Brazilian Sports Car: 1976 Volkswagen SP2

The SP2 was a sports car that was built largely for consumption in Brazil. They were produced by Volkswagen do Brasil between 1972-76 when that country was largely closed for imports. These cars are a rare find in the U.S., including this 1976 example in Daytona Beach, Florida. It looks to have been well-maintained and is being offered by a collector who needs to free up space for another acquisition. The VW is available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $7,600 but the reserve is still unmet.

VW’s SP2, which stands for “São Paulo”, was based on the VW Variant, another Brazilian market car. The Karmann Ghia was aging and then retired, so VW wanted something to fill the gap. A prototype was developed in 1971 which led to the production of the approved car the following year. It had an air-cooled VW engine that was enlarged to 1700 cc, with an output of 75 hp that could propel the car up to 100 mph. There was an SP1 that never really got off the ground and saw fewer than 100 being made before the plug was pulled. The SP2 utilized a fiberglass body and 10,025 of them were made over five years. Just 670 were exported, which means the remainder stayed in Brazil.

We don’t know if the seller’s car was one of the few that were exported or one that was “local” as Brazilians drive on the same side of the road as Americans. Either way, this car is a rare find and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one in person. The body and paint look well-cared for and the interior is said to be in exceptional shape with the correct pattern upholstery (that language suggests it’s been redone).  The car’s mileage is not disclosed.

The seller makes a point of saying that the engine is numbers-matching with the appropriate 4-speed gearbox with an 8×31 ratio. That makes me wonder if these cars had a habit of having their engines swapped back on their home soil. It’s a beautiful car that you’d probably have to do a ton of research on to find another in the U.S., at least one in the condition of this one. Hagerty doesn’t track these cars, but we covered one here on Barn Finds a couple of years ago and the starting bid on that one was $45,000.

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Comments

  1. J_Paul Member

    These things are so cool looking. While I wouldn’t hack this particular one up considering the condition and rarity, the idea of a Singer-style restomod is pretty compelling:

    https://www.autoevolution.com/news/retro-modern-volkswagen-sp2-looks-like-as-good-as-a-ruf-porsche-135630.html#

    That’s just gorgeous.

    Like 7
    • Ralph

      Thanks for the link! These are to me the best looking car VW made back in those days. And the ones in the link provided just make the car even more attractive.
      But the question is this: Can a PORSCHE engine be stuffed into one of these?

      Like 1
    • SubGothius

      Ach, some garbled misinfo there:

      “…derivative of the first-generation Passat. That’s how the SP2 came to be, a re-bodied Passat Variant…”

      Passats were always FWD water-cooled models, first-gen marketed as the Dasher in the US, and “variant” was just VW-speak for wagon bodystyles.

      The SP2 was mechanically based on air-cooled rear-engine Brazilian VW Type 3 models, which were actually a sort of hodgepodge of RoW Type 3 and Type 1 (Beetle) components with Brazil-specific body styling.

      Like 7
  2. Jcs

    There is another yellow one of these in incredible condition that frequents the Atlanta Caffeine and Octane. A gorgeous little car in person, it never fails to draw a lot of attention.

    Like 6
  3. Mark

    Sharp looking car! Far better looking than the million $ Toyota 2000gt imo.
    Would be a blast to drive.

    Like 7
  4. Rick

    It wasn’t too long ago that these were pretty common as an import to the US. I remember seeing at least 3 at the Carlisle show back in the early 2000’s. Now.. like everything else, they’re stashed away in garages. That said, any Brazilian importer can find a car for you for around $20K. There’s an “importer” on the Samba who lists these regularly for $20-30K… but buyer beware, of course. Since this one is already in the country, a PPI should be warranted for rust issues hiding in the crevices.

    Like 4
  5. Rodney - GSM

    Really beautiful and rare car. Just don’t ask your detailer for the Brazilian wax.

    Like 16
  6. SebastianX1/9

    Google “Volkswagen Puma” to see the Ferrari version. Brazilian Volkswagens are super cool.

    Like 2
    • Luciano

      The Puma was something a little different in that it wasn’t made by Volkswagen. Puma was the name of an independent manufacturer, but it used air-cooled VW mechanics. He even made a big model (Puma S1 and S2) with Chevrolet mechanics and muscle car appearance. Even small trucks with fiberglass cabins manufactured. Puma exported to several countries, but had problems trying to sell to the US, when a ship loaded with cars was turned down for not meeting all US safety standards.

  7. MattR Member

    Love the curves on this car. Never seen one, but now I want it. This one is nice. That rear bumper looks more like a muffler guard!

    Like 2
    • SubGothius

      That vented silver valence panel below the black rubber bumperettes is indeed a muffler guard/heat shield.

      Like 2
  8. Terrry

    The front has a whiff of Saab Sonett, the rear a little Porsche to it..overall not a bad looking car. This would do nicely if you could shoehorn a Subaru motor into it!

