||By Bob Frassinetti.
Buby Diecast made in Argentina, a bit of information for those interested
in foreign toys.....I hope you will enjoy reading as much as I have doing
the investigation and finding the info. Best wishes from a sunny Buenos
Some input on the BUBY diecast in the Argentinean toy history, Buby made
not only 1:43 but also 1:64 an 1:50 scale diecast toys......
-- Several model diecast manufacturers have existed in Argentina in the
past, the best known of them is Buby.
-- This company, run by Haroldo Buby Malher was a well known and loved
product, he produced model cars from the late 1950s up to the end of the
1990s, first in 1/43rd scale, later also in 1/64th scale. He made scale
models of both European and American cars, but often these original cars
were specially prepared, re edited, for the South American market and were
made only in Argentina.
-- In the1960s Buby painted and assembled models supplied by the French
manufacturer Solido. These Buby models differed from the French models
only by a sticker on the box.
-- Until 1992 Buby produced the "Collector's Classics" and "Buby's
Classics" models, this was limited diecast models edition of American cars
of the 1950s and 1960s in 1/43rd scale. His latest contribution were the
Buby Bus Urbano of Buenos Aires in the scale of 1/50. These were built in
the late 90's.
-- The only book written in Argentina on Buby is a photo catalogue, Buby
Photo catalogue of diecast cars made in Argentina, in Spanish its known as
Buby "La historia en fotos" by Lucien C. Brousse. Its in Spanish, some 286
pages in photos in B & W, has fine information details on each model made,
wheels and other car details. A must for any series collector.
Interviewing Buby - March 2003
As he arrives to my office in Acassuso, Buby looks around, realizing his
meeting with a diecast collector fan, as himself. Many of his amazing
models are decorating the place were the interview is going to take place.
So the very first impression is very nice, of mutual identification, and
the environment is to become homely and worm. Hence, what was going to be
a very structured interview turns into a worm conversation, as Buby leads
us to a conformable friendly chat between two car lovers, that take their
collecting very seriously.
Anecdotes and future plans would flow from Buby, as he proudly recalls on
his golden years. Is that very feeling of pride and love for his life
production that makes of this conversation an exceptional piece of diecast
After some telephone calls, Mr. Haroldo Malher, one true pioneer of the
Argentinean toy industry, visited our facilities and talked with us about
his company, its history and his future plans in that regard.
Following you will find the transcript of the conversation we had with Mr.
Toy Museum: Good afternoon Haroldo.
Buby: Good afternoon.
Toy Museum: I know that at the moment you are not producing any toys, but
have you thought of returning to the business?
Buby: Well, actually, yes. At the moment I'm talking to some people –who
are related to the business- to make a new collection of scale toy die
cast cars, because of the new technology this gives us much grater
possibilities than the iron old model cases. But we don't want to do any
model, we are interested in producing models that were manufactured and
designed in Argentina.
Many of the existing collections world wide are based on European and
American produced cars. For instance, the Rambler Ambassador was never
made in scale; my idea is that those cars are the ones to be reproduced in
scale in my collection.
Toy Museum: I know that in prior collections you've already done this,
like with some IKA models...
Buby: Yes, La Estanciera, Renault Dauphine and the Renault 6 are some of
the models I made from IKA. After IKA was acquired by Renault, we did
Renault models, since IKA no longer existed. I also made a Torino scale
car that was quite a success.
Toy Museum: About this collection you have in mind, can you tell us
something in advance?
Buby: I think it would be similar to the Collectors I launched during the
80s, though in some many aspects it would be improved. The similarity
would be on the quality and the inputs for collectors. It will be
specially targeted to national and foreign collectors, with limited and
Toy Museum: Do you have an estimate date for the collection's release?
Buby: I'm keen on seeing it out by 2004...
Toy Museum: In your previous collection -Collectors- what models did you
Buby: 69 Camaro, 56 Packard Caribbean, etc...
Toy Museum: Can you tell me how many numbers of each model did you made
Buby: We used to make 20,000 numbered series. We made 500 of each colour
and model. That was the idea. Each item was numbered... that, I believe,
shows how much we took in consideration the international diecast
collector. It took a lot of care and effort to have it done individually
to each box, the car itself and the certifying diploma. I don't know if
that special attention was considered by the collectors... it's my belief
that just recently our diecast cars are internationally valued.
Toy Museum: I know for sure, that within the collectors' world Buby
diecast are of great interest ...
Buby: Oh, yes, lately Bubys are a rare find in Argentina. I have recently
witnessed a $2000 Estanciera purchase.
Toy Museum: Oh, of course... I also know that the Torino are very well
appreciated and the Kaiser models are looked for very keenly... May be
that's a line that could be re- launched.
Buby: It might be, sure... The Carabela, for example, was the first
beautiful car made in Argentina.
Toy Museum: How long have you been in Argentina, Malher?
