Bem PenSado

This small city car can be considered Made in Portgual, since a good part of its components were manufactured on home territory.

When you think of Portugal, the car world does not immediately spring to mind. But some time ago, thanks to my friend Jorge, I discovered that Portugal also had a four-wheeled history: the Sado. This small city car can be considered Made in Portgual, since a good part of its components were manufactured on home territory. The Sado was developed by the company Entreposto, a group of industrial and commercial companies, starting in 1975. Its code-name was “Ximba Project” and it appeared during a period of financial difficulties for the Portuguese group, but despite this, from 1978, early prototypes appeared of the new vehicle, which was actually original conceived as a three-wheeler driven by a 50 cc engine, a solution which was later discarded in favour of a four-wheel configuration combined with a larger displacement engine. Three series of prototypes were made before the final product was reached, and during those years, in which the engineers encountered numerous difficulties, the running gear, the bodywork and finally the engine, which was no longer from a motorcycle but rather from an automobile. In fact, the final production Sado was fitted with the 28 bhp 547 cc Daihatsu two-cylinder four-stroke engine, guaranteeing excellent performance for the car and making it easy to handle, quick and able to compete on equal terms with larger and more powerful cars. The body was made of polyester reinforced with fibreglass, which provided the small car with sufficient strength and rigidity.

Production began at Entreposto Commercial SA, Setubal in 1982 and lasted about two years, during which time about 500 examples of the small car were built. During its period of production the Sado underwent several evolutions, amongst which were the adoption of air-conditioning and the addition of two rear side windows.

Unfortunately, due multiple economic factors, its production was not followed up and today it is extremely rare, and even rarer to find in original condition.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes


After the story of the Sado I leave you with the translation of an article in the ACP Magazine of 1982:

Made in Portugal… and well thought out.

Nationalist is a term which, for us Portuguese, is used when we speak of other countries. Of course, we like to speak well of our own things. But the truth is that we have weaknesses, the honesty (or shortcoming) to speak ill of them, and the loud and decisive sound of criticism, especially if it sticks, seems to us the best way to describe a concrete situation. This seemingly unrealistic reflection has something to do with the fact that we built a car: within the limits of being the country we are, obviously. Hence the engine and gearbox, among other parts, had to be sourced from abroad. The design and construction of the vehicle, however, were Portuguese. And Portuguese were also the majority of the parts in the Sado – this is the name of our car which, with over 60% of its components home-sourced, carry the Made in Portugal label. In our special feature we will look at those 2m 36cm of car with a smile on our faces and a voice from the past: now, a car. Those who have already turned the ignition key of a Sado, however, have a very different opinion, in that the car is not an invention, but is also far from being a toy – “a boot with wheels”. It does not embarrass anyone. On the contrary, it is an extremely useful car. And we hope there are possibilities for it to become very famous as well as a well thought-out car. You will probably wonder why we consider the Sado capable of being taken seriously. After all, it’s a supermini car, with capacity for two people and space for barely more than a suitcase…

Well, first of all it is necessary to clarify that the Sado was developed as urban and suburban transport, for those who live in the city or have to travel into a centre. And for those who need a car of this type (since it is not possible to carry more than one passenger in it), the Sado has an answer to all the adjectives which illustrate that pyramid of strengths that culminate in efficiency.

In addition, the Portuguese car costs little (it consumes between 4 and 4.9 l/100 km, is practical anywhere, any time. And therefore, even if it is not noticed, it has the dexterity to free itself from most situations, a driving versatility that allow it to cope with, for example, a city like Lisbon, that of the seven hills and the slopes where many other cars demand the driver to use the gearbox frequently…

So, it is clear that the Sado is not the toy its appearance might suggest. It is also a surprise, and in terms of its reception, what we can say is that it seems to be capable of making us into nationalists. At least, evaluating the amazement it generates, the curiosity of the people in the street who are looking and looking at it, of the drivers who chase after the Sado to see what it is capable of, those who cannot resist trying to stop near the Portuguese car at the first opportunity and ask the driver half a dozen questions…

The situation created is perhaps one of the Sado’s flaws. Those who drive one don’t have a minute of respite; practically everyone asks questions: in the street, at red lights, at the petrol station.

