These Vintage Oddball, Boxy Vans and Trucks are Jeeps (Made in Spain)
Have you ever heard of VIASA? How about Ebro?
When is a classic Jeep not a classic Jeep? When it's an Ebro! Or a VIASA! Or, well, any one of these unusual sorta-Jeeps built under license in Spain during the 1960s. The story of these cross-Atlantic oddballs dates back to the 1950s, when a company called Vehículos Industriales y Agrícolas, S.A (VIASA for short) was formed to take advantage of an agreement with Willys Overland to build a version of the CJ, or civilian Jeep, after the second World War.
The venture was successful enough that in-house Jeep efforts became a VIASA staple alongside the agricultural machinery that had made up the bulk of its catalog. To this end, in the early 1960s it started producing a unique series of near-Jeeps based on the Forward Control series of trucks. These vehicles combined the versatility of the FC cabover design with a decidedly rural flavor in terms of utility.
At first glance, it's clear that something is a little weird with these particular FCs. Immediately apparent is the bodywork—rather than the Brooks Stevens-penned curved visage that Forward Control trucks offered stateside, the VIASA models feature straight-and-sharp angles all around, presumably cheaper and easier to manufacture for a small automaker on a limited budget. Keep in mind, too, that these 'Jeeps' were aimed at farmers and country dwellers of modest means living in postwar Spain, where practicality was valued over style.
There were several different models of VIASA Jeeps on offer from 1963 on. There were two pickups, the Campeador and the Duplex (which featured a crew cab), as well as a pair of vans, the Furgón for cargo and the Toledo for hauling as many as nine passengers.
Ads at the time highlighted the entire family of Jeeps, boasting that the Campeador could handle a 2,645-pound load in its bed (reduced to 1,650 pounds for the four-door truck), while the van offered as much as 2,200 pounds of capacity. The trucks offered the 105-hp, 3.7-liter Super Hurricane straight-six, as well as a 3.0-liter Perkins four-cylinder diesel that metered out 62 horsepower and 143 lb-ft of torque. The latter was notable for offering nearly 30 mpg in the CJ, with similar results for the Forward Control models.
The VIASA arrangement would last until 1974, when a company called Motor Ibérica would buy them out (alongside three other truck and van builders). The resulting rebrand saw the licensed Jeeps hawked under the Ebro brand, as well as a series of other confusing cross-pollinations within the incestuous Spanish market. Ebro was a familiar nameplate for Spaniards, as it had been used on British truck imports since 1954.
It's doubtful any VIASA or Ebro models ever made the long boat ride across the Atlantic to America, and it's unknown if there are any examples calling the U.S. home today. (Heck, even finding images that depict anything beyond rusted-out hulks is difficult.) In Europe, however, they remain common beasts of burden, doing what Jeeps and their license-built knockoffs have been doing since the day they were born: working for a living.