Emblema PORTARO 4X4

PORTARO 4X4 Original Emblem

PORTARO 4X4 offroad models 1975-1995
TAGUS-TV 4X4 LUV Vehicles 1977-1987
SEMAL Sociedade Eletromecanica de Automoveis Limitada 1970s-1980s Parede, Lisbon
FMAT Fábrica de Máquinas Agricolas Tramagal 1980s-1990s Tramagal, Santarem

The Portaro was an offroad vehicle manufactured in Portugal from 1975 by the SEMAL company in Lisbon and later from the 1990s by FMAT (Fabrica de Máquinas Agrícolas do Tramagal). The Portaro was derived from an earlier version of the original Romanian ARO 240 4X4, and was available in two main versions, the 200-Series Diesel and Petrol models and the Campina 4X4 Diesel pickup truck models. At the same time alongside PORTARO vehicles, SEMAL also assembled several numbers of the Romanian ARO TV (short for Tudor Vladimirescu) LUV model that were made under the name GV TAGUS Diesel 4X4. Production of all PORTARO models ended in 1995 due to a series of parts supplies problems and conflicts that stopped production, although an average healthy 2000 PORTARO vehicles were assembled and made a year in Portugal. Both the GV TAGUS and the PORTARO 4X4 models were much improved and quickly became popular all over Portugal.

PORTARO 4X4 The Birth of a Manufacturer 

In 1974 two entrepeneurs, ex-racing pilots and mechanical engineers from Portugal, Hipolito Pires and Jose Megre got together as business partners and wanted to develop a new vehicle that could be produced locally under the condition that it must be a new but light, solid no-nonsense offroad vehicle to compete with the famous Jeep and Landrover offroad vehicles that dominated the local market those days in the 1970s After the 25 th April 1974 Military Revolution, most vehicle factories could not help Mr Megre nor Mr Pires with enough resources so they were forced to find help elsewhere. On one occasion while travelling by bus Mr Pires found the local SEMAL company based at Parede near Oeiras in Lisbon was assembling armyvehicles mainly tanks, lorries and jeeps the latter a derivation of the American Kaiser-JEEP WYLLIS M201 4X4 that became very wellknown worldwide produced in CKD form imported from the USA that would supply the Portuguese army with these such models.

By 1975 when peacetime returned Megre and Pired negotiated a production deal with ARO of Romania who were exporting to Spain their own ARO 240 offroad vehicles in modified CKD form without any running gear for the Spanish Army and civilians ready for assembly by ENASA in Spain and the new models were better known there as HISPARO Todoterreno 4X4. These were made with a variety of locally built or modified tractor Diesel engines in a large HISPARO 4X4 Model Range was slowly set up from the early 1980s. These new offroad vehicles were a major redesigned and redeveloped ARO 245 models with fresh 1980s style.

PORTARO 200 Series 4X4 

Gradually, in late 1975 the two partners Megre and Pires successfully closed a production contract and manufacturing deal with ARO so that the Romanians would export parts to Lisbon where GV-GARAGEM VITORIA company then the largest importer of cars to Portugal and the owner of SEMAL firm would transfer them to its factory and begin the production of the local new name PORTARO 4X4 vehicles and that was the start of a brandnew Portuguese made offroad manufacturer, so production was being started by SEMAL as they no longer assembled army vehicles there. At the same time ARO also wanted to export their light utility commercial vehicles that were originally known in Romania as the ARO-MICM TV 4X4 light trucks and vans all with ARO 4X4 axles and chassis but then again without any running gear fitted, so that was another task for Megre and Pires to find, after several months of research and using all resources they did with help from Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd of Ikeda in Osaka Japan who agreed to supply Daihatsu Diesel engines and gearboxes, sent for delivery to the Lisbon Docks.


ONE particular special event for the Portuguese to be proud of, was that on the 1978 Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland, PORTARO was the first and only Portuguese manufacturer to have its on vehicle brand display, showing a blue PORTARO 240D Diesel, with Daihatsu Diesel mechanicals and a yellow PORTARO 230PVP with Volvo Petrol 2300cc running gear fitted. Both were obvious four wheel drive prototype models but received quite an impressive reaction and others claimed they were nothing more than ARO 240 replicas but that was not the case because ARO had its own offroad model range and PORTARO its own almost original model range. The local media and critics all had their own different sayings, comments and opinions about PORTARO being a newcomer in the 4X4 vehicle market being shown to the world and even ARO were happy and very interested in importing them elsewhere in Europe but in modified form.

So by the late 1970s the name PORTARO 4X4 was conquering the Portuguese and later joined by another Lisbon manufacturer, an arrival appeared called the UMM Diesel 4X4 that was also being licenced made under a French original model called the SIMI Cournil 4X4 from the early 1970s and UMM is made in Portugal from 1977 itself virtually unchanged from its French cousin, however UMM is another independent offroad vehicle manufacturer, it has its on WIKIPEDIA pages and stub with all its history written there. So back to PORTARO story now, the partners bought the SEMAL factory in 1978 and was geared up for producing the original ARO-MICM-TV 4X4 but had been extensively revamped underneath and this was the so called TAGUS-TV Diesel 4X4 an improved derivative of the Romanian original that kept its ARO 4X4 axles but redesigned as 3 seater pickup truck, panel van, ambulance and other versions with underfloor front-mounted Daihatsu Diesel 2530cc engine and a rebuilt stronger chassis. There was nothing like it anywhere in the country except for the very famous Ford Transit and the Volkswagen Transporter panel vans so the new TAGUS-TV 4X4 Diesel was an instant success becoming a popular model and it could carry any 2 Ton loads and be driven just about anywhere as it was an light offroad model. About 17000 TAGUS-TV DIESEL 4X4 of these light utility vehicles or LUV were assembled until 1987 when its production ended.


