Long Story (Part One)

Now we’re stretching things.

Image: the author

It wouldn’t fly with the 21st Century car buying public, but restyling an existing vehicle by adding a few redone inches on one or both ends of the car, then selling the result as a new model under a different name (often while retaining the original rendition in the lineup) was a practice resorted to by several car manufacturers in the 1960s and 1970s.

Using a pre-existing base is, of course, less costly and, in those more naive times, enough potential buyers were either oblivious to the car maker’s sleight of hand, or simply didn’t care that the new model was not as new as it appeared to be at first glance. A selection of these cheap ‘n quick stretches will be covered in this series(1).

Simca 1300 & 1500 (1963-1966) – 1301 & 1501 (1967-1975)

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At the 1963 Geneva Motor Show, Simca’s sorely needed replacement for the Aronde and the long in the tooth Ariane/Vedette line was presented: the new 1300 and 1500, styled by Mario Revelli de Beaumont. It would be the last car developed under the leadership of Henri Théodore Pigozzi, the founder of Simca.

The new Simcas had a pleasingly styled, uncluttered and modern body with a generous glass area and were quite succesful in the marketplace, especially in France and Germany. In Britain, they were hampered somewhat by the fact that the original LHD version had a manual gearbox with column shift, but the RHD version was instead fitted with a floor-mounted gear-shift. This in itself would not have been problematic, but the gearbox had a ‘mirror’ shift pattern: 1st and 2nd gear were on the right, 3rd and 4th on the left. The UK version would not receive a conventional gear-shift until 1966.

During its life, the 1300/1500 would also become available as a station wagon and offer an automatic transmission as an option. One of the main competitors for the 1300 and 1500 was Peugeot’s 404. As that car was somewhat larger — and was outselling the Simca twins — the decision was made to have the 1300 and 1500 grow physically with its facelift to more effectively tackle their Sochaux rival.

So, in September 1966 the 1300/1500 twins were replaced by the revised 1301/1501. The wheelbase remained unchanged at 99 inches (2,515mm) so there was no gain in interior space, but both front and rear ends had been lengthened by a total of 8.7 inches (220mm), most of this apparent in the longer stern(2). Unlike the majority of stretches covered in this series, the longer 1301/1501 was deemed by most to be a stylistic improvement on the original. Hence, the 1301 and 1501 would go on to enjoy a successful second half of the car’s career and almost 850,000 would leave the Poissy factory before they were replaced by the 1307/8 (Chrysler Alpine) in 1975.

Even though it was a quite noticeable alteration, the 8.7-inch elongation of the 1301/1501 over the 1300/1500 represented a percentage stretch of just 4.9%, much less than that of the ‘stretch champion’ as we shall see.

NSU Prinz 4 1961, Prinz 1000 1963, 110/1200 1965-1972

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Our next candidate was stretched in two phases: first, only the aft section, then second, the nose. It shares this distinction with the Triumph 1300 and 1500/Toledo/Dolomite, which will be covered later in the series.

This model started as the Prinz 4 in late 1961, a small rear-engined compact with styling clearly influenced by the American Chevrolet Corvair. NSU’s motorcycle roots were evident in the eccentric rod-driven camshaft and the so-called ‘dynastart’, which was a combined starter and generator built into the crankcase. The little air-cooled NSU was a well constructed car and remained popular for a long time, even though its technical concept became increasingly dated as time progressed.

In 1963 the twin-cylinder engined Prinz 4 was joined by the Prinz 1000 powered by a four-cylinder powerplant. To create more room for rear passengers, the wheelbase was increased by 8.3 inches, but the rear overhang grew as well to accomodate the larger engine. The Prinz 1000 was 13 inches (330mm) longer in total compared to the Prinz 4 on which it was based.

The 1000 was a more mature vehicle than the 4 and the lively TT and TTS versions of this car, quite quick in their day, continue to have a strong following to the present day. At the Frankfurt Motor Show in the Autumn of 1965, the second stretch was presented, called the Typ 110 (later renamed 1200). The wheelbase was lengthened once again, this time creating a much longer nose which resulted in a usefully larger luggage compartment. Aesthetically, however, this surgery resulted in a car of strange proportions, looking too long for its width.

