(first posted 6/8/2013) I was picking my way through a giant architectural salvage store in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood when I came upon this unusual little ute. It’s hardly parked by the curbside; as you can see it’s crammed in among the store’s many unusual wares. The number of these in North America has got to number in the single digits, probably the very low single digits (i.e., one). That’s because it came all the way from Argentina.
Siam Di Tella was founded in Argentina in 1911 by Torcuato di Tella, an Italian immigrant. The company got its start making industrial machinery, primarily breadmaking machines that helped bakeries get around an inexplicable ban on hand-kneading of dough. Later, the company diversified into home appliances and motor scooters using licensed designs.
This licensing strategy continued in 1959 when they began making automobiles based on British Motor Company designs, namely the Riley 4/72. BMC made these cars in saloon and estate (sedan and wagon to us Yanks) versions, which Siam Di Tella produced as the 1500 and Traveller, respectively.
Siam Di Tella also produced a pickup starting in 1961. You’d think they’d work with the Riley platform right out of the gate, but their first trucklets were based on the Austin A55 Cambridge.
Sometime during 1963, Siam Di Tella finally switched to the Riley body for its little truck, making Argentina the only place in the world a pickup version of this body was available. Trim details varied over time. This fender detail isn’t present on all Argentas, but it was obviously influenced by the ’57 Chevy.
The Argenta used BMC’s four-cylinder, 1489 cc engine, which produced 47 hp. It was mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. The Riley suspension was beefed up to handle Argentina’s roads, which were presumably more primitive than those found on the Riley’s home turf.
About 11,000 Argentas were produced in total before automobile production ended entirely in 1966. Foreign automakers had established themselves in Argentina and were building cars there with which Siam Di Tella presumably couldn’t compete.
If you follow Bring a Trailer, this Argenta might look familiar to you, as it was featured there a couple years ago. Also, the architectural salvage store’s site lists this truck as well, offering it at $7,900. (Both sites say this Argenta is from 1959, but my research begs to differ.) It’s not clear to me that it’s for sale anymore, though. As I ogled this little pickup I asked idly about its price, and the shop owner simply said, “No.”