Buby: I'm a born Argentinean. My father came from Germany in the year 1922
and my mother on the '23... they got married in 1928 and I was born by
Toy Museum: I'm wondering... taking in consideration your company's
history of production, how did you manage to keep it up within all the
continuous economic casualties the country suffered at that time.
Buby: Well... I can tell you for sure it wasn't easy, because in my
company's history there's a recurrent event, which is that every time the
company was running on wheels, something came up, "they changed the rules
of the game" and everything got complicated... the economic problems in
1975 was terrible, I was left without any working capital and there were
no credits at all. I had more than 150 people who wanted to get paid and I
had nothing to give them... afterwards, there were times where we lacked
all kind of supplies... governments were never kind to small industries.
It always existed the possibility of saving your skin by doing some
cheating and grey area working, and some of us didn't feel comfortable
doing so. I have some colleagues that did everything what God forbid, and
stayed at float... anyway, that was their choice...
Toy Museum: All your items are 100% Argentinean... Am I right?
Buby: Pretty much all, there was one time, while Onganía was governing I
imported Solido pieces from France, that where unassembled here in
Argentina. At that time, items in pieces paid a much lower tax, than the
item itself, so we bought the parts and put the piece together in the
country, and therefore entered the market with the items at much more
reasonable prices. I imported around 10,000 Solido parts sets, and was
able to sell them already armed very quickly... that was how the market
worked back then.
Toy Museum: On Buy's golden years, how many units did you monthly launched
to the market?
Buby: It actually depended on the scale. Taking the Solido items out of
consideration -since that was more an exception than a rule-, it would
probably be around the 10,000 items per month. For example, the smallest
ones had excellent sales around the '86 -'87 before the Plan Austral
(currency conversion), it reached the 200,000 units per month, at that
time we were manufacturing more than 10,000 daily. Back then, in our
industrial plant in Don Torcuato we employed around 200 workers, who were
dealing with mostly automatic machinery, for instance, the painting
process was now automated.
Toy Museum: And. for how long where you active in this industry?
Buby: For more than 40 years. The first model I made was when I was 24
years old, and no toy store manager took me very seriously, I have to
Toy Museum: Which was the first model you made?
Buby: It was a 67 Buick, which I made just because I found it interesting.
All along my lifetime within the toy industry, I always had a special
feeling when choosing models to make in scale, very few times I turned out
to be wrong in my choice. In my early years I made models for children,
later I kept on making those models for those children, who were already
adults and collectors. It is my belief, not that I want to polish my
apple, that I invented diecast collections for Argentineans, it were the
Buby models and their use who opened the gate to these collections. Back
in the '60s I was the only manufacturer in the world who made diecast
scale cars with suspension. I initiated that, afterwards many companies
around the world, in France, the UK, America, did it. But even then the
suspension they used had a much lower quality than the one I put in them.
I have the patent for this: diecast car suspension. One great quality of
this gear was that it adjusted to the items weight. And then, kids used it
for races, where they added some more weight to the car to make it run
faster, this cars were excellent in that matter because they had an
amazingly good direction, so they didn't crash between them. These were
the qualities that made Buby so popular, beyond its beautiful appearance,
kids could have great fun playing with them. So I know for sure many kids
bought not one but two Bubys of each, one to play with and one just to
collect. That's why I say I invented diecast collectibles in Argentina.
Every Argentinean male who is now in his 40s have at least once played
with one of my cars.
Toy Museum: Do you have any items left over from then?
Buby: In my first plant in Ranelagh, I had a room where I kept one or more
items of each model, but unfortunately I came in one day, and they where
all gone, someone had broken in and stole them.
Toy Museum: Oh. and which were the standards that had to have a diecast
produced in our factory?
Buby: Well, above all it had to be an original model, I repeat a model,
nothing more and nothing less, these cars where replicas at scale of the
original cars you saw on the street. I believe this was something else
that caught the kids attention.
Toy Museum: How did Buby begin?
Buby: Well, my first models I had them in a suitcase which I carried with
me almost everywhere and went to small toy stores and offered the clerk
manager the item, I didn't go to big toy stores simply because I was kind
But in these stores they didn't want them because they said they were very
expensive comparing them the traditional tin ones they usually sold. Those
had nothing to do with what I was offering them, but I couldn't make
myself clear, it was as we didn't understand each other.
But one day I was in a hair dresser on Callao Avenue and one fellow bought
six of my cars, inmediatly one other fellow who was nearby, came to me and
said: "Tell me young man, are you selling this?" yes, I replied, and he
said "do you know who makes them?" and I replied again, yes, I make them.
So he took out of his wallet a business card and gave it to me and said:
"Tomorrow at 09:00 Am you come and see me, all right?". He turn out to be
the manager of the Santa Claus Toy store on Santa Fe Av., one of the
biggest and most
important toy stores in Buenos Aires.
The next morning, at nine sharp I was in his office and he said to me:
"You see, you don't have to go to small toy stores." and he gave me a list
with the address of the 20 most important toy stores in Buenos Aires. "You
have to sell your cars to these people" he said, "and the price you are
asking for is all right,. you bring me 60 of this cars and come back next
week." I went to his office the following week and he bought 144 more
This is how everything started, this is how Buby began.
