Portaro

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PORTARO was the name of a popular Portuguese 4WD offroad utility vehicle which was based on the earlier Romanian original ARO 24 Series 4X4 model produced under license in Portugal. PORTARO 4WD models were made between 1975 until 1995. It was almost like the famous British Landrover 4X4 and was the most successful Portuguese vehicle ever, before the arrival of the later UMM 4x4. The PORTARO name was an acronym of PORT for Portugal + ARO the Romanian main producer of offroad vehicles.

Mr Hipólito Pires founder and partner of SEMAL company
A 1980s PORTARO 250DGL Diesel 2500 RWD with its hardtop removed
A 1990s PORTARO 280DCM 2800 Diesel 4X4 nineseater jeep

History[edit]

The Portaro was a cross-country 4X4 vehicle manufactured from imported parts in Portugal starting in 1975 by the entrepreneur and industrialist man Hipólito Pires with help from business partner José Megre. The Portaro was a modern version derived from the original ARO 240 4WD Series a from the 1970s.

The PORTARO 4X4 first appeared in 1975 and came in two main versions: The PORTARO Jipe 4X4, an offroad utility jeep, and later in 1977 the PORTARO Campina 4X4 a pick up truck version.

In the early 1980s three modified PORTARO models even won the Paris-Dakar Offroad Pharaoh Rallye driven by French and Portuguese teams, all with Volvo petrol engines, plus two Diesel units: A Campina 320 and a Campina Super 350 for the behind-the-scenes crew. The standard output PORTARO model production was an estimated average of 2000 units made a year.

PORTARO 4X4 vehicles were also available and imported to the UK during the 1970s and 1980s by the entrepreneur Geoff Edmunds who owned a company called PAMPAS VEHICLES LIMITED based at Caerleon, in Wales. His company offered an original model range of up to ten different versions all sold under the name of PORTARO Pampas 4WD 260 Series which were factory built already with RHD and with optional soft roof top or metal rooftop, Van and the Campina 4WD Pickup models included. These were complemented by another British importer of Romanian vehicles called County Vehicles Limited at Silverton in Devon who specialized in ARO, DACIA, ROCAR, TV and other East European car brands models to sell them all in the UK from the 1970s on.

Beginning and Development[edit]

PORTARO started in the 1970s when Hipólito Pires with José Megre got together as industrial partners when they decided to start motorvehicle production under the name "Projecto Portaro" after the project were granted with large Portuguese State funds to help this new joint-venture automobile project. Once the cashflow was assured and delivered so did the PORTARO plan. Their own company called GV-Garagem Vitoria started quickly and a several prototypes were built soon in early 1975 all with different running gear fitted.

The PORTARO vehicles were all built in a motorvehicle assembly plant that was owned by a company called Sociedade Electro-Mecanica de Automoveis Limitada or SEMAL for short, which was based at Parede, near Oeiras. Here is where all PORTARO vehicles were assembled from the 1970s until the 1980s.

SEMAL also had acquired a stockparts warehouse at Terrugem near Sintra where GV-SEMAL stocked large amounts of original ARO parts for them to use as resource. Another small assembly shop owned by SEMAL was open at Trajouce, where the larger TAGUS utility offroad model range was going to be assembled and built there. In the late 1970s the partners decided that GV would assemble the TAGUS 4X4 model range and SEMAL would build the PORTARO 4WD model range to get production ready.

Meanwhile, Pires organized an agreement with Daihatsu Motor Co of Japan so that the Japanese would supply them with original Daihatsu running gear for the first generation of PORTARO vehicles and for a SEMAL new model called the GV TAGUS 4X4 DieseL

PORTARO production started in 1975, when at the time Pires and Megre signed a lifetime contract with the Romanian Government and with the ARO car company. The Romanian firm agreed to supply all the necessary parts, while GV (Garagem Vitoria) a Portuguese vehicle export firm would supervise the arrival of components in Lisbon for model production at their SEMAL factory with numerous Daihatsu running gear stocks there awaiting fitting for these vehicles.

Before this took place, GV-SEMAL went to Switzerland for the 1978 Geneva International Motor Show who brought and displayed 2 different vehicles the first one a brand new PORTARO Celta 260 TURBO 4X4 which was a hardtop model with Daihatsu 2530cc TurboDiesel engine, and a second unit was a soft-top canvas-roofed model PORTARO Celta 210PT TURBO 4X4 with a Volvo 2127cc Turbocharged petrol engine fitted.This was the first time that a Portuguese automobile manufacturer had its own showstand internationally, plus it was the first ever Portuguese car brandname to be present at the Geneva Motor Show, and was also the very first ever Portuguese car with TD TURBODIESEL engine.

