For the first time, the month’s theme tackles a single manufacturer. An erstwhile giant of the French industry, often overlooked and even more often underestimated, yet for a time bigger than either Citroën or Peugeot.
From a multitude in the early days of motoring, through a reasonable glut after the end of the Second World War, culled by the possibly well-intended but drastically prescriptive Pons Plan, the French motor industry has now whittled itself away to three names, Renault, Peugeot and Citroën. Or you might say effectively just two. Except there was also Simca, and Simca doesn’t fit well into an easy history of the French industry as an essentially parochial one, blithely plowing its own furrow, haughtily ignoring the products of foreign makers.
Simca’s history is complex and interesting, enough so for us to commit this month’s theme to it. It started as an interloper, a maker of Italian Fiats under another name. It hoovered up the factory of another foreign owned company, Ford SAF, then developed its own designs, yet still had input from its Italian parent. But then ownership passed to Chrysler, an interesting conjunction bearing in mind who owns Chrysler now. Under Chrysler’s ownership they produced one surprisingly significant car that spawned other vehicles, some of which were produced at the old Rootes factory at Ryton. Then ownership passed to PSA who revived the old Talbot brand with which to rename both British Chryslers and French Simcas. This was another conjunction, since the French Talbot label had been owned by Simca since 1959 and the British Talbot label had been bought by Rootes in the late 30s.
Confusing? I haven’t even discussed the South American venture or the connection with Matra yet, nor have I touched on Henri Théodore Pigozzi, a rather charismatic figure in the De Tomaso mould, but who seems to have faded from our collective memory. But I won’t give away much more, leaving it to my writers to entertain you through into the Spring.