By the time PORTARO had been introduced in Portugal after 1976 when full production really started soon after, these models were more than redeveloped ARO 240 4X4 but with one major difference, they received a major mechanical and technical improvements allround from top to bottom thanks to the creative changes and solutions Megre and Pires employed to the already shown prototypes back in Geneve. According to model there was a need to expand the range and it was decided to call them PORTARO 240D with Daihatsu Diesel 2530cc engine and 4 speed transmission with 2 speed range 4X4 gearbox, which became a quick seller and by 1980 had been joined by the PORTARO Campina a three seater offroad pickup truck with the same running gear and able to carry up to 1300 kg max load. This particular model had been made as a prototype earlier in 1978 but not much developed, but was relaunched 2 years later and the wellknown PORTARO Campina was selling faster than any other similar model around and farmers and ranchers found a very successful vehicle that was as good as any 1970s LANDROVER 109 Diesel 4X4 Pick up truck but cheaper of which resembled very much like one. In about 1980, the first months that year, there were 1000 Campina 320 Diesel 4X4 Pickup models sold so that was another significant number for another new PORTARO.

There was now a growing PORTARO model range being made, and it was time to develop another version with a Petrol option for their offroad jeeps. So that yellow PORTARO 230 that was taken to Geneve became the basis for a Volvo powered version, relaunched with a restyled appearance and front end with a 5 speed transmission, all its running gear taken from a standard VOLVO 244GL/GLE family car of the 1980s and since it had Volvo powertrain, this new version was called PORTARO 230PV only fitted to the 3-9 seater offroad jeep with amazing 175 bhp but it proved a reasonable selling version. In the early 1980s there was another petrol version the first PORTARO with a Turbo 2100cc engine called the PORTARO 210 TURBO 4X4 with an outstanding 215 bhp and manual 5 speed gearbox, to compete with the then Range Rover 4X4 Turbo 2000 luxury model although only a handfull of these were made and was often used for rallyracing. Another famous version the PORTARO 230 PV 4X4 model was specially modified and driven hard to victory to win the 1983 PARIS-AGADIR RALLY racing with a team of 3 French journalists and reporters who drove it and became a winner of its class on that racing event.

Because most customers would prefer Diesel than Petrol for an offroad vehicle, PORTARO would concentrate on Diesel models and extended its model range by adding more new models as the 1980s were passing by. In 1984 it was joined by the PORTARO 260 4X4 another new model with revised mechanicals, this time with a new 5 speed transmission and a new dual range 2 speed transferbox for 4X4 driving and other improvements. This time only the Volvo petrol powered versions were built to special order and being slowly made. The PORTARO 260 was still based on the older 240 but now had a 9 seater arrangement, better interiors and new suspension all on a new chassis underneath. Two years later in 1986 it was announced the launching of another offroad model the entirely new PORTARO CELTA 280 4X4, this version came a large rear end with new lights and bigger rear glassdoor, new wheelbase, larger axles and wheels, new Daihatsu Diesel 2800 engine with 5 speed transmission, and other major new items done to the newcomer and could be ordered with a Turbodiesel engine fited a similar one to that taken from the Daihatsu Delta Truck, Fourtrak, Rocky and Wildcat 4X4 models with 96 bhp on tap of which many PORTARO CELTA 4X4 TurboDiesel 2500 a luxury version of Landrover Defender 90 type were made in the 1980s to a choice of Daihatsu Diesel or Volvo Petrol optional models.

PORTARO Moves Production to FMAT at TRAMAGAL

Already established since the early 1900s as a large company based in rural countryside town of Tramagal near Santarem in Ribatejo a county that is wellknown for being agricultural production and metalworking manufacturing that is , FMAT has since the 1970s assembled light vehicles and heavy lorries most of these are ISUZU, BEDFORD, MITSUBISHI, RENAULT of many types and models for the Portuguese market. In the 1980s the FMAT management broad decided to join their agricultural machinery and farm implements as they started, the current 1980s PORTARO as the original SEMAL factory became unreliable and too small for its production and only kept and stored all necessary parts while production was moved to further northwest to a town called Tramagal in the middle of Central Portugal near the Tejo river. Only this time another change was done and new Ford Transit 2500 TD and 2500 TDI modern engines were fitted to the current PORTARO range except for the PORTARO CELTA and PORTARO CAMPINA while their spareparts stockpiles lasted until production of them ended in the early 1990s. The final PORTARO models to roll off the assembly lines was a whole new generation of the PORTARO FMAT 250 ID 4X4, it had a mixture of Transit mechanicals with many ARO parts and other Portuguese components. Unfortunately this new final PORTARO only lasted until the Summer of 1995 and its production was halted to the lack of several major parts that ran out and PORTARO were forced to abandon the 1990s 4X4 market slowly putting an abrupt end to almost 20 years of offroad manufacturing for a very successful Portuguese name of PORTARO. Some used models turn up for sale occasionally at times and several PORTARO parts as well. In some cases many models have been saved and are/were restored from bad shape to new condition after months of extensive work.

Includes all the original PORTARO model range, further details and extra history. During the early 1980s a handful of PORTARO models were exported to the UK under the name of PORTARO Pampas 260 Diesel, retaining its mechanicals and already with RHD (right hand drive) and were shipped to England where the local garage dealer called CVS County Vehicle Services Limited of Silverton in Devon would distribute the Romanian ARO 4X4 and DACIA 4X4 models alongside Portuguese made PORTARO Pampas 260 4X4 available in Van, Closed Pickup, Crewcab and 3 seater pickup truck models in both metal top and canvas top version up until the 1990s. These are not much different than its current Portuguese counterpart vehicles.

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