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Curios: Gurgel X-12

Published 21 August 2015

There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Brazil-based Gurgel Veiculos, but in its homeland this manufacturer of utility vehicles was quite a success, with around 2500 Volkswagen-based X-12s being produced each year by the late ’70s. For Brazilians who craved a robust workhorse with Beetle mechanicals and some off-road capability, the Gurgel was an obvious choice.

The X-12 looked tough, and was claimed to be even tougher thanks to its innovative specification. It employed what Gurgel called a monoblock chassis, via which “the body and chassis are combined and integrated into one solid unit”. As for its outer bodywork, this was constructed from a “combination of specially formulated steel and glassfibre, which makes it practically indestructible”. According to Gurgel, it was strong enough to join the military: “Even the Brazilian Armed Forces have given their support and stamp of confidence to the Gurgel vehicles by buying our products on a regular basis”.

Gurgel didn’t deny that the X-12 lacked all-wheel drive, yet seemed proud of its Selectraction set-up: “This is a device which allows the driver to select the proper gripping in the rear wheel, left or right, in case one of them loses traction. By just pushing one of the two command levers to the right of the driver’s seat, the driver is able to transfer gripping traction power from the wheel that is spinning to the other one.”

Gurgel X-12 Pic 1

In reality, Selectraction comprised a pair of individual handbrakes, one for each one of the rear wheels. In an off-road situation where traction was poor, the driver could use one of the levers to bring a free-spinning rear wheel to a halt, shifting the power to the wheel with grip and enabling the X-12 to maintain progress. Rather usefully, Gurgel also reckoned that Selectraction “reduces to a minimum the turning circle, allowing greater manoeuvrability”.

The X-12’s rear-engined layout (using the Beetle’s 1600cc air-cooled flat-four unit) meant extra weight over the driving wheels, adding further to its grip and off-road potential, helping to transform this rugged utility vehicle into something of a rough-stuff hero. Or something like that.


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