Buby, made in Argentina

  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 Aires, Argentina.

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 production history...

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. Buby.

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 numbered series.

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 reproduce?

Buby: 69 Camaro, 56 Packard Caribbean, etc...

Toy Museum: Can you tell me how many numbers of each model did you made back then?

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 1931.

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 say..

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 of afraid.
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 cars.

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 someone else.

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 wonderful conversation.

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 business.

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.


Be sure to visit the Buenos Aires Toy Museum website


Read Bob's article on Argentina's Muky Diecast here: Muky Diecast