Beautiful, isn’t it? Pininfarina did the grille, rear end and dashboard because the manufacturer wanted some European chic. They wanted poke, too, so gave it an American straight 6 slurping on 3 carb’s. The chassis was designed to cope with third-world roads. It competed successfully at the Nürburgring and (if you believe the marketing talk) Fangio had his fingers in the engineering. The best used examples can be had today for the equivalent of £4000-£5000 in it’s homeland. Made from 1966 to 1982 the IKA Torino is Argentina’s national car. And that’s why you can’t have one.

IKA isn’t a name many outside South America will know. It was a company created in 1951 by an alliance between America’s Kaiser and AMC car companies to build old Jeeps in Argentina. Nothing too exciting to report there. But when IKA decided to design and build their own model, Argentina’s first home-grown car, the result was the remarkable Torino. In ’78 IKA were bought by Renault and so (confusingly) the Torino model is sometimes described as being a Kaiser, an IKA or a Renault. The engine has it’s roots in the Thirties and the body owes a lot to the U.S. made Rambler American but it was made using local bits and is every bit the Argentinean machine. It came as a 3 and 3.8 litre inline 6 with a 4 speed ZF manual or 3 speed auto ‘box. To me it looks like the happy result of a Ford Galaxie and a Lancia Fulvia having a ‘special cuddle’.

The top spec 380W Coupe had 185 BHP and enough torque to pull Buenos Aires nearer the equator. 0-60 took about 10 seconds, and VMax was 120MPH. It was man’s man’s motor. The Seventies advert said “Porque existe el Hombre“, meaning something about big moustaches. Customers included lots of South Americans and some A-List Dictators, including Castro, Brezhnev and Gaddafi. And then they took it racing. IKA, not the Dictators.

Domestic sales were impressive but outside South American the Torino (logo; the symbol of the Italian city of Turin, just because it’s cool and looks a bit Ferrari) was relatively unknown. IKA decided to put their name about a bit via the medium of motorsport and entered 3 cars in the 1969 84 hour endurance race of the Nürburgring. 84 hours. That’s not a typo. The course was the combined loop of the Nordschleife and the now-abandoned Südschleife. Each lap was 28 hairy kilometers. Old man Fangio came along, encouraging their efforts from the pitlane and adding a bit of credibility to the unknown Argentinian team as they battled with Lancia Fulvias, Porsche 911s and BMW 2002s.

ika torino (10)

After many day’s non-stop racing IKA finished 4th overall. They actually completed the greatest distance in the time, 334 laps, more than anyone else, but a hand-of-God penalty (sorry, couldn’t resist that) counted against them. It was an astounding result considering their lack of motorsport heritage and IKA were cock-a-hoop to have proved that their cars could mix it with the best.

So – it has cool styling, robust mechanicals, motorsport heritage and Dictator chic and now you really want one, right? So do I. Here are some for sale. The Argentinian Peso, if you don’t know, is worth 4 and a half British pence and it’s value against other currencies is perhaps indicated by it’s abbreviation on currency exchange sites; ARS. I spent many hours using google translate, Government websites and expat forums to try and understand how I might buy one and export it without causing an international incident and my conclusion is this; It’s impossible. Argentinian cars can’t be registered to foreigners and cars to be exported from Argentina need to be owned by a local, and even then there’s a plethora of paperwork and (let’s face it) bent customs officials to circumnavigate. You could, I suppose, ask a local to just stick one in a container but when it arrives in blighty you’ll have fun trying to prove you own it, assuming said local hasn’t just sent you a container of Fray Bentos instead. Regarding paperwork I’ll guess the Argentinian DVLA are about as helpful as the British DVLA. You can’t even drive one over the border into Chile and export it from there. I suspect this is the reason the IKA Torino is so cheap in Argentina. There’s no way, for the likes of you or I, of getting one home.

ika torino (9)

IKA today? Renault killed the Torino, and the IKA marque, in 1982 to build the utterly repulsive Renault 12 instead. Fangio’s own Torino saloon sold at auction for a £28k but I suspect it’ll be the only one in Europe. One once turned up in the US and caused a stir on the internet. If there’s someone reading who knows how we can get our eager hands on a Torino, preferably a 380W, drop us an email, please. We’d love to have one on the MotorPunk fleet!

Words: Duisberg. Pics from here and here and elsewhere. Thanks to FBB for the correction, and thanks to you ‘punks for reading. 

6 Responses

  1. Stephen Hill

    Rich, I agree, cool looking car, something about the low stance at rear… have a sad soft spot for Renaults (soft being the operative word…) Had a 4, 6, 12, Fuego and a 5 Gordini, which I loved if only for the computer reel alloys… Saw a Fuego the other day and it looked really cool, timeless! Anyway Alfa would be my drug of choice,
    having had 3 suds and a 156…currently driving Jap shite whilst kids pass test…It’s them I feel sorry for the way it’s going… Cheers, hilly. Car Toonist and two wheeled fanatic…

    • Rich Duisberg
      Rich Duisberg

      Thanks, Hilly. Sounds like you’re a fan of exactly the same stuff as us!

  2. Alberto

    I was searching for Argentinian cars for some reason and saw this article.
    It always surprises me how people react to older cars. I had a Torino, a TSX in fact like the advertisement pictured above. Was it good? I was 26 yo. I thought it was cool of course. Was it fast? They said it had 200 hp and compared with the cars of the time it was – but keep in mind that a current Honda Jazz will be much faster to 60. If from the memories I have, I measure it using today’s standards, the conclusion will be – not really fast, not very driveable, horrendous brakes, non-communicative steering, wobbling suspension, very bad fuel consumption, electrical setup prone to failure, nice engine sound though. Old cars, old tyre technology, primitive chassis and engine, basic drivetrain: that was the crude reality. In fact, the car I remember with a little nostalgia of that era is a Fiat 128 4 doors, 1500cc 5sp gearbox. Really fun car to drive in a city like Buenos Aires, and on the road as well. Little power but very light, forget about crash protection! Sold it before 3 years old because I started to notice the first signs of rust, which btw it was a common problem to most cars of that era in Argentina. Quality was abysmal.
    Would I buy a Torino today? Don’t know – I’d have to sit on one, turn the engine on and go for a drive. If I enjoy it I might buy it. cheers

    • Rich Duisberg
      Rich Duisberg

      Thanks for the reply! We hope you’re enjoying the blog, perhaps you’ve seen we’re in print now, too?


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