Meanwhile in 1982, GV (who owned the PORTARO trademarque and its assets) firm bought the Parede SEMAL factory and this whole operation, was soon trading as GV-SEMAL becoming a very successful manufacturer of every PORTARO model. By the 1980s vehicle sales were catching up with a reputed 2000 PORTARO offroad vehicles were sold a year, which allowed parent company GV to expand their model line-up with improved new models.

After reaching excellent vehicle sales, GV-SEMAL updated all its PORTARO 4X4 models for 1985. Soon there was a choice of up to 17 alternative PORTARO 4X4 models were available at the time. PORTARO vehicles were also exported to the UK already with factory-fitted RHD as well as being exported for sale there but were called PORTARO Pampas 260 4WD' to compete with the more famous LANDROVER. In Spain the large ENASA firm handled their distribution and sales of these new vehicles, all of them were assembled there under the HISPARO brandname using a variety of domestic running gear from other local manufacturers.

In the 1980s GV-SEMAL redeveloped and re-engineered all its PORTARO range and with that this it announced the arrival of the new Portaro CELTA models and the new Portaro CAMPINA pickup trucks both of them were relaunched in early 1982 and revealed for the first time at the FIL Motor Show in May that year. These new vehicles could be ordered this time with a customers choice of modern Daihatsu or powerful Volvo running gear both of which any of them proved noisy and reliable yet durable and torquey.

The 1980a also brought a wider choice of modern new DAIHATSU Diesel or the new VOLVO petrol engines with 5 speed manual transmissions. The last batch of the GV TAGUS DIESEL 4X4 models were made until around 1986 but soon removed from the GV-SEMAL catalogue due to their low sales and that model production ended soon. They were replaced by the new PORTARO Campina 4WD models with restyled cabs, with short & long chassis versions, very unusual 3 seats inside with up to ten alternative Campina versions were available these were powered by a choice of the Daihatsu Diesel DG 2800 or DG 2530 running gear, taken straight from the popular 1980s DAIHATSU Rocky, Taft and Wildcat 4WD offroad model ranges of the same decade, all of these were very popular in the UK, Asia, Australia and other parts of Europe.

The new PORTARO CELTA 4X4 itself was a big further development of the earlier 1970s 240 model which formed its basis, though the CELTA 260 was very much changed from the ground up, with several modern parts and featured fresh interiors and included some luxury items inside and outside, and it could be turned into a very rare convertible offroad jeep. The model was completely revamped with numerous new components and other parts fitted underneath as well, mostly shared with new 1980s CAMPINA Pickup truck sold separately but was selling in healthy numbers.

Then a further new CELTA 4WD model arrived and was a genuine offroad jeep model using a modern and new DAIHATSU DG80 2800 DIESEL engine now using a new 5 Speed manual transmission with a new interior and other equipment.These Daihatsu engines though they sounded noisy but had good torque too, but customers could choose a thirsty but more powerful VOLVO PETROL 2100 Supercharged and 2300 Turbocharged forms, all four options with 5 speed manual gearboxes plus a new HIGH-LOW dual-range offroad transferbox was adopted with a total of 9 speeds. These mechanicals became standard fitted to all the PORTARO 4WD models, though the petrol versions never sold well with less than 2000 units sold before 1990. Most buyers got their new PORTARO models fitted with diesel engines for fuel economy. Due to the major technical upgrades made a whole brandnew generation of PORTARO offroad vehicles were launched and suitable for endless potential buyers/customers from farmland owners to the Army, Police Forces and other Public Services.

Original GV SEMAL manufacturer sold the production rights and the PORTARO brandname model range in 1990 to another company who moved the PORTARO CAMPINA and PORTARO CELTA current models for vehicle assembling that were transferred to a bigger FMAT factory at Tramagal near the town of Abrantes. Only this time no longer were the powerful PORTARO 4X4 petrol versions offered or produced as these sold poorly. Today the same FMAT factory assembles current ISUZU and MITSUBISHI medium to large sized lorries and vans, all intended for export to France, Spain, and North Africa automobile markets. Currently the FMAT company are one of the few large vehicle manufacturers left in Portugal.

FMAT from the 1990s onwards produced just two PORTARO 4X4 offroad models. The first model was an updated version of the PORTARO 280 DCM using all new Daihatsu 2800 Diesel mechanicals and the second model used cheaper and plentiful 1990s FORD TRANSIT running gear and stronger chassis, with new current ARO 4WD axles with new restyling design done, four round headlights, inside there was leather seats for 2-9 passengers, carried more extras and equipment fitted with several other items the customer could order for his new 1990s PORTARO 250FMAT 4WD model. Unfortunately this latest model proved less successful than before and by 1995 the FMAT company encountered some unexpected manufacturing problems and production gradually halted.

