Muky, made in Argentina

  By Bob Frassinetti.

A bit of information on Muky, a diecast made in Argentina.

We wanted to know about the history and evolution of one of Argentina’s most important diecast companies: Muky. Our aim was to find some kind of information that could help us to rebuild a piece of our culture, so important to all of us, Argentineans, collectors and historians.

At first we began talking about this with fellow collectors, trying to set a direct contact line with those who have managed this company until its closure in the early 90s. So we began to draw a trace map from scratches: info on the packages of these diecast cars, comments we’ve received through numerous ways such as our website or fellow collectors. However, the task appeared gigantic. The puzzle we were trying to complete missed central and important pieces; we lacked precious information and there were no governmental records on the subject. All these made the project a distant dream. Countless stories came up, though blurry and with no certain information. But after many months of hard work we finally got hold of a number… and when the phone rang Mrs. Dell Arciprete, wife of Muky’s last owner, answered. Unfortunately he had passed away a few years ago. However she was willing to know about our quest to contact them and surprised with our project. During our conversation she told us that Bruno, her son, was the one who could help us the most, since he’d always been very interested in this family business and knew all the details. She also told us about their current situation, working in a whole different area –fertilizing- they had managed to keep all the machines from the Muky company in working conditions, although they didn’t produce any diecast at the moment. We were astonished with their care towards the company and it’s legacy.

That distant dream became a reality, as we began to put our new pieces into the picture.

Muky diecast’s history begins during the 1970s. According to our sources, it was then when two brothers that were living in California at that time, had bought from Hot Wheels several molds that were obsolete to the company and had latter brought them to Argentina and began to produce this tiny marvels called Muky. The De Conti brothers had rented a warehouse in Gualeguay, Entre Ríos –a small a town located on the shore of the Uruguay River, 5 hours away from Buenos Aires- to set the company. They produced in Argentina till the late seventies, when due to a very complicated economical situation our country was going through, they moved production to Brazil.
A few years after, Mr. Dell Aricprete bought Muky. Unfortunately there is very little information on this first period of Muky, since until now, we were unable to contact either of the De Conti brothers. Its important no know that inspite of continuing Muky, this was not the same firm. The De Conti brothers owned Super veloz, and Mr. Dell Arciprete’s Muky was Induguay. This can be seen on the lower part of the cars as well as on the packaging.

During our interview with Bruno Dell Arciprete, we asked him about his family’s history with Muky:

Toy Museum: Oh, so you bought the brand when it was already working… by any chance would you know were does that name come from, or if it has any particular significance?

Bruno: Actually I have no idea where it come from. What I know for sure is that we kept that previous trade mark which was Muky. I can remember that after a while we found out that there was a Brazilian cocoa brand named Muky, as well as many other Argentinean companies that had to change to other brand names when they went to register their brand, at least that was what our attorneys told us. But I really have no idea about the origin of the name. And he added, Libio Conti, he was the one who invented the brand and created the company, and worked for many years in Gualeguay renting the building were the factory was organized. I can’t remember precisely whether if it was in 1984 or 85 when my father bought the company. We kept on producing in there until we were able to purchase a place of our own. As to the molds we kept on using the ones they had made before and included some new ones too.

“So how does the story begin for you and Muky?” we asked. Bruno said “My father owned a fumigation company many years before he even began to think about diecast toy cars. During the seventies he begins to fly planes and afterwards he opens his own business of fumigation in Entre Ríos, more specifically in Gualeguay. After many years of hard work, he manages to save enough money and gets hold of a diecast factory already working, which is MUKY. This company was previously owned by someone named Conti. It is then when our story with Muky begins. For this wasn’t our main income provider, it was very clear to us that this was something we loved to do.
As soon as we began production they became a boom nation wide. We had a distribution network in order to get to far away regions. As we expand and the market responds increasing the demand of our products we began to improve the business.
So we worked in both fields, diecast and fumigation. Somewhat a wired combination. And although we’re not currently producing diecast cars, we still are in the fumigation business, that has nicely grown in the last few years.I really don’t know what went through his mind, though it wasn’t the production at first. Then it was just the factory he bought…

TM: Were Muky cars always this size?