    Like 3
    • Ward William

      These were one of the biggest POS ever. This is called a VW Gol and it is still in production today, albeit in a much later generation and shape.
      The problem was that the beetle was outdated and the Gol was it’s replacement so they got the body ready but not the engine and were so desperate to get it out there and sell some that the first few had a normal beetle engine in the front with the gearbox guts inverted so it would still drive the front wheels (as this one does). People stayed away from them in droves because it was still just a beetle and it was not until they put the water cooled 1.6 AP and then the 1.8 AP in them that sales really took off.

      Like 1
  9. Dean Wilson

    Every used air cooled VW sold has a rebuilt engine and you are surprised that a numbers matching one is a big deal? VW’s were cheap to maintain due to parts pricing not long term reliability.

    Like 1
  10. Steve Clinton

    VW missed the boat (sorry) by not selling these in the US. As in Brazil, they would have been a perfect replacement for the Karmann Ghia.

    Like 5
    • DANNY V JOHNSON

      Steve Clinton, I have to agree with you on that, I suspect, not selling those or the Puma here, had a lot to do with DOT/NHTSA and EPA regulations. That’s to bad. I would have jumped on one or a Puma.

      Like 2
      • Luciano

        It’s fact. Puma exported to several countries, but had problems trying to sell to the US, when a ship loaded with cars was turned down for not meeting all US safety standards. The cars returned to Brazil and this damaged the manufacturer’s image.

  11. Gerard Frederick

    What a beauty! Who needs italian styling? NOBODY does!

    Like 2
  12. DCasey

    A type 4 VW (Porsche 914) engine can be configured all the way up to 3000cc, 3 Liters and it will fit in there like a glove. An engine like that could produce 250 plus dependable HP.

    Like 5
  13. DANNY V JOHNSON

    When I look at that engine compartment, my impression is VW/Porsche 914. That car is a lot better looking, as is the Puma. I bet it it’s a hoot to drive, with that rear mid-engine arrangement. Put some Bilstein shocks, and a couple of Weber IDF Carburetors on it and go have some fun.

    Like 1
  14. Howie Mueler

    $17k now, and reserve not met. Very cool!!

    Like 1
  15. Bill McCoskey

    Steve Clinton,

    The SP2 is one of those cars that is best looked at, but not driven. It’s really slow. It’s so slow, that while the name SP officially stands for “São Paulo”, locals gave it the nickname “Sem Potência”, which is Portuguese for “without power”. It’s best 0 to 60 mph figure is 16 seconds. Even a 1600 beetle does better!

    The SP2 was based on the mechanicals of the VW Variant [311 & 411 in the USA], so it handles like one. The interior is rather spartan, for a car with such a beautiful exterior.

    The SP2 is a very low-to-the-ground car, and does not meet bumper and headlight height requirements in the USA, and the tooling costs would have been prohibitive just to meet the headlight & 5mph front bumper crash requirements. Making the car meet all the North American DOT and EPA regulations would have added considerable weight to an already slow car.

    Those are the biggest reasons it was not generally exported to north America [only about 600 left Brazil, most stayed in south America, but about 160 went to Nigeria.].

    In the Brazilian rainforest can be found a beautiful fluorescent green tree frog, but it’s skin is deadly if touched. Both the frog and the VW SP2 are Brazilian products, best observed, but left alone!

    Like 6
    • bog

      Bill –
      You beat me to my comment (again). There are many “world” cars that we never got in the States as our various legislations were rolled-out or enacted. Some much prettier and more powerful than this. A bunch that I should have bought in the 60’s and 70’s in Europe… Ah, hindsight !

      Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey

        Bog,

        Well I had the room, building and some money, so I did bring over some strange vehicles in the 1980s and 90s. From Rolls-Royces to Tatras, Auto Union 1000SP coupe to NSU Prinz, Saab 850 Monte Carlo factory team car to Facel-Vega Excellence, at the height of the madness, I had about 150 vehicles. Now that I’m retired, the collection is down to only 3 Packards, 1 unusual version of the Vanden Plas Princess limo, and a Tatra T2-603.

  16. DCasey

    I’ve seen a couple of these along with other Brazilian VW’s such as the Puma and there Karmann Ghia version. I like them a lot. They were much more finished and thought out than the Puma and Ghia. Of course they do have the old VW mechanics as Bill said but as I stated above all the power and handling issues can be improved and the low to the ground sporty look is what make these so desirable.

    Like 2
    • Ward William

      The Puma was not a VW product. There are still quite a lot of them around here in Brazil and in fact my neighbor has a convertible Puma in his yard that I’ve been trying to buy off him for more than 2 decades. It has been permanently de-registered and would need a road registered VW floorpan to put it back on the road but he insisted on using it as a doghouse for his doberman for years. The damn thing is complete but just rotting away in the open air. Makes me cry.

