SentiMETAL Episode 17: Volkswagen SP2

We have seen it often... When a division of a car company develops its own cars, the interesting results are often very appealing. This could be in terms of performance, design or sometimes the combination of both. 

Photos by Justin Pinto

The Volkswagen SP2 is such a car. Volkswagen in Brazil developed it for the Brazilian market. Produced between 1972 and 1976, just over 10 000 of these two-door coupés were manufactured. Only around 2 000 were ever exported and they were never made available in South Africa. Brazil has a very close connection to Volkswagen and enthusiasts will know that for a short period during the late-70s, South Africa, for example, also imported VW Kombis from this country. 

Volkswagen SP2

Based on the Volkswagen Variant (Type 3) that was available at the time in Brazil and fitted with a 1,7-litre, flat-four engine, this may be no sports car in terms of performance, but the design of this car (as well as its rarity in South Africa) makes it rather exceptional. 

Its owner, Gerhard Ryksen, is a respected figure in the local Volkswagen community. At the young age of 16 he bought his first Volkswagen, appropriately a Beetle. He started working on the Beetle and driving it, eventually getting busted!

Volkswagen SP2

“I had to sell it, but I bought another one – and that is how all of this started.” It has been a long road over several years which eventually resulted in Gerhard finally opening the Volksie Museum outside Bloemfontein. 

He has what is arguably the neatest Volkswagen collection in South Africa and is on a daily basis either busy restoring a car, driving across the country buying and selling cars and parts or maintaining his collection. According to him there are only three SP2s in South Africa. None of the other two are on the road, but one of them belongs to a good friend and could be on the road in the near future. 

Volkswagen SP2

The history of how this car was imported into South Africa is worth a mention. Gerhard is only the second owner, but the first owner went on a business trip to Brazil and saw the car. He convinced the VW staff in Brazil to ship one to South Africa. However, when it arrived in South Africa and media saw the car there were apparently a few eyebrows that were raised.

“One of the highlights for me is the design of the SP2. A friend of mine owns a cream one, and that was the first time I saw an example of these cars. I just fell in love with this car. Back then we thought it was the only one in South Africa. Later on we heard there was a red one, and then we heard rumours of this specific car. Nobody new where it was and if it even existed. By pure chance I found it.

Volkswagen SP2

“It took a lot of convincing of the previous owner, five years in total, but I managed to secure it and I’ve now owned it for 16 years. I used to phone him on a monthly basis. The happiest moments were the day I saw it for the first time, and secondly the day I went to pick it up." 

When Gerhard bought the car, he had some paint work done to it, but mechanically it didn’t need a lot of work.

Volkswagen SP2

“Currently it has done only 45 000 km, of which I’ve done 7 000 km in the last 16 years. It runs so well, it is smooth and even the seating position is comfortable. I once drove 800 km in a single day, usually I don’t do that type of distances with my older cars.”

It is hard to believe that after standing in a basement for 10 years, Gerhard basically started the car, drove it to a car wash, and then went on a 400 km road trip.

In Gerhard’s own words: “That was one of my best drives ever… in any car.”
Enjoy the video!

Car: Volkswagen SP2 (1976)

Engine: 1 679 cc, flat four, petrol

Power: 56 kW @ 4 000 rpm

Torque: 113 N.m @ 3 000 rpm

Top speed: 161 km/h

0-100 km/h: >16 seconds

Gearbox: 4-speed manual

Wheelbase: 2 400 mm

Weight: 890 kg

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