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Tehuelche was an Argentine motorcycle that was presented to the public in March of 1957, and produced only until the middle of 1964. The “Tehuelche” was a source of great pride to Argentina, although it disappeared from the memory of generations of Argentines. Other attempts were made, mostly unsuccessful, to produce an Argentine motorcycle; however, the Tehuelche was the only motorcycle that was mass produced continuously in its seven years of manufacturing in Argentina. This motorcycle had its own design and did not copy any other. It competed at a local level with other “Argentine” motorcycles, which were produced under license from European models and companies: the Puma Primera and Puma Segunda (from Guericke), the Zanella (from Ceccato), and the Gilera, among others. The Tehuelche distinguished itself not only by the characteristic sound of the gear train (SOHC engine), but also for its excellent performance in its racing career.
The creators, designers and manufacturers of the Tehuelche were Juan Rafaldi and Roberto Fattorini who arrived in Argentina from Italy in 1949, just after the Second World War. They came with a friend and a colleague, Carlo Preda, specifically for this project. Unlike many other immigrants from Italy, these men brought money and machinery with them to invest in the budding “Made in Argentina” industry, especially in the area of motorcycle manufacturing. They were encouraged by friends who were already established in the new country. During 1955, and after having worked on the design of a motorcycle that could be mass produced, Rafaldi created a four-stroke engine of 50cc displacement (single overhead camshaft- SOHC). This design was a little unusual for its time, because until then, it had been used primarily in racing motorcycles; further, it had no oil pump and it was made totally out of aluminum. Soon this engine was ready to participate in regional races, and showed its prowess with the impressive results that it obtained. With a few partners, Rafaldi and Fattorini started the task of mass producing a motorcycle with this brand new engine. For this purpose, they raised the engine capacity to 75cc, with the purpose of entering a new market category. This first partnership barely lasted two years during which just over 1,200 motorcycles were produced. A new partnership, with the addition of other members, continued the production until the middle of 1964 by manufacturing approximately 3,500 motorcycles, bringing the total number of Tehuelches ever produced to almost 5,000. Of this total, no more than a hundred survived and about 20 are still functioning, making it a highly collectible motorcycle.
In the almost seven years of manufacture, some of the colors and the decals of the Tehuelche were changed. In 1962, two models were produced: the Sport and the Super Sport, the latter bearing a speedometer. In addition, since the second partnership had the rights to import the Legnano motorcycle from Italy, a model of the Tehuelche was introduced that was called “Legnano”, with the motive of increasing sales. This model appeared on the market with a different gas tank and was painted red and white. Finally, in 1964, toward the end of production, the camshaft that had been driven by gears was changed to chain drive.
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