Envemo Camper

Envemo_Camper_2.jpg

Do you feel as though everything has already been done?

…or: Are you amazed that car companies never seem to build the vehicle you really want?

With its history of import duties, taxes, and outright bans on imported vehicles, Brazil's automotive industry has been a bizarre petri dish for decades. Predictably, sometimes the results are as strange as bolting a fan onto the back of a semi-amphibious vehicle. Occasionally, however, the results are as striking and brilliant as a pair of finely-honed buttocks seen gleaming on Copacabana beach.

The Envemo Camper is one such machine.

Imagine my surprise when I came across photos of a strange, LaForza-like (but far more attractive) SUV: "…wait, but is it a Jeep? That rear window screams 'Cherokee!'" 

Indeed, it is a Cherokee knockoff.

What I haven't been able to figure out is how Envemo, a Brazilian firm that started making Porsche 356 replicas and branched out into modifying vehicles—think body kits, double cab pickup trucks, and giving Chevettes targa roof conversions—ended up building its very own Jeep Cherokee copy from 1989. The firm could have (unlikely) imported body shells and other needed components from Venezuela, where the Cherokee was made locally in Valencia. Or they could have borrowed a Cherokee for a few months and worked on reverse engineering it.

Its Fiat Uno headlights should have tipped you off that this is no official Jeep: its chassis and powertrain components are borrowed from the locally-made Engasa 4 Jeep. Don't forget: until the mid-'90s, it was nearly impossible to import a foreign-made car into Brazil. If Jeep wasn't around, who's to say the Camper was a Cherokee copy?

The engines underneath its chiseled, almost-stamped-in-Toledo lines? Chevrolet. Around the world, the Cherokee itself was equipped with several interesting engines, and the Camper is no different: a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder from Chevrolet, a 4.1-litre inline-6 from Chevrolet, and a 3.9-litre Perkins diesel. The locally-sourced Chevrolet engines could run on gasoline or, as is common in Brazil, ethanol from sugarcane.

About 650 Camper SUVs were made, with a four-door version joining the two-door shortly after. It was restyled as well, with the photo at the top of the article representing its second-generation refresh—only the first generation had those square Fiat Uno headlights.

Envemo, who introduced the Camper as its first fully-developed production vehicle, closed up shop in 1995, with production of this unique SUV ending as a result.

As the flood of foreign designed and built machines tempted the wealthy from their bespoke Brazilian SUVs and into machines with more cachet, it marked a sad and often brutal end to innovative, make-do-with-what-you've-got machines like the Camper.