  17. luckylugnut

    Brazilian cars certainly have their own unique sense of styling.
    There’s another one that comes to mind, the Chevy Opala.
    To me it looks like a cross between a ’69 Nova and a ’67 Barracuda.
    Looking at one will have you thinking- I know I’ve seen this car before, but where ?

    Like 1
    • Ricardo ventura

      Probably the Opel Rekord.

    • Luciano

      In fact the Opala is the 1967 European Opel Commodore with a few (few) changes that left it looking like an American car. As it was very successful in Brazil, it sold well and the local market was very closed (imports were not allowed in), it lasted an unbelievable 24 years with the same bodywork, but undergoing numerous restyles. It was only retired with the arrival of the Opel Vectra and Omega in the 1990s, when imports were allowed again and the market renewed.

      Like 1
  18. jimmy the orphan

    This is a super good looking car. I think a 1966 corvair 180 hp turbo motor could be used for power. Sound good ? Later JIMMY.

    Like 1
    • Ward William

      Nah, I’d put a flat Subi 6 donk in it. I doubt there would be sufficient space for the turbo.

  19. Jerry K

    I ran across one parked on Bay St in downtown Nassau, Bahamas in the late 70’s. I knew of them but had never seen one..What a surprise.

  20. DON

    The front has the look of a VW 412 , maybe the headlight assemblies are the same. Really a cool looking car , its too bad they couldn’t have done something like this for the U.S. market

  21. Ward William

    I’ve lived in Brazil for nearly 30 years and had several air cooled VWs including a sweet Type 3 fastback with the same engine as the SP2 and I can tell you that these are getting harder and harder to find because the external market is hot for them. Good examples usually find their way to German collectors so way way more than 670 have been exported. This is driving up the price here too. And even though the original KG was on the way out, Brazil made it’s own KG called the Karmann Ghia TC, which was a damn good looking car too.

    Like 1
  22. t-bone BOB

    Item location:
    Daytona Beach, Florida

  23. Ricardo ventura

    It was created to be a passenger car.
    It had a robust and reliable engine.
    For specific performance speed was not the right option.
    A true Made in Brazil.

  24. bog

    Bill – That’s pretty impressive. I drove a number of the vehicles you mentioned. I was limited, to a degree, by my military income..so I only owned a new ’67 Fairlane GTA, new (the next year) Lotus Europa, and ’57 Fiat 500. Then the Army stepped in (again) and limited us to ONE vehicle per person, running or not . Nuts. I didn’t want to test them on the theory that I could buy another vehicle and ship it back without someone finding out. Looking back, I should have taken a European discharge and then done what I wished…

    • Bill McCoskey

      Bog,

      I left the Army & Europe in Sept 1975. While stationed there, I found and bought 2 cars; a 1956 Chrysler Imperial that had been assembled in Paris by Facel, and is believed to have been in the 1956 Paris Auto Show, and a 1963 Ferrari 250GTB.

      As I had achieved the rank of E5, I could ship a car back at no cost. This presented a difficult decision, which one to bring back?

      I chose the Imperial for 4 reasons:
      1. The US government considered it a returning US automobile. No DOT or EPA hassles.
      2. The Ferrari was a 4-seat car, and everyone I spoke with said 4-seater Ferrari cars would never be worth much.
      3. The Ferrari’s windshield didn’t have any specification markings stating it was an AS-1 laminated glass. The cost to replace the windshield was almost what I paid for the car.
      4. Reliability. The Imperial was my everyday car, and highly reliable. I put over 30,000 kilometers on it during the 14 months I had it in Europe. The Ferrari always needed tinkering to get it to run right, and the spare parts prices were costly.

      I ended up selling the Ferrari to an Army officer for 50% more than I paid for it. Today, an unrestored [but running] car like that sells in excess of $100,000.

  25. chrlsful

    nice!
    Some cars (of each ‘era’) just get the styling right.
    Here’s one for sure. Who cares if it is the fiat 850 spyder, Karman Ghia, or miaita of their own era. They fill a real void (affordable to the masses; sweet, fine notes on style). Several things have come together to male a return possible – law passed for permission to mass produce these older vehicles (I guess there’s a ‘paten’ type rule ), import of the older than 25 rule. May B a combo can interest the usa public to go EV on some of them? If 30K$ or less I’d go for it !

  26. bog

    Luciano –
    I was stationed in Germany in ’67 and was surprised that the big Opel could be had with a small-block Chevy V8. Not as fancy as a ‘Vette engine, but just the same… Was made to satisfy the needs of mostly German executives, though not the highest ranking ones, as they got big BMWs or Mercedes. Pretty decent Autobahn car. I always thought that they should have built a “souped-up” coupe. I had a brand new Fairlane GTA (high performance 390), so they could not stay with me on the Autobahn….

  27. MattR Member

    This SP2 appears to have sold for 23k.

    Ended:Jun 26, 2021 , 12:58PM
    Current bid:US $23,097.00[ 58 bids ]

  28. Araknid78

    Reserve not met

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