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Samba with a V8 Rumble: Learn About the 10 Best Powerful Brazilian and Argentinean Muscle Cars

Vukasin HerbezAugust 30, 2018

The muscle car culture is a global thing that stretches far from Detroit’s Woodward Avenue or the dragstrips of Southern California. Back in the late 60’s and the early 70’s, the whole world was caught in the octane craze. But U.S. manufacturers had the perfect cars for the moment.

However, the muscle car segment was more influential than most people think, including South America. Brazil and Argentina based their homegrown muscle cars mostly on American muscle cars. In fact, these are two of the biggest countries with active car industries. They also cultivated a vivid car culture, producing several models to fit the muscle car mold.

Keep reading to learn about an amazing selection of interesting, powerful cars. Some come with straight-six engines while others have V8 powerplants. But they all came out of South America and are respectable muscle cars. You may recognize some names, but some will be new to you. Also, most of these cars are left-hand drive models eligible to import to the U.S.

  1. Ford Maverick GT V8

American buyers know the Maverick as Ford’s base economy model they introduced in 1969 to fight the foreign compact car invasion. The U.S. Maverick wasn’t all that special, though. It was just another affordable American runabout with no defining features. But in Brazil, it was one of the premium muscle cars in GT trim.

Brazilian Maverick production started in 1973, lasting until 1979. Basically, it was the same as the U.S. version with a straight six engine and no special equipment. Over the years, the Ford Brazil produced over 500,000 Mavericks, making it a popular choice there.

But, for muscle car connoisseurs and enthusiasts, Ford produced the Maverick GT V8 with a 5.0-liter V8 (302 CID). It developed 199 HP, which was a big number for the standards of the day. In a light package and with a four-speed manual transmission, the Maverick GT was a fast as well as a popular muscle car.

In 1975, Ford introduced the Maverick GT with a Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor. This raised the power level to 255 HP, making this compact muscle car fast. The Maverick came with Ford’s popular Grabber colors, a front and rear spoiler and sports wheels. Even today, this is one of the most popular, sought-after Brazilian muscle machines.

  1. Chevrolet Opala SS

The Chevrolet Opala SS is the typical example of a Brazilian muscle car at the height of the muscle car craze. Chevy presented this handsome fastback coupe in 1969 in a wide range of styles as their main mid-size model there. The name, Opala, was controversial since customers thought it was a mix between Opel and Impala.

Germany’s Opel was a part of GM and produced the Rekor, which was visually the same. However, the U.S.-made Chevrolet had the Impala with the 250 CID (4.1-liter) straight six, just like Brazil’s Opalas. Chevrolet introduced the performance version of the Opala with the same 4.1-liter straight six they tuned to produce 169 HP. Although not much by today’s standards, it was enough to give the Opala SS decent performance figures.

This attracted many customers. The Opala SS was successful on the race tracks, winning many events in Brazil during the 70’s. The Opala SS had a distinctive appearance package including a vinyl roof and racing stripes. It also had hot graphics and sporty wheels to differentiate itself from its lesser cousins.

  1. Chevrolet 400 Super Sport

In the early 60’s, Ford and Chrysler introduced modern yet affordable cars to the Argentinean market. This left Chevrolet without a proper competitor. To regain their position in the market, Chevrolet presented the 400. It was basically the American Chevy II or Nova. The main version was a modest four-door sedan with a 3.2-liter straight six engine.

The car was popular, but the rising racing and muscle car scene demanded a more powerful version. So in 1967, Chevrolet presented the 400 Super Sport. It was one of the first domestic muscle cars in Argentina, as well as in South America. The 400 Super Sport had updated brakes and a suspension. It also came with a tuned version of the venerable 250 CID(4.1-liter) straight six with 155 HP.

The car looked different than the American-made Chevy II since the 400 Super Sport had four headlights and blackout grille. It also came with fake hood scoops similar to the 1966 Chevelle SS. And even though it was a four-door sedan, the 400 Super Sport was popular with Argentinean racers.

  1. Dodge GTX V8

The Chrysler Corporation was active in Argentina during the 60’s and the 70’s. In fact, they produced several models for the local market. Chrysler’s biggest, most luxurious offering was the Dodge GT. It was a Dart-based sedan with updated equipment and the famous 225 slant six engine.

They introduced the GT in 1968. However, in 1970, Chrysler Argentina presented a proper muscle version, the Dodge GTX. Borrowing the name from the eponymous Plymouth car, the Dodge GTX was a luxury muscle car by South American standards. It came with power windows and air conditioning as standard, too.

It also featured a cool-looking coupe body. Drivers could get the optional 318 V8 delivering 212 HP or 230 HP, depending on model year. This transformed this Dodge into one of the most powerful domestic cars of the period. Production lasted until 1973, but due to its high price, they didn’t make many GTX cars.

  1. Puma GTB

Back in the early 70’s, the Brazilian government imposed high import taxes on foreign cars. So, owning a European or American vehicle was extremely expensive. To save money, most buyers turned to locally built cars and trucks. However, if you wanted a muscle car, there was one Brazilian car to fulfill your needs: the Puma GTB.

The Puma GTB was a muscle coupe they based on the Chevrolet Opala SS. This meant it had the same 169 HP engine and drivetrain. But, the Puma GTB also had a fiberglass body, making it lighter. This also made it more aerodynamically efficient than the Opala SS. Translated to performance, the GTB had better acceleration figures and top speeds, too.

The downside of the GTB was that it was expensive for Brazilian standards. So, from 1973 to 1984, they made only around 1,700 cars in two series.

