This may very well be a transcription of a short review of the Simca 1000 GLS by Archie Vicar, the renowned motoring scribe.
[The article first appeared in the Isle of Man Herald, October 4, 1966. Due to the poor quality of the images stock photos have been used.]
For those who admire Gallic motoring, there is nothing as French as a Simca. Now, there are some who view French cars as being unreliable but Simca’s 1000 has been on the market for five years and many of its demerits, problems and deleterious characteristics have been tackled with the vigour and vim of a rugby scrum-half.
For 1965 the 1000 has been revised and adds even more weight to the ever-changing Simca range. In rather inclement weather I tested the 1000 on the challenging roads between Douglas and Castletown via Ballig. In the GLS version of the 1000, a novel semi-automatic transmission complicates the simple task of changing gears. It works in the following fashion: an automatic clutch, a torque converter and gears selected by a central lever give various drive combinations for mountain, rural and city driving. It made a terrible din and since the roads of the Isle of Man are all rural, the majority of the drive combinations are superfluous, unnecessary or supernumerary (or all three).
It took some time to get out of Douglas owing to heavy traffic but I had a chance to review the interior which is spacious, Spartan and robust. The equipment includes, as part of the £680 price, a tricky heater-demister, a good windscreen washer and a useless headlamp flasher. There’s no doubt that the dashboard is purest French eccentricity, no matter how generously equipped it is. Somewhat distractingly, I kept thinking the ashtray was where the automatic gearchange lever was. The footwell gained a thick carpet of tobacco ash over the rubber mats. Easily removed!
The handling is somewhat unusual for a front-engined car but it is important to remember that the 1000 is a rear-engined car. The mass of the engine is placed well-back, allowing nice light steering and a strong tendency to understeer. How very French to do things so distinctly and uniquely differently.
We stopped at the Union Hotel in Castletown to recover from the first leg of the tour. Not a bad place but the restaurant was closed so we had to tour about to find a suitable hostelry. On our return to the Union after a rather unexpectedly good meal and the very best of the local ales, I did notice that the car’s balance seemed worse than during the day. At various points – corners, mostly – the Simca didn’t seem to react as one would expect.
For the second leg of the test, I had a chance to try the manual version; we motored at a good clip to Peel and stayed at the Waldick Hotel. Over the course of the day’s drive (which included some short stops at some of the local pubs) it became ever clearer that 52 bhp is almost exactly enough power for a car of this type. It’s a little more than a Singer Chamois, which has only two doors but a bit less than the Volkswagen 1600 which is an estate. The Waldick Hotel has a rather grey view of the Irish sea and a Manx breakfast is very like an Irish one. Good for helping one recover from the stronger local brews.
On the third part of the trip, another semi-automatic test car arrived – blue over red. We had to wait until 2.pm for it to arrive too. I decided to emulate a little of the racing spirit that is celebrated around the area (as I do for all my notices for this paper). We headed to Ballure at an average cruising speed of 70 mph and I recorded a fuel consumption rate of 35 miles per gallon. The seats had that standard French softness, with an underlying softness masked by an overlying pliability and readiness to compress. The guest house could have been much better than it was. I might have been tempted to put my bad back down to the Simca’s strange driving position – all legs and arms – but I blame the bed in the corner room, over the boiler, which managed to wrench my poor bones something terrible. A few doubles were needed to help me off to sleep, such was the discomfort.
Day four – a manual basic model this time – took us from Ballure to Ballig where we stopped for the night. We only started driving at 5.00 pm, note. As there was a problem with the hotel booking I (but not the photographer) had to drive back to Douglas for accommodation. The Claremont offered the best menu and the Atlantic cod supreme must be the best on the Isle. By now I could reflect more on the 1000 GLS and its show-room cousins. It’s a very tricky market with competition from the Simca 1300 a little up the price scale. The Renault 4 L is nearly as spacious, equally French, and a lot cheaper. An NSU 110 is another option and it has 53 bhp to offer though only two doors and it is German.
I’d say that perhaps Simca might consider replacing this car sooner rather than later and, if possible, take a leaf out of their new owner’s book (Chrysler) and see if front-engined V8s might be more appropriate in these increasingly competitive times.
If you do choose a Simca 1000 – it’s a lovely little motor despite the understeer – I’d say it would be best to opt for the normal four-speed syncromesh ‘box and save your money.