A sizzler from São Paulo

08 August 2023
Stephen Paul Hardy travels to Brazil to discover the backstory behind one of OttOmobile’s latest releases.
A sizzler from São Paulo Images

To say OttOmobile’s SP2 is a significant release is an understatement. Whilst not totally unrepresented in toy and scale model terms, examples of the many and varied interesting products from Brazil’s automotive industry are still far too scarce. This, the first high quality model of a Brazilian Volkswagen in 1/18 scale, in scale model terms, is a watershed moment.

At the hub of change

It would take half a dozen pages to do full justice to the significance of the backstory behind OttOmobile’s SP2. Designed in-house at Volkswagen do Brasil and manufactured by Karmann-Ghia do Brasil SA, many air-cooled VW enthusiasts consider it to be the most beautiful and most desirable VW ever manufactured worldwide.

Based on the interesting Brazilian variations of the typ.1 Karmann Ghia, with an engine from the locally produced VW typ.3 1600 models, it had a traditional rear mounted, air-cooled engine. It was launched in two versions - the SP1 and SP2 - a model designation reportedly signifying its São Paulo origins. Although the common body styling was sizzlingly hot, the SP1 was considered underpowered. The larger-engined SP2 fared better but, arriving on the eve of Volkswagen’s ‘new generation’ water-cooled era, it was quickly earmarked for potential replacement by an SP3. This was rumoured to have been a mid-engined design based around a powerplant from the then new Passat.

Given the geographic spheres of influence of Volkswagen’s factories, Brazilian production models (with some specific exceptions relating to Portugal) were never officially available in Europe. The closest ‘export’ market, where Brazilian models were sold, was the Middle East, where the SP2 found particular favour. However, even if export to Europe had been a possibility, the SP2 failed to comply with European type approval requirements because of, amongst other things, its ultra-low headlight height.

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The ‘Leiding look’

Originally launched in 1969, the Brazilian VW typ.3 models quickly underwent a succession of what we would now call ‘facelift’ modifications, thanks largely to the influence of Volkswagen do Brasil’s then chairman, Rudolf Leiding.

It was Leiding who also initiated the SP2 and its equally-desirable companion three door hatchback ‘Brasila’, both launched in 1972. A distinctive look on the SP2 and Brasilia, common to the final typ.3 models, was their double headlight surround. When Leiding left Brazil to become Volkswagen AGs third CEO in Wolfsburg, his wife took her SP2 back to Germany with her and he instigated the upgrading of the European VW411 into the VW412, inclusive of those ‘Leiding look’ headlights.

OttOmobile VW SP2 - 1972 (OT421)

An exceptional model of an exceptional car, OttOmobile’s SP2 captures this era-bridging Volkswagen exactingly. So much about the SP2 was, in VW terms, unique, as demonstrated by OttOmobile’s 1/18 sealed resin beauty - everything from those headlights right back to the sizeable, sloping tailgate and a dashboard the like of which no other VW has ever had. If I had to cite just one authentic detail that stands out for me as representative of the authenticity modelled into this SP2, it would be the grille of the rear valance exhaust guard. Maybe a strange one to pick on, you might think, but it proves the point perfectly.

Now a word of caution to OttOmobile - you have opened Pandora’s box with the SP2. Already there is strong clamour within the VW model collecting fraternity for a companion 2 door Brasilia as well as for the SP2 in the deep yellow frequently seen in contemporary brochures of the car.