Sometimes, your budget just won’t stretch to cover the latest toy. It’s alright, we’ve all been there. Hell, my newest gaming console is a pre-slim Xbox 360, my TV is tiny, and I bought an iPhone 12 Mini right after the iPhone 13 launched. However, when a vehicle as distinctive as the Tesla Cybertruck launches, what substitute is out there? Sure, you could build your own out of plywood, but that takes skill and time. Instead, what if an alternative already existed, possibly with easy-to-source mechanicals and maybe from some far-off land like Brazil? Yep, this Renha Formigão is what happens when your mum says we have a Cybertruck at home, and it is simply marvelous.
If you frequent The Autopian, you’ll probably know about my colleague Jason’s thing for weird Brazilian Volkswagen-based cars. After all, Brazil was a peculiar market in the 1970s with local market protections that promoted some intriguing creations like the Volkswagen-based Puma GT sports coupe, the rebadged Alpine A108 known as the Willys Interlagos, and the awesome Chevrolet Opala. Of course, the insular market also created a whole lot of glorious weirdness, and the Renha Formigão is a prime example.
Way back in the 1970s, a small Brazilian automaker named Renha Indústria e Comércio de Vehículos came out with a small truck that, if you squint, looks a little bit like a Tesla Cybertruck. Sure, the sail panels don’t carry over, but you get a similar designed-with-a-ruler look, a flat windscreen that’s very nearly on the same plane as the hood, and a miniscule dash-to-axle ratio. After nightfall and about seven to ten beers, the primary difference when seeing one drive by will be size rather than styling.
Well, Brazil’s love for Volkswagen componentry holds the key. Underneath the bed of the Renha Formigão sits the running gear of a Volkswagen Beetle, which is weird because the Beetle engine doesn’t exactly have the most compact engine accessory package. As a result, the Formigão’s bed contains a pronounced protrusion at the back, which doesn’t make it the most useful vehicle for high-volume, low-density loads. However, a payload capacity of 1,433 pounds is nothing to sneeze at, especially given this truck’s tiny footprint and fiberglass body.
For those looking to get really nerdy, the headlights of this tiny hauler came from the Fiat 147, and that grille on the front was entirely fake. After all, the 1.6-liter Volkswagen engine was air-cooled, so there was absolutely no need for a radiator. Interestingly enough, the battery and spare tire were packaged behind the seats, so I can only imagine that the frunk was reasonably commodious, even when considering how much space a fuel tank takes up.
Sadly, the production run of the Renha Formigão was quite short. Launched for 1977, Lexicar Brasil reports that it only lived as a new vehicle until 1980, when its maker decided to focus on other ventures. While a relaunch of the truck in 1986 as the Coyote Country was attempted, proof of actual results remains inconclusive. However, perhaps as a result of the balmy Brazilian climate and the truck being constructed out of fiberglass, a handful of Renha Formigão examples still exist today.
This one went at auction in Brazil a few years ago for roughly the equivalent of $5,400, which seems downright cheap for something that looks a bit like a Cybertruck if you squint. Granted, it was listed as a 1971 Coyote, which definitely doesn’t sound right, but such are the liberties taken with boutique cars with histories largely lost to time.
Maybe it’s the taut fitment of the soft tonneau cover or the dashing good looks of the vintage alloy wheels, but there’s a sense of ritziness to this Renha Formigão that belies its pedestrian underpinnings. The gleaming silver paint of this particular example also highlights the Cybertruck-if-you-squint-ness of the styling, although I reckon the contoured bodysides give this Brazilian special a little extra elegance over its American cousin.
Alright, so maybe calling this thing a Brazilian Cybertruck is a bit of a stretch, but the Renha Formigão is one seriously cool little pickup truck perfect for urban errands, junkyard runs, and the like. Now, who’s brave enough to find one, bring it to America, and park it in the nearest non-EV parking spot next to a Tesla Supercharger station?
(Photo credits: Picelli Leiloes, Renha)
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