Here’s a car I’ve only ever read about: a Ford Corcel, spotted in Chile by SoCalMetro. Quite the looker when new, and always a workhorse, it deserves better than this. This particular two-door wagon is a second generation model, though its exact model year is difficult to ascertain (I’m sure some of our best and brightest will know). If those three-lug wheels seem more French than Brazilian to your eyes, it’s because there is indeed a French connection in the Corcel story.
The Corcel shared its bones with the Renault 12, a car which made much more of a name for itself outside of the US or Western Europe, and which has yet to be covered on CC.
The first Corcel appeared in 1968, two years before its donor model’s French debut. Originally conceived by Willys (who’d been building and selling Renaults in the Brazilian market under their own name) as a replacement for the outdated Douphine, “Project M” became the Corcel after Ford’s acquisition of a controlling interest in that company’s Brazilian operations in 1967. The original car shares the Renault 12’s long nose and general profile, as well as its pushrod “Cleon” four-cylinder.
As originally equipped, the 1.3 liter engine propelled the car’s approximately 2100 pounds with 68 gross horsepower. The Corcel’s debut was plagued by quality shortcomings, and the car eventually was the subject of Brazil’s first automotive recall, with over 70,000 free repairs made to early models. By 1971, however, the Corcel became Brazil’s best-selling car.
Later revisions lent the Corcel a junior pony car look and by the end of the first-generation’s model run, its output would eventually grow to 75 horsepower (72 SAE net) from the locally developed 1.4 liter evolution of the Cléon (called the Ford CHT), with 85 horses (77 net) from the twin-carb version.
Ford was confident in the original car to retain most of its engineering for the second generation (though the front-drive U-joints were replaced by proper CV axles in 1976). The result of their styling efforts, however, was as sharp as anything they were building in Cologne, and much more up to date than anything then coming out of Dearborn. The four-door did not make it to the second generation as sedan duties were taken over by the new Ford Del Rey derivative, but the popular two-door Belina wagon returned.
I find it rather fetching, but then, I’ve always loved two-door wagons. There was even a four-wheel drive version available between 1985 and 1987, though its fragility earned it a negative reputation.
While the Corcel itself was discontinued in 1986, the Belina lived on as the Del Rey Belina until 1991, with an Audi 1.8 (as used in the original Fox and VW Passat/Dasher) replacing the Renault-derived CHT unit in 1989. What replaced the Del Rey and Belina? The Ford Versailles and Royale, Brazilian Fords based on another long-nosed European import; this time, the Volkswagen Passat Mk2 (aka Quantum and Santana).
The Corcel ultimately lived in until 1997 as the Ford Pampa pick-up (introduced in 1982). Though cleverly disguising its three lug wheels in this picture, it retained its Renault 12 underpinnings through-and-through. The only longer lived versions of this platform were the Dacia 1310, which plodded on in Romania until 2004, and the Turkish built Renault Toros, which ended production in 2000. The next time someone tries to impress you with their automotive knowledge, see if they can name the Ford built on a Renault platform and equipped with an Audi engine.