Concluding our recollection of the Chrysler / Talbot Alpine and its saloon sibling, the Solara.
Renowned automotive writer Leonard (LJK) Setright took his monocle to the newly launched Simca 1307/8 in the December 1975 issue of Car Magazine. Setright observed that the engineering teams in both Whitley and Poissy seemed keen to take the lion’s share of credit for the new car. This was understandable, as the Alpine was “really rather a good machine, restoring Chrysler to a competitive place in what has been described as the ‘upper middle-class market’ in Europe.”
One could, however, sense a ‘but’ coming, and it duly arrived with regard to the engine, which Setright identified as the car’s “only major shortcoming”. This was mainly due to the volume of engine noise that permeated the cabin. The problem was exacerbated by unusually low levels of wind and road noise, thanks to the aerodynamic body design and the car’s separate front and rear rubber-mounted subframes. The latter helped achieve “fundamentally a very comfortable and absorbent ride.”Continue reading “The Nearly Car (Part Two)”
The Chrysler / Talbot Alpine was undone by the weakness of its maker.
There is a caricature concerning the behaviour of US corporations following their takeover of foreign companies that goes something like this:
Wealthy and expansionist BigCorp Inc. mounts a successful takeover of LittleCo PLC, paying a handsome premium over the net asset value for LittleCo’s intangible assets. These include its local market knowledge and experience about what sells and how to sell it. BigCorp then trashes that treasure by directing LittleCo to do things the American way, sweeping aside all resistance to change.
I’m sure there are instances where this has happened, but at least one US corporation seemed strangely reticent to impose its will on its newly acquired European subsidiaries. That corporation was Chrysler and the subsidiaries concerned were Rootes Group in the UK and Simca in France. Chrysler finally took full control of the former in 1967 and the latter in 1970. Not only was Chrysler apparently slow to Continue reading “The Nearly Car (Part One)”
The Matra-Simca Bagheera combined supercar-apeing looks and robust if rather prosaic mechanicals to produce a practical, everyday sports car.
Mention the name Matra-Simca to a car enthusiast of mature years and their mind will almost certainly turn to the 1977 Rancho, a modestly successful vehicle that was decades ahead of its time. The Rancho was based on the FWD Simca 1100 but had a bespoke fibreglass body aft of the B-pillars, with a raised roof and a large split tailgate. It also had a raised ride height, plastic wheel arch extensions and other faux off-road addenda. It was, in effect, a crossover, long before that term was coined.
There is, however, an earlier and less well-known vehicle that carried the Matra-Simca name. This is the 1973 Bagheera, a sports coupé, the most unusual feature of which was its three-abreast seating arrangement.
Matra(1) was a French industrial engineering conglomerate that was established in 1945. Its activities included aviation, satellite and defence technology. Following the acquisition of Automobiles René Bonnet in 1963, it also became a car manufacturer, albeit on a modest scale: it inherited Bonnet’s small two-seater mid-engined sports car, the Djet. This was succeeded in 1967 by the somewhat larger Matra 530, still mid-engined, but now with 2+2 accommodation. The latter was only produced in small numbers because Matra simply did not Continue reading “Three’s Company (Part One)”
The 1963 Hillman Imp was Rootes’ answer to BMC’s Mini, but a latecomer to the market and, ultimately, a commercial failure. We conclude its story.
Autocar magazine had been given early access to an Imp De Luxe for testing and published its road test just a day after launch. The price including tax was £532, a £24 premium over the standard version. The reviewer praised the new engine’s smoothness, quietness and willingness to rev. They noted that, despite an unusually high 10:1 compression ratio, it ran without any trace of ‘pinking’ or ‘run-on’ on Premium(1) grade petrol.
The recommended top speed of 70mph (113km/h) was easily exceeded, and a maximum of 83mph (134km/h) was recorded one-way. The 0 to 60mph (97km/h) time was measured at 23.7 seconds. Fuel consumption over the course of the road test was 38.1mpg (7.4 L/100km).
John Riccardo, Chrysler chairman Diary entry October 29 1975: Hold press conference regarding corporation’s loss of £116M in the first nine months. Inform UK government Chrysler can be a gift or closed down – their choice. Rescue package of £55M from HMG plus £12M from US parent snatched up. Use wisely!
We conclude the story of the Avenger and 160/180/2-Litre and their very different fates.
