Zunder 1500

Note: Today's story was inspired by @carfolio on Twitter, who asked if I'd seen this car before…and I hadn't. As an aside, carfolio.com has a ton of specs listed for just about every car. Check it out if you're into that sort of thing!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, obviously, because what must have passed for a supreme Argentinian sports coupé in 1960 will likely give many of you a fright. Up front, it's as if the stylists behind early Jensens was given a crack at the car's headlights, which look rather nice on a grand touring British coupé or, in North America, on some big '60s Chryslers and Lincolns. 

Without a grille, though—and with such narrow bodywork—the angled headlight thing doesn't really work. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

By the '60s, cars were firmly established as part of life in Argentina, but the country relied mainly on imports. With the hopes of founding a made-in-Argentina car company, brothers Nelson José and Eligio Oscar Bongiovanni began studying their competition. By 1960, with a factory near Rio Cuarto, the brothers were well on their way to producing a brand-new two-door sedan for Argentina.

With a fibreglass body chosen for ease of production as well as durability, the last remaining problem before launch was its engine: a weedy Volkswagen motor. Brother Nelson José, from his travels, knew the perfect engine was being assembled in the heart of Germany—and packed his bags for a trip to Stuttgart. 

Maybe the interns were running the show when Nelson José arrived, or maybe the numbers really did look compelling enough for Porsche to not only lend their engine, but also significant engineering support and permission to use its name in official Zunder marketing materials.

Yes, you're looking at a factory-supported, fibreglass-bodied Porsche 356…styled and assembled in Argentina.

Launched at the swank Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires, the small firm quickly earned a ton of media attention for its brand-new sports car. Underneath the rear bodywork sat a 1,488-cc flat 4-cylinder engine, with a quoted 58 horsepower; this pushed its 880 kg (1940 lb) body to a maximum speed of just 140 km/h (87 mph). On their way to that speed, drivers also enjoyed four Porsche gears from its Porsche gearbox.

After all, its angled 'Jeepers Creepers' peepers stuck out into the wind, and with slab sides and an upright windshield it's clear that aerodynamics were not a priority for the Zunder 1500. Underneath its bodywork was a simple tubular steel frame, torsion bar suspension, and drum brakes all 'round. Inside, Porsche even lent their gauges to the car, which sit in a wavy fibreglass dashboard.

With 200 said to have been made before the firm went under—but not before dreaming up their next car, the Karmann Ghia-bodied Zunder Coupé—there simply weren't enough buyers willing to take a chance on a pricey Argentinian car…even if all the good parts came from Porsche.