Normal PORTARO 4X4 production suddenly ended in 1995 when the so called RPMC (Romanian-Portuguese Manufacturing Contract) deal expired no more ARO genuine parts arrived to the Lisbon docks. The FMAT factory owners claimed that Portuguese State funds were no longer supporting them, with severe issues about failures to renegotiate again with the Romanians of ARO, that were complaining about the Portuguese who had deserted them and never paid ARO for their ordered CKD components, resulting in an apparent corruption in the whole process.

All of these problems forced FMAT to slow down vehicle production gradually and the last 1000 PORTARO vehicles manufactured were actually built with most the leftover parts with other spares that FMAT had acquired before in 1990, that were still kept unused by the original PORTARO previous owner & importer GV-SEMAL based in Lisbon. Sadly the once very successful PORTARO brandname career came to a rather abrupt end PORTARO historic brand disappeared from the Portuguese automobile market during the Summer of 1995.

Besides the PORTARO brandname made in Portugal since 1975 it was joined two years later by another Portuguese manufacturer, UMM, another motor company, who also adopted an original 4WD vehicle made in France, under a franchised manufacturing project.

Model Range[edit]

This is a complete list of all the original GV-SEMAL brand, makers of the TAGUS and the PORTARO Model Range of 4X4 vehicles manufactured 1975-1995 including the models later produced by the FMAT company.

GV SEMAL Tagus Range[edit]

(Made 1976 to about 1986 all based on the ROCAR TV 4WD model, some fitted with the Daihatsu Diesel 2530cc TD 96 BHP engine)

  • TAGUS GV DIESEL 2500 4X4 Furgão (A Van three seater model)
  • TAGUS GV DIESEL 2500 4X4 Misto (A Six seater combivan)
  • TAGUS GV DIESEL 2500 4x4 Pickup (A Three seater truck)
  • TAGUS GV DIESEL 2500 4X4 Ambulance
  • TAGUS GV DIESEL 2500 4X4 Chassis Truck
  • TAGUS GV DIESEL 2500 4X4 Fire Engine
  • TAGUS GV DIESEL 2500 4X4 Military Truck
  • TAGUS GV DIESEL 2500 4X4 Minibus

GV SEMAL PORTARO Range[edit]

(From 1975 to 1995)

  • PORTARO 230PV 4X4 Rally (A light rallyracing model used in the famous gruelling 1983 Paris-Dakar Rallye Event quickly became a winner.)
  • PORTARO 230PVCM 4X4 Funcar (Same as above but more of a roofless offroad leisure type funcar.)
  • PORTARO 230PVP 4X4 Pickup Petrol (Same as above but with factory welded cargobox behind the 3 seater cab.)
  • PORTARO 240D Diesel 4X4 (The very first PORTARO offroad jeep with Daihatsu DG30 2530cc diesel engine launched in 1975.)
  • PORTARO 240D Diesel 4X4 Pickup (Same as above, it was a 3-seater cab useful pickup truck.)
  • PORTARO 240D Diesel 4X4 Furgão (A three-seater basic closed offroad Van model.)
  • PORTARO 240D Diesel 4X4 Especial (A forestry work/armytruck model fitted with winch, large tyres and other extras for specialized roles)
  • PORTARO 250DGL Diesel (The only Portaro model without 4X4 axles instead has just RWD only, about 500 or so of these were made.)
  • PORTARO 250 FMAT ID Diesel 4X4 (The last new known Portaro 4X4 model available for the 1990s with modern Ford Transit mechanicals and parts)
  • PORTARO 260D Diesel 4X4 Cabriolet Especial (A Convertible jeep with new engine & new gearbox, and several luxury items.)
  • PORTARO 260D Diesel 4X4 Jipe (Same as above with new Daihatsu running gear, new suspension, removable rooftop & parts.)
  • PORTARO 260D Diesel 4X4 Pickup (Same as above, a pickup truck model, with new 3 seater cab and new redesigned interior.)
  • PORTARO 260DCM Diesel 4X4 Furgão (As above but has a redesigned interior, improved construction and new components.)
  • PORTARO 280DCM Diesel 4X4 Jipe (Another new model nine seater now using new Daihatsu 2800cc Diesel engines and other modern parts.)
  • PORTARO 280DCM Diesel 4X4 Ambulance (As above but with a new 5 speed gearbox and improved 3 range offroad transfercase.)
  • PORTARO 280DCM Diesel 4X4 Furgão (A 3 seater van bodied model powered by modern Daihatsu 2800 mechanicals.)
  • PORTARO 280DCM Diesel 4X4 Bombeiros (Popular model to carry firemen and their firefghting equipment of which several hundred were ordered)
  • PORTARO CAMPINA 280L Diesel 4X4 Pickup truck (An 1980s new pickup truck fitted with modern Daihatsu Diesel 2785cc running gear )
  • PORTARO CAMPINA 320 Diesel 4X4 Pickup truck (Originally made in the late 1970s a very popular model with Daihatsu Diesel 2530cc mechanicals)
  • PORTARO CAMPINA 350 Super Diesel 4X4 Pickup truck (A restyled model with new interior, new independent suspension and new longer chassis.)
  • PORTARO CELTA 210PT TURBO 4X4 (A kind of a Range Rover 4X4 luxury model and now very rare with Volvo BE2120 Turbocharged petrol car engine.)
  • PORTARO CELTA 260 TURBODIESEL 4X4 (Another rare Range Rover type 4X4 luxury jeep powered by Daihatsu Turbo Diesel 2530cc engine.)
  • PORTARO CELTA 280DCM Diesel (From the 1990s a regular nine seater 4X4 model.)
  • PORTARO CELTA 280DCM Cabriolet (From the 1990s A Hardtop removable roof Convertible model)
  • PORTARO PAMPAS 260D Diesel 4X4 (For Export only with standard RHD for the UK Market)
  • PORTARO PAMPAS 260DPU Diesel 4X4 Pickup (For Export only with standard RHD for the UK Market)
  • PORTARO JIPE 1984 Diesel 4X4 (Prototype new six passenger model but never produced)
  • PORTARO NATO GVM Diesel 4X4 (Prototype Military new model but never produced)

