40 years ago the world's first ethanol-fueled car hit the streets of Brazil and was very well received by opinion makers
July 26, 2019 - As it should be, the launch of the ethanol-fueled Fiat 147 had great repercussion in the specialized press. After all, the first car produced by the Italian brand in Brazil placed the country under the limelight worldwide, exactly 40 years ago, as the first car manufactured in series with an ethanol-fueled engine.
“There was a great expectation around it, because it was a vehicle powered by a
non-oil-dependent fuel”, says journalist Emilio Camanzi, then executive editor
of Quatro Rodas magazine. “We all really wanted it to work.”
“When we got the car for testing in the newsroom, everyone gathered around it full of curiosity: 'how does it work?', 'And the cold start in the morning?', 'Will the engine be reliable?' ... we wanted the answers”. After the first contact with the hatch, Camanzi recalls that two characteristics caught the attention of journalists. “The performance of the 1.3 alcohol-fueled engine was very good, but the consumption was high. The low price of ethanol compared to gasoline outweighed this negative point , but still its autonomy with alcohol was low”.
A journalist and engineer, Boris Feldman was working for the Jornal de Casa from the Diário do Comércio, from Belo Horizonte, when the ethanol-fueled Fiat 147 was launched. “The pioneer launch was very weird, because the technology was still rudimentary. Fiat's engineering and press people couldn't hide their nervousness because the car’s alcohol consumption was high. But that couldn't be seen on a test drive at that time. The real problem was in starting the engine on colder days, with the temperature below 15ºC ”.
Even after 40 years, Feldman still remembers some details of the launch. “The engineers who were present got tired of explaining that there was a small button on the dashboard of the car to pump gas into the tank”, he says, referring to the system that injected the intake manifold with enough gas to start the engine in low temperatures. "But the launch was a success, the cars ran smoothly, with no hiccups", recalls the journalist.
Another veteran of the Brazilian automotive press, Fernando Calmon also has fond memories of his reports on the ethanol-fueled 147. “I used to work for Autoesporte magazine in 1979. I see to this day as a big plus the fact that Fiat was the first manufacturer to approve the ethanol engine, because it reassured consumers that automakers were dedicated to fighting the oil crisis”, he reinforces.
“As for the ethanol-fueled 147, the impressions at the time were more positive than negative. The engine ran very well, which gave it agility, but with higher consumption compared to gasoline. But it was more worthwhile to fill up with alcohol because of its very low price”, recalls Calmon.