SIMCA 1000 REVIEW

Simca originally commenced car production in 1935, building Fiats under licence. After the Second World War, Simca went its own way, buying up Ford’s French operations to create the Vedette and launching its own design, the Aronde.

However, Simca can’t have been keen on independence and as well as retaining links with Ford and subsequently Chrysler, the old alliance with Fiat never really went away. That’s how a very Fiat-like design became the 1000. In effect, it was a rejected concept for what became the Fiat 850 but Simca thought it would be an ideal rival to Renault’s rear-engined saloons, and they were not wrong.

Almost two million were built but they remain little-known in this country. That’s partly because a great many have rusted away but also because Chrysler had their own rear-engined baby in the form of the Imp, so Chrysler UK can’t have been that keen to promote an in-house rival on home soil.

In typical Fiat fashion, there was a transverse leaf spring up front offering independent suspension, drum brakes, worm and roller steering and a four-cylinder engine at the rear. Initially, there was also the joy of swing axles but the range was extensively revamped in 1968 for the 1969 season. Larger lights front and rear were the external giveaways but all engines were updated and larger capacities were available for the first time. Semi-trailing arms calmed things down at the back while a new multi-leaf transverse spring tamed the front end which also now benefited from rack-and-pinion steering. All but the 944cc 1000s now had disc brakes at the front too.

Posh 1000 Supers and hot ‘Rallye’ versions followed but only the initial Rallye 1 was officially sold in the UK. The Rallyes and the later 1000SR had 1294cc engines and 60bhp. The Rallye 2 and 3 boasted twin-carburettor engines however, and this enabled them to top the ton with ease. A shame we didn’t get them here then.

Another facelift in 1976 saw the introduction of rectangular headlamps but the writing was on the wall for the now ageing design, and production ended in June 1978.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

Engine 944cc 4-cylinder OHV
Power 40bhp@5800rpm
Torque 47lb ft@2800rpm
Top Speed 82mph
0-60mph 22sec
Gearbox 4-speed manual

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK

Rust is a big issue, though really they’re no worse than many other small Sixties/Seventies saloons. However, the French have a nasty habit of using layers of thin metal sheet to strengthen certain areas – a trick used to great effect on the Citroen DS – and that means built in rust traps that can be tricky to repair.

Starting from the front, check the inner wheelarches and the top suspension mountings. Blocked drainage holes for the ventilation system can riddle the bulkhead with rot and leaky windscreen rubbers will not help matters.

Sills and floors will rust but the sills are not complicated, and you can form your own replacements. Watch the front floors – after about 1973, there was reinforcing crossmember, but this is open ended and yet another areao for the orange menace to gain a footing. A posts can corrode around the door hinges but a bigger problem is the rear door slam/wheelarch area. This is where the strength from the sills is transferred to the rear, where the engine is mounted. It’s a critical area but one that can rot all too readily. Check for bodges as well as corrosion.

In terms of panels, door bottoms and the edges of the boot/engine lids can corrode and while front/rear wings will also do likewise, these are bolt-on and can be replaced by glassfibre items.

Trim is obviously going to be an issue and chrome side trims for the GLS are so tricky to find that most restorers don’t bother with them.

ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION

The engine may have Fiat origins but it formed the basis of all Simca engines up to the 1592cc Solara engine of the Eighties. The Peugeot 309 still used the same basic motor. And yes, that does explain why they possess the typical Simca rattle! That top end noise is reduced in the 1000 as the engine is bolt-upright and not slanted. However, you should still check for excessive chatter. Otherwise, engines are pretty reliable – though while some components are shared with FWD engines, they actually rotate the opposite way!

The gearbox suffers from weak synchromesh – peculiar as Porsche were involved in this aspect. 2nd gear suffers most and may not appreciate swift changes. The linkage is pretty good for a rear-engined cars, though later cars used a rubber connector beneath the rear seat which can develop massive play. Most retro-fit the earlier metal design.

However, the clutch slave cylinder is beneath the fuel tank in the engine bay, and hard to get at.

STEERING, SUSPENSION AND BRAKES

You’re far more likely to find a later rack-and-pinion steered 1000 than the earlier type, though play is even less desirable with the improved set-up. Balljoints are pretty robust.

The transverse leaf spring can sag and when it’s really bad, the tyres will catch on the front wings. Something to watch for.

Brakes were initially all drum though the Rallye 2 had all-discs and front-discs were available post-1969. Faults are rare unless a car has been standing, and all parts are available. However, the master cylinders are in the pedal box area, so working on them requires some acrobatics!

INTERIOR AND ELECTRICS

Rallyes and SRs had bucket seats but rather more standard fare was on offer for lesser models. Still, they should be comfortable, though the earlier vinyl type can be surprisingly springy! Cloth trim can degrade with time. The French are masters at making material that gets destroyed by UV light.

Similarly, French electrics are never the best, and we write that as French car enthusiasts! You may encounter frustrations but this is usually little more than poor or dirty connections.

 

VERDICT

They’re enormous fun to drive, as long as you bear the rear-engine limitations into account, and have oodles of character. They’re comfortable for a small car too and upgrades are available for those who would like to entertain that thought. Even in standard form though, performance is not disgraceful and their simple nature makes them an ideal DIY prospect.

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