The new front added another 9 inches (230mm) to the car which meant that the 110 was no less than 22 inches (560mm) longer than the original Prinz 4. The Prinz name was dropped to distance the 110 from its smaller stablemates. The fake front grille — an effort to distract attention from the fact that the car was still rear engined — fooled few. The 110 demonstrated that you can only go so far in enlarging what at heart was conceived as a small car. A bad car the 110/1200 was not, but its configuration had become obsolete and Volkswagen was quick to start phasing out all rear-engined NSUs after it had acquired the company in 1969. The last rear-engined NSU (a Prinz 4) was completed in 1973.

Some may question this calculation method, since the lengthening did take place in two phases, but the change from Prinz 4 to the eventual 110/1200 represents a 22-inch increase, which translates to an 16.3% stretch.

Ford Granada & Mercury Monarch 1975-1982 / Lincoln Versailles 1977-1980

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The success of Cadillac’s Seville, introduced during 1975 to counter the growing popularity of European sports-luxury sedans from (mainly) Mercedes and BMW, as well as the tightening CAFE(3) regulations, prompted the Ford Motor Company to react. Wanting to join in as soon as possible resulted in the Lincoln Versailles — a bit of a rush job in the circumstances, which was evidenced by its appearance. The Versailles was based on the successful Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch twins that had debuted in 1975. Body changes to create the new ‘small’ Lincoln were essentially limited to a new nose-cone and a boot lid with the ‘Continental hump’. Everything else in between, however, remained identical to its much cheaper stablemates, which would prove to be a major impediment to its market prospects.

This was a pity because under the skin — which was, incidentally, the first in the US to be covered in clearcoat metallic paint — quite a bit of invisible but laudable work had been done by Ford’s engineers in the interest of NVH(4) reduction. The driveline components were individually matched, a double-cardan universal joint was fitted, the body side rails were reinforced and gas filled shock absorbers — each one individually tested before mounting — with nylon seals were used.

Naturally, unlike its more pedestrian brethren, the Versailles was V8-powered only although, due to the stringent emission rules, the performance offered (by either a 351 or 302 cubic inch powerplant) was none too thrilling. But Lincoln owners were, of course, more interested in luxury than raw acceleration, and the Versailles catered to them very nicely, featuring a leather covered instrument panel and steering wheel (full leather upholstery was one of the few options), power seats, Cartier clock, amenity lights everywhere and thick carpeting that even extended to the boot, including the inside of its lid, made sure they travelled in surroundings expected of the Lincoln name.

However, even with all that the Versailles offered, sales were not too good, at about 15,000 in 1977, its first year, which was only a third of the number of Sevilles that Cadillac shifted. The reason was quite obvious: step into a Lincoln-Mercury showroom and there was the Versailles with a pricetag of well over US $12,000 while, a few feet away, the clearly closely related Mercury Monarch was yours for around US $4,500.

That was a huge gap to bridge for better equipment, extra attention to quality and the cachet of the Lincoln nameplate. And then there was the sobering fact that a ‘true’ Lincoln like the Continental cost substantially less than the Versailles. True, the Cadillac Seville had a similarly high price tag, which made it the most expensive car in the line-up apart from the Fleetwood Series 75 Limousine, and was based on a much cheaper car as well, the Chevrolet Nova. However, GM’s engineers had thoroughly re-engineered the car and, most importantly, Cadillac stylists had made sure there was nary a trace of Chevrolet to be detected in the Seville.

The Versailles received a new, more formal roofline for the 1979 model year which also offered a larger rear door aperture that required new upper door frames. This did help a bit to give the Versailles the extra styling distinction it needed and sales improved to over 21,000 cars, which would alas prove to be the high point. 1980 brought another fuel crisis and rising inflation, and less than 5,000 cars found a home in its final model year before Lincoln closed the book on the Versailles.

The Versailles was only an almost inconsequential 3.2 inches longer than the Granada and Monarch on an unchanged wheelbase, which amounts to one of the smallest percentual stretches in the group of cars covered in this series: just 1.6%.

Part Two of this series will follow shortly.

(1) For the sake of clarity: in the context of this article cars with only an extended wheelbase (CX Prestige or the Mercedes-Benz SEL’s for example) do not fall in this category as they were never presented as anything else than a more roomy and prestigious version of the standard item- not as a new model with a new name; they were still a CX and an S-class respectively.

(2) The station wagon version however would retain the original 1300/1500 rear end so was less elongated.

(3) Corporate Average Fuel Economy: a federally mandated minimum miles per gallon requirement.

(4) Noise, Vibration and Harshness.

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

32 thoughts on “Long Story (Part One)”

  1. Good morning, Bruno. What a delightful subject. I have no idea what will come up in part 2. What really strikes me is the increase of the price-tag of the Lincoln Versailles over the ord Granada and Mercury Monarch. That’s quite a stretch indeed.