The C-Car programme that would ultimately become the Chrysler 160/180/2-Litre* ran in parallel with the B-Car Avenger, under the supervision of Rootes Design Director Roy Axe. The initial plan was to offer the C-Car in three variants; a base 1.8 litre Hillman version to replace the top-line Hunter models, a 2.0 litre version carrying the Sunbeam marque and a 2.5 litre version to replace the Humber Hawk. A stretched D-Car variant was also envisaged to Continue reading “Contrasting Fortunes (Part Two)”
The Avenger and 160/180/2-Litre were intended to carry Chrysler Europe successfully into the 1970’s and beyond. One succeeded, while the other was hobbled by indecision, poor management and Anglo-French rivalries.
By the late 1960’s the Rootes Group’s range of cars was beginning to look rather threadbare. Its newest model, the Arrow series Minx and Hunter, introduced in 1966, was still relatively fresh and selling quite well, but was hampered by a limited engine range, which comprised a four-cylinder OHV unit in 1,500cc and 1,725cc capacities.
The summer is here and DTW’s offices become ferociously stuffy, a maelstrom of dandruff, cigar ash and wine-label dust dancing in the shafts of half-light.
Simon Kearne, the editor, moves his collection of sherry and cooking marsala to his summer residence (location: secret) and Myles Gorfe’s padded rally jacket disappears off his swivel chair. We never see him, or him taking it. He has gone, like a swallow in September.
So, this writer is also fleeing DTW’s dusty, cramped, byzantine, magazine-clogged rooms on the ninth floor for a summer pause. However, I am not going to display complete dereliction of duty and so have left a trove of articles on automotive life in 1998. which I have tagged Re-1998. They will appear over the coming weeks.
With perhaps the shortest gestation of any production car, 1977’s Chrysler/Talbot Sunbeam personified the term, ‘rush job’ – and it showed. But one variant burned brightly, courtesy of Lotus.
In 1977, the TV ad-breaks were awash with the mellifluous tones of Petula Clark, exhorting us all to put a Chrysler Sunbeam in our lives. I was around 11 at the time, so there wasn’t much I could do to obey the Surrey songstress’ siren call but since we did have an Avenger parked outside, my level of interest in Linwood’s newest offering was perhaps keener that it might have otherwise have been.
The Sunbeam was the result a neat piece of industrial blackmail on the part of Chrysler UK, the failing former Rootes car business, which under US management had merged with Simca but was struggling with a dated range of cars and a loss making production facility in Scotland making fewer of them than was economical. Faced with the plant’s closure, the UK government agreed to Continue reading “Norfolk Broad”
(This is apparently a review for the East Scotland Motoring Week, published in November, 1977. The original photos were by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to a devastating fire at the processing lab stock images have been used.)
The Rootes factory in Linwood is thrumming with activity. With the magnificent Imp a recent memory, and the stalwart Avenger in volume production, the factory now has a new task: Sunbeams, the building thereof.
The Sunbeam is a logical progression from the Imp. It’s a bit bigger, a bit more refined and much more spacious. It also offers the advantages of rear wheel drive but with the engine in the front. While other makers are caving in to demands of the bean-counters, Chrysler are staying true to rear-wheel drive with their new entrant to the small car market. Let’s Continue reading “1977 Chrysler Sunbeam Road Test”
Our good friends at Autocar have reported that Chrysler is going to give up and flee the UK market. This will disappoint only those Lancia fans who had a brief chance to buy the Delta and Ypsilon.
I was entirely unaware or had forgotten that Chrysler were selling the Delta in the UK and Ireland. There is one used Delta in stock in the UK, by the way. Sales of Chryslers were never impressive, 3000 in a good year. The cost of preparing these cars for RHD production must have meant they lost money on each of these unless they had huge success in some RHD market of which I was not aware… Japan? New Zealand? Continue reading “Chrysler Follows Lancia’s Footsteps Out of the UK”
“Vive La Difference!” Archie Vicar compares two new products battling it out in the family sector – France’s Simca 1307, and Britain’s Chrysler Alpine.
From The Motoring Weekly Gazette, October 1976. Photography by Terry Loftholdingswood. Owing to a processing error, stock photos have been used.
All of a sudden there are two entirely new cars fresh on the market to rival the Ford Cortina, the Vauxhall Cavalier and the ancient Renault 16. From Coventry, by way of America comes the Chrysler Alpine nee 150: good day, sir!, or should that read howdy? From France, we say bonjour to the Simca 1307. There would appear to be something for everyone’s taste here, I say.Continue reading “1976 Simca 1307/ Chrysler Alpine Review”