Theme: Simca – 1965 1000 GLS Short Road Test

This may very well be a transcription of a short review of the Simca 1000 GLS by Archie Vicar, the renowned motoring scribe.

1965 SImca 1000: source
1965 Simca 1000: source

This 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!

1996 Simca 1000 interior: source
1996 Simca 1000 interior: source

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 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.

1965 Simca 1000: source

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.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

13 thoughts on “Theme: Simca – 1965 1000 GLS Short Road Test”

  1. Classic Vicar, from his absolute heyday. It’s just a pity that there is no accompanying camera work from Douglas Land-Windermere to catch the local and period flavour.

    Is there any truth in the rumour that Douglas Land-Windermere was unwilling to accompany Vicar on this particular excursion owing to the birching he received following a “misunderstanding” in the public toilet in Onchan, on a previous visit to The Island?

    1. That story isn’t true. It’s odd how these sorts of rumours still keep cropping up. Both Vicar and L-W were married (not to each other). Vicar’s wife outlived him by 20-something years. She was a chemical engineer with ICI. I think she passed away in 2002. L-W outlived his spouse. She was a house-painter but descended from Lincolnshire aristocracy. She was independently wealthy and painted houses as a hobby. The paint affected her.

  2. This must be the first time I have ever read a report on a rear engine car having understeer. I initially thought it a misprint or misuse of the term after much alcohol consumption which seemed to be the norm on these tours ( could explain the ashes on the floor) but understeer appeared near the finallee yet again!
    How times have changed, try this today get breath tested and become an armchair critic, ahem as I reach for another G&T.

    1. Why do you think that was? The weight was on the rear wheels, L-W was asleep in the back. Maybe there was not enough weight over the front wheels?

    2. Could the (front) boot possibly have been laden with Manx delicacies. Or was Land-Windermere in the boot in an attempt to smuggle him out? Richard as usual shows a touching loyalty to the reputation of AV and his acolytes.

  3. The characteristic thing with these figures is that behind it all they were quite ordinary. JG Ballard lived in a semi in south London. Vicar’s energied seemed to be played out in cars. With the work done he had a quiet time domestically. In contrast, the Rolling Stones are hell-raisers offstage and very boring on stage.

  4. Rather like David Bowie’s Berlin period. While his occasional housemates Reed and Pop attempted to redefine the depths of depravity, Bowie sublimated his demons with an obsessive interest in automotive engineering. He started off innocently enough, enrolling for an evening class in basic car maintenance at the Kreuzberg Berufschule. He was almost expelled for monopolising every session with high minded arguments about the importance of Brake Mean Effective Pressure as a measure of engine performance, and his ideas on a lean burn combustion chamber, which turned out to be well ahead of their time.

    Thankfully the tolerant Germans not only put up with his precocity, but nurtured his enthusiasm.

    He seems to have regarded the nights at Dschungel and SO36 as a tedious duty to be endured, moderating his consumption when immoderation was all around, in order to turn up fresh-minded at the library of the local Technische Hochschule to jot down page upon page of bores, strokes, cylinder centres, deck heights, valve overlaps and many even more arcane figures into an expensive marbled ledger.

    His knowledge was encyclopedic, and although it’s rarely mentioned, the entire automotive industry sought his knowledge even until his final weeks. Indeed, is said that a thirty page list of questions from a high ranking engineer at Daimler on the viability of variable compression diesels may have precipitated Bowie’s untimely death.

    1. The beauty of Bowie’s engineering focus was how he boiled it down to a few well-judged lyrics. The Passenger is a comment on NVH. Always Crashing The Same Car is a wry comment on Ackerman steering. Even late work like She’s Gonna Drive A Big Car sums up the malaise in US design circa 2000. The little known out-take “It’s Tough” (Google it) refers to angels in limousines – a cryptic reference to on-board driver electronic assistance, no doubt.

    2. It’s been suggested that during the ‘Low’ sessions at the Chateau d’Herouville Studios outside Paris, co-producer, non-musician (and non-driver) Brian Eno became somewhat irritated by Bowie and Tony Visconti’s regular digressions where they would go into a huddle earnestly discussing the merits of various expansion ratios, cam lobe and combustion chamber layouts. Chroniclers suggest that when Visconti plugged his Eventide Harmoniser into a rental Peugeot 304 parked outside the results were startling. Eno changed his tune (in more ways than one) after that.

  5. There’s a great driving image in the Absolute Beginners out-takes. Google “David Bowie impersonates” and you’ll hear him Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Anthony Newley (who sounds like Bowie and or Jagger).

  6. No prizes for guessing why Bowie favoured the Hansa Tonstudio, although he must have been disappointed at the blank stares whenever he dropped the word “Raumnocke” into casual conversation.

    1. He wasn’t deterred so easily Robertas. I believe he was only talked out of calling his 1996 single ‘Guten Tag, Raumnocke’ at the last moment, thereby averting ridicule.

      In fact, lyrically the original lyric track was quite prescient;

      “Do you like petrol or diesel?
      It’s confusing these days
      But N0x dust will cover you, cover you
      These particulates are killing me…”

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