B: Yes, we tried to keep on the original design –not adding or taking away any detailing-, we also wanted to keep on working with the same prime material. What we did improve was the suspension system. At first they were fully made in Zamac, but we altered the lower part of the chassis, and made it in plastic. This, combined it with the Zamac model, resulted in a much better running for the car. Plus, this way the item was a more resistant toy for kids to play with. This alteration began originally in suggestion made by many of our clients; since we thought it was a very good one we put it into practice. In terms of production process this resulted in a quite interesting twist, since we had use two combined production lines, it resulted in an increase of the produced toys.
TM: There’s also a window colour variation you included, isn’t it?
B: Yes, some were made in amber and some others in transparent blue.
TM: Which were the models you designed?
B: Well, there were some trucks we included, two of them Cargo Trucks, one YPF (Petrol) and an other one that carried water and pipes. We also made a trailer house, it was very nice.
Each and every model we made had it’s inspiration in everyday life, we wanted to reflect that…
TM: There were also race tracks…
B: Oh, yes, we had a basic model, and there were accessories such as loops, and turns…We also had albums. Each model had a dotted line on the upper part of the box with could be cut off and could be stuck in the album. These albums were for free, we handed them during the summer in some of the most important Argentinean beach resorts or in some shops, and we had some very interesting prizes for completed albums.
TM: We found out that one of the prizes was free flights in the company’s plane… is it true?
B: Well, yes indeed, as well as scholarships for high school or College.
So, regarding the Muky models, do you remember how many were made?
B: We had numbered models from 8 to 40. We made around seven new ones such as a Ford 40 a 1930s coupe, a beetle and a Ferrari…
TM: Pardon my asking, but what about the from 1 to 8 models…
B: I really don’t know… we could say it’s an other of Muky’s enigmas.
TM: Ok then, we’ll have to do some research on that in the future…
B: I believe so… Well, as I was telling you, we made around seven new models, it was quite a job since each matrix was very expensive and we needed trained personnel who’s main activity all year long was to imagine, design and perfection that model. That’s why during all the seven years the company went well we managed to launch a model per year.

TM: When looking at Muky models I saw them very similar to the American Hot Wheels… is there any relation among them, inspiration perhaps?
B: To my knowledge there isn’t, at least for the ones we made. Regarding the previous ones, I personally doubt it. You know there’s quite a jealous care for these kind of thing, nationally and internationally, there are patents and legal limitations for imitations. It comes to my mind a situation that happened with one Buby model, if I recall correctly it was a Ford Sierra model that someone tried to copy, but he couldn’t go through with it because of this I’m telling you.
TM: Once again may be we should ask Mr. Conti about it…
B: Yes, most definitely. But the thing is that since all of us made our diecast models inspired on real life cars the key to success was not the very model but the way it was done. Differences appear more clearly between matrix makers who had access to original blueprints and those who didn’t.
TM: Blueprints, that’s the secret weapon!
B: Yes, that’s right, and it wasn’t very common to access them… so there you had to be talented and a good craftsman.
TM: Did you work with specialist matrix makers, or where they self taught artisans?
B: We had two matrix makers working in Buenos Aires that my father knew, and in Gualeguay we had an automatic plant that didn’t require special qualifications, were we had 45 people employed. There were also around 100 families that work in their houses painting some pieces, placing stickups, adding finishing touches to each car by hand. Plus all our people working in distribution.
TM: Speaking of distribution, did you sell your production to other countries?
B: We sold for some time to Uruguay as well as to Spain through the Camara Argentina del Juguete. But we also sent many individual packages to collectors all around the world.
TM: How did they contact you?
B: Letters mainly, they wrote us asking specifically for the model they needed, and we gladly sent them the item… After we received thank you notes… it was really nice. Although this was just a really small part of our production. Almost 99% of what we produced was sold in Argentina.

TM: The other day when I talked to your mom on the phone she told me about the way you’ve taken care of all the diecast machines, that they are still working ready to restart production, but that for the moment you’re not thinking seriously about doing so given the economic circumstances our country is going through…
B: Well, that is correct. I’d love to carry on with my dad’s diecast company… And although the technology we have available at Muky is quite obsolete regarding the new diecast companies, I believe that it would only be a matter of getting started. The thing is, as my mom pointed out correctly, that there are no conditions for us to restart production, gather a group of experts and hard working men, and shortly after that big effort be obliged to close down because of an unexpected turn in our economic laws or whatever other case of instability in our country… Nonetheless we’ll keep on taking care of all our equipment awaiting a better timing…

Judging by our conversation with Muky’s current owner –because the Dell Arciprete family has taken care not only of the machinery but of all legal matters “awaiting a better timing"-- Muky’s history is not over, it has just stopped for a while to catch its breath and start again.


Be sure to visit the Buenos Aires Toy Museum website


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