In addition to being useful for their purpose, automobiles must be profitable. Of course, a great brand can measure the profitability of certain models or operations not only through purely monetary criteria. but also through advertising achievements that strengthen prestige and corporate image. However, on some occasions this cold marketing vision has been mixed with the illusion of an entire country. In this way, the history of motorsports has not a few feats in which the efforts of a team, brand or team have ended up being the efforts of an entire nation struggling to earn a place among the greatest sports powers.
Just what happened with the Argentine Mission of 1969. Coordinated by coach Oreste Berta and led by the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio. Undoubtedly one of the great names in world motorsports, as well as a symbol of Argentina unanimously recognized in Europe. Thus, having him at the head of the team of mechanics and drivers responsible for handling the three Torino 380 W protagonists was a blessing.
Basically because his contacts and prestige were the lever with which to unite different industries, sponsors and interests in the same national drive. All with the 84 Hours of Nürburgring in the peephole. A race used by the main European brands as a test bench. Testing its sportier mechanics by shooting for three and a half days on the same circuit where Fangio won in 1954, 1956 and 1957 with Maserati and Ferrari single-seaters.
A competition based on endurance and teamwork. Having to coordinate a wide logistics infrastructure while the work of the ten pilots ready for the relays. In addition, as Corsa magazine pointed out in its number 165, participation in this test was conditioned by the still limited experience of the Argentine industry in international competitions. A point that, far from being inconvenient, acted as an element of overcoming for an entire country glued to transistors those days of August in 1969.
IKA – RENAULT TORINO 380 W, THE ARGENTINE RAMPANTE BULL
With a design finalized by Pininfarina, the Ika Torino It was presented in 1966 as the best and most refined sports creation of the Kaiser Argentina Industries. Entirely manufactured in Argentina, its advanced solutions in terms of power and reliability quickly raised it to the level of an icon for the national automobile sector. Not devoid of ideas, but with a massive capitalization that would make it strong enough to cross its borders. In fact, looking for that greater financial strength IKA was associated in 1967 with Renault. Wanting to lead a market where General Motors and Ford had gained a foothold.
Thus, the IKA management was more interested in establishing a range of passenger cars for the national market than in starring in sporting feats in Europe. However, the fact that Fangio led the promotion of the so-called Argentine Mission ended up uniting various interests. So much so that, at the end of 1966, the head of competition at Ika Carlos Lobbosco agreed to finance the company. From then on, his coordination work together with Oreste Berta focused on the preparation of three units of the newly released Torino 380 W. An essential point to understand this story. Since, as we pointed out at the beginning of this article, spending on competition serves as an investment in brand image.
In this way, IKA saw with good eyes competing in the 84 Hours of Nürburgring because their mere participation gave prestige to the new model. Which quadrupled its sales after the race. And that's not to mention the image of leadership that he conveyed in the Argentine automobile sector. Blessed by Fangio himself and even encouraged and congratulated by his rival General Motors. Attesting that this idea that little by little left the corporate to enter the national. Always with the Torino as the spearhead, prepared by the engineer Durwald Leeper from its 380 W version. The most powerful in the range with its 3 liter engine, six cylinders in line and three Weber carburettors to deliver 7CV in serial units.
THE ARGENTINE MISSION SETS COURSE TO NÜRBURGRING
After the spring of 1969, the tests on the Torino were already outlined despite having accidents and certain coordination problems between pilots. Always appeased by the respected figure of Fangio. Who fully devoted himself to the so-called Argentine Mission as part of his own history in racing. Regarding the modifications, the Turinos had dropped from 1.407 to 1.365 kilos. Increased power to 250CV at 5.200 rpm with a top speed of 230 km/h. Respectable figures if you also take into account their good resistance.
For the rest, the three Torinos taken to the track did not receive any more significant changes except for the adjustment of the suspensions and the incorporation of wider tires. At this point, they were shipped to Germany where, upon arrival at the Nürburgring, they were marked with the numbers 1, 2 and 3. enormous prestige of Fangio in Europe. Which opened so many doors to the Torino that even Carlos Figueras -journalist director of Auto Test- pointed to it as the explanation for why a custom class was created for the vehicles of the Argentine Mission.
Characterized by a cylinder capacity much greater than the average of the rest, and therefore questioned in relation to the regulations of the race. In fact, finally the only Torino that finished the race -the number 3 piloted by Rodríguez Larreta, Eduardo Copello and Mauricio Franco- was in fourth absolute position after a Lancia Fulvia, a BMW and a Triumph but champion in the category with more than 3 liters. Of course, only a penalty for remaining in the pits longer than allowed in a repair made him not the winner. Hypothesis that is corroborated by having been the vehicle that gave the most laps to the circuit throughout the race.
Anyway, whatever it was, the truth is that joy overflowed among the Argentine population. Living the success of the Argentine Mission as if it were a national deed. And for the most part it was. Since beyond the race data or the multiple anecdotes like that of Fangio sneaking instructions to the rhythm of tango to circumvent the regulations that race was a show its head to the world for the Argentine industry. A success with its lights and shadows that, after all, transcended IKA to become the heritage of the entire country.
Images: Renault Classic / Fangio Museum