  2. Lincoln made a lot of improvements to the Granada donor car. The trouble is that these amounted to the kinds of characteristics the Granada should have had. In other words, the Lincoln Versailles advertised the demerits of the Granada. I had a look at what a double cardan universal joint is: “Telescopic drive shafts or double cardan joints are essentially a double joint with a section in the center that allows a flexible length of the center piece. The adjustable center element of a double cardan joint allows the shaft’s length to be varied for easy installation or to compensate for axial play.” These features seem to be a lot to do with a better component than a refinement of something already good. The Lincoln was really a Granada properly made. It was a bad decision by Ford to try to get a smaller luxury car on the cheap but the resultant car is wierdly appealing.

    1. Here’s a drawing of the Versailles’ propshaft. Part #4784 is the double cardanic joint.

      In a single cardanic joint the two shafts do not move in sync, leading to unwanted vibrations.
      When the input shaft rotates there are phases when parts of the movement are used to articulate the joint instead of rotating the other shaft, leading to slower movement of the output shaft. A bit of rotatoin later the joint alters its kinematics and makes the output run faster than the input. If you have only one cardanic joint that makes for uneven running of the shafts. If you have two cardanic joints offset by ninety degrees the accerating and decelarating effects cancel each other out and make the shafts run in sync and only the double joint itself is ‘hopping’.
      It’s astonishing that Ford had the standard car with only one joint in the shaft. It must have been very unpleasant to drive with rumbles and vibrations.

  3. Good morning Bruno. What an interesting topic for a series. I hadn’t realised that the Simca 1301/1501 was a simple stretch of its predecessor, which is a credit to how expertly it was handled. Raising the bumpers at both ends also helped to give it a sleeker and more contemporary look.

    I’m intrigued to see what else you u cover for us!

    1. My first thought was Renaults 8 & 10. Then maybe the various small Triumphs that eventually coalesced into the Dolomite range.

    2. Oh. I should have read the whole article before commenting!

  4. Saab has to feature in here at some point. The 99/900 had a major nose and bum job

  5. Bruno,
    I apologise for commenting after only reading your first sentence: today, customers may buy completely diferent cars wrapped in barely distiguishable clothes 🤣

  6. Very interesting topic, Bruno! Here is an interesting article telling the story of the first Cadillac Seville:


    When I read it many years ago I was surprised at the amount of detail work done by GM, including one of the first uses of modern modal analysis (using Fast Fourier Transform) in the auto industry, in order to transform the humble GM X Platform (Chevy Nova, etc.) into a Cadillac. I wish they had gone that extra step forward and designed a proper coil sprung rear axle (independent suspension was perhaps too much to ask).

    On the other hand, I did think the Versailles was just a Granada with 1970s makeup and frills, slapped together in a hurry to counteract the Cadillac offer, but learning about the double-cardan driveshaft and other refinements mentioned here makes me wonder what else they changed. Maybe the Versailles was not as cynical as I thought, although the extra brougham treatment is a bit too much for me, even as I’ve lately come to terms with the brougham era (must be a mix of age and nostalgia 🙂 ).

    Looking forward to the next episode!

  7. As I understand it, the front of the stretched Simca isn’t literally stretched? The front fenders are the same, they merely gave it a longer new bonnet with a protruding upper lip giving the appearance of a longer front end. It is very cleverly done and fooled me for decades.

  8. This is the series I always wanted to to write, but thanks to procrastination never did. So I’ll look forward to the next installment!

    I would’ve started with the Citroen traction avant, that came from the factory in three different lengths. The short “Legère”, the widened! And lengthened! “Berline”, and the even longer “Commerciale” and “Familiale”. There was even a factory limousine sold before the war on the longest wheelbase. The significance of all this was of course that the bodyshell of the bigger cars wasn’t only longer but noticeably wider as well.

  9. I would also include some of the Mercedes’es as well, simply because they were presented as different cars with different chassis designations. For the pontoons, there was the smallest variant the 180 (W120) and the extended 220 (W180) that had a two fold stretch with a longer front end and a longer rear door. Plus the peculiar intermediate 219 (W105) that had the longer front end of the six cylinder W180 but the shorter greenhouse of the four cylinder W120.

