By Rick Carey, Auction Editor | Photos by author and Rhonda Kiblinger
Wind back the clock on your DeLorean to 1930 or so, eighty-plus years ago.
Your [great] grandparents might still have been dancing the Charleston.
It was the time of Machine Age design. Craftsmanship, dedication, style, design and ingenuity were its hallmarks.
It persists today at Pur Sang in Paraná, Entre Rios, Argentina. And it is not only in the meticulously crafted automobiles that are mirror images of Bugattis and 8C Alfa Romeos from the Twenties and Thirties, but also in the way they do it: without fuss or fanfare, without conceit and with a profound excitement and enjoyment in their products.
They love cars, and it shows in what Pur Sang Argentina creates as well as in their intense pride in themselves and their appreciation for driving them.
What happens here is amazing, a word that crossed my lips many times in five remarkable days in late May.
They just get down to the job at hand and translate concepts into physical entities, much of it by hand. It seems to be part of the Argentine character. Forced to be self-sufficient by a dysfunctional economy and import restrictions that make acquiring even the simplest components from outside the country almost impossible, what they can’t buy they make, in an astounding profusion.
At Pur Sang they make almost everything, and do it with beaming Latin pride in their skills, accomplishments and the intricate gizmos that they create from raw metal and ideas.
Pur Sang’s diversity means this is a long story of individual operations, best presented in separate treatments of significant functions, but a little introduction is appropriate.
Paraná, capital of Entre Rios state, is a little over an hour’s flight from Buenos Aires, about 375km as the crow flies but another hundred km, a six hour drive, on mediocre roads. Built on the eastern shore of the Paraná River, at almost 4,900km the second longest river in South America, Paraná sits in a rich, agricultural region noted for its prolific wing shooting.
Pur Sang’s factory buildings are set around the Villa Lola, the former state president’s residence, on the outskirts of the city. To say it is ‘old school’ hardly does justice to the layout. The villa in the center is on an expansive lawn, but outside the front door to the right is the foundry. To the left across the lawn is the Pavilion, a re-creation of Bugatti’s showroom. A double-decker bus is nestled up close to the enclave’s surrounding wall, waiting for attention.
The action is situated in the rear in a series of workshops enclosing administration, design, assembly, special projects, engine assembly, CAD/CAM, paint, coachwork and the machine shop. They are where the magic happens, and it is so much more than Type 35s and 8C Monzas.
Because Pur Sang is also a group of enthusiastic schemers with endless ideas including building aircraft engined specials in the style of the post-WWI era. What goes on at Pur Sang is (that word again) amazing.
In the end, though, the process is less significant than the people, who are – and realize they are – privileged to work in an environment that creates marvelous objects. Yes, it’s a job, and at 5 o’clock they head out to their families (except those who stay on to review progress and foment audacious new projects) but the pride and satisfaction they take from what they do, and in doing it well, is tangible throughout Pur Sang, from Leonidas ‘Jorge’ Anadon, Pur Sang’s padron, to the second generation assembling cars and gearboxes with their fathers.
It is – that word again – amazing, a privilege to observe and a peek into the artisanal creativity of former days. Walking through the shops, talking with the craftsmen (even with them speaking Spanish, a language which I do not claim in even small part) and driving their automobiles, the environment is fantastic.
Many articles will follow on Sports Car Digest, augmented by videos by Rhonda Kiblinger including some driving videos on cobblestone streets where heroes once raced in Paraná and later on track outside Buenos Aires.
Pur Sang was an experience that fully deserves the description ‘unique’. So, too, are the automobiles they create.
[An aside, and an apology: This report has taken a long time to be uploaded to Sports Car Digest.
After returning from Pur Sang, though, I barely repacked my bags before heading to the Leake Tulsa auction, then spent a few days poring through their files of cars that Jim Leake had bought and sold from the Sixties (a treasure-trove of original information that promises to unlock many mysteries.) From Tulsa it was straight to Seattle for Mecum’s first auction there.
The bottom line, however, is that a week in Argentina with Pur Sang was, simply, magic.]