This appears to be a transcript of a review of the 1966 Simca 1000 LS by the well-known motoring author and journalist, Archie Vicar.
[The item appeared in the morning edition of the Minehead Bugle on July 9, 1966. Due to the poor quality of the original images stock photos have been used. Original photos by Ernest Pallace.]
In these increasingly competitive times, it pays for a manufacturer to stay ahead of the game, far ahead. Several marques have established themselves at the forefront of engineering with their recent deployment of rear-engined technology. Of course there is the long-established Volkswagen Beetle and the not dissimilar Porsche 911, both with handling that will challenge and with noisiness that will annoy because both use dry cooling to lower the engine’s temperature when in operation. Can it be done better? Simca show how!
In choosing to place the engine behind the rear passengers, Simca have drawn substantial benefits appropriate to the ever-growing class of “super mini” cars. Since these vehicles seldom carry more than two people, it is easy to arrange the engine and other elements quite effectively within a short overall length and also, it must be said, to install the entire engine and axle assembly during the car building process which takes place at Simca’s ultra modern manufactory in France. Renault’s atrocious Dauphine hints at the possibilities of a rear-engined car but it must soon be destined for replacement owing to its cramped accommodation and wayward handling (as I found out to my own cost in the Cognac region last spring).
The Simca 1000 has been on sale since 1961, joined in the market by the useful and well-assembled Hillman Imp in 1963. The robust and attractive Skoda 1000 also went on public sale in 1963 so there is considerable competition in the very small car sector. Can Simca retain its lengthy lead over the upstarts?
The French Simca costs £640, a little more than the robust Imp (£549 for the De Luxe). The Skoda occupies a middle position, at £590, though the dealers are few and far between. Price aside, the 1000 has many good qualities, especially trumping the Renault and its peers in every single regard.
The reason one can make this assertion is because the Simca 1000 offers a lot of car for the money demanded: attractive paints, semi-automatic transmission which eases town driving though it costs £128 extra, fine ashtrays and exceedingly well-fitted trim. The standard gear box has four speeds, all of which are fully synchronised. Simca are using their trusty 4-cylinder ohv unit which turns out 52 bhp, 12 more than the excellent and safe Imp, and 3 more than Skoda’s rather unwieldy but comfortable 1000 MB (probably an under-rated if peculiar machine). Note that the Skoda has a Jikov carburetor while the Simca makes do with a Solex. The Simca 1000’s front suspension is independent and at the rear one finds a transverse leaf spring: good, honest engineering from the land of berets, brioches and Burgundy.
For this test I took the car on a trip from Macclesfield to Scarborough via Kendal which took in part of the Peak District (fine ales), the Yorkshire Dales (very good bitter) and the North York Moors (and enjoyed several good imperial stouts with the fish and chipped potatoes in Whitby). The car returned 28 miles per gallon, somewhat disappointing from its 944 cc unit.
Overall, drivers will find a habitable car with a logical and most carefully laid out interior. The dashboard shows none of the excesses typical at Citroen, Peugeot and Renault. All the seats are trimmed with first-rate materials and are only a little on the hard side.
Performance is adequate provided one stays in the lower gears. Seventy is possible but uncomfortable – keep to the middle, I say. The steering is satisfactory – better than Austin’s comparable car but the engine’s placement does tend to lead to lightness and a lack of road feel and lack of grip, especially on the rougher, negatively cambered roads such as one finds leaving Whitby.
The main lesson from this test is that both Simca and rear-engined cars in general have a bright future. Ford, Vauxhall, Wolseley, Humber and Mercedes properly should consider a move away from their staid principles and explore how their medium and large cars could benefit from placing the engine at the rear end. For larger cars it would means trivial intrusion into the passenger compartment, for example.
Verdict: excellent but perhaps too small.