The now defunct Simca name may not be familiar to younger car enthusiasts, however it was one of France’s most successful small car companies in the mid 1900s until its slow slide into obscurity began with a Chrysler takeover eventually ending with a Peugeot buyout.
We’ll focus on the company’s happier times, when in 1961 Simca’s president Henry Pigozzi unveiled the advanced Simca 1000. The links to Fiat were strong, thanks to Pigozzi’s ties to the Agnelli family, the Simca 1000 was based on the designs for Fiats own upcoming small car the 850.
The Simca 1000 featured a rear engined, rear drive layout with a 944cc inline four providing motive power. Thanks to Pigozzi’s well-planned launch, the little car sold well from the outset, gaining a number of awards and never dipping below 100,000 units per year, until the 13th year of its long 17-year production run. A number of running gear upgrades, performance oriented Rallye versions and tax avoiding specials ensured the Simca’s popularity stayed constant.
The Simca 1000 is a great little example of French engineering, not quite as quirky as its Peugeot and Citroen counterparts, it instead focused on the more sporty Renault opposition and the later editions remain desirable little classics.
Which one to buy?
Thanks to a long production run and continual development, there were a myriad of variants produced over the years. The basic configuration of four door saloon body shell combined with an engine in the rear and rear wheel drive remained constant throughout however specifications and engine sizes and outputs varied greatly. There were also some rare 1000 Bertone Coupes built with the 944cc engine and early versions were considered pretty but expensive especially for the limited amount of performance on offer.
The most significant changes took place in 1967 with the first major face-lift and then in 1970 when the first of the desirable Rallye versions were introduced. 1973 saw the introduction of the 82bhp Rallye 2 - the first truly sporting Simca. A variety of conversions and factory developments spawned numerous performance add-ons.
The Group 2 upgrade kit for the Rallye 2 and the new Rallye 3 introduced in 1977 produced the most desirable of these variants and with production ending the following year these models also benefited from the culmination of nearly 2 decades of development.
Performance and specs
1963 Simca 1000
Engine 944cc 8 valve OHV I4
Power 34bhp @ 5400rpm
Top speed 72mph
Fuel consumption 30mpg est.
Gearbox Four-speed manual/Three-speed semi-automatic
Dimensions and weight
Curb weight 730-796kg
• Parts can be sourced for most models however it is highly recommended to join a car club and get access to specialists and the experiences of other Simca owners.
• Rust is an ever present issue on all Simcas and a thorough check should be carried out to ensure that the body work is in good condition. Body panels can be sourced but they are not readily available so it is best to find a car that requires minimal work in this area.
• Engines are robust and tend not to give too much trouble as long as they have been regularly maintained. They were very easily modifiable and many will have had modifications carried out to extract some more power, especially the entry level models.
• Rare automatic models have a Ferodo designed three-speed gearbox, parts for these can be scarce so make sure that they are in good condition if you are considering a model so equipped.
• Early cars were criticised for poor directional stability and imprecise steering, these issues were addressed in newer models however the rear end can get wayward in fast cornering. If the car feels loose or noisy over bumps then the suspension bushes and rubbers may need replacement.
1961: Simca 1000 launched with 944cc, 34bhp inline 4 engine
1962: Power increased by 5bhp, larger fuel tank standardised. Bertone styled Coupe shown at Geneva Auto Show
1963: Simca 900 introduced as entry level model and Simca 1000GL introduced as top-of-the range model
1966: Simca 1000l replaces 900 as entry level model, new LS model introduced, new dashboard introduced and semi-automatic option introduced
1967: Chrysler badging starts to get phased in. 1200 Coupe replaces 1000 Coupe now with 80bhp
1968: Simca 4CV introduced called Simca’4 in France. Engine is 777cc 31bhp unit
1969: Range facelifted with major visual change being rectangular headlamps. Rack and pinion steering introduced, 944cc engine replaced with uprated unit and Simca 1100 introduced with 1118cc engine
1970: Simca 4CV power upped to 33bhp and 1000 Rallye introduced
1972: 1000 Rallye 1 introduced with 1294cc engine
1973: Rally 2 introduced with 82bhp
1975: Dashboard upgraded across the range
1976: 1000SR 1294cc replaces 1000 Special and 1000SR 1118cc replaces 1000GLS
1977: Final face-lift for range, larger headlamps, redesigned bonnet and new model naming. Coupe SRT 77 upgrade kit offered for Rallye 2 producing 110bhp. Rallye 3 introduced with 103bhp engine
1978: Final cars built with production ending in May.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.simcatalbotclub.org/ukclub.htm - Enthusiasts club with links to spares and info
• www.simcatalbotclub.proboards.com - Simca Forum
Summary and prices
The desirable and rare Coupes can be found for over £10,000 if in excellent condition while the more common sedans range between £3500 and £6000. Pricing is highly influenced by condition and model desirability with the sporty Rallyes being closer to Coupe money. The only versions to really avoid are the early smaller engined cars and the 4CV with its 0.7-litre power plant.
To get the best Simca experience, look for one of the later, larger engined cars as the additional power makes them more enjoyable to drive, this also goes for the Coupes which perform better in the post 1967 updated 1.2-litre form. The rare Rallye models add some rorty small car performance into the mix and make for a great classic car addition to any garage.
Words: John Tallodi