They were born as popular cars with Peronism, but instability brought them down: the story of Gilda, Mitzi and Gauchito

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At the end of the 1940s, Peronism deployed all its liturgy to face one of the recurring economic crises in Argentina. Inflation and external restrictions marked the agenda of the Second Five Year Plan: greater support for agriculture, seeking foreign investment, betting on basic sectors to preserve foreign currency and, at the same time, face a new phase in the import process replacement…

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The automotive sector was then incorporated into the industrial promotion regime, anticipating the more ambitious program that Arturo Frondizi implemented at the end of the following decade. The case of the Justicialista, the car promoted by Juan Domingo Perón, is emblematic. He wasn’t the only one. There were a trio of popular vehicles who tried to follow the official initiative. Their names were Gilda, Mitzi and Gauchito. They were short-lived: the 1955 coup also marked their end, and whether they ever left the factory remains a mystery.

The Gilda sedan, for 5 occupants. (photo:

Industrias Aeronáuticas y Mecánicas del Estado (IAME) was the company behind the Justicialista car and the Rastrojero, the utility vehicle intended for carrying medium loads. In parallel, a private company was encouraged to take the leap.

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Rosati y Cristóforo Industrias Metalúrgicas, with more than 20 years of existence, was part of the thriving national industrial activity that had long swirled thousands of internal migrants arriving in the main cities: Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Córdoba.

The RYCSA Mitzi, with 12 horses.  (photo:

The RYCSA Mitzi, with 12 horses. (photo:

RYCSA, as it was known by its acronym, was born in the Mediterranean province in 1926, although in 1944 it also settled in Arrecifes, San Nicolás and Quilmes. It produced cranes, boilers, tractors and metal constructions, heavy equipment which in some cases could replace the ever more expensive equipment to bring from abroad.

Santo Rosati and Francisco Cristóforo, the founders, had pondered the possibility of immersing themselves in the automotive industry, knowing that the powerful multiplier effect could bring benefits and greater demand for their other products. The shareholders have turned their backs on them.

The Gauchito pickup, based on the Gilda sedan.  (General Archive of the Nation)

The Gauchito pickup, based on the Gilda sedan. (General Archive of the Nation)

However, these accepted the proof in the light of the possible credits they could have obtained from the Peronist state. In the mid-1950s, for a renewed public, they launched Gilda, Mitzi and Gauchito, their three projects on wheels: a microcar, a sedan and a pick up, with prices affordable for almost everyone and easy to maintain. But the context was no longer the same.

From Italy to 100% Argentinian design: how Gilda, Mitzi and Gauchito were born

With the assistance of Brigadier Juan Ignacio San Martín (Minister of Air Force and President of IAME), in 1954 the RYCSA signed an agreement with Società Italiana Auto Trasformazioni Automobilistiche (SIATA) to acquire the license for the Mitzi B40, the microcoupé that would started to be produced. in a specially converted factory in Caseros.

Mitzi was only 3.1 meters long.  (photo:

Mitzi was only 3.1 meters long. (photo:

It was a city car which, in the manner of the trend believed in post-war Europe, offered a practical solution for increasingly narrow streets and spaces. The City of Buenos Aires had just reached the threshold of three million inhabitants (2,981,043, according to the 1947 census), a threshold that would only be exceeded more than 70 years later. The agglomeration grew to the north, south and west to form Greater Buenos Aires, another of the processes marked by Peronism.

For processing the Mitzi, RYCSA has opened a new company: Imema. In its staff of more than 1,000 employees There were several Italians who brought their experience to Argentina to replicate the original microcoupé. Among them was Giovanni Rossi, an engineer from Turin who was head of the Caseros automobile company. He was responsible for fine-tuning the details of the city car. He also designed the chassis and bodywork of the other two creations: the two-door sedan Gilda and the Gauchito pick-up, powered by the M 504 V engine forged by the same Italian engineer.

The popular car assembly plant.  (photo:

The popular car assembly plant. (photo:

If the super-compact coupé was guided by urban pragmatism, the spirit that animated Gilda and Gauchito was different. They were intended as means of transport for medium and long distances. Although both shared the structure, they had different mechanical characteristics: one was intended for family use, the other put its load capacity at the service of small entrepreneurs and traders. Moreover, unlike the Mitzi (adaptation of a foreign work), these two have been positioned as 100% Argentine developments.

User profiles, promises and the coup de grace for popular cars

Mitzi was 3.1 meters long and weighed just 410 kilos. It had a Vespa engine, two cylinders and 12 HP of power, which was located in the front area. It had a four-speed gearbox, with a lever on the steering wheel, and speed was a secondary feature: it reached 85 kilometers per hour.

It could accommodate three people, since the two front seats had been added in too narrow a place in the rear of the car, and it was semi-briolet (half of the roof, in canvas, could be folded away). It was obtained in exchange for 60 thousand pesos of national currency.

The presentation of the Mitzi in the YPF room.  (General Archive of the Nation)

The presentation of the Mitzi in the YPF room. (General Archive of the Nation)

For its part, the Gilda 500 S sedan was a proof of love: he had been baptized with the name of Rosati’s wife. It carried seating for five people and its weight reached 1,239 kilos. The M 504 V engine had a power of 55 HP and went up to 120 kilometers per hour. The reference price was 130 thousand pesos national currency.

Its beefier brother, C Gauchito 500, had a full seat with room for the driver and two passengers. It had a capacity of 700 kilos, with two dimensional variants for the container. Engine power was reduced to 50hp.

Gilda, Mitzi and Gauchito were presented to the public at two events. One of them took place at the then 17 de Octubre racetrack, currently Juan and Oscar Gálvez, the traditional meeting point of dice in the Villa Riachuelo neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Then they attended a second gala, in another place with a strong symbolic charge: the exhibition hall of the YPF headquarters, at 777 Diagonal Norte or Presidente Roque Sáenz Peña avenue, now occupied by private sector offices.

The prototypes on display announced a discreet production, by about 2,500 units a year, before climbing to 10,000 copies a year. But political fluctuations have blown away all predictions.

The civil-military coup of 1955 ended the Perón government and started the self-styled Liberating Revolution. Furthermore, it meant a reversal in economic management. The instability was reflected in the succession of four economy ministers in just three years (the longest lasting was Adalbert Krieger Vasena, who would later become area head in another military government, the Argentine Revolution of Juan Carlos Ongania).

Nobody knows how many Gilda, Mitzi and Gauchito came true. Specialists speculate that a few dozen managed to take to the streets. RYCSA quickly withdrew into the industrial sector it knew best, the metallurgical sector, where it continued to operate until 1978, when Rosati died. Then, with the de facto government of Jorge Videla and the economic management of José Martínez de Hoz, came the call, the dissolution and the auction. Gone, far behind, was the nearly indistinguishable specter of his popular Peronist cars.

Source: Clarin

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