Lutteral Comahue

Striking lines? You bet.

Striking lines? You bet.

Some of my favourite vehicles are multi-taskers. Designing a vehicle is difficult. Designing a successful vehicle is very difficult. Designing a vehicle to be successful at many different things is almost unheard of.

So to find an upmarket Argentinian muscle car with roots that touch, at different times, the words Baja, Nürburgring, Pininfarina, Renault…Kaiser…Jeep…

Hell, let's throw in Fangio and "plastic hatchback."

Somewhat analagous to the Lutteral Comahue is the Shelby GT 350. Based on the IKA-Renault Torino—a matter of Argentinian pride similar to that of the first Pony car—the Comahue was a heavily modified version of the Torino put together by Juan Carlos Lutteral. IKA stands for Industrias Kaiser Argentina, by the way.

The Argentine Torino has no relation to anything by Ford. It is, however, an AMC Ramber American with Pininfarina-honed lines and a number of local specializations to make it function better for South American drivers. 

Jalopnik has a great article on the IKA-Renault Torino's success at the 1969 Le Marathon de la Route—otherwise known as the Nürburgring 84 Hours—where one of the Torinos finished fourth…with Juan Manuel Fangio looking on from the pit wall. Lutteral was also in attendance.

Winning a road race is one thing, but let's not forget that, also in 1969, the AMC Rambler American sedan won the Baja 500 outright. Whose racing team prepared the cars? Grand Prix's James Garner. (He finished fourth in a four-wheel-drive version.)

lutteral-comahue-rear

Back to Argentina. Dealership owner and racing privateer Juan Carlos Lutteral saw the need for a more exclusive, better-performing Torino and with a line of racing-honed performance modifications established, started to produce versions of the Torino not unlike what someone like Carroll Shelby did with the Mustang. The first Lutteral-customized cars appeared in 1968.

Instead of chasing trophies, however, Lutteral focused on his clients. Different gear ratios, colours, interior trims (including cowhide rugs, apparently), engine options, etc. were selected for the task at hand. In addition to the quite striking resin split-window hatchback, the development that gets me most excited is the optional Aerolastique air suspension, which could raise or lower the vehicle up to 5 centimetres in addition to settings for ride quality.

lutteral-comahue-specs

Simply put, the Comahue was built as a grand tourer for Argentina. With up to 220-horsepower from its hot rodded Jeep Tornado overhead cam straight-six engine, it could hit speeds of more than 200 km/h. 

Sadly, the inevitable march of globalization and little help from the government for export meant that the final version—"Comahue 1980" in 1977—would be the last. Full digital gauges, only a year behind the Aston Martin Lagonda, D-shaped steering wheel, and even more aerodynamically-shaped plastic proved that Juan Carlos Lutteral knew what the future of cars would be like. 

That said, there is one Argentinian who grew up during this era and may have been influenced by the Lutteral Comahue: Horacio Pagani.

…but that's a story for another day.


If you can add to the Lutteral story, please get in touch. Google Translate can only take me so far.


Sources / Recommended Reading