Tractors Found in Argentina by Bob Frassinetti
Antique Tractors to other Steam Engine and Steam Tractors all Found in Argentina and other South American Countries, by Bob Frassinetti.
An insight on Argentina’s tractors

Argentina is what many would define as a rural nation, while at the same time and especially after the second half of the 20th century it transformed in one of Latin America’s most industrial countries. This southern nation has always been known around the world for its grains and cows, for its role of supplier of food to a great part of the Old Continent, which once awarded the country with the nick name: the Barn of the world.

A perfect picture of the Argentine countryside is its endless fertile pampas land populated mainly by crops and cows. Unlike the United States, which develop a farmers system of medium sized properties, Argentina has always relayed on a large estate base for its field work. And though one would think that this divergence in the size of the estate would have forced Argentina to early develop machinery to aid in such immense field work, that wasn’t the road things went thru; it was the broad range of American rural inventions what first replied to the needs of the Argentine field supplying tractors and modern equipment to cultivate the immense pampas lands. The United States, who was early developing at an incredibly fast rate, provoked in their fields and technicians the need of having to come up with what would soon become the world’s most efficient field machine: the tractor. Massey, Ferguson, John Deere, Henry Ford, are just some of the most outstanding businessman who have revolutionized field production forever with their inventions.

Argentina will take much longer to come up with its own national invented tractor. The fact that the US, and soon after Germany, had come up with outstanding machines, positioned Argentina in the comfortable role of no-innovation, and the result was an early flow of importation mainly focused on Machines, sophisticated tools, etc.

In Argentina the first registered tractor importation was in 1906. Case Steam Tractors and International Harvesting were two of the first companies that brought these machines to Argentina. John Deere also arrived to the Pampa lands in the 20th century and according to our records the most popular tractor, the Model A, began production in 1934. This spawned a popular line of two-cylinder tractors including the B, G, L, LA, H, and M.

It’s hard to know about quantities, for at first these items were early 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 shows that these machines were specially incorporated in big fields, big quantities by very small groups of people. 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.

Tractors were imported, parts were imported, and in the case something broke, local mechanics fixed it, sometimes with the original part, some other times –the most- with very clever and witty solutions using handy materials and parts.

The Argentine production of tractors will begin only by the late 1940s, when Juan Domingo Peron was president of Argentina. We’ve stated above that Argentina’s largest supplier in terms of agro machinery was the US, however given the fact that the political relationships between the countries got tight during the presidency of Peron, the importation ceased and in the middle of the Second World War it was very complicated to find European companies that could sustain a commercial flow with such a far away country.

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. The idea was to create a local version of modern tractors that could suit the Argentine field, as well as to adapt to the market’s needs of it being not expensive and low-maintain. 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 timed motor with only one cylinder of 55HP, which could traction a four plowshare of 14 inches.

The result was a local very cheap version christen as the Pampa. The tractor was made in bright orange and was “introduced to society” at one of the most important events of the Society Rural Producers, and it was shown in the heart of Buenos Aires, by the Obelisk monument in the center of the city for everyone to see the new invention. The impact on the argentine field workers was amazing, but more importantly was the psychological effect it had on people which lasted for many decades even after the tractor was no longer produced, for it portrayed an image of modernity and growth of our country.

There were 3500 Pampas made in the country from 1952 to 1963, when production ceased and was never restarted.

After that local experiment, foreign firms began to explore the Argentine market. Fiat Conrad was one of the first European companies to come to Argentina after the war, they did it in 1954. Later on came John Deere in 1958. These two firms were amongst the most important ones at the time, and gained weight in the local market by adapting many of their models to the consumer’s needs, as well as offering their standard ones to the Argentine better positioned market. The move was a success; they were able to target the big estates as well as small farmers’ cooperatives covering the market in total.

Soon after, not only tractors were produced locally but automobiles too.

It was during the late 60s up till the 90s when overall, most of the tractors were locally produced by foreign trust firms. John Deere and Massey Ferguson are among the most important ones who dominated the local market. But the experience of creating and producing a local tractor was never again attempted, however, the image of the bright orange Pampa Tractor remains in the popular memory of the Modern days of the Argentine field.

Bob Frassinetti, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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