CC Global Outtake: South American Graffiti, Schnell(aster)!

The hot rod in its various guises — T-bucket, Deuce coupe and roadster, and many others — is a uniquely American automotive art form.  Based on the mass-produced, utilitarian Fords that put America on wheels, they started as a common man’s (or teenager’s) performance car before becoming a high-dollar hobby that made builders like Boyd Coddington famous and spawned an industry of manufacturers of parts and complete bodies.  Like other American art forms, such as jazz and rock and roll, the hot rod has been embraced by people around the world, among them the owner of this example spotted on the street in Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires.  Let’s take a look at it before also examining the boxy blue vehicle behind it, heeding the cries of “Macht schnell!” from the CC headquarters in Eugene.

This roadster presents a mix of traditional and modern elements.  The absent front bodywork, Model T-proportioned radiator shell, straight pipes, and beam axle are from the past, but attached to that beam axle are disc brakes and a pair of connecting rods that are no longer residing inside the engine block.  Let’s take a look at them.

The connecting rods are control arms connecting the front axle to torsion bars hidden behind the red frame rails.  The torsion bar setup cleans up the front end considerably by eliminating the traditional leaf springs, and it appears to be becoming an increasingly popular modification in the U.S. hot rod scene.  The connecting rods add an extra decorative touch to this car that I liked.  After that discovery, the open engine bay housing a common smallblock Chevy V8 with Corvette script valve covers and Edelbrock Performer intake manifold may be a letdown for some, but in a country where V8 engines are few and far between, the owner of this rod must be quite happy with its looks, power and rumble.

The rear end presents a mix of traditional and unusual as well.  The curved rear bodywork without fenders is classic Ford roadster in shape, but the body sits on top of a frame whose projecting rails indicate that it was originally from a much longer vehicle.  I have no idea how to identify this car’s frame, but a reader somewhere may be able to do so.  The huge exposed rear tires are another classic roadster design element, and both they and the front tires are U.S.-brand Coopers.  Cooper happens to have made a significant move into exporting tires to Latin America since 2014, including expanded distribution in Argentina, so the tires do not indicate anything definite about their origin or that of the car.

This roadster with its mix of design elements has an unusual presence in a place like Buenos Aires that must give its owner great satisfaction when he fires up its V8 and moves that eight-ball shifter into first.  I did not see the owner, having missed what appeared to be a curbside car show in the Palermo Soho neighborhood of Buenos Aires, only a few blocks from where I spotted this IKA Torino.  Arriving on the scene after 5 PM, I found that most of the cars were gone and none of the cars’ owners were present.  As a result, I could not learn more about either this roadster or the bright blue van parked behind it.

That van I later learned from Paul to be a DKW Schnellaster, a pioneering front wheel drive small van introduced in 1949.  Declared “the mother of all modern minivans” here, the Schnellaster (“Rapid Transporter”) had front wheel drive, a flat floor, and other design elements of the modern minivan, 35 years before Chrysler introduced its minivans that created the market segment in the United States.  Powered initially by a 700cc two cylinder two stroke giving a top speed of 70 kilometers per hour (kilometers, not miles) and later by a 900c three cylinder two stroke, the Schnellaster did not move very “schnell,” but it was a practical compact transporter well suited for city use.  The Schnellaster was built in Argentina for two decades, first from 1960-69 by Industrias Automotriz de Santa Fe (IASFe) as a van, pickup and ambulance, branded as an Auto Union, then from 1969-79 by Industrias Aeronauticas y Mecanicas del Estado (IAME) as the Rastrojero F71.  This example has the original DKW front end used on the Argentine Auto Unions and not the revised front end of the Rastrojero F71, making it from 1960-69.  A half century old Argentine Schnellaster and a modernized hot rod would have been contrasting bookends to an auto show, and who knows what other interesting autos in between would have been there.