Some cars go above and beyond their mission to simply transport passengers. In the space of just a few years, those cars become almost legendary, capturing the imagination and the hearts of entire nations... The Renault IKA Torino is one of those cars.
Developed in the 1950s, the Torino came from the Argentinian government’s desire to launch the country’s automobile industry. To jumpstart its development, Argentina turned first to Kaiser, an American car manufacturer that opened its Argentinian branch Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) in 1956.
In 1959, IKA teamed up with Renault, who became a minor shareholder in the company. As a result, production of the Renault 6 and Renault 12 was moved to Argentina, and a deal was signed to launch the Dauphine for the Argentinian market.
In 1970, Renault took full control of IKA, and in 1975 rebadged it as Renault Argentina. Instead of importing existing vehicles to the Argentinian market, the manufacturer decided to continue work on a project, already under way, to develop a car that would be 100% Argentinian. When the Torino was born, the whole country was smitten.
With an American Rambler at its base, the new emblem of Argentina’s car production had a completely original shape, designed by Pininfarina. Available as a hatchback or coupé, it found its place among the rest of the Renault range, and its ease of handling – more supple and powerful than other vehicles of the 70s – quickly transformed it into a social phenomenon. Positioned as a luxury car, it was endowed with a “large” American 6-cylinder engine nicknamed the “Tornado”, featuring 155 hp in its basic version and 176 hp in the sports model.
At the time, the Torino was Argentina’s only national car, and it swiftly became a symbol of national pride. It was THE Argentinian car par excellence, and it wasn’t long before it attracted celebrity customers such as Fangio, Leonid Brezhnev and Fidel Castro.
These days the Torino is still worshipped in Argentina, where it is considered to be an iconic part of the national heritage. Renault only imported three units to France in the 70s and then only for research purposes. It has had its place in the Renault Classic Collection for decades, and to the brand’s knowledge, there is only one example of it left in France today.
In 2017, Renault Classic decided to dynamically restore the Torino and wake it from its long sleep. With the help of an important Argentinian collector, Juan Luis Rawzez, all of the missing pieces were found and, although the suspension elements which contain pressurised gas were refused by airline companies, the car has now been brought back to its former glory.
It’s the last living witness in France of a car designed and built entirely in Argentina.