This incident occurred on December 10th and on the 27th I had to leave for
Europe, because I had won a scholarship in Engineering to study overseas,
I was studing to get my diploma as a naval engineer. But when I got to
Europe, my old man kept on sending me letters telling me he didn't know
what to do with all these people contacting him, requesting my toys. so I
finally interrupted everything and returned to Argentina to keep on making
them. This is how the Buby company began.
Toy Museum: Where does the Buby name come from, what does it mean?
Buby: Well, that's a whole other story. the thing is that we were all
burning our heads trying to come up with a name for the company. First we
thought Terry, then Roby, after that one more thousand names. We wanted a
short name, that people could remember, that it was kind of catchy. And
after a while I decided to name the company as myself, Buby, which had
been how my Dad called me when I was born and stayed with me forever.
Toy Museum: And, I hope you don't mind my indiscretion, but why did your
father named you Buby?
Buby: Oh dear, no problem. the story is that every first born child in the
Malher family has been, for many generations, named Carlos (Charles); but
my mother decided I shouldn't be named Carlos, so my father consented her
and he inscribed me as Haroldo Nicolás, and when he came home, he called
me Buby. At first I thought that naming my company after me showed some
pedantry, but everybody told me: "who knows your nickname?. it's short and
catchy... it's perfect." and they convinced me.
Toy Museum: Oh, so can we call you Buby from now on?
Buby: Oh, yes indeed, if you say Haroldo, I think you are talking to
Toy Museum: Which would you say it's the best model you've made?
Buby: I have to say the Pontiac GT, it was an American '66 model. That was
the last model I personally designed. Because that's as far as I could get
with the 1:40 scale. Afterwards we began to work with a scale of 1:43. I
you ask me why did I used that scale, I'll answer because I liked it.
Nothing more, and because I used the suspension gear, cars should have a
certain size that allowed them to run. This Pontiac I was telling you
about also had direction and the doors opened, a whole technical boast. We
were very successful with that car, afterwards, using it as a model we
also made an American Nascar Stop Car, also very successful, we launched
almost 15,000 units to the market.
But later on with Martinez de Hoz in the Ministry of Economy things got
quite complicated. hence afterwards, in the mid 80s I never again made the
big diecast, we then launched the Mini Buby line, in a 1:64 scale.
Toy Museum: Which was the last big diecast model you made?
Buby: It was the '76 '77 Camaro at a 1:43 scale. That was also our last
model that had opening and closing doors and all that technical boasting I
was telling you before. Those were marvellous models, there was not one
other company that had something like that. Imagine this, that when
Martínez de Hoz encourage all importation, the Gillette company contacted
us to take over the Jet production they where having here, and for a while
we produced for that company.
Toy Museum: Where they exported?
Buby: No, no, they were for the national market only. But later on, the
invasion of foreign products was such that it wasn't convenient neither
for him, nor for me, nor for any other one to make them here. See, I'll
tell you that at that time people didn't care at all about quality, the
imported good had just to be imported for them to want it. I'll tell you
an anecdote just to make my point: When Martínez the Hoz laid down the
barrels for imported goods, we had just made an incredible battery train
with a license of a German company, Falher, an excellent train, imagine
how amazing it was that we manufactured some of the parts for the German
company. And so at that time Harrod's had bought quite some many of these
trains, and at their toy department we had set a table showing the items
very nicely and well done. So I went to Harrod's to see how people was
feeling about the item if they liked it, what they thought about it and
so. When I get to the stand, there was a lady admiring the train, when she
suddenly turns it upside down and with this terribly disappointing voice
she says "oh it's Argentinean" and put it back in the table, went on and
bought this low quality, very cheap Japanese train that underneath had the
inscription "MADE IN JAPAN", she acctually paid much more money for that
item and left the store really happy. People who thought like her where
the most, and quality had nothing to do in their equation as to buy or
don't buy an item. When I launched the models at the 1:64 scale with
automatic production, all Matchbox, Mayoret among others weren't better
items than ours taking in consideration quality of the items, the paint,
materials and presentation, but people didn't care about it, only recently
people and collectors are beginning to appreciate our items.
Toy Museum: Buby, thank you very much for visiting us and for this
Buby: Thank you for inviting me, Bye.
As to some closing remarks to the interview.......
The farewell seems to have within itself a future encounter, the mellow
conversation gives me a hint of many similar ones in some time, to keep on
talking about diecast cars and collectors items.
As I watch him walk away from my office, I look at the photographs and
detailed descriptions of his lifetime diecast production in the recently
released Buby Catalogue... 30 years of dedication to this passionate
Oh! what a wonderful feeling, how lucky I am to have had the opportunity
of meeting this awesome person who didn't hesitate to share his history
insides with me. And I find myself glowing of pride because of this
opportunity I was given as a collector, as a person.