|ABC and developments from Portugal|
|In our look at the COLE-STEEL, it was mentioned that this was actually a relabeled variant of the ABC, produced in West Germany from 1955 until 1966. This did not, however, mark the end of production for ABC typewriters as they were then made in Portugal.
Research has led us several times to machines of various ilk which were manufactured in Portugal. It seems as if all of these were made in one place, namely the city of MemMartins, which is near Lisbon. The company concerned was named MESSA and may up until now have been best known for producing the SIEMAG standard machine under license. It now appears as if this company did a good business in contract production of machines for other companies.
One variety of portable made at this plant was the large desk model ROYAL portables, after the closure of the ROYAL plant specifically built to produce them! Models date to the mid 1970's and include the SABRE and CUSTOM III, and possibly others. A second variety for ROYAL was the SAFARI at roughly the same time, a common brown and tan plastic bodied machine. This SAFARI variant was, however, not a design indigenous to ROYAL but rather a mutated variant of the original ABC as we shall see in this brief photo essay.
|At left is the earliest and simplest variant of MESSA produced ABC. This machine is a SEARS 5297, which was a relabeling of the ABC 1001. It is a mechanical duplicate of the late ABC machines, but has two character keys deleted. The more expensive ABC 1501 had them. Note the change to blocky plastic body; you'd never know it was the same machine from the outside, but it is! A second change is the addition of a separate paper release lever; the ABC had paper and carriage release in a single, two-position lever.|
|At right is the next MESSA variant, and the fundamental break in design. This is a SEARS CHEVRON, Model 5298. It is equivalent to the ABC 2000. Not only has the look changed, and been encased in metal, but the entire type-bar mechanism has been replaced by a dowel plate design. This would have greatly simplified manufacture and helped reduce cost. Most other details remain the same, even the distinctive carriage lock from the original ABC.|
|Here we see the larger ABC 2000S. This machine has a metal top cover, and is much heavier and larger. The same type-bar mechanism is inside, raised up to give the appearance of a larger machine.
It should be noted that Koch's in Germany turned the rights for the ABC brand over to Messa Maquinas de Escrever in early 1967, at about the time the machines went into production there.
|At right, the familiar ROYAL SAFARI. The same machines were sold as the IMPERIAL SAFARI as this company was taken over by Litton Industries as well. It is largely the ABC 2000S converted to all plastic body construction. Rarely you'll find these in green instead of brown.|
|SEARS continued to sell the later variants of the ABC as the CHEVRON and the CAPRI, often seen with gaudy colors like light blue or salmon. These match the machine at left in details.. but this example isn't a SEARS, ROYAL or even ABC brand machine. In fact it is a BROTHER XL-1016 CAPRI. The BROTHER name and model number are on the top cover, with CAPRI on the paper table. It is a very intriguing find and continues to be researched due to the very many questions such a machine brings. Incidentally, it is housed in a case identical to that of the ROYAL SABRE, modified internally and with no label by its handle.|
|Here. we see the Chevron again. This is the fundamental break in the lineup. When production was sent to Portugal, the complicated (and expensive to manufacture) key lever mechanism design from the ABC was retained in full, although numerous other simplifications were made all over the machine. Still, this must have been too expensive to build, so the design shifted over to a dowel plate type, seen at right, which included a machined casting to hold the four key lever dowels. Although other parts of the design remained for a long time, we can consider this change the new breath of life that this design needed to become viable as a truly "modern" portable.|
|For those who might have been curious, here is one of the standard machines mentioned at the top of this page. This is the SIEMAG Standard machine, manufactured under license by Messa in Portugal, and normally seen with either the Siemag brand when sold in most of Europe, or else the "Sterling-Siemag" name when sold in England.
This one is neither brand; it is an ABC Model L8, which is naturally how you might expect the machine to be branded for sale locally -- or else, how it was branded after Siemag pulled out. Photo courtesy the Tilman Elster collection.