as well.

The last notable novelty in the life of the Volkswagen Brasilia, which saw its production end in 1982 without surviving the original Beetle. One more reason to think of it as the most popular car in all of history, surviving even the variants that came to improve the original design.

Photographs: Volkswagen do Brasil

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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