Throwback Thursday: 1973 Volkswagen SP2

A Brazilian model with worldwide impact
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Just down the street from the Wolfsburg factory in Germany rests Volkswagen’s own museum of classic vehicles, and among those is one of the most unique sports cars ever designed: the SP2.

The SP2 was born in the late 1960s in Volkswagen’s Brazilian arm. With the end of the original Karmann Ghia, VW Brazil was left without a sports model, and government rules all but barred imports. The new German manager of the unit, Rudoph Leiding, set out to design one himself, using the VW Type 3 chassis as a base. What flowed from his sketches was a two-seat hatchback that combined several trends in styling for the era – from the long hood to side gills on the rear pillars and low-slug lights – while looking unlike anything Volkswagen had built before.

The concept SP2 as presented in 1971
The concept SP2 as presented in 1971

The resulting “Project X” two-seater was first shown in 1971 and went into production as the SP2. While “SP” officially stood for “Sao Paolo,” locals soon gave it the nickname “Sem Potência” – Portugese for “without power,” since its 74-hp flat-four meant the trip from 0 to 60 mph took a minimum of 16 seconds. But the interior was inviting enough, with leather seats, sporting three-spoke steering wheel and ample hatch, for the SP2 to remain in production for four years, with more than 10,000 examples built.

By the time the SP2 went on sale, Leiding had moved back to Germany and become chairman of Volkswagen, but was unable to expand the SP2 beyond Brazil due to changing government and manufacturing standards. Today, SP2 models are increasingly rare, and hard to find outside of their homeland.

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