My Interview with Buby. Die cast model Car.
Toys and,or collectables?
Name an Argentinean man, who's now in his mid 40's that didn't play once with the well-known BUBY cars/die cast. Name one whose father or uncle, didn't buy one of those fascinating miniatures. Scale reproductions that were jealously true to the original ones.
Our memory flashes back to the time of the car races powered by hand. We used to make them go round and round, in circles drawn with choc, down in our backyards or at the sidewalk. Boys -many of them teenagers- who were more competitive "fixed" the cars, through the most unique home-made techniques, to get advantage over their rivals.
It was the time when those, who now com their gray hair (o are definitely bold), received, as precious gifts, the English miniatures of Dinky Toys, Matchbox, or the Germans' Schuko (which were other type of car racing toys).
Anyhow, the fact is that by the end of the 50's, the Argentinean market was receiving a collection of scale cars, for the joy of every kid.
They reproduced with perfection the shapes and proportions of the real ones. These toys were Argentinean, and carried a brand that would become a classic in that field: BUBY.
Which is the story of those remembered little cars and why now do we bring them back to our desktop?
It's simple. Years ago, Buby launched a series of models, this time not as toys, but as collector's items. By the same token, we found out that Haroldo Mahler, better known as "Buby", was preparing his return to the market with the re-edition of Argentinean classic cars: i.e. Ford Falcon Sprint, etc.
In a mix of expectancy -for what will come- and the nostalgia of taking a gaze at the recent past of this interesting national industry, we tracked down the patter creature of this history; Buby Mahler.
The tête-à-tête was almost a monologue from Buby, whose eyes glowed with enthusiasm when he evoked the good old times.
Interview with Buby Mahler:
-With that last name you must surely be German... By any chances, you wouldn't have any relation with the famous musician Gustav Mahler, would you?
-No, unluckily I'm not a relative. My parents were German; I was born in Argentina in 1931. I was brought up in the country. At that time, we lived at 27 km from Buenos Aires, which was a great distance. However, you could get downtown comfortably by train. My parents were from the Black Forest and the Low Bavaria; they arrived at Argentina in 1922.
-Which studies allowed you to become the Industrial Manager that you were, or that you still are?
-At the age of 5, my parents took me to Germany to live for a year. There I learnt something that helped me for the rest of my life: the language. Later in Argentina came the primary school, then the secondary at the Military school and finally the university. I studied to be a Naval and Mechanic Engineer at the University of Buenos Aires.
-On balance, what was the most useful?
-Many things. The language, to read technique literature that I used to learn how to precede. What I learnt at the University helped me to make the prints of the coach-buildings. All together I used it to give the information to the matrix builders. Because initially, the first BUBY's mold was made with a burin, not with a pantograph, like we do today.
-Indeed, you have always loved cars... Specifically, when did the adventure begun?
-Since I was a child I was a great fan. The best present my father gave me was a Dinky car. Remember that that was the time when the world was at the second war, so it was very difficult to find one of those. I used to fantasize with the little car, imagining myself inside driving. One day I had to make a present to another kid and I thought to myself: "what a better gift for a boy than a little car!!?" Consequently, I went to a toyshop and ask for a Dinky Toys' car. In a mysterious move the shopkeeper pulled the little toy from under the counter. When I asked for the price, I could hardly believe it. It cost as much as I spent in a month as a student. "No way!"- I thought. And I asked for a national alternative. They were all ugly, so I didn't bought them either.
Deeply disappointed, in the ride home I wondered... why can't we make them better in Argentina?
The next day I went to see a Professor of mine and asked him: "How is this made?". He answered: "Read this and that". So I went to the library of the university and borrowed the books. I read and read, eventually, I made my first prints of the molds.
Later, with the supervision of my professor, I made my first mold.
-How did you started, I mean, at an industrial scale?
-Once I had the model and de mold, I started looking for someone who would injected it for me. I was lucky enough that very near from Ranelagh (where I lived), there was an industrial smelter which made parts for the washing machine's company Drean. Conveniently, they new my family, so they did it for me and -what's most important for someone who's just starting- the gave me credit. I injected them in Zamak (ZK), an alloy of zinc. The next chapter was to find how to paint the little cars. I begun experimenting with different paints, until I found a factory in Buenos Aires -Steelcoalt- which prepared for me baking paints.
-What was your first industrial plant like?
- Everything started in an empty old storage, back in my parent's home in Ranelagh. This was in the year 1957, although the original idea was conceived a year earlier. The matrix maker I had hired didn't keep up with the schedule, so I had break up the contract and find another one. I found him in Bernal, and he was the one who actually made the mold in the accorded time. That's way I had a year of delay.
- So, you started with toys.