A surprise called space

It’s time, however, to move on from general discussion to details. And although there is a saying that requires you to remember that “whoever sees faces does not see hearts”, we will choose to start with the appearance of the Sado. Looking at the Portuguese car we feel as though we are looking at a toy, a “wheeled boot”, as already stated. Even so, aesthetically speaking the Sado doesn’t look bad. To say that it is beautiful would perhaps be over the top: then you have to take into account people’s different tastes. But to say it openly is a victory; it costs nothing to say it. Just open the door and you find the space that you might find in a small room. The driver and passenger are relatively comfortable, legs can be stretched out and the amount of space is somewhat surprising. And that’s not all. The driving position is adjustable (backwards and forwards, of course, like that of the passenger seat) and is good; the positioning of the gear lever, the handbrake and the pedals seem almost perfect. And let’s say ‘almost’ because perhaps the steering column could be seen as an example of what can actually be done in such a small car. As for the instruments and on-board equipment, nothing fundamental is missing. In this case, the only problem is the distance of the light switch from the steering wheel, a little too far away when you might just want to flash the headlights whilst driving.

These “defects”, to which we can also add some details of the finish, i.e. the level of the couplings are however perfectly acceptable when we take into account that it is at the beginning of production and end up really not being valid in general terms because the entire interior is pleasant and pleasant on the eye despite a certain austerity.

It is necessary, however, to remember that it was a car designed for a very specific function, with nothing more than what was absolutely necessary. This explains the lack of any courtesy lights and no storage compartments. However, shortcomings can be resolved in the short term with no difficulty. In any case, it is also possible that future models might have more refinements, perhaps a luxury version for example, to satisfy the more demanding customers. But that would, we must say, bring perfection – and we insist that it doesn’t cause any embarrassment: there are worse cars with higher prices.

Comfort and performance

We have already said that the driver and passenger of the Sado have plenty of space in the passenger compartment. And if this is a surprise, the degree of comfort achieved is no less surprising. Obviously, travelling in the Sado won’t be like travelling in a very quiet car. But the truth is that you ”feel” little, especially when remembering that you are in a car only 2m 36.5cm long. On asphalt, of course, the Portuguese car runs as though it were on tracks. But on more difficult surfaces such as the cobbles which are so common in our country, the Sado is a little smoother than other cars. It never shook embarrassingly, even when the speed was quite fast, and passengers were surprised too, because it is hard not to think, as they climb into the car, that they are going to be tortured…

This feeling deserves some discussion. Invariably, anyone who sees a Sado is surprised by the size of its wheels (eight inch wheels, roughly the same as those on motor scooters). “This is what strikes me”, many people told us. When we asked them why, they said it made them think of insecurity, of a lack of stability. Any passenger who gets into a Sado, for this reason, tends to cling on to anything he can find on the first corner. The odd thing, however, is that only happens at the start. There is no need to tell the passenger that the car is safe: they realise that themselves!

The stability of the Sado, its cornering behaviour, was one of the factors that most impressed us: not so much because of the size of the wheels but considering the height of the bodywork (almost six centimetres higher than the width of the car). As is natural, the Sado skids in a curve. This is likely to impress many people, especially those on the outside. This trend, however, has never been a concern in terms of safety and it may seem a bit much to consider it so. With this we want to strengthen the idea of a car with “healthy behaviour”, the idea being especially more important when another is the image that is considered or when you think in aerodynamic terms.

Now is the time to talk about the characteristics of the engine and “reveal” that it is a 550 cc… In fact, the Portuguese car has a bigger engine than people imagine: it develops 28 bhp and is sourced from Japan, where it powers some small vans.

