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The IKA Torino: Argentina's world class automobile

Local content laws, basically “make it here to sell it here”, have been widely used by developing and newly developed countries. Automobile are the most common consumer product that many countries require a certain percentage of the vehicle be manufactured in the country. These laws limits the importation of complete cars from elsewhere, help trade imbalances, build infrastructure, introduce new technology to undeveloped countries and provides for local jobs. The VW Beetle manufactured in Mexico is the mostly widely known example of this, being manufactured for decades in Mexico after production ceased in Germany.

Close-up of IKA Torino 380
Close-up of IKA Torino 380
Sergio Novara

Another company that successfully manufactured cars in Mexico, Central and South America was American Motors Corporation. AMC manufactured cars in Mexico under the company Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos S.A. (VAM), producing versions of the American, Ambassador, Classic and even the Gremlin. Beginning in 1961 AMC entered into a partnership with Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA). Formed in 1956, IKA first produced CJ Jeeps, Jeep station wagons and the Kaiser Manhattan, called the Carablea in Argentina. Renault joined IKA in 1959 and began producing French cars such as the Dauphine. With the AMC connection, a particularly interesting vehicle was produced by IKA starting in 1966 called the IKA Renault Torino (not to be confused with the U.S. Ford Torino). It included components from all three of the parent car companies, Kaiser, Renault and AMC.

The IKA Renault Torino was designed to compete in the South American market with European sports sedans, combining American ruggedness and dependability with European styling. The Torino body was based on the 1965 Rambler American, offered as either a two door hardtop or four-door sedan. However, the Rambler American body went through a significant restyling by Pininfarina of Italy, reshaping the front and rear fenders, grill, and taillights. The Rambler American uni-body was reinforced with the suspension improved for better handling and stability. Front disk brakes were used on the IKA Torino, not a common technology for the time period. The engine used was a modified version of the overhead valve in-line six cylinder Tornado engine, which was offered in Jeep trucks in Argentina at the time. The OHV Tornado engine was actually a redesign of Kaiser’s famous flathead I-6 Hurricane engine, used for years in Kaiser Jeeps in the U.S. For use in the Torino, horsepower of the OHV Tornado engine was increased to 215 on the top 380W model, using three two barrel side-draft Weber carburetors and a free-flowing tuned exhaust. Power was fed through a ZF four speed manual transmission to a rear differential. The European influenced interior included full Lucas instrumentation in a real wood dash, floor shifter, bucket seats, all in a nicely appointed, upscale leather interior. The IKA Renault Torino enjoyed road rally successes and in 1968 became the source of Argentina’s pride when it took 4th place in the 84 hour Nurburgring race, competing against well-known European makes.

The IKA Renault Torino remained in production from 1966 through 1981, the entire time using the Rambler American body with a variety of drive-trains. No equivalent version of this car was ever produced outside of Argentina, neither in France nor the U.S. While they were never imported into the United States by AMC, a few cars have found their way here, after the cars were over 25 years old when EPA and DOE requirements are more relaxed for importing collector cars.

The IKA Renault Torino is very sought after today in Argentina, with a strong collector interests, active car clubs and readily available parts including many aftermarket performance products, resulting in many IKA Torinos being restored and preserved.

The business relationships American Motors formed with Kaiser and Renault in Argentina set the course for AMC’s final two decades. In 1970, AMC purchased the Jeep brand from Kaiser. In 1979 AMC and Renault formed a business alliance to import Renault cars and produce cars in the U.S. including the Alliance and Encore. Renault eventually gained controlling interest of AMC, before selling it to Chrysler Corporation, whose interest was in the Jeep line but not AMC’s cars, which were then discontinued.

See the attached slide show of pictures of the stunning IKA Renault Torino. Also view the attached video featuring a IKA Renault Torino. Narrated in Spanish, it is none the less easy for non-Spanish speaking viewer to appreciate the engineering and fine lines of this car.

This article's Trivia Question (answer in the next article): When did Kaiser Corporation first start to manufacture cars?

Answer to last article's Trivia Question: The Annual Rallye in Glenwood Springs, Colorado is the oldest road rally in the U.S., first started in 1952 by the MG Car Club of Colorado.

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