  1. Simca GTX

This is one of the stranger cars in the South American muscle car world, but well worth mentioning. Simca was a French company that started operating in Brazil in the late 50’s, concentrating mostly on family sedans. At one point they used Ford engines. However, in the early 60’s, Chrysler bought Simca Brazil and introduced a redesigned sedan model: the Esplanada.

The Esplanada was an outdated car in the late 60’s when Simca wanted to enter the lucrative muscle car market. So, they renamed it the Simca GTX and gave it a fresh appearance package. Also, Chrysler produced the GTX as a sedan, which wasn’t an appealing body style. But, Simca thought that Esplanada had other qualities like the engine.

Under the hood was the tiny 2.5-liter V8 engine with Hemi heads they called “Emi Sul.” They delivered a decent 140 to 150 HP, as well as a great soundtrack. With an upgraded interior, graphic package and big GTX lettering on the side, the Simca looked like a serious competitor. Since it had such a high price, lukewarm performance and outdated mechanics, Chrysler kept the production numbers low. Finally, in 1970, Simca closed its Brazil factory.

  1. Ford Falcon Sprint

Ford introduced the Falcon in America in 1960 as a bestselling compact model. It also came in a wide range of six and eight-cylinder engines as well as body styles. To reclaim their position in Argentina, Ford presented an Argentinean version in 1962. Basically, it was identical to the U.S. model.

It featured just a few design differences and only one engine, the 170 CID straight six engine with around 120 HP. However, in 1973, Ford Argentina wanted to explore the muscle car market. They decided to present a new performance model they called the Falcon Sprint. This was the same 10-year-old four-door sedan, but with an appealing graphics package.

It also had a different front end and 3.6-liter straight six with 166 HP. The output wasn’t much, but it was better than most cars on the road. Also, the Falcon Sprint was an inexpensive model, which translated to strong sales on the local market.

  1. Dodge Charger R/T

Most car fans know how the Dodge Charger looks like since it is one of the most popular classic muscle cars in the world. But, the Brazilian version is different, although it carries the same name and model designation. In the late 60’s, after the demise of Simca, Chrysler presented the Dodge Dart to produce locally.

The car was modern and among the most prestigious Brazilian models. But in 1971, Chrysler surprised Brazilian performance enthusiasts with their new model, the Charger R/T. It was a dressed up two-door Dart with a new front design and graphics. They also gave it a vinyl roof and a 318 V8 engine with 215 HP.

The new Charger R/T was immediately one of the most desirable cars in Brazil. And with optional air conditioning, a plush interior and front disc brakes, it was highly advanced for the time. The high price meant it was relatively rare, but also highly desirable, too.

  1. Volkswagen SP2

The biggest car company in Brazil was Volkswagen. In fact, they produced all their products there, including the Beetle, T2 Van and 1600 TL. The combination of air-cooled quality, usability and low prices made Volkswagens the most popular cars in Brazil. However, Volkswagen didn’t have any performance credentials or a sports or muscle model.

So, when muscle cars became popular in the early 70’s, Volkswagen wanted a piece of the action. But the problem was, Volkswagen didn’t have powerful engines or drivetrain components to turn their models into performance cars. So, to produce a performance car, Volkswagen took the Beetle’s 1.7-liter flat four engine and tuned it to 75 HP. Although this wasn’t much, it was far more than stock.

The finished product was called SP2. They introduced it in 1972. It looked modern with a long front end, low profile and sporty silhouette. Although the car cost more than any other Volkswagen product, it delivered decent performance numbers. However, it failed to meet the expectations of performance-oriented car fans.

The SP2 was in production for four years until 1976. During that period, Volkswagen made over 11,000 examples. Even though it wasn’t exactly a proper muscle car, the SP2 is significant since it was a Brazilian conversion model. It was also one of the most interesting Volkswagen classic cars.

  1. IKA Torino

The IKA Torino is a prime example of a South American muscle car. It is also a rare model that gained international fame and recognition. They established the IKA factory in 1955 as Kaiser subsidiary in Argentina to build American models. However, in 1964 IKA, became a part of the American Motors Company. They knew they needed a modern-looking, powerful car to compete in the Argentinean market.

AMC provided IKA with the 1965 Rambler American platform, including some body panels and drivetrain. Then IKA designed and produced the front and rear end, as well as the unique interior. They named the car the Torino, introducing it in 1966. The Torino was advanced by Argentinean standards of the day. The base engine was a 3.0-liter straight six with 120 HP.

But the Torino had an interesting construction feature. They used convertible frame rails for the four-door sedan and coupe models. This gave the Torino more torsion rigidity and a stiffer chassis, transforming it into a stronger car for the rough roads of Argentina. However, IKA realized the Torino had more potential than just being a road car.

So, they upgraded the engine, producing some sporty variants by 1969 with the Torino 380W model. This version included a 3.8-liter engine with 176 HP and special exterior trim. This was the premium Argentinean muscle car since it was an attractive coupe with luxury appointments and great driving dynamics.

The company produced powerful versions like the Torino TSX, Torino GS and Torino ZX, too. They used the same 3.8-liter engine, but ranging from 200 to 215 HP. The top Torino was the Interceptor with 248 HP from a highly-tuned 4.0-liter straight six engine. Production lasted until 1981, so Torinos were common racing cars.

They scored many wins in Argentina and its neighboring countries, too. However, in 1969 the IKA Torino finished fourth in the gruesome 84 Hours of Nurburgring race. This made it popular in Europe, despite the fact customers couldn’t buy it there.

These hot Brazilian and Argentinean muscle cars are still leaving other cars in the dust at stop lights. It goes to show that quality, high-performing cars can come from anywhere, not just Detroit.

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