Volkswagen Brasilia

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Volkswagen Brasília
Volkswagen brasilia1.jpg
Manufacturer Volkswagen
Also called Volkswagen Igala
Production 1973–1982
Designer Marcio Piancastelli
Body and chassis
Class Economy car
Related Volkswagen Beetle
Engine 1.600 cc
Length 4.01 metres (157.9 in)
Curb weight 890 kg (1,960 lb)

The Volkswagen Brasilia is a rear-engined compact car, manufactured and marketed by Volkswagen in Brazil between 1973 and 1982; in Mexico from 1974-1982;[1] and as knock down kits in Nigeria where it was marketed as the Igala from 1976-1980.[2]

Designed to replace the Beetle (or Fusca) in the Brazilian market and originally available in a three-door hatchback body style (subsequently also as a five-door hatchback), the Brasilia combined the air-cooled engine of the Volkswagen Beetle, the chassis of the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia[3] and styling reminiscent of the Volkswagen 412.

Developed by Volkswagen do Brasil (Volkswagen of Brazil) and internally designated as the Type 321, the Brasilia was named after Brazil's capital city and by the end of 1982, over one million examples had been manufactured.[4]


In September 1970, Volkswagen of Brazil's president, Rudolf Leiding, challenged the company's designers to recreate the Beetle with the Brazilian market in mind. At that time, the Beetle, the Bus and the Karmann-Ghia were the only air-cooled VWs that proved successful in Brazil.[citation needed] For Leiding, the new Volkswagen should be practical, economical and larger than the Beetle.[citation needed]

In three months, more than 40 prototypes were developed. The prototypes were expensive and VW was looking for a new cheap car, to compete with the brand new Chevette, from Chevrolet.

Sales began in 1973, with the Brasilia originally marketed as a commercial small van to take advantage of the lower tax rates on "trucks" — a classification and marketing approach that may have hampered initial sales. The Brasilia was the first Brazilian hatchback with five doors, a version ultimately manufactured in small numbers.

Total production reached over one million vehicles including exports to Chile, Portugal, Bolivia, Perú, Ecuador, Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, the Philippines, and starting in March 1976,[5] in CKD kits of the 5-door to Nigeria, where it was renamed Igala. The Brasilia was also assembled in Mexico from 1974-1982.

The Brasilia's introduction received notoriety, when a reporter photographed preliminary test vehicles near the factory and security personnel fired shots — triggering Brazilian media attention, an official apology from Volkswagen, increased sales for Quatro Rodas, the magazine which purchased the photographs. The reporter, (Cláudio Larangeira), who was immediately hired by Quatro Rodas.[6]

Engine and transmission[edit]

At its debut, the Brasilia had a 4-cylinder, air-cooled boxer engine with single carburetor. The rear-engine, rear-wheel drive had a gearbox with 4 speeds. In the 1980s, Volkswagen also offered an alcohol-engine option, with 1300 cc and 49 hp. The 1974 Volkswagen Brasilia, with dual carburetors, could run 10.4 km with one liter of gasoline on a highway. The urban fuel consumption is around 14 km/L.


The Brazilian car magazine Quatro Rodas tested the VW Brasilia and the GM Chevette in March 1980,[citation needed] with the Chevette taking 19,7 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) and the Brasilia taking 23 seconds. Chevette's maximum speed was 138 km/h (86 mph) and Brasilia could reach 129 km/h (80 mph). Chevrolet achieved 15,4 km/L and the Volkswagen achieved 13,4 km/L on a mileage comparison. The Brasilia was equipped with disc brakes on the front wheels, drum brakes on the rear wheels. Beginning with model year 1977, the Brasilia featured dual circuit brakes and a collapsible steering wheel modified for collision safety.


Volkswagen of Brasil considered in 1975 the production of a front-engined, water-cooled version in order to replace the aging Beetle,[7] however the final decision was to project and build an all new front-engined vehicle - the Volkswagen Gol. When the 1.3l engined hatchback debuted it was no direct threat to the Brasilia, but with the adoption of a more powerful 1.6l aircooled engine, the company chose the new project to compete against the Fiat 147, the Ford Corcel and the Chevrolet Chevette.


  1. ^ "Historia de Volkswagen de México". Volkswagen de México. 
  2. ^ Automobil Revue, Katalognummer 1979, S. 540/3.
  3. ^ "VW Volkswagen Once Tried To Kill A Journalist Because Of This Car"., Jason Torchinsky, 6/23/14. 
  4. ^ "VW Brasilia: Another Alternate Universe Brazilian". Curbside Classic, Robert Kim, September 27, 2013. 
  5. ^ Automobil Revue, catalogue edition 1979, S. 540/3.
  6. ^
  7. ^

External links[edit]