In what very much resembles a transcript of a period road test, the celebrated motoring scribe, Archie Vicar, takes a critical gander at Simca’s 1967 rear-engined saloon. Has it been improved since 1966?
This article first could have appeared in the Carlisle Evening Reporter, 16 March 1967. The original photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to their poor quality, stock photos have been used.
It’s all change at Simca which for good reason is one of France’s most successful manufacturers of motor cars. In these increasingly competitive times, every car producer must ceaselessly revise, update and otherwise improve their products and Simca have made some changes to their evergreen 1000 saloon so as to keep it in the race for customers which means that in order to appraise the new version, I have subjected it to a road test and present now my findings that readers may gain the information that could very well determine their next purchase of a new vehicle.
The Simca 1000 has been on sale since 1961 yet it is one of a veritable number of modern, small saloons with a rear-engine and rear-wheel drive, making it among the more advanced products of its type. Renault, take heed.
The Simca has an attractive, clean-lined body with smart, round headlamps at the front and rather pleasant hub caps all round. There are four doors and a two speed windscreen wiper. Simca have fitted it with a 4 cylinder engine (water-cooled, not air-cooled) of the overhead valve type. The bore and stroke are 68 mm and 65 mm,
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respectively, making it just over-square. This allows larger valves and greater revolution speeds by reducing the maximum speed of the piston ring and so permitting more acceptable stressing of the crank because of the lower maximum piston acceleration for a given engine speed. Further, this aids thermal losses as the area of the piston head is larger, making for better engine cooling, vital in a water-cooled engine.
The engine capacity is a little short of 944 cc (which I discovered during a full laboratory disassembling of the engine at the newspapers’s workshops). The Simca 1000 produces a comparatively prodigious 52 bhp leading me to view this as one of the most impressive small engines currently in production. Rather surprisingly, perhaps due
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to French tax laws, the compression ratio is just 9 to 1! Solex have provided the carburetor, a small miracle of compressed efficiency. The gearbox has four forward speeds (15.51, 9.26, 6.16 and 4.21 to 1, interestingly enough).
To keep the car suspended, Simca have a front independent leaf and, in a change from last year’s model, a rear independent coil of considerable ingenuity. Making that modification must have cost a pretty penny yet the retail price of the car is substantially unchanged but this had consequences for the handling attributes to which I will come later (Riley altered their wretched SU carbs for the dreary Kestrel and want another £12 for this!). Simca use hydraulic brakes which is helpful as the top speed is a useful 80 mph versus the Riley Elf’s lamentable 75 mph. I daresay Riley’s engineers are furiously puffing on their briars trying to think of a way to improve their disappointing sales.
The Simca is very efficient when it comes to the overall size of the car compared to its interior space. It bests the Jensen Interceptor, for example, quite the most cramped car I have tested in recent years. The wheel base is 7 feet 3 and three-eighths inches with a track of 4 feet 1 and one-quarter inch. What one can determine from this is that the car’s wheel base and track tend toward square in plan view which abets the distinctive road manners it displays under hard charging.
Note that the firm and supportive seats help the driver keep in position – I suspect that Nuffield could learn a thing or five from this, Citroen and Renault too, no doubt though I think the R1100 shows some hope if one is charitable, as one sometimes must though, if recent experiences are anything to go by I might be proved wrong – and indeed, with regular model revisions La Regie might just introduce an inferior seat frame to demonstrate their modern approach to engineering. Indeed!
A 12 volt system keeps the lights on.
Inside the car, apart from the excellent seating one finds a rather ugly instrument display with notations clearly on the small side. The trim is modern and durable – the upholstery resisted cigarette burns very well but a cigar might be more than it could withstand. Luckily for Simca of Carlisle I did not drop any of my Wuhrmanns while I was testing the vehicle. The rear passenger compartment has room for three and leg-room aplenty.
On the road:
We took the Simca from Carlisle (very heavy traffic!) to Dumfries, stopping at Gretna Green for a second breakfast. Land-Windermere refused to leave the rear seats (praise indeed or else lethargy) and ended up getting fried egg and bacon on the carpet but it brushed out. I noticed that the steering demonstrated more lightness than witnessed on previous versions of the 1000, with smart-turn in but little communication. There was no rust on the body and the car seemed quiet apart from tyre road and wind-rustle from the rear window. At lower speeds I noticed a neutral handling character but, as I pressed on to lunch in Ayr, I detected incipient oversteer. This made for quite alacritous adjustments to cornering approach – easing off the throttle made the tail swing out a shade, sharpening the turn.
We stopped at the Hotel Kylestrom to refuel (not the car, it still had half a tank!) with roasted quail, baked kale and braised carrots plus some very nice desert wine whos precise names elude me now. The local beer proved to be robust but also metallic and certainly seemed more than a match for the thirst that Simca-driving can work up (nerves).
The ashtray served its purpose and must be among the most commodious in the class. How does forty cigarettes strike you? It’s a selling point Morris can’t match, I dare say! And there was still plenty of room for four cigars as well plus Land-Windermere’s apple core.
About the Simca’s performance I can’t complain: it averaged 66 mph from Ayr to Kirkconnel via Dumfries. Moving through the gears is not goat’s work. Flat spot in 2nd? Again, oversteer reared its head and I can only surmise the newly designed rear suspension might be a reason for this alteration. I drove it expecting understeer and perhaps it took me a little too long to acclimatise to the different responses during this test.
Stopping at Catlowdy, I had a thoughtful smoke and some cool beers to consider the matter and perhaps lay to rest my concerns – a final test would be the sinuous mountain roads in the Kielder district. And sure enough, under certain conditions the Simca 1000 will lose its grip and spin flamboyantly around its vertical axis and then its longitudinal axis. Body roll? Quite! Opposite lock and a sharp stamp on the brakes will not rectify things at all. That said, I emerged unscathed in time for last orders.
Fog lamps will be available in December at no extra cost. The Simca costs £519 + £121 p.t = £640.
Verdict: good car, fine lamps, treat with caution.