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Samba style 4x4 from Brazil

2010-04-07 07:48
TAC of Brazil has finally brought its Fiat powered off-roader – the Stark – to market. It boasts plenty of Jeep CJ design cues at a rather hefty price.

Designed by Tecnologia Automotiva Catarinense (TAC) the Stark has been six years in the making, after débuting at the Brazilian SAE exhibition back in 2004.

Sugar cane dream - deferred

With a stunning volume of new vehicles in Brazil sold with full ethanol fuelling capability, it was hardly surprising to find the Stark being billed as a sugar cane fuel consumer too during its development cycle. Unfortunately, parts suppliers and various other frustrations laid waste its wish of being the world’s first mass-production ethanol powered 4x4.

Penned by Questto Design of Sao Paulo, the Stark’s styling manages to successfully reinterpret those classic Jeep CJ-series short-wheel base proportions in a contemporary way. A small grille, elaborate wheelarches and high mounted taillights imbue the Stark with a distinctly individualistic appearance.

Technically, the vehicle is powered by a Fiat sourced Multijet diesel engine. These 2.3l Fiat Multijet engines are built in Sete Lagoas, Brazil. Outputs aren’t class leading (91kW/300Nm) yet with a Borg-Warner four-wheel drive system and low-range transfer case onboard, the Fiat engine provides sufficient low-speed rotational force to effortlessly traverse broken terrain.

Fiat engine not overly powerful at 93kW, yet the Stark is relatively light 1.3t. Engine mounted behind the front axle for near perfect weight distribution.

Good off-road fundamentals

Thanks to plastic bodywork (rustproof and cheap to repair) the Stark weighs only 1 300kg. Its chassis construction is a tubular arrangement and suspension independent at all four wheels.

Off-road traditionalists might scoff at the independent double-wishbone wheel attachments fore and aft, yet the short wheelbase (2.54m) and generous ground clearance (254mm) enable very adequate approach and departure angles of 49- and 44-degrees respectively.

To shore up off-road ability even further the Stark has a lockable rear axle differential to conquer cross-axle situations, whilst its engine is rated to ford water obstacles 800mm deep.

With a short wheelbase, low-range gearing and a rear axle-locker the Stark should prove hugely capable off-road.

Slow and expensive

On-road the Stark is obviously less impressive.

The benchmark 0-100km/h sprint is completed the slow side of 16 second and top speed is 160km/h. Its double-wishbone front and rear suspension (not to mention the low kerb mass) mean it's quite chuckable through corners for something burdened with low-range gearing.

TAC plans to build 220 units monthly when capacity is fully ramped up, yet the initial pace should be 12 vehicles per month. Export plans have not been announced. At $50 000 a piece, it’s not cheap.

Brazilians are a patriotic bunch though and TAC’s Stark is sure to benefit from strong domestic demand.

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