See also[edit]

A 1989 Portaro 280DCM 2800 4X4 .jpg

Gallery[edit]

HISPARO[edit]

THE HISPARO Company History (1984-1992) Made In Spain[edit]

HISPARO Todoterreno 4X4 or the Spanish ARO, another relative[edit]

Besides the PORTARO 4X4 utility model range assembled and made in Portugal from Romanian, Japanese and Swedish parts, ARO of Romania also started another derivative based on its own offroad designs although this one appeared much later, this time in Spain. This new model was powered again with foreign mechanicals as this was the easiest method ARO could find to start their new model project another modern offroad vehicle called the HISPARO Todo Terreno 4X4, this new model lasted from the early 1980s to around 1991 the last for the HISPARO offroad production and it was assembled by the ENASA factory at Sagrera in Barcelona where most Pegaso light models were manufactured. These new HISPARO Todoterreno 4X4 models had a strong styling resemblance to the Japanese classic 1981-1983 Datsun Safari Estate 4X4 / Nissan Patrol Long 4WD both names were used for the same offroad utility vehicle.

HISPARO 4X4 Development and Start[edit]

Before the new HISPARO 4X4 even existed, Aro of Romania believed it could also produce its own models in Spain, in a similar way the earlier PORTARO model was, so ARO contacted the largest Spanish motor vehicle manufacturer ENASA company based in Barcelona, Madrid and Valladolid to help ARO launch and produce an offroad utility vehicle designed in Romania but made in Spain, under the chosen brandname of HISPARO Todoterreno 4X4 built with modern current EBRO, PEGASO and VIASA running gear and numerous imported Romanian parts in CKD form.

HISPARO 4X4 Launched and Production[edit]

ENASA of Barajas near Madrid agreed to produce the new HISPARO Todoterreno 4X4 as long as they carried most ARO components and main parts, but the Spanish had to find another source for its mechanicals somewhere else and then launch their new HISPARO 4X4 jeeps & pick up models to the Spanish automobile market during the mid-1980s. So ENASA contacted the local VIASA company based in Zaragoza the most experienced Spanish offroad vehicle manufacturer and placed an order for a prototype go-anywhere vehicle complete with running gear fitted and two new different offroad vehicles were delivered to the ENASA factory for a complete evaluation. These were called the ENASA-VIASA EV1 4X4 and the EV2 4X4. Standard HISPARO vehicle production was given the go-ahead.

