Brazilian soccer legend and World Cup champion PeléEnlarge Photo
With the World Cup opening ceremony today, it seemed only fitting that we look back at a small piece of automotive trivia connected to perhaps the greatest football legend of the 20th century: the Brazilian soccer player known as Pelé.
Turns out that, way back when (in 1959, to be precise), the 18-year-old player took his very first driving test in a DKW--one of the predecessor brands of the make known today as Audi.
That was the year after a 17-year-old Pelé had been part of the legendary Brazilian team that won the World Cup in 1958.
Brazilian DKW Fissore and Belcar In front of the historic main entrance to Rio's Maracanã StadiumEnlarge Photo
The two-stroke DKW cars were built in Brazil from 1956 to 1967 by a company known as Vemag, whose history is presented in an Audi historic exhibit entitled, “Ordem & Progresso – DKW VEMAG and the new dawn in Brazil," which opened May 21 and runs until September 21. (The official motto of Brazil is "Order and Progress.")
All together, almost 110,000 DKW cars were built in Brazil, with models named Candango, Belcar. and Vemaguet. Vemag even created a unique DKW model known as the Fissore, combining the German underpinnings with a stylish Sixties sedan body created by the Italian styling house of the same name.
Audi--which is not the official World Cup automotive sponsor, an honor purchased by the Korean firm Hyundai--is understandably proud of its connection with Pelé.
Brazilian DKW Belcar and Fissore models at the world-famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de JaneiroEnlarge Photo
The soccer legend today is a "brand ambassador" for the Volkswagen Group, and appears on its behalf at a number of promotional events, including a recent press tour to Brazil to underscore Volkswagen's corporate social-responsibility activities in the country.
The VW Group also let journalists drive the flex-fuel cars it produces in that country, capable of running on pure ethanol (E100) or gasoline (which in Brazil has 24 percent ethanol) or any mix of the two fuels.
A highlight of that trip for many journalists was a press conference with Pelé himself.
He proved charming, quick to laugh, and a keen analyst of not only the current state of football but also his country's failings in preparing World Cup facilities and its rampant bribery, both of which he sharply criticized.
For more on Pelé's thoughts on football today, see "13 Things Pelé Thinks About The World Cup And The Future Of Soccer."
Volkswagen provided airfare, lodging, and meals to assist High Gear Media in bringing you this article.