Gurgel X-15

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We all have a shortlist of vehicles we'd start hunting down…given the means, of course.

I tried writing my list down once, but it was in parts more typical than I was expecting (Mustang Bullitt) and more bizarre than I had planned to admit to myself (Ligier JS4.) 

What would I do with something like a Ligier JS4? Drive it? Use it as a foot stool? I've got no idea.

But given the means, I covet the Gurgel X-15 simply because I think it'd be an absolute riot to drive.

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Like how some people enjoy driving around in a replica of the Batmobile, K.I.T.T., Herbie, or Stealth, my attraction for the X-15 is due solely to a superhero-inspired attribute: it's a utility belt on wheels.

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At first, I thought the X-15 was styled, its ribs and creases and angles placed arbitrarily by some designer in a city somewhere.

Click to expand

The more I looked, however, the more I realized it's the real deal: hidden side steps underneath the doors, higher sills for more stiffness, integrated winch, and an extended rear bumper for the spare tire, 

Its door openings were tiny for an off-roader, owing to its unique plasteel chassis. Essentially a composite of steel and fiberglass, it worked best in an off-road vehicle only when joined together with overbuilt door sills.

That's because, as an "X" model, the X-15 was introduced as a larger development of the X-12. Essential to the company's survival as the Brazilian military's vehicle of choice in the 1970s. 

The small car fit well into the country's planned economy, offering rugged construction, easy maintenance thanks to Volkswagen mechanicals, and a 100,000 km (62,000 mile) warranty (as reported by a period Brazilian article.)

Built to be rugged, the X-15 was also available as the G-15, a more civilian-minded utility vehicle available as a cargo van, open truck, or about 149 other variations between the two.

OK, I'm exaggerating, but there are a number of X-15 and G-15 models. G-15 L CD is a two-door double cabin truck, G-15 L Furgão is a van, and so on.

With a rear-mounted Volkswagen 1584cc flat 4-cylinder engine the same as you'd get in a Brasilia or Type 2 van, the company quotes "autonomia" as 650 kilometres (404 miles) with its 70 litre (18.5 US gallon) tank.

Without four-wheel-drive, the truck-van-thing had to rely on ingenious engineering like its Seletraction system, which was just a parking brake handle for each rear brake. 

This is actually quite useful off-road, as an engine's power travels the path of least resistance. If a wheel has less grip while off-roading, it's going to get the power, and you'll sit there stuck. "Lock" or resist the movement of that wheel via brake and power will go to the other rear wheel that (hopefully) can get you unstuck. 

For the record, if I had an X-15 or G-15 I'd use it for camping and touring around on lazy weekend afternoons when it's possible to—here in Southwestern Ontario, Canada—enjoy the numerous freshwater sandy beaches in the summer. 

Actually, maybe I'd need two…that plasteel bodywork shouldn't rust too badly if used in the winter. 

Do Brazilian cars come with good heaters?