One of the prototype models was powered by a Perkins Diesel 2700cc 4 cylinder engine and was a 6-seater jeep and the other one had an EBRO-Nissan Diesel 2800c 4 cylinder engine and was a 3-seater pickup truck, both vehicles had 4WD axles, with its own 5 speed manual gearbox and VIASA-JEEP dualrange transfer gearbox for offroad driving and the cars were made in 1984, one of the few road vehicles that VIASA-JEEP made for other firms, after a week evaluation these prototypes became the basis for the then new original HISPARO Todoterreno 4X4. Current HISPARO Todoterreno production models were powered by standard PEGASO TD and PERKINS Diesel 4 cylinder engines, but very soon customers had also the choice of optional EBRO-NISSAN TD or ISUZU TDI modern running gear.

Because ENASA produced mainly heavy-duty vehicles, so it was never designed for light and small vehicles, it was decided to transfer HISPARO 4X4 production to their other smaller ENASA factory at Sagrera in Barcelona where PEGASO light delivery model range were made since 1960, these were mainly pickup trucks, combivans and vans plus the new HISPARO 4X4 model range starting in early 1984. Near them in the same industrial estate, there is also the EBRO MOTOR IBERICA another motorvehicle factory, that makes similar vehicles and it is also a large company, now owned and run by the NISSAN MOTOR CO of Japan.

After the new HISPARO Todoterreno 4X4 models entered the Spanish automobile market of the 1980s, there were already many other makes & models, and most carried the words " Fabricado En Espana" with a wide choice of many other 4WD vehicles available made under these names: AVIA, BARREIROS, EBRO, IASA, IBESA, IPV, LUNA, NAZAR, PEGASO, SANTANA, SAVA, UROVESA and VIASA besides the well known SEAT car company. At the beginning HISPARO sales were reasonably good during the mid-1980s to early 1990 with many of them being acquired and were going to the local Fire Departments, Emergency Services, Police Forces and the Spanish Army to join the other locally made vehicles mostly Pegaso and Santana along with other offroad vehicles but a decent large number of them ended or bought by civilian buyers too as the needed spareparts and engine components all were plentiful.

Unfortunately by 1990 sales were becoming slow because some customers were more interested in longer established offroad makers like EBRO-NISSAN, SANTANA-LANDROVER and VIASA-JEEP that were better known and more popular than other 4WD models, so this soon overtook the HISPARO Todoterreno 4X4 in sales and it was decided that ENASA would cease their production in the early 1990s and ARO soon realized they had to quit exporting components and parts for Spain to keep HISPARO vehicles under production without demand. By the early 1990s the original HISPARO 4X4 lifespan was also short-lived too as the large Italian IVECO Group bought the Spanish ENASA-PEGASO truck business in September 1990 and ENASA was no longer interested in the HISPARO automobile project but assembled around 1800 HISPARO models before this brandname vanished and ENASA itself later merged into IVECO.

HISPARO TODOTERRENO The original Model Range[edit]

Some of the following HISPARO offroad models assembled and produced locally, are noted to have also been fitted with the original ENASA PEGASO Diesel running gear similar to their own PEGASO Sava J-Series Van range at the time in the 1980s

HISPARO 241D 4X4 A Perkins Diesel 2600cc engined 3 seater van model with modified ARO bodyshell.

HISPARO 242D 4X4 A Perkins Diesel 3000cc engined 3 seater van with 3 doors built on a new Pegaso chassis.

HISPARO 243D 4X4 A new Pegaso Diesel 2700cc engined jeep with 6 seats and new interior built with many ARO parts.

HISPARO 244D 4X4 A new Ebro 2800cc TD engined jeep with 9 seats fitted with new suspension and restyled interior.

HISPARO 245D 4X4 A luxury jeep with 9 seats, new interiors on an extended chassis with a Pegaso 2700cc Turbodiesel engine.

HISPARO 241DP 4X4 A new Perkins Diesel 2600cc engined 3 seater 2 door pick up with a standard ARO chassis.

HISPARO 242DP 4X4 A new Isuzu TDI 2800cc engined closed 3 door pick up truck with new longer ARO chassis.

HISPARO 243DP 4X4 A new Ebro Patrol 3000cc Diesel pickup truck with new interiors, allround suspension and 3 seats.

HISPARO 244DP 4X4 A new Ebro 2800cc Turbodiesel crew cab pickup truck model with 4 doors and seats for 6 people.

HISPARO 245DP 4X4 A new Pegaso 3000cc Diesel powered restyled sports/leisure pickup truck 5 door model with 6 seats.

References[edit]

PORTARO Two separate Facebook Pages featuring company history, model photos and more details

ACP Automovel Club De Portugal similar to the AA in the UK

Autohoje Motor magazines

Guia Do Automovel Motor magazines

External links[edit]