Continuing the series, today I'll present one of my favorite brazilian cars: The Santa Matilde! It is quite rare, I've only saw two or three of them in my entire life, but its history is fascinating. The text is long, but it is worth reading.
Also fruit of the closure of brazilian borders for imports, the Santa Matilde was one of the most advanced and sophisticated fiberglass "fora-de-série"s ever made on Brazil. Nobody really knows how it really started, but the best theory says that Humberto Pimentel, an important businessman of the agro industry, and a gearhead, wanted to buy a brazilian made sports car, because he predicted that soon enough he couldn't buy parts for his Porsche 911S Targa. He looked for the more advanced car he could buy, but he was dissatisfied with the Puma GTB. He then wrote a letter to Puma, suggesting some changes to correct its structural and stability problems. Puma's response was negative, and instigated by this, he decided to build his own dream car.
Designed by his daughter, Ana Lídia, the Santa Matilde is a damn elegant coupé. And, instead of being air cooled and based on a VW Beetle, it used both the Chevrolet Opala's chassis and engine! You could buy a Santa Matilde with the 4,100 cc 250S inline 6 in the gas and ethanol versions, or the 2,500 cc inline 4 with or without turbo ethanol engines. The other specifications are a gearhead's dream: Rear wheel drive, manual transmission, independent front suspension, disc brakes on the four wheels, leather seats, air conditioning and a complete set of tools.
The production began on 1978. When it was presented on the São Paulo's Autoshow, it outshined every single other car, including the Puma GTB S2. It was an immense success, even with the title of "most expensive brazilian car". In this year, 88 cars were sold, with a huge waiting line. In the next year, 1979, the Santa Matilde got hydraulic steering and sold 150 cars. 1983 marked the first heavy modifications on the car. The rear was redesigned, with smaller lights. The dashboard was modernized, it got 15" wheels and the fuel tank capacity was increased to 84 liters. But, more important was the complete redesign of its structure, with enhanced the stability maneuverability. This year also marked the debut of the convertible version, which started being sold in 1984.
You could buy the convertible with two different kinds of roof: The summer roof, made from canvas, folded to a small compartment behind the back seats. The winter roof was also made of fiberglass, and had glass windows. However, it was a rigid roof, and it wouldn't fold, so you got to have some space on your garage. 1986 was the apex of Santa Matilde's history: They sold 207 cars that year!
However, in 1988, problems with the metallurgical's syndicate stalled the production, since the Santa Matilde company was a train company. The workers on strike destroyed the fiberglass molds, documents, projects and everything that was related to the car. Only few workers still continued to produce the car in a much smaller scale believing firmly on the rise of the company. They made only six cars that year, and kept producing in homeopatic scale until 1995. In 1997 they made the last Santa Matilde, and the only without an Opala engine: It used a 3.0 Chevrolet Omega powertrain.The Santa Matilde company still exists, but they don't make cars anymore, only train related stuff. But they do make some spare parts, if someone needs. In the total, they made 937 cars.
Some say that Humberto Pimentel was so demanding about the car's quality that he always carried a pocket knife with him. If he didn't like the paint job or the upholstery of a fresh produced car, he slashed the paint for someone to redo it.