segunda-feira, 28 de março de 2011


In the mid-1960s, Willys Overland do Brasil had plans to introduce a low-priced, back-to-basics car. The Project E was to be a smallish rear-engine sedan and a price leader among the Brazilian-built cars.
But two reasons killed the Project E:
Research, development and production costs proved to be the same as a larger car, and would price the final product in the same range as the highly successful Volkswagen Sedan (Beetle);
The unsuccessful attempt at selling strippo and cheaper cars like Volkswagen’s Pé-de-Boi and Willys’s own Renault Teimoso.
Then, in place of the “E”, enter the Project M, a WOB and Renault (France) jointly developed car. The “M” was to be a range of modern, compact family cars powered by a front-mounted 4 –cylinder engine driving the front wheels. The platform and most of the mechanical parts, engine and transmission included, were to be designed in France by Renault, with input from Willys to adapt them to the Brazilian weather and road conditions. Though Renault-designed, all those parts were to be manufactured in Brazil.
The Brazilian M’s body and interior design were all developed in Brazil by Willys’s design team, the same people who styled the second-generation Aero-Willys for the Brazilian market. M’s exterior dimensions were to be placed between the smaller economy cars (VW Beetle, Renault Gordini) and the larger family sedans (Aero-Willys, Simca Chambord). Only direct competitor would be the aging line of 2-stroke DKW cars built by Vemag (discontinued in 1967).
Meanwhile at Ford do Brasil, plans to launch the large Galaxie sedan in 1967 got the green light. But Ford also wanted to build a mid-size family sedan to have higher production volumes (and profits) in the passenger car segment, and also as a competitor for the car General Motors do Brasil was developing to launch in the late-60s as its first passenger car line. (Until then, Ford and GM had built only trucks in Brazil). Ford considered to bringing some car design from Europe, like the British Cortina, or the German Taunus.
Then in 1967 opportunity came for Ford to take over WOB’s operations, along with its line of Willys, Renault and Jeep vehicles. And, of course, the still-to-be-launched Project M.
Development of the M was almost complete, and it would take only one more year for it to reach the market. So plans for a Ford-designed family car were cancelled. The M car perfectly filled Ford’s needs.
Due to the world-wide success of the Mustang, Ford named the M after a horse too: Corcel (“Courser”, in English; according to the Webster’s, it’s a “swift horse, a runner, a war horse.”)
Official introduction of the new-for-1969 Ford Corcel is dated at September 26th, 1968. But most of the public saw it first at the 1968 São Paulo Auto Show in November. It was a hit, though it had to share attention with a direct competitor from Volkswagen, the 1600 4-door sedan, and GMB’s larger and pricier Chevrolet Opala.
The Ford Corcel was first introduced as a base 4-door sedan, powered by a front-mounted 1.3-liter OHV engine. It rode on a 2,44 m wheelbase. Overall styling was that of a notchback sedan, with a “right angle” rear roofline, two horizontal taillights, two round headlights flanking a simple, chrome horizontal bar grille, with a discreet version of what I call the “Brooks Beak” in the middle, a design theme previously seen in Brooks Steven’s designs for Rural, Jeep pickup and the second-generation Aero-Willys front ends.
The Corcel was a market success, selling about 4,500 units in the first month in the market.
1969: Corcel is introduced as a 68 hp (gross), 1.3-liter base 4-door Sedan. Early in 1969 the line expands to include a Luxo trim level Sedan, and the 2-door Coupe, in base, Luxo and GT trims. The Coupe was a beautifully styled body variation with the profile reminiscent of a long hood/short deck hardtop coupe, though it had a B-pillar. The GT offered the expected exterior black stripes, plus better instrumentation and a more powerful, 2-bbl-carburetted engine good for 80 hp (gross). This year the Corcel wins the Auto Esporte magazine’s 1969 Car of the Year award.
1970: Early in the year the line expanded again to include the Belina 2-door wagon body option. Mechanically it was the same as the Sedan, but trim level offerings added a top-of-the-line Luxo Especial version. The latter’s most visible feature was the fake wood side paneling, a first (and a last) in the Brazilian market. The Belina was Ford’s answer to Volkswagen’s new 1600 Variant wagon launched in late-1969 as a ’70 model.
1971: Corcel line gets its first facelift. A new grille pattern graced the front, but most notable new feature was the new taillights, four square units. GTs had a different grille pattern, with two built-in round fog lights. 1971 was the second and last model year for the poor-selling “woody” Belina Luxo Especial. At the same time, Corcel’s competitor at VW gets a mild facelift and a fastback profile: It’s the new Volkswagen 1600 TL. This same year the notchback VW1600 is dropped.
1972: GT gets an enlarged, 1.4-liter “XP” engine good for 85 hp (gross). This same engine, but with a single-barrel carb rated at 75 hp (gross) replaces the 1.3 engine in the Belina by mid-year.

*                BIG BEAR                 *

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