  10. One of the best metamorphosis must beo from BMW ‘Asian eyes’ Neue Klasse coupé to E9

    1. Australia had its own brougham moment – literally – when in the late 60s to create an upmarket version of the main Kingswood family sedan Holden just stuck on an eight inch longer boot on it to create the Holden Brougham. However unlike the Simca, it was not a success. Isn’t the BMW CS a lovely car.

  11. Thanks Bruno, I was dimly aware of the Simca elongation and I like both very much, but only the “middle” NSU looks right to me. I suppose that’s the only one I’ve seen around. I seem to remember that a decade later, Simca looked into a similar facelift to that last NSU for its 1000: also a mock-grille at the front to hide the underpinnings.

    That never made it to market, so I hope I’m not spoiling future installments.

    The US Granada is a nice-enough looking car, while the Versailles needs the revised roof line to set it apart, I think. I am susprised that the Lincoln Versailles was so expensive relative to the rest of the Lincoln range. Was that also true for the Seville relative to other Cadillacs?

    1. Hello Tom, here are some relevant Cadillac prices for the 1976 model year I could find: Seville $ 12476, Fleetwood 75 Limousine $ 15239, Fleetwood Eldorado Coupé $ 10586, Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible $ 11049, Calais Coupé (the “cheapest” Cadillac model) $ 8629. No worries about that aborted Simca 1000 proposal- as you indeed mentioned it never reached the showrooms so is not eligible….

    2. Thanks Bruno! So a similar situation if I read that correctly. That’s interesting: those “smaller” cars really carried premium pricing.

    3. Tom V: From my understanding, the original Seville was GM’s answer to the rise of Mercedes et al, intended as a more compact, more ‘European feeling’ vehicle. It was priced to compete with the luxury imports.

    4. That would be the logical inference, Eóin, quite. All the more… er: “ambitious” that both Ford and GM based their import battlers on decidedly un-premium vehicles, Ford more so as the article shows. The Seville at least had bespoke styling and apparently it showed in the sales figures.

  12. Thanks Bruno.
    Your subject matters really triggered my memories…

    As a boy I had a chance to grow up with both Simcas, one after another

    I remember the steering column-mounted gearshift, plumpy rear bench seat, the comfy ride, and the more airy view riding the 1501.

    During my late teenage year I was driving the Ford Granada.

  13. Thank you Bruno, I love every word that is written about this Simca. So many memories with this car. My parents had two of them (first a green one, with which my mother did a flip over, after which my parents bought a red one) and I spent my later teenage years in it. It was also the first car I was allowed to drive after my driving test (I was also allowed to drive my mother’s Fiat 126, but this vehicle didn’t count as a car at that time, but as a means of transport), so I was proud to be allowed to drive it. Even as a teenager with a new driving licence, I found this 1301 to be a great car – remember that teenagers usually like something flat with impact rather than stodgy 4-door cars.
    Even today I find the evolution from the 1300/1500 to the 1301/1501 to be one of the best facelifts, but as I said, I’m completely biased.

    1. A question, has anyone driven a car with the manual gearbox reversed, as the Simca that initially sold in Britain had? I have always wondered if this format would be easy to master or not. Are there many cars with this configuration?

  14. A very unusual and interesting topic – thank you, Bruno. Not much was made of these changes at the time – I don’t think people realized what was going on, or perhaps they just liked the idea of ‘improved’ vehicles. I must say that I didn’t realize that the NSU had gone through so many changes.

    Thinking about it, I would consider buying a lengthened variant to get extra engine choice / better interior appointments.

    I can think of a few cars which could feature in part 2 – I’ll wait to see if I’m right.

  15. The Simcas, in -00 and -01 forms are under-rated given their influence and their impressive commercial success. Perhaps it’s down to the disappearance of the marque, also that the 1301/1501 hung on rather too long, owing to the Simca’s American parent’s parlous state.

    I’m looking forward to Part 2 – I have some ideas of what we might see, but I’ll keep them to myself.

