Theme: Simca – 1966 1000 LS Road Test

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.

1966 Simca 1000: source
1966 Simca 1000: source

This item appeared in the morning edition of the Minehead Bugle on July 9, 1966. Original photos by Ernest Pallace. Due to the poor quality of the original images stock photos have been used.

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).

1966 Simca 1000: source
1966 Simca 1000: source

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.

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

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.

Author: richard herriott

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

7 thoughts on “Theme: Simca – 1966 1000 LS Road Test”

  1. Once again, AV lets down an informative, entertaining, and balanced review with a basic error.

    “at the rear one finds a transverse leaf spring”. I see no such thing here:

    Perhaps the gout was getting the better of him and he asked his photographer to look. Ernest Pallace was a far better photographer than Land-Windermere, but wouldn’t have known a transverse leaf spring from his arse.

    1. Far be it from me to engender dissent in the ranks of DTW, and doubtless Richard will loyally come to AV’s defence, but I must make reference to the long-held suspicion among the elder heads in my profession, that Archie did not always drive the cars he tested. This was particularly so with French cars. His antipathy for them was only matched by his love of that country’s cuisine. Frequently other scribes would return from a hard day’s testing to find Archie apparently still seated at his table of a chateau somewhere, with a ballon of brandy and cigar, claiming that he had just arrived back himself. Indeed, Archiegate even goes so far as to include the story told me by one editor of AV once handing him his copy before leaving to board his plane to Le Bourget. All completely insubstantiatable at this remove of course, but food for thought. Simca were well known for the quality of both table and cellar incidentally.

  2. Possibly an error, and its repeat in a publication produced by that organ of copper bottomed factuality, the Daily Express, might be explained by the fact that Basil Cardew is an anagram of Archie Vicar. At least it was to AV who was notoriously dyslexic after a couple of bottles, a fact I can testify to, having had to do a fair amount of clandestine subbing in my short spell as his ‘assistant’.

  3. The transverse leaf was at the front not the rear; perhaps that explains the confusion. Basil was such an old dear too, perhaps the man best known for perfecting the once-over-lightly vehicle review now so widely imitated. Archie may just have looked under the wrong end after several or three pints of Imperial stout with its eleven percent alcool par volume and his known dyslexia. The first version of the car got very mixed reviews, mostly about woolly steering, a lack of directional stability on roads with varying camber, and a rather extreme sensitivity to crosswinds. Perhaps the 65% of weight on the rear wheels was to blame rather than AV’s tendency to spend a fair amount of focused time on matters relating to his intake of food and drink prior to hopping in and having a go.

    1. Thanks for clearing that up. If you Google around a bit you can find footage of Cardew at the races, with a trilby and mac, very much the 1960s journalist.
      The Simca 1000 is quite possibly the first rear-engined car I’ve liked much. I see that an ex-Lancia chap did the design; the technical spec is quite intelligent. Robertas might be able to clarify, but is the Simca 1000 not just a bit cleverer than similarly sized Fiats, Fords and Vauxhalls of the same time, and better packaged than a Beetle?
      Was Archie Vicar dyslexic? There isn’t a lot of evidence for that. More likely was that he was simply in a hurry: five drives a week plus his radio programme on the Malvern Radio every Sunday morning. And the Imperial stout and madeira.

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