Theme : Sudamerica – Lafer LL – The SLC from São Paulo

A Brazilian beauty comes under the DTW microscope.

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Controlled markets create their own phenomena, and the autarky imposed by the Brazilian government from early 1976, when all car imports were effectively forbidden, resulted in the emergence of a small scale luxury car industry whose high ambitions were often thwarted by economic and technical reality.

At the 10th  Automobile Salon in late November 1976, local manufacturer Lafer presented the LL, an elegant and innovative grand tourer, immediately dubbed the Brazilian 450SLC.

Lafer SA Indústria e Comércio was established in 1927 to manufacture furniture, and still maintains a worldwide reputation for stylish, innovative products.  Percival Lafer, one of the founding family, had, by 1974, diversified the business into automobile manufacturing, with the MP Lafer, a GRP-bodied MG TD replica based, rather improbably, on the VW Beetle platform.

The ‘MP’ of the name, circumscribed in its logo by an MG-style octagon, stands for “Mobiliário Patenteado” – patented furniture. This is ironic given that the Brazilian company not only copied the British car’s design, but also their still-extant logo. For the styling of their far more ambitious new car, Lafer turned to Rigoberto Soler, he of the Brasinca Uirapuru, to shape the GRP coachwork.

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The Mercedes influence is clear enough, but there’s also a bit of Ro80 in the frontal treatment, and some interesting tail-light play which does not appear on all the cars pictured. The seating impresses, but the key point of interest is the digital instrumentation, set in a fixed boss around which the four spoke steering wheel rotated. Aston Martin showed digital instrumentation on their new Lagonda in October 1976, but Lafer were first into production. Neither manufacturer’s system worked well – the Lafer pictured has a full back-up set of analogue instruments mounted centrally.

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It’s unlikely that the LL’s arrival caused much alarm at Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, particularly as its mechanical components came from the Chevrolet Opala, in essence a 1966 Opel Rekord C adapted to use even older US-market GM four and six cylinder engines. The Opala platform was close in size to the LL’s supposed Mercedes-Benz inspiration, although 145mm shorter of wheelbase. There was talk of tuning packages to boost the 4.1 litre pushrod six’s power beyond 200bhp, but the standard specification was a mild 147bhp.

At launch, Lafer spoke of producing twenty LLs per month by mid-1978, backed by a two year 30,000 mile warranty. The reality fell far short of this modest ambition. Either five or seven cars produced in total – accounts vary, and production ending after two and a half years.

Perhaps the Lafer LL was too innovative for its market at the time. It was also tremendously expensive. An Autocar article in March 1977 gives a Sterling equivalent price of £19,300. Though it’s unlikely to be a clean comparison, the UK price of a Mercedes-Benz 450SLC at that time was £13,959. Nevertheless, the LL should have done better than it actually did. The contemporary Santa Matilde and Puma GTB, also Opala-based were  produced in decent numbers, for much longer than the Lafer, the last of which was produced in mid-1979.

Lafer continued production of their ersatz MGs until 1990, when Brazil opened its car market to imports.  The furniture business continues to this day.

9 thoughts on “Theme : Sudamerica – Lafer LL – The SLC from São Paulo”

  1. Interesting find, Richard. I think I remember the Lafer name from my dad’s comprehensive car catalogues I devoured in my childhood.
    At first glance, I thought it a mixture of Peugeot and Mercedes. The frontal treatment says much more 305 to me than RO80. Also I think Peugeot had alloys with a similar shape as the ones shown here.

    1. Oh, apologies to Robertas for this one. Somehow I must have mixed up the authors of the different articles.

  2. I see some Peugeot 604 in there. The 604 was shown in 1975 so it´s not a stretch to suggest some influence. The grille is Ro-ish, I agree. The proportions look right; as ever it is the details that let it down. What an interesting discovery.

    1. The Author’s name is at at the top (left) on a PC. But it is one of the downsides of our new layout from a few month’s back. But, unfortunately, without delving deeper into CSS code that I either know how to or want to (because fixing one thing can throw another) we are unfortunately stuck with it.

    2. Yes, I think it was closer to the comments section in the earlier layout. Not that I wanted to change back…

  3. That grille made me think of the (later) Opel Senator. If it looked more like the original sketch I would have liked it more. The SLC with the squeeze box c pillar never worked for me, I think I prefer how this looks with the very delicate a pillar.

    1. Mick – There’s something not quite right about the perspective in that Lafer sketch. I agree about the SLC, a lot of things in the styling weren’t quite right, but it met a need. Thankfully, post-C107, M-B saw sense and started making proper S Class coupes again.

      There are some strange pre-cogs in the Lafer LL, most obvious to me are the Cadillac Allante, and the Skyline R31 and R32. Unlikely to be anything but coincidence.

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