-I thought to myself: "I want kids to play with it too..." I needed to make something good enough for the kid to see in it the real model, and at the same time to be able to play with it. The car must roll fine. For that, it had to be properly suspended. I invented a suspension, which I patented, and with it I made the car roll perfectly. In a plane, regular track it could roll for about 7 to 9 meters. I believe that the combination of the beautiful models and the fact that you could play well with it, gave the BUBY brand its initial boost.
I didn't have knowledge of the market, and the big suppliers (mayoristas) told me they were too expensive, so they couldn't be sold. However, I decided to go personally to every neighborhood's toy store. They began to buy, but only 2 or 3 at a time. Until one day, when I was selling in a barber shop (which I saw it was selling toys for Christmas Eve), a gentleman approached me and asked: "Do you make them?"- I answered: "I'm selling them and I make them". In no time, he gave me his personal card and said: "Young man, meet me tomorrow at 11 o'clock at my office."
This gentleman was the manager of the Santa Claus toy stores, one of the most important in Buenos Aires. When I arrived at his office, he congratulated me and requested 60 unites for his stores. At the same time, he gave me a list of all the stores I must visit. That is how my commercial success begun. At that time I was only 23...
- How did the industrial development continue?
- The following year I opened two small prefabricated plants of 72 m2 each. I had 144 m2 for the assembly. I rented an 140 m2 house close to it. By 1970 I was building, also in Ranelagh, a larger factory of 600 m2. That same year, I acquire, in Villa General Belgrano, the 1,600 m2 that coexisted with Ranelagh. All together we had a monthly production of 20,000 unites in a 1/43 scale, which represented 800/1000 miniatures daily.
Actually, what I bought in Cordoba (Villa General Belgrano), was in order to make the smaller cars (1/64). This scale was mainly used in ferromodelism, I wanted to do something different from Matchbox.
- Tell me about the famous Mercedes Benz little trucks.
- Those were the "1112" in a 1/43 scale. Later, requested by the factory, I made other Mercedes out of scale.
- Lets talk about the "Collectors Classic".
- It was born when the "Plan Austral" failed. We considered that we had to follow the Chilean example. Adopt an export profile in order to subsist. Therefore, I focused all my production into world wide exportable items. Based on my preference for those cars as well as the market, we developed a collection of North American cars.
I was inspired by the Indianapolis 500 pace cars. This collection included the Chevrolet, the Ford, the DeSoto, the Lincoln of the 50's, and finally the Camaro, which commanded the Indy of the '69. That was the last one of the collection; I was margined of the market. I couldn't compete with the prices. Our cars were too expensive in contrast with the ones that came from the Orient.
- Can you remember any anecdote related with your cars?
- Some. For instances, when me exhibited the Collectors Classic in the Nuremberg faire, in Germany (this was the annual world wide faire of toys and collectable). We were showing cars from 1988 to 1993. Many people approached us asking if we were BUBY from Argentina. It was pretty awkward for them to see someone from Latin America exhibiting between all those "monsters" of the European and Asian production.
Argentinean kids, somehow, were highly privileged for having at their reach the "real" cars that they saw every day on the streets.
- We caught wind of your intentions of coming back to market with some Argentinean Classics. Is it true?
- Yes, it's. This was encouraged by old BUBY users. People who are now in their 40's, that used to race my little cars, approached me and asked why didn't I re-launched the Torino or the Ford... With that in mind, I went to Talgo and consulted them. They said it would be an exit. So I decided to do it.
- Will you use different techniques, other materials for the new production?
- I'm going to use the same old molds, although instead of making the chassis in plastic I will make them in Zamak. I'll improve the materials, paints (using solutions that inexistent in the past). For instance, the wind shields will be made out of a much better material, and essentially I'll improve the tires. We have to take into account that this will be a collector's item and not a toy specifically.
- Is it going to take part in the Collectors Classic?
- No. They're going to be Buby. Plus, we'll mark them with the word "re-edition", to make them identifiable as original of that time. I'm planning to launch them this year (2003). We'll make our debut with the Ford Falcon Sprint,that will have the colors of its time and not the fantasy ones, generally used for toys.
I love meeting with grownups, who for one reason or another recognize me and ask: "You are the one who made those cars, aren't you? You can't imagine in how many races I beat my friends thanks to them." It's amazing the way they admire and recognize me due to my cars. It's very beautiful to, somehow, have contributed to the joy of the kids. Much more than the money I earned for it...
For more information on Buby Die Cast please feel free to email me, Bob Frassinetti.
Email: The Buenos Aires Toy Museum,Bob Frassinetti. The Buenos Aires
Bob Frassinetti. Copyright 2005. Roberto Dario Frassinetti.