A generous engine

And the engine (Daihatsu), with two cylinders, 547 cc, four stroke, if not a surprise is at least a joy. The ease with which you can “eat” the road is not noticed. The gear reaches its maximum revs and the speedometer needle shoots round the dial. Well, obviously it depends on how much you press the accelerator? And in gentle driving? Surely no-one wold pretend that a 550 is a racing champion, but it would never disappoint anyone. The engine is generous and its flexibility is remarkable. Many will say that we keep on going well…

Well, one of the concerns was how to take advantage of what Lisbon has to offer, for it can hurt a car like the Sado. We mean that we looked for some of the highest hills and, as you can say, it was not without some surprise that we made the top of the third hill (Calcada do Poco dos Mouros e Rua Hellodoro Salgrado). But a good comparison is usually the hill on the highway at the end of the Duarte Pacheco viaduct. Of course, we drove up it and when we got to the top its speed was 60 km/h. Curious to think that it was necessary to lift off slightly and see that the Sado had “heart” to resist fourth gear…

After this it is natural that you agree to see the Portuguese cars “running” in the avenues or overtaking on the highways. Its maximum speed is in the order of 110 km/h and the first prototype came very close to 130… And if that’s ok, what about stopping? In fact, even in this regard the Sado is capable of good responses, despite only having drum brakes. If everything has been rosy so far, we should have said that there are also doubts. We don’t know what would happen to a Sado in an accident. In tests carried out it was possible to verify that the seat belts could withstand a force of one thousand kilos (about 13g) without any deforming of the body support points (in fibre-glass reinforced polyester). This result is more than encouraging, but it has never actually been tested in normal use.

Seen from this perspective, however, the Sado is no more dangerous than any other similar car produced anywhere else in the world! In any case, in short, we must consider that the Sado is a product we can be proud of. We have not invented anything, that’s for sure, but what we have created will not embarrass anyone. It is a car for the city or for those who need to drive on urban roads: a very useful work tool. From this perspective we have to see it and accept it. And for what has been imagined and done – the Sado responds one hundred percent. And for sceptics we will continue to say – for 260 Contos it would be difficult to ask for more. It costs less than some scooters!

The “Ximba Project”

Having seen the car, you will be curious to know a bit about its history. The Sado, produced by Entreposto, began taking shape in 1975 as a means of responding to the difficulties the company was experiencing due to increases in costs and falling sales. Building an inexpensive vehicle, using locally sourced materials which could interest people who made short journeys in urban and suburban areas was considered a possible solution to the problem.

Hence the “Ximba Project” which, until 1978, consisted of testing a wide range of engines. The ideal compromise was sought for a three-wheeled vehicle. That’s why locally-made engines were not considered. They started with a 50 cc but it soon became evident that a bigger engine wold be needed, also testing the Casal 125.

The result, however, was far from satisfactory. The project therefore made its first deviation. We went from local engines to Japanese ones, to see if there was a big difference. They tried engines from 360 cc motorcycles, some of which were very powerful bikes. In terms of flexibility the results were still not encouraging, however. Despite this, a number of problems had to be resolved with the change. The engineers even went so far as to use specially-adapted gearboxes. The ideal compromise could never be reached, however, because the consumption was too high. So, as a result of these facts and the evolution of the market itself, it was concluded that only the engine from a car would be suitable. And the Daihatsu 547 was chosen to power the Sado.The time spent with these investigations was not wasted. For example, a tubular steel frame and fibreglass-reinforced polyester body was considered, ensuring sufficient rigidity, resistance to corrosion and even economy of production.

Almost four years passed, however, from the start of the project to it reaching the most difficult phase: studying and decided on parts and assemblies, thinking in terms of quality and achievable economic feasibility… It was then decided to develop it through several series of prototypes. There were three before reaching the Sado 550.

In relation to the final model, the first series was much narrower, less spacious, had a shorter wheelbase and the steering and brakes had many differences. In the second generation of prototypes the interior space was improved and the doors enlarged for easier access. The windscreen became curved and the triangular side windows were eliminated. Its braking results were 50% better.

The third and final generation did not did not have such major differences from the production Sado 550. The doors were enlarged again; the rear window was smaller; the dashboard was redesigned and a front spoiler was adopted. The differences were therefore only basic details.

However, the National Laboratory of Civil Engineering and the Mechanics Centre were consulted for the tests and Materials of the Technical University of Lisbon (noise and sound-level inside and outside the car, braking and steering, body strength and safety belt locking). And, one fine day, the Sado 550 appeared, fully approved, on the streets. Today there are about 50 of them – and not being delivered because of orders. A long job has been completed. And also many difficulties. Because, as one of the men linked to the project said: the Made in Portugal label has its costs…

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