  16. Thank you for this article, Brrrruno. Most interesting! A few thoughts…
    We never got these Simcas in Australia, though I have seen them in magazine articles over the years. The transformation is amazing, and a huge improvement. I would have thought the -01 merely carried over most of the styling themes of the -00; to learn it was simply a nose and tail job brought me up with a jolt. Well done, that man!
    The NSU also I have never seen, though I have read about, most notably at Curbside Classic. But of these three, only the middle iteration works for me; the longest one looks too long in the front somehow.
    Likewise I have never seen the Lincoln, nor the Mercury or Ford on which it is based. I can understand Ford wanting to field a competitor to the Cadillac Seville; but disguising the base car so thinly while charging a Cadillac-matching price is being rather greedy. The lack of panel change invites the question “Well why is it worth it?”. Double-cardan universal joints must be awfully expensive…
    Like the rest of us, I too can think of several examples we could discuss, but I will keep them to myself for now. Your next installment is eagerly awaited. 🙂

  17. Justin Hill,
    To answer your question about the shift pattern changes in RHD to LHD, I’ve owned a few of the big Austin A135 Princess limousines, one of them being a 1957 early LHD version without the automatic transmission [It’s the only one I’ve been able to find], and the shift pattern was the opposite of the RHD version. Owning both versions at one time, I had to be very careful remembering how to shift correctly.

    Concerning the NSU cars, in 1978 a partner and I bought the entire contents of a closed NSU dealer in Washington, DC, called Allied Light Cars. I ended up with over 20 complete cars, from a Sport Prinz to a TTS screamer! WE had two 1200 sedans that had never been sold! Also had the smaller sedans and 2 Wankel Spyder roadsters. It wasn’t until we had re-located all the cars and parts inventories, that I realized the differences in the 2-door sedans as we tried to match up various body parts to see what they fit. I got a quick education in post-war NSU cars!

    Instead of selling everything, today I wish I had been able to save 3 cars; The Sport Prinz coupe, a Wankel roadster with the factory hardtop, and the TTS. That TTS car was incredibly fast, and gave my ’63 SAAB 850 GT Monte Carlo factory prepared rallye car a good run!

    1. Of the 2,400 TTSs made about 4,000 have survived.
      A genuine article is worth more than 30,000 EUR now.
      NSU had a sports parts catalogue for TTS customers, similar to the stuff Ford sold via RS dealers.
      Works tuning kits (up to 85 PS, not street legal), seventy litre fuel tanks (with the fuse box on top of the tank for fiery experiences), disc brakes all round, noisy (even noisier) exhausts.
      The TTS was a favourite in uphill races where you needed a 911 or an Alpine to beat it.

    2. Our TTS did have the big fuel tank, I don’t remember where the fuse box was located, but the car did end up in a fire. The front carb was known to leak and we were at a loss on how to stop that carb leak, and eventually fuel hit the generator/starter and VOOOOM, big fire, especially with the raised engine cover.

      Back then [about 1980] there was no internet, and finding info on these cars in the USA was damn near impossible. I could get info & parts for my DKW Munga much easier than NSU stuff. A couple of years ago I ran across some NSU engine overhaul gasket sets, they were the last remaining parts from Allied Light Cars, so I sent them off to Jeff Lane at the Lane museum.

    3. Hi Bill, It’s very good of you to donate; especially as VW Group appears to be largely disinterested in preserving the legacy and memory of NSU.

      Here’s a couple of photos from the lanemotormuseum website (conveniently located in Nashville).

      Rhetorical Question of the Day: “See anything interesting?”

    4. “See anything interesting?” Yeah – everything! As someone who has always collected* and admired rare and unusual vehicles, I applaud Jeff lane for what he has done to create a place Americans can visit to see vehicles you won’t see anywhere else in north America! I haven’t made a pilgrimage to the Lane Museum in a few years, but I’ve had the good fortune to see not just what is on the main display floor, but to see the catacombs below where even more vehicles are hiding, waiting for their opportunity to surface.

      * I love displaying unusual cars at shows, especially when I hear visitors say things like “It’s a what?” I call my Tatra T2-603’s engine compartment a religious experience because over & over again, when I open the engine cover to expose that air cooled hemi V8 in the rear, people almost always exclaim “Oh my God!”

      Since you mention VW, I have an 8 page full color KDF Wagen brochure. I’m told it is not a repro, because under a glued on piece of paper in the center of the back page, when I hold it up to a light, one can see the original NAZI logo. [In 1975 I found it in Germany, where display of the logo is prohibited.] I’m looking for a buyer who wants it for it’s automotive historical basis, not political.

    5. Getting spare parts for a TTS is easier than for say a Polo Mk2. The German NSU fan base is extremely well organised and nearly everything is re-manufacured in good quality except interior parts since most of the cars are used as racers.

      Your KDF car brochure most probably is a fake. It definitively is not illegal to show the car’s logo in its home country as can be seen whenever a genuine KDF beetle including the gearwheel logo is on display at a VW rally.
      There was a short time ban on the KDF car logo issued by the British occupation forces but this was gone about 1950.

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