part 2 (please click on 'Exacto & Meccano 1' to read part 1)
by Juan Carlos Rovetta
Exacto, a love story with Meccano
Some, tending to be brief, say Argentina is a country founded by Spaniards, and inhabited by Italians that speak English. It is a fact that the cultural and economical bonds with Europe have been much stronger than those with USA through the XIX and XX centuries.
Perhaps here lies an origin for the widespread taste for Meccano in this country, to the point that local production was feasible and several attempts took place as early as 1948. Exacto was the first serious and high quality effort to succeed.
Almost half a century ago two young men and lifelong friends, Alberto Richini and Carlos Rovetta, borrowed some money and were able to start a business of their own. They had a taste for mechanical engineering and had acquired experience in metallurgical processes. Import restrictions and an active industrial policy then were an opportunity that they would not lose, so they set up a small workshop and started the production of car parts for the car building industry, and of Meccano spares. Production and sale of Meccano spares started as early as 1955. Business grew as the market demanded for more and more. By 1966 Alberto Richini controlled 100% of the company and had moved the activities to a location of his own.
Here I would like to quote William Irwin, who presented a faultless brief story of Exacto in July 1999 to a Spanner asking about the history of Meccano and wanting to know where did 'the Exacto Argentine plant fit in' and whether it was 'always a bootleg operation'. William replied: Exacto SRL was formed … in November 1959 to overcome import restrictions of Meccano into Argentina at that time. Four outfits and about 100 different parts were manufactured. In 1966 an agreement was signed with Meccano Ltd. of Liverpool, and in 1967 they commenced manufacturing under the name ’ Meccano - Industria Argentina’. It was therefore not a bootleg operation, but an officially recognised Meccano factory. They eventually marketed all sets up to no. 8. All parts were stamped ' Meccano Argentina'. This continued into the 1980s, as the licence was never revoked. However when Marc Rebibo took over the Meccano trade mark in 1985, Meccano S.A., who now owned the trade mark, revoked the license and then Exacto had to drop the Meccano name.
After that, operations have continued uninterrupted until the present day. Quoting William once again, 'The quality of the Argentinean parts was top class and exceeded that of both Binns Road and French manufacture. Alberto (Richini) was more attuned to the needs of the adult modeller than any other manufacturer and constantly strove to enhance the system by introducing useful parts such as six-holed helical gears 214b, long couplings, larger flat plates and others. In recent years, since he reverted to the Exacto name, Alberto concentrated mainly on parts manufacture for the enthusiast and expanding the system with innovative additions such as his large axle subsystem'.
Past and future
We feel very proud of our heritage. It is almost two years now since Alberto Richini passed away, but the founding spirit is alive and strong. 'The main purpose of my life — he wrote in CQ no. 3 — is to follow Frank Hornby’s trail, with a profit, if I can, at a loss, if I must.'
Now we seem to be the only survivors among Binns Road’s licensees. We do feel uneasy when we are mistaken for manufacturers of reproductions or imitations. Hey, we are the real stuff! We strive to keep up a tradition, and are particularly keen on improving and evolving.
We have a vision to pursue: expanding the system and recovering some of the favour our hobby has been deprived of among the younger generations. To accomplish this we are working on new sets, starting with a crane set similar to the one of the 70s. Progressive sets will follow. New parts and elements for the system will be introduced, and our policy will be to validate such designs with the worldwide Meccano community.
To read more on Exacto and Meccano you can visit the following links:
The world of Meccano presented at the International Society of Meccanomen at http://www.internationalmeccanomen.org.uk/
Historical notes on Exacto and Meccano in Alan Asplen's website at ttp://www.btinternet.com/~a.esplen/mecc.htm
Historical notes on Exacto and Meccano in Wes Dalefield's website at http://www.dalefield.com/mwes/history/index.html
Historical notes on Exacto and Meccano in the Girders & Gears website at http://www.girdersandgears.com/exacto.html
A downloadable collection of 3-D Exacto and Meccano parts drawn by Anthony Els at http://www.mecworld.co.za/ant/
General information on Exacto and Meccano presented by CMAMAS (Canadian Modeling Association for Meccano and Allied Systems) at http://www.memeshadow.net/cmamas/meccano/cmnsf.html
Historical notes and general encyclopaedic information on Meccano in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meccano (English) and at http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meccano (French)