Origins of the project
In the 70s, the Brazilian market was closed for imports. The only sports car officially made there was the aging (and by then retired) Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, and its failed successor, the Karmann Ghia TC. Only independent car makers were able to fill the gap, notably Puma, Santa Matilde and Miura.
The Volkswagen subsidiary in Brazil always had some degree of independence from Wolfsburg, so in 1969 they decided to start a new project of their own. A team led by mr. Schiemann and supported by Rudolf Leiding (the CEO of the subsidiary and later of the entire company) started work on a so-called "Project X", and presented a prototype in a 1971 fair. But it would take another year before the car reached the streets.
The SP, the final name of the car, was built on the frame of a Variant, with the same Volkswagen air cooled engine, but upgraded to 1700 cc, it developed 75 hp (56 kW), 160 km/h (100 mph) and made 10 L/100 km (28 mpg-imp; 24 mpg-US).
When the car was presented, it quickly drew media attention, with its many improvements over the local "air cooled" VW line, an impressive interior, its many extra features and its superb finishing.
A car named SP1 was also built, but due to its very poor performance (only 65 hp (48 kW) with a 1600 cc engine), it was soon discontinued. The same problem plagued the SP2. In fact, a malicious joke at that time was to relate the "SP2" name with "Sem Potência" ("Without Power", in Portuguese).
Despite its revolutionary look, the car failed to beat the Puma in performance. Although they used similar engines, the fiberglass Puma was much lighter. This resulted in low sales, and the SP was discontinued in February 1976.
With a total of 10,205 units made (670 of them exported, the majority 155 went to Nigeria with only one going to Europe, Portugal), the car is now sought-after as a valuable collector's item. One of them, in white, is in the VW museum on public display. While prices during the production time frame were roughly the same as the Beetle, the price of a well-preserved example today is considerably higher than contemporary VW models.
An attempt to resolve SP's main problem, lack of engine power, was called "SP3 project". It would be basically an SP2, but with a 1.8L EA-827 (AP in Brazil) engine, watercooled, 8,5:1, 100 cv SAE at 6000 rpm and twin carburetors, all "borrowed" from the Brazilian version of the Passat TS. Although at the factory, a prototype was made at Dacon.