Volkswagen SP2, a brazilian sport car who shaped the future of VW Group
Volkswagen do Brasil Ltda is a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group founded in 1953 in order to satisfy the always emerging Brazilian market as the Government prohibited importing vehicles fully built up in another market. The factories and the history as well has always been linked to Sao Paulo, as we know the hotspot for cars in Brazil, not only for brands but also for drivers and circuits !
The factory was initially in charge of assembling the charismatic and iconic VW Beetle with parts imported directly from Germany. The dominance of the brand since its origin in the country is fairly remarkable and seems Volkswagen has managed to adapt pretty nicely to the specifications of the local Brazilian market very well. They have produced over 20 million vehicles so far and the 24 year run model, the Beetle is certainly helped with those numbers.
But let’s not talk about the highly remarkable history of Volkswagen in the country; we are going to focus in one of the local sports car they produced, which have become fairly collectable these days and also not easy to find, the Volkswagen SP2. And also let's talk about one of the guys who shaped VW as a company
VW Leadership through Mr Leiding
Following our story, the local Brazilian market was almost closed to any foreign model to come and compete; Car imports were forbidden, simple as. The local competition for sporty cars in the 60s in Brazil was created with small makers and to highlight only some local producers like Puma, Santa Matilde or Miura. Volkswagen was fighting in that niche with the Karmann Ghia and the Karman Ghia TC (with not very much of a success). The at the time CEO, Mr Rudolf Leiding, played and amazing role in this story but also in the future successful developments of the VW group. Prior to leading the Brazilian subsidiary, he was president of Auto Union Gmbh for 3 years and he was responsible for the development of the great Audi 100 model too. Mr Leiding gain the label of sorting out problems very efficiently. When he was sent to Sao Paulo to be in charge of the Brazilian subsidiary (1968- 1971) he made 2 remarkable achievements: he developed the VW SP2 entirely and he managed to increase the Brazilian production a mighty 50% more in just those 3 years he was in charge. After that, Volkswagen sent him back to Europe and he had to deal with the oil crisis inside the Group, avoiding bankruptcy and also VW had to stand up and realise the dependency of the company to the Beetle was far too much. With so many achievements in so different areas and markets, he was appointed President of the whole Volkswagen group from 1973 and also, on his tenure, he was responsible for the creating of the unique, ubiquitous and mighty Volkswagen Golf (Rabbit in the US).
The VW SP2
The VW SP2 was initially called Project X. It was made due to Mr Leiding capabilities to operate independently than the headquarters in Germany. The prototype car was presented in 1971 but it wasn’t until 1972 when the car was made available (he was already in Europe when the car was released). Why the model gathered so much initial attention? Well, VW engineers developed a powerful air-cooled engine, an impressive interior and an outstanding finished car. Marcio Piancastelli was the designer. The production of this beauty lasted for 4 years (1972-1976) and a total of 10205 cars were produced. Only 670 were exported, mainly to Nigeria and only one car was exported to Europe and ended up in Portugal.
The SP predecessor model was a complete disaster as the competitor (Puma) had a much faster car made of fibreglass. Only 88 units were made and got discontinued.
The SP2 fitted a 1700cc engine and could provide 75 hp reaching a sensational 100 mph.
After the SP2, the SP3 was produced with a bigger engine (water cooled this time) and the successor of this car was the VW Passat.
Picture thanks to lesbrandsdistribution.com