UMM Alter II

Foto@Lusa/Paulo Novais Infelizmente não pudemos usar esta fotografia para ilustrar o artigo. Fonte: http://noticias.sapo.pt/foto/1159451/

Durante a cerimónia militar comemorativa do Dia de Portugal, celebrada este ano em Castelo Branco, o Presidente da República fez a habitual revista às tropas num UMM Alter II. Como Cavaco Silva sabe, este não é só um veículo das Forças Armadas. É um veículo português. Melhor dizendo, é uma relíquia automóvel portuguesa.

A empresa União Metalo-Mecânica começou em 1977 a produzir o Cournil, um jipe-tractor francês de tracção às quatro rodas usado na agricultura, indústria e serviços. Em 1985 convidou Carlos Galamba para redesenhar o então chamado UMM Cournil. O arquitecto, que anos antes tinha projectado o Sado 550 – a outra grande aventura automóvel portuguesa -, começou então o que chama de um “processo de civilização”.

“Quando uma mulher pudesse guiar um jipe sem problemas”, diz Galamba, a UMM teria “civilizado o mercado” destes veículos, tornando-os mais acessíveis e apetecíveis a um público mais alargado. Apesar de a fábrica “não ser uma serralharia grande”, trabalhou com grandes limitações técnicas: “Quase nada se podia mexer – mas isso é que tinha graça”. Tornou o jipe mecanicamente mais homogéneo, centralizando fornecedores e fornecimentos mecânicos, desde os motores Peugeot à base de climatização de uma Renault 4L e a elementos de “marca branca”. Aliou chapa de aço estampada e quinada para ultrapassar deficiências de rigor no fabrico, aliviando “a todo o custo o excesso de “metal””. Redesenhou pára-brisas e tabliers. Humanizou interiores.

Mais civilizado, climatizado e eficiente que o seu antecessor, o Alter II não deixou de ser um “carro para toda a obra”. Lançado em 1986, chega em pouco tempo a todo o país e a França, o seu principal mercado de exportação, à Europa e aos PALOP. Usado na estrada e fora dela, em competições desportivas e manobras militares, torna-se no mais produzido e conduzido automóvel projectado e fabricado em Portugal. Hoje estima-se que haja mais de 30 mil no mundo.

O Alter II foi também um exemplo de como a guerra, e não só o consumo, faz avançar a tecnologia, a indústria e o design. Cada veículo-base foi desenvolvido para se adaptar às necessidades de várias forças armadas, incorporando elementos como luzes deblackout, gancho de reboque militar ou de helitransporte, mas também armas – metralhadoras pesadas ou lança-mísseis.

Alguns foram à guerra, como na guerra civil angolana. Outros mantiveram a paz em missões da ONU em Moçambique e na Bósnia. Muitos mais foram adaptados a funções civis – ambulâncias, veículos de bombeiros, de manutenção da rede eléctrica ou das forças policiais.

Contudo, a civilizada robustez e versatilidade do Alter II não evitaram que, ao longo dos anos 1990, a UMM perdesse terreno a nível tecnológico e competitividade nos mercados internacionais. Num país em pleno processo de integração europeia e num mercado mais aberto e agressivo, a UMM perdeu também o apoio estatal de que gozou durante anos, tanto em encomendas como em protecção fiscal. Em 1992, o segundo Governo do então primeiro-ministro Cavaco Silva falha a promessa de apoiar o financiamento de um novo protótipo (o Alter III, que não passou dessa fase) e de fazer novas encomendas. Um ano depois, a GNR opta, num concurso público para a aquisição de centenas de jipes, pelo japonês Nissan Patrol (feito em Espanha). Em 1994 a UMM passa a fabricar veículos apenas por encomenda. Em 2006 termina definitivamente a produção automóvel.

Dizer que o Alter II é um veículo todo-o-terreno com uma história acidentada é pouco, e o seu designer reconhece-o. Contudo, não olha para trás com amargura: incutiu no seu projecto, que descreve como “um trabalho mental de relação de operações”, um grande pragmatismo e modéstia, rejeitou modismos e fazer “qualquer coisa para encher o olho”. Nunca teve sonhos de grandeza, os quais sabia não estarem ao alcance da própria UMM. Aceitou os desequilíbrios do produto final como algo que o caracteriza. Mas não pôde controlar o destino do seu cliente.

Hoje, 25 anos depois do seu nascimento, o Alter II vive. Sobretudo em dias especiais e cerimónias militares como as de 10 de Junho, em que o Presidente da República faz questão em usá-lo. Mas também nas garagens, fóruns da Internet, estradas e encontros, onde aficcionados desta marca continuam a arranjar, discutir, estimar e usar milhares destas relíquias automóveis portuguesas. Todos os dias. E isso é um triunfo do design.

BI
UMM Alter II

Design
Carlos Galamba

Cliente
UMM – União Metalo-Mecânica

Datas
1986 (lançamento Alter II)
2005 (novo distribuidor: Europeças)
2006 (retirada da UMM do sector automóvel)

+ info: www.clubeumm.com

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