CC Global: IBAP Democrata Presidente – Brazil’s Corvair Gets Derailed By The Undemocratic Junta

When I first saw this picture, I did a serious double-take: a styling concept for another GM division? Then I saw the sign referring to Brazil, and did a bit of digging. And what I uncovered is a very strange and fascinating tale about an attempt to launch a totally new car company in Brazil in the early sixties.

Turns out this obviously customized Corvair was just something to show investors. The actual production car looked rather different, but was still rear engined, but not by the Corvair’s air-cooled pancake six. It had a 2.5 L water cooled V6, still in the rear, but sitting further forward above its transaxle, almost exactly like the Tatra 613.

Unfortunately, the whole undertaking was snubbed out by the military junta that took over in April 1964. They were obviously not wild about the name(s), and effectively killed the company after it had made just a few of the actual Presidentes.

The fact that the first concept shown was just a customized Corvair gave the junta the ammunition to claim that IBAP was engaging in securities fraud, by using it to raise money from investors. But Nelson Fernandes, the self-made tycoon behind IBAP, did not give up so easily, and had the definitive Presidente Coupe developed. Although it had a fiberglass body, at least for the initial batch of prototypes/limited production cars, it still shares the Corvair coupe’s general rear-engine proportions, but with a bit less rear overhang.

IBAP had a small Italian firm, ProCosAutoM, in which it was a part-owner, create a 2.5 L 60 degree V6, known as a “hot” vee engine beacuse of the the exhaust ports being on the inside of the vee, and the intakes on the outside. It was rated at 120 hp.

Unlike most rear engines that are mounted behind the transaxle and the axle centerline, this had the transmission and differential in its sump, and the axle centerline is actually near the rear of the engine, making this essentially a mid-rear engine design, and not unlike Ferrari’s Berlinetta Boxer.

Since IBAP had no real factory, a small number of bodies were built in fiberglass, although the idea was to build them in steel on a mass basis once the funding was secured. As it turned out, only five were known to ever have been fully completed, and one running example is known to exist.

That one remaining running Presidente is featured in this Brazilian tv clip on it, made in more recent years.

The junta was determined to derail Fernandes, and although the firm had to drop any ambitions to move forward, he was not cleared fully until 1984.

I keep learning new things about South American cars on a regular basis; I’m sure there’s still much more yet to be uncovered.