Volkswagen Apollo VIP

Strange things happen when times are tough. 

"We're going through some tough times," the executives say on TV, using the collective 'we' that implies that whoever is saying that sentence is as affected by the situation as everyone else. We know that's horse shit, of course, but what's really happening is that companies start to lower the expectations of their customers.

Maybe the lower classes don't have so much money, so goods have to be sold for less. Or made more cheaply. Or discontinued. The wealthy are still able to put presents under the tree, like an eight pack of muffins for $50.

Lowering the expectations of their customers is what happened to former luxury car maker Rosengart, who we learned yesterday tried to pawn off a very basic, underpowered, boring, and expensive small car on the savvy French motorist—and, predictably, bombed.

Did they think nobody would notice?

If you were a loyal Ford or Volkswagen customer in Brazil or Argentina in 1987, you'd have read about AutoLatina in the papers: a joint venture between the two carmakers in those two countries that would allow them to weather the economic storm. What I really mean is that they found a way to dramatically cut costs in developing vehicles…by badge-engineering almost everything they sold.

Would you like a European Ford Escort badged as a Volkswagen? Let me introduce the Pointer. Want a Volkswagen Santana…with a Ford Versailles badge? Over here, sir. 

Today's car, the Volkswagen Apollo VIP, can trace its bloodline back to the Mk 3 Ford Escort, which was used to create the Ford Orion sedan—an Escort with a badonkadonk trunk. Ford took the Orion and heavily modified it to create the Verona two-door sedan—owing to its more upright cabin. (Hey, if automakers can call four door vehicles coupes, I can call two door vehicles sedans.)

Executives at AutoLatina, sensing an opportunity, then took the Verona, slapped on some Volkswagen badges and "styling cues" and introduced the Apollo. 

The front engine, front-drive coupe didn't look terrible, at least to my eyes. Something about the Volkswagen roundel imparts a sense of order in a car grille, doesn't it? Behind the badge was a Volkswagen engine, too: a 1.8-litre "AP" 4-cylinder that was an evolution of the Volkswagen EA827 motor, first seen in the 1972 Audi 80 and Volkswagen Dasher, among others.

In lower trim levels, the Apollo was criticized for having few standard features, including a lack of all but the most basic seat adjustments. That said, it still gave keen drivers a stiffer suspension and shorter gear ratios over its Ford cousin. The VIP trim level added niceties like BBS-style alloy wheels and smoked tail lights. Upgraded interior trim and features helped make the Apollo sort of like a 2/3 Mercury Cougar, a "personal coupe" like no other.

I've read, however, that changes to the Ford Verona were to be much more extensive, and introduced with wholly VW styling—and a hatchback derivative—with the resulting new car to be called the Volkswagen Pine. But who knows? Times were tough.

Note: As information on this car is scarce, I've included some photos and commercials of other Apollo trims. Only the first two images are of the VIP.

Sources