The story of Dodge in Spain has three major parts — dealing with Barreiros, Rootes/SIMCA, and Chrysler itself.
The Dodge Truck story began in 1951, with the founding of Barreiros Diesel S. A. The company produced diesel engines, then, in 1959, they started to make commercial vehicles; buses came in 1962, then tractors. They supplied components to other companies, and fitted engines to Star chassis-cab trucks from Poland.
Chrysler Corporation acquired 77% of Barreiros Diesel in October 1967; in 1969, Chrysler took full control; and in 1970, the company was renamed to Chrysler Espana S.A.
Chrysler International’s Hans Ensing wrote: “Barreiros was essentially heavy trucks with an in-house diesel, and later a Cummins option.” He also wrote that, in the late 1970s, Chrysler tried to leverage its ownership joining with International Harvester to set up a major truck company, which owned Spanish competitor Pegaso; but International Harvester backed off due to an agricultural equipment crisis.
Eduardo Barreiros himself ended his days with a diesel engine business in Cuba.
In 1980, Barreiros was technically part of Automobiles Talbot S. A; in that year, Talbot employed 15,500 people in the Villaverde complex near Madrid. 4,000 were employed by Dodge Trucks, which built trucks from 14,000 to 38,000 kg (gross weight). 5,500 of these were built in 1979, with 1,000 exported from Spain. (Commercial truck models most likely included the Dodge 100 and Dodge 500. For more Dodge commercial trucks, see our 1969 Dodge heavy duty commercial truck page.)
Losses in the US and Britain left Chrysler Corporation in dire need of funds, so they sold their European operations to Peugeot. However, while Peugeot was interested in Dodge Trucks and Barreiros, the French government did not want Peugeot to create a new competitor to Renault’s trucks; so, in 1981, the Dodge truck business, including Barreiros, was finally sold to Renault. Renault modified the range: “Initially they also made light/medium trucks, and you will recognize the USA series cab on the 42/45 - the heavier ones having an old European design.”
Hans Ensing wrote that “the Madrid plant was split (with a wall!) into a Peugeot-Citroën cars activity, which still exists today, and a (Dodge)-Renault trucks activity which was closed some years ago. The Dodge truck operation in 1981 also included the UK Dunstable plant, which
was closed some 10 years ago [in the 1990s].”
Before 1963, Dodge cars were imported into Spain in relatively small numbers by distributors. The 1957 diesel-powered Plymouth shown below was likely at a distributor’s auto show display.
In 1963, Barreiros started to produce Dodge Darts under contract from Chrysler Corporation at the Villaverde factory. The local Barreiros Dart had a different front clip to show its higher market position, a four-speed manual transmission, and disc brakes at every wheel.
A local-production version was made from 1965 to 1977, with just under 17,600 units sold during that entire period. The main reason for limited production arrangements such as this was protection of domestic production by the government.
The Dart was Spain’s largest locally produced vehicle throughout its life, despite being expensive and relatively thirsty. The base model was the Dart GL; the sporty model was the Dart GT; and the Dodge 3700GT (named after the 3.7 liter / 225 cubic inch engine) was added at the top of the range later. Because of the high market position of the Darts, and their unusual six-cylinder engine (most Spanish cars used four cylinders), they were the official car for Spanish politicians for several years.
The Dodge 3700GT, as befitted a fairly expensive car, used high quality leather trim inside with a wood steering wheel; some electrical parts and the gauges were from Jaeger of France. These models used dual headlights and vertical back lights. This car was named after the 3.7 liter slant six engine used in all the Spanish-production Darts; in the GT, it produced 165 horsepower (gross) from a dual-barrel Carter carburetor.
A diesel version was also made, using a Barreiros diesel with Simca 1000 headlights; these were relatively low end vehicles. Other variations included a station wagon and conversions for diplomatic motorcades and ambulances. Production continued for a year after the American factories had converted to the new-generation version of this vehicle, renamed to Dodge Aspen.
The Simca 1200 Series was available with 52, 65, and 85 horsepower engines; other Simcas, including the very popular Mille (1000) and 900, were sold in Spain as well.
The Chrysler 160, 180, and 2 Litre, essentially French designs made after Chrysler had purchased Simca (with some Rootes Group influence), were built exclusively in Spain starting in early 1975, using the assembly lines originally located in Poissy; the Barreiros factory in Villaverde had specialized in making trucks, Simca cars, and the Dodge 3700GT. No major modifications were made to the 160, 180 and 2-litre, which continued to be sold in France and Britain. However, the Spanish market gained a 2 litre Barreiros diesel version and the 160 model was dropped.
The Barreiros engine was a traditional diesel, 4 cylinders, 2007cc and indirect fuel injection. It developed 65 CV at 4000 rpm and torque of 13.2 m.Kg at 2100 rpm. The transmission was that of the 1610 2 litre - a four speed manual with a 215mm clutch. Tires were 165 SR 14 and brakes followed the original 160 – discs up front, drums out back.
Both trim levels were equipped with the dashboard of the Chrysler 160, which didn't have the tachometer of the 180. Its two front spot lamps could easily distinguish the luxury model. Fuel consumption varied from 6.5 litres/100 km on the open road at an average speed of 80Km/h to 9 litres/100km in urban motoring. Top speed was 134 Km/h.
In the Seventies, Spanish taxation of new vehicles was based on the engine rating. The engine rating was related to the cubic capacity of the engine: the top band of 13 CV corresponded to a cubic capacity of 1920 cc. The Spanish rules were simple and designed to encourage smaller, more economical cars – which of course was where most Spanish car production was centered. Until 1976 the tax was 16% of the price for the vehicles of less than 8 CV. From 8 CV upwards the tax was 20%. From 1976, the taxes increased to 17.2% for 8 CV and 22% for those over 8 CV. In November 1977, a third category appeared: a tax rate of 35% for vehicles of 13 CV and more.
The Chrysler 2 Litre and its diesel sister were hit by the luxury tax of 35%. The Chrysler 2 Litre was removed from the catalogue and replaced by the Chrysler 180 automatic. The diesel Chrysler had its engine capacity reduced by 90cc, which in turn shaved 5CV from its taxation band. The Chrysler diesel for 1978 had an engine of 1917cc, which rated just 12.9 CV and saved the buyer a tax bill of 13% of the purchase price. Neither fuel consumption nor maximum speed was affected by this reduction in engine size.
The Chrysler had a reasonable degree of success on the Spanish market, where it was marketed – especially in diesel form – successfully as a taxi. Local body builders carried out limousine and station wagon conversions although the company never listed these officially. Petrol engine production ended sometime in 1980 to make room in the range for the French built Tagora but production in Spain of the diesel lingered on until 1982.
The Simca 1307 was also sold in Spain, but was renamed to Chrysler 150; the Simca Horizon, also known as the Chrysler Horizon and Plymouth Horizon was also sold in Spain.
After Peugeot purchased the company from Chrysler in 1980, Chrysler and Simca models were all renamed to Talbot; Barreiros continued to make these vehicles for several years. The truck and bus division was sold to Renault, along with the Commer and Dodge Truck operations.
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