Amazonas 1600


Just as there are sweet dreams and nightmares, so there are good dream bikes and bad ones. Take a look at the gargantuan Amazonas 1600 from Brazil and guess which category it falls into. ...

The outdated Russian Dniepr/ Ural flat twins used to be the means by which we reminded ourselves of the excellence of most latter-day Japanese and European motorcycles, but now the Amazonas has amply - and that's the motjuste for a two-wheeler scaling 386 kg dry and with a wheelbase of no less than 1680 mm - usurped the Eastern Bloc bikes in this educational role. The Brazilian Behemoth, built in Sao Paulo and powered by the air-cooled flat-four horizontally opposed pushrod Volkswagen engine, is so lacking in sophistication and finish that you can scarcely credit that someone, somewhere is actually building them in series production, still less finding buyers for the end result.

Yet that's exactly the case and, when Daniel Ferreira Rodrigues decided back in 1978 to try to meet the demand for a large-capacity touring bike with which to explore the improving road system of his huge country, he had no choice but to use a locally built car engine. As one of the world's leading debtor nations, Brazil imposes swingeing duties on imported bikes and engines. Remarkably, he even managed to export a few bikes, mostly to the USA where they like this kind of thing, but also a handful went to Europe. One such customer was

German sidecar manufacturer Rainer Koch, who bought his Amazonas as a means of publicising his range of bolt-on 'chairs'. One ride on the bike as a solo was enough to convince him a third wheel was a necessity on such a massive motorcycle!

Curiously, instead of using the VW engine's inherent strength to advantage by making it a fully stressed member, Ferreira has constructed a crudely welded full duplex chassis, into which the unit isshoehorned, thus adding weight and reducing rigidity. The overall design concept of the Amazonas is basically amateur, as are the details: look at those evil castings for the footboards, or the brake master cylinder, carelessly sculpted by hand complete with many shaky lines where the artisan paused for a slug from the sugar-cane still. Or look at the massive front forks, no less than 48 mm in diameter with barely noticeable damping, and fitted with weighty 10 mm-thick cast-iron disc brakes, borrowed like the large ATE calipers from a local Ford car, and twice as thick and  times as heavy as most normal bike brakes.

Similarly sourced from the local Ford Escort parts bin are the twin 32 mm Solex carbs on this 'Super Esporte' Amazonas, fitted to this slightly more powerful 56 bhp/ 1584 cc top-of-the-line VW Brasilia engine; the basic Amazonas comes eguipped with the basic 1300 cc VW power unit, offering a meagre 38 bhp at 4000 rpm, 600 revs less than the unit fitted to the Koch bike whose performance is nevertheless far from scintillating. This is especially true with the extra weight of a sidecar to carry around: Koch guotes a figure of no less than 496 kg in total.

The third wheel at least gives some measure of stability, desirable since the two-wheeled Amazonas comes eguipped with 5.00 x 16 Cargab tyres, car-type covers with practically no shoulder tread pattern and which appear likely to send the rider into the scenery once he tries to lean more than ten degrees from vertical. The four-speed VW gearbox is fitted, but a handy touch is the retention of reverse gear, even in solo form - necessary, one would imagine, for backing out of a kerb; even Arnold Schwarzenegger would have trouble pulling it back onto the road.

However, the conversion from hand to foot change is crude and unwieldy, although the single-conversion to chain final drive, which is cheaper than making their own hypoid rear unit for bike use, results in a very long chain run and inevitable snatch. Theoretical plate, cable-operated VW diaphragm clutch is light to use. There's the VW crown wheel and pinion, but Amazonas's own top speed is 100 mph (160 kph) with the twin-carb engine, but you'd have to be a brave man to push an Amazonas to those extremes. Somehow the fact that most Italian 125 cc machines, and a 250 made anywhere in the world, will all outspeed this machine proudly trumpeted by Amazonas as O Maior Moto do Mundo - meaning great as in biggest, not bestl-says it all about the Brazilian beast. Apart from the clutch, all the controls are unbelievably heavy, directional stability is a problem at almost any speed, and the rock-hard rear suspension, itself a primitive layout combining totally ineffective locally made dampers with a primitive plunger-type rear-axle location that went out of style thirty years ago in Europe, gives a bone-crushing ride.

However humble the means and facilities at his disposal, your average special builder can do better than this. As for actually making such a bike to sell for the not inconsiderable figure of the equivalent of £5000-well, Senhor Ferreira has a lot of nerve; one must at least give him credit for that.

Doubtless a Brazilian bike enthusiast might be expected to find such a view of the Amazonas insufferably pompous and condescending - except that even in its native Brazil the Amazonas is considered a bit of a joke. By any engineering standards, even those of the Third World, it's a disaster. Maybe the boys from Brazil should send the Amazonas back whence it must have come: deep in the jungle. Tarzan might like it!


Engine Air-cooled horizontally

opposed pushrod four-cylinder four-stroke

Dimensions 85.5 x 77 mm

Capacity 1598 cc

Output 56 bhp at 4200 rpm Gearbox Four-speed + reverse Wheelbase 1680 mm Chassis Tubular steel duplex

Weight (dry) 386 kg

Top speed 80 mph

Year of manufacture

Constructor AME,

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Source Dream Bike 1987