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

[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 Continue reading “Theme: Simca – 1966 1000 LS road test”

Connect the Dots: Solution

I invited readers to find the links between the 1963 Hillman Imp, the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado and 1995 Peugeot 406 (I showed a coupé). This is my solution: 

1976 Renault Le Car: source
1976 Renault Le Car: source

It’s not the shortest path. Peugeot manufactured the 406 coupé. The 406 replaced the 405 which Peugeot manufactured at Ryton-in-Dunsmore, in England. That factory formed part of the Rootes group which Chrysler bought in 1967, including the Hillman brand. The Imp was part of group’s range. One of the designers of the Imp was Mike Parkes who died while working on development of the Lancia Stratos (not in the car, at the time of). Marcello Gandini designed the Stratos but also cars for Maserati who were once part-owned by Chrysler. He also designed the Renault Super 5 which succeeded the original Renault 5 (or Le Car). The Le Car was sold in the US by AMC for whom Larry Shinoda worked as a consultant. One of Shinoda’s colleagues was Bill Mitchell and he was the chief designer of the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado.

Designing the Unfamiliar

What do mock-wood panelled estate cars and electric cars have in common?

2016 Mercedes EQ concept car: source
2016 Mercedes EQ concept car: money.cnn.com

Design is often about managing incremental change to existing forms and the use of metaphors from existing products to “explain” new features or new technology. Our mobile phones show the icon of a camera to identify the image -capture function even if nearly nobody uses cameras any more. I’d hazard that 75% of the owners of a mobile telephone have never used a camera. By analogy, the wooden panelled estate car existed long after wood was a necessary material in the construction of such vehicles. Designers felt customers expected their estate car to Continue reading “Designing the Unfamiliar”

Ashtrays: 1956-1967 Hillman Super Minx

The Minx name is mostly forgotten today, a legacy of the demise of its parent company, Hillman.

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However, Hillman used the Minx name for nearly fifty years on three or four generations of cars. As was typical of Rootes, the Minx name had a convoluted model history of small upgrades, badge engineering and variants such as the Super Minx with moderately modified bodywork. There is an awful lot of noise to sort out to get at the core of the Minx story. As with many of the cars of the time, the exact social significance and market positioning is rather hard to parse and I suspect one could devote quite a long time to gathering period reviews to reconstruct the Minx’s place in the market.

1966 Hillman Super Minx
1966 Hillman Super Minx: source

I seldom get to sit in cars of this age, first because I am not especially drawn to these British vehicles from this time and also because they are not very common, not with the doors open anyway. When you sit inside the car you notice how hard and metallic it is, with the body dominating the trim; these days trim of exceptional depth and complexity conceals the body and it is probably hard to find a car at any price with exposed metal inside.

For the average woman or man driving in the mid 1960’s this was entirely normal and they’d need to step into a wedding car such as a Rolls to experience an interior where the metal work could not be seen and where the soft fitting were anything but vinyl, hard plastic and that especially rough carpeting that manufacturers preferred at the time.

Cutting to the chase, we find a single drawer-type ashtray for the driver and front passenger. This one slid out with a notable squeeky roughness and I can imagine that many Minx’s had nice, thick cakings of nicotine on the panel over the tray. While some cars summon up fantasies of cross-continental drives (that 130 saloon I featured some time back and a 130 coupe that is forthcoming) this one summons up drives in the rain to a new supermarket that has sprouted outside Weston-Super-Mare. The wood trim is not doing much to raise the ambience but I suppose at the time it was a pleasant touch, reminding one that one didn’t have enough money for a Wolseley or Triumph maybe?

In the back, ashtrays mounted stupidly right over the arm-rest so that you need to move your entire arm to flick the debris into the trough. So, I can’t award many marks here for hedonism or ergonomics.

I am left wondering why anybody might want to buy a car like this. There’s nothing special to look at and the engineering is what I might term Soviet British. The suspension “was independent at the front using coil springs with anti-roll bar and at the rear had leaf springs and a live axle” according to the font of all wisdom, and that is not that appealing. You can see why Rootes faded away.

Although Opel and Vauxhall offered equally uninteresting cars, they were linked to large corporations with a broader outlook so they could draw on the resources of their head office for design, engineering and marketing. Rootes was as English as Alfa Romeo was Italian; perhaps I mean Fiat. And if corny old Italian brio added some romance to Fiat’s sometimes workaday cars, stolid English practicality could do nothing for cars like this.

Triumph and Rover could offers sporting appeal or decent luxury while Hillmans churned out expedient vehicles for what I assume were not very demanding customers. We often think that modern cars are mostly bland appliances. This car shows that the car as appliance can be found further back in time than 2004.

(Note: I’m not all that au fait with the byzantine history of Rootes and its badge-engineered cars. Further clarifcation on this expected and indeed welcome. If vexed members of the Hillman Owner´s Club want to chip in, feel free).