The Wild Cars (And Planes) From Peronist Argentina: Air Cooled V8s, Flying Wings, Pulse Jet Cars And More

(first posted 11/4/2011)   Talk about falling down a rabbit hole. I started out to do a single-photo Snapshot from 1961, and stumbled into a parallel universe of cars and planes that I had never known existed, for the most part. The term parallel universe applies quite well to Peronist Argentina, when substantial resources were invested in cultivating a domestic automobile and aviation industry. The results were often stranger than fiction, and I suspect many of these have never received much exposure. But thanks to a voluminous web page documenting the experiments and products of IAME (Fabrica Militar de Aviones) a government-funded “factory”, these remarkable vehicles, like this Coupe Gran Sport Institec with a wild air-cooled V8, shall see finally receive the attention they so deserve. Would you believe a pulse-jet driven car? Do.

Juan Peron’s “Third Way” tried to find a middle ground between capitalism and socialism, at least in part to avoid taking sides in the Cold War. The result struggled to avoid being called fascism, but in reality, Peron was mostly just extremely pragmatic, taking the best of whatever caught his eye. That included harboring many Nazi Germans, including scientists that would play a major role in development of the colorful aviation and automobile experiments.

The car that started my fall down the rabbit hole is this, the Graciela Sedan, which is pretty mild-mannered compared to most of the rest of what you’ll see. It’s actually a license-built Wartburg 311, but curiously, the practical East German four door sedan has now been turned into a two door sedan. And to refresh your memory, the Wartburg was the successor car to the IFA F9, based on the DKW. It stands to reason that the two-stroke would find a welcome new home in Argentina. One of IAME’s many early jets sits in the background.

Here’s a shot of the Graciela’s wooden body bucks being put to use. Looks like this was not exactly a high volume affair, unless this was just for the prototypes.

The Justucialista Pickup (Social Justice) is obviously based on the Graciela Sedan. Wagon versions were on tap too.

The Rastojero truck can’t belie its Willys origins, although it almost look like it’s been channeled and lowered on the frame. This was built until 1969.

Here’s an experimental aerocar powered by a 65 hp rear-mounted Continental aircraft engine. If Tucker had survived long enough to build a compact coupe, it might have looked like this. Well, minus that unprotected propeller spinning in the back, that is.

But that’s nothing compared to this pulse-jet powered car. Stand Back! This puppy foreshadows a whole raft of jet-powered dragsters soon to come in the US. Sorry, no further details available.

Let’s take another look at the Gran Sport Coupe. Too bad no hi-res color shots were available, but my imagination is kicking in.

Here is its air-cooled V8 engine, with four carburetors. Has a decidedly Germanic aspect to it, not unlike the Deutz air-cooled diesels still being built.

There are also some open versions of the Graciella. This one supposedly made it to the New York Auto Show in 1953.

Here’s another angle.

And this cut-down one was made specially for el Presidente himself. But this appears to be based on that V8 chassis. A 600cc two-stroke twin wouldn’t do for the jeffe.

IAME sees to have been more like a playground for grown ups than anything resembling a viable business. In addition to cars, there were motorcycles, boats, tractors, etc. But most of all, airplanes, huge numbers of them, many of them proposals and prototypes. A series of wild flying wing planes were named after their German designer Reimar Hörten.

Hörten (above)  was obviously fixated on flying wings, and he ended up in a place where his dreams could be realized, up to a point.

It started with glider, but it ended up with the HO LA 38, that cargo-carrying transport shown above.

And from doing a little research on that, it didn’t really take off, metaphorically speaking. IAME didn’t have access to powerful enough engines, or at least that was the story. But it was a way to keep folks out of trouble, and employed.

Here’s a “personal jet”. Nice!

And a bigger one too. Delta wings were a popular theme, for a while.

Anyway, this is just a small sampling of the box of delights that IAME dabbled with for decades. If you’ve got the time, head here for the full chronology. Now what was it that I had planned to do today?