The Santa Matilde, also known as the SM4.1, is a Brazilian sports car that was designed and manufactured by Companhia Industrial Santa Matilde from 1977 to 1997. Powered by tuned versions of the Chevrolet Opala engine, the first prototype was unveiled at the 1976 Salão do Automóvel de São Paulo and stood out as one of the most luxurious and expensive cars in the country at the time. It boasted a range of features including retractable bumpers, power windows, a hidden radio antenna, cassette player, retractable seat belts, leather seats with fine adjustment, and air conditioning.
The project was spearheaded by engineer Humberto Pimentel Duarte and former pilot and race-car tuner Renato Peixoto. The unique body design, created by Humberto's daughter Ana Lídia, was not based on any existing car, although certain details were inspired by various car models.
The Santa Matilde sports a fiberglass body reinforced with polyester. It is a 2+2 coupe; however, the rear seats are practically unusable, and headroom is limited for drivers taller than 6 feet (1.8 meters).
In 1982, two engine options were offered: a 4.1-liter straight-six cylinder engine producing 171 horsepower (157 kW) (SAE), or a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine generating 140 horsepower (104 kW). These engines, derived from the Chevrolet Opala, featured specially designed exhaust manifolds and different carburetors. The car's sleek design incorporates integrated direction and rear lights, and the lower front air intakes serve the purpose of air conditioning and internal ventilation.
The instrument panel of the Santa Matilde resembles that of contemporary Porsche models, featuring indicators for water temperature, oil pressure, speed, odometer (full and partial), RPM, fuel level, and a clock. An intriguing feature of the car is its retractable bumpers made of a rubber compound with steel frames. Unlike most cars available in Brazil at the time, the Santa Matilde was equipped with front and rear disc brakes.
The Santa Matilde underwent several iterations throughout its production run:
Santa Matilde 78-79: Produced between 1978 and 1979, this version featured 171 horsepower (128 kW) and a top speed of 206 km/h (128 mph). However, it faced some issues such as overheating, noise, and ventilation.
Santa Matilde 82: This model received exterior updates, including a new rear design and cosmetic enhancements at the front, resulting in smoother lines. Internally, many of the earlier model's problems were addressed. It entered series production in 1982 with minor design changes.
Santa Matilde 83-87: Introduced for series production in 1983, this sedan-style model boasted a top speed of over 180 km/h (112 mph). It was sold as the Santa Matilde SM 4.1 and production ceased in August 1987.
Santa Matilde Cabriolet: This convertible version was produced intermittently between 1984 and 1990.
Santa Matilde 91-95: Produced between 1991 and 1995, this model featured square front lights and was manufactured on demand during that period.
Throughout its production history, the Santa Matilde carved a niche for itself in the Brazilian automotive market, offering a unique blend of luxury, performance, and distinctive design.