another tractor here in Mendoza, Argentina
Tractors in Argentina, a love story
Argentina’s main economic resources has always been in the field: grains, cows, sheeps have been an incredible input to our economy throughout history.
Technology has always been men’s best friend in the country side, for all the days choirs can be even more exhausting if the only power involved is human strength. As far as the one can trace back history men has leaned on other animals to produce what he and his family needed to survive. Closer in history, animal strength was combined with other man-made technical appliances to use in production. In the fields, plow was one of the biggest and most important inventions. First powered by men, it was latter men was the one who guided the ox –the hard work now rested on their back-, and even closer to our days, horses replaced oxes in those hard choirs.
It would take over 50 years for men to come up with a replacement for horses: tractors.
There had been several unsuccessful attempts to use locomotives as a mechanical traction for the plow, firstly with the Fowler system, used for a while in the area of Bell Ville in 1868 and then during the early years of the 20th century there were some plows with “direct traction”. The result of those experiments was a much more expensive traction system than the original horse strength. However these attempts were the foundation for a revolutionary invention: Tractors.
By mid 1892, in the USA an alternative to the horse plow system was successful. Tractors were born.
In Argentina the first registered tractor importation was in 1906. Case Steam Tractors and International Harvesting were two of the first companies to export these machines to Argentina.
It’s hard to know about quantities, for at first these items were registered under locomotives in customs. Later on they are registered as “motors”, therefore we can’t calculate for sure the amount of tractors that were imported in those days. It is only by mid 1920s that we have statistics on this matter. The information in those documents show that these machines were specially incorporated in big fields, for it wasn’t profitable in small fields.
The mass use of tractors in Argentina only began when those machines were locally produced in the 1950s –without the importation costs, these machines were much more affordable; plus there were local tractor versions that had been specially designed for the standard Argentinean field.
The first imported tractors were powered by steam engines. The application of these kind of engines to tractors was revolutionary for the need of a controlled use of power was very much important in these kind of locomotives. Case Steam was one of the main providers to Argentina of these machines.
According to some of our sources the John Deere company first sold tractors to Argentina that were not manufactured by them, these were called “Big Four” tractors, and had gasoline powered engines. This company might also have sold to our country steam engines that had been manufactured by third parties.
Soon after this invention took off, tractors suffered some alterations, such as the replacement of steam engines for diesel or kerosene ones. Some of the main international manufacturers provided the Argentine market at that time.
But it wasn’t till mid 1940s when Argentina took the autoindustry in its hands.
The folk story tells that Perón, who had established a love-hate relationship with the United States had broken up all commercial tides, and while Argentina stopped selling them some of the most important prime materials the US bought, they wouldn’t sell one manufactured item to the country. One of the most famous frases at that time was “If the US wants to paint their houses with our line oil they’ll have to bring their houses down to Argentina…”the reply of some of the most liberal sectors in our country was –regarding the importance of our importation of toilet paper manufactured in the US- “so, when we want to go to the toilette we might as well travel all the way up to the States for some toilette paper?”.
No house came to Argentina, and no one traveled that much for some toilette paper, but the impact of this closure was huge.
In 1948, Perón inaugurated the IAME –mechanical industry company owned and run by the Argentinean state- with the aim of producing tractors in the country.
A very large group of experts began took over the titanic task of creating from scraps a mechanical industry. The first move this group made was a survey on what local farmers preferred on this matter. The most voted answer was the German Lanz Bulldog, produced in Mannheim, for it had a simple motor that could be easily fixed if there was any trouble, it only needed heating before use, and this could be done using lamps powered by a kerosene pump, hence there was no need of electrical power… Plus this tractor’s motor could be worked with alternative combustibles –at that time Diesel fuels were very expensive and rare to find in the country- such as a mix of kerosene and used oil, or even regular oil and animal fat. It served it purpose in the fields and it was very cheap to maintain. And its power was enough to remove the old steam boilers for thrashing line and wheat machines.
The inspiration came from the Lanz German tractor. Many units of this machine were brought to the country and mechanics and technicians began to work on a “national model” tractor with a two time motor with only one cylinder of 55HP, that could traction a four plowshare of 14 inches.
The result was a local very cheap version christen as the Pampa. There were 3500 Pampas made in the country from 1952 to 1963.
At the same time, some other companies began to settle down in the country to locally produce tractors, for it was economically more profitable than exporting them and there was an unexploded market anxiously demanding these products. Fiat Conrad was one of the first ones to come to Argentina in 1954. Later on came John Deere in 1958. Two of the most important ones at the time, adapting many of their models to the local market as well as offering their standard ones to the Argentine market. The move was a success.
Soon after, not only tractors were produced locally but automobiles too. The auto industry grew at an increasing rate till the 70s, when due to a world economic crisis, sales went down. However this industries kept on being the most profitable ones in the country as well as the region for a long time. (Till the 1990s when Brazil took over the market with more competitive prices)
Together with this upraise of the farm industry in Argentina, the toy industry began a golden era. Toys are a reflection of reality, and at that time, our rural country side was growing at an extraordinary rate, positioning Argentina very well in the world.
Many of the most important toy factories such as Duravit, Mataraso, Saxo, Buby and even Muky made farm toys or farm related toys.
For example Buby (diecast toys)made a Mercedes Benz lorry directly involved with
the transportation of cereals from the interior farm lands of the Argentinean dock to sell abroad, on the box there was an Argentinean Country side postcard, this company is an excellent example of a high quality diecast toy produced in Argentina.
Yet another great an rare example is a the toy version of the farm implement tank that was specially made for the company that manufactured them for real farms, such as Gentili Casilda. Much like Sigomec was for John Deere.
All toys related to this period are an "excellent find" for any Farm toy collector. This period from the 50's to the 70's are known as the vintage period for any collector.
It was such the success of farm items at that time that a company know also well known by collectors, Matarazzo started as a tin toy company, but quickly began also to work in the rural field producing and processing cereals. Nowadays this company is still working in the food business. It was just a perfect couple, farm toys and -industrial- farm products.
Those golden years of the argentine field can be relived in many ways, not only through history books but tracing back their footsteps through hunting down the material treasures from them: the tractors. There are still many of them spread around the Argentine territory. These hidden treasures are just awaiting to be found and taken care of. A perfect collector’s vacation at an unspoiled world’s paradise, adventures, history and one of a kind treasures