The Largely Forgotten L'Automobile Ventura Is a Brazilian Kit Car With Special Charm

3 days, 20 hours ago - 9 July 2024, autoevolution
L'Automobile Ventura
L'Automobile Ventura
Over the decades, Volkswagen has consistently maintained its reputation as a manufacturer of reliable and inexpensive vehicles for the masses, but several companies sought to change the status quo with easy-to-assemble kit cars based on old air-cooled Volkswagen mechanicals.

In Brazil, one of those companies was L'Automobile Distribuidora de Veículos Ltda. of São Paulo, which created a cool fiberglass sporting kit car that nobody remembers these days. We're talking about the L'Automobile Ventura, a sports car developed in the 1970s and built on a modified Volkswagen chassis. The example pictured here is an original L'Automobile Ventura from the 1980s that is now offered for sale as a project car and could be your very cheap ticket into sports car ownership.

If you're familiar with the struggles of the Brazilian automotive market in the 1970s and 1980s due to the partially closed economy of the country, you probably know that a lot of small companies popped up during that period to fill automotive gaps using readily available VW mechanicals. Using the tried-and-tested recipe of combining a sexy body with standard Brazilian-made VW underpinnings, L'Automobile created an eye-catching sports car with far more modern styling that could compete with other locally-built models like the Puma and SP2.

Introduced at the 1978 National Motor Show in São Paulo, the Ventura was offered as both a factory-built vehicle and a kit car that was easy to build and could be completed at home in just a couple of days. It was designed as a more contemporary, up-to-date alternative to standard VW models available at the time and featured a fiberglass body built using unibody construction.

It had roll-up windows, two seats, a carpeted interior, big rectangular headlights from the Dodge Polara, a prominent hood power bulge, and taillights borrowed from the Alfa Romeo GTV, displaying a styling that was considered progressive and innovative by the standards of the mid-1970s. Actually, at first glance, it's hard to believe that under the fiberglass body lies a VW floor pan, especially considering the Ventura's rather long nose and short, fastback rear end.

The sports car was offered in two main variants - the SLE model with a 1.6-liter air-cooled VW flat-four engine and the RS variant powered by a 1.6-liter liquid-cooled VW Passat TS engine. It was produced until the early 1990s, and later models got a mightier 1.8-liter air-cooled engine that delivered 84 hp, reportedly allowing the car to reach 185 kph (115 mph).

From many points of view, the Ventura was very similar to the compatriot Puma sports car. But while the VW-based Puma GT became one of the most successful sports cars ever produced in the country, the Ventura is a rather obscure GT model that very few have heard about. Probably, if Volkswagen had ever made a GT predecessor to the Scirocco and Corrado, it would have been way more successful than the Ventura, even if it didn't have the same good looks. Sadly, Ventura was quickly classified as "just another kit car," though it looked, felt, and handled like a genuine sports car.

There is no information about the actual production numbers, but sales were rather modest. Though L'Automobile also exported the Ventura as a kit car to other countries, including the United States, Germany, and Argentina, most examples remained in Brazil, which explains why not many are able to identify it outside its native country.

This makes the unit in question here very rare. This particular Ventura was manufactured in the 1980s and was assembled under prior ownership. It is finished in yellow with black stripes and boasts distinctive rectangular headlights and a rear hatch. Under its hood lies a 1.6-liter VW flat-four engine fitted with dual Weber downdraft carburetors for improved performance. It is described as a project car, and it certainly needs some work, as it presents obvious signs of wear and tear, but the current owner says it is in running order.

It rides on Western 13″ and 14″ alloy wheels mounted with Bridgestone Potenza tires. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transaxle, with stopping power ensured by four-wheel drum brakes.

The carpeted interior houses a pair of bolstered bucket seats trimmed in patterned black and gray upholstery. There is also a classic three-spoke steering wheel, an AM/FM cassette stereo, and VDO and  Cronomac instrumentation.

This rare L'Automobile Ventura has now been listed for sale in Encinitas, California, and the hammer will fall on it in a couple of days. It is being sold at no reserve with an Arizona title listing the car as a 1989 Puma. Considering its current condition, it would be a labor of love to revive it, so we hope someone passionate enough and with the right resources ends up buying this intriguing sports car to breathe new life into it.

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