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The Simca 1204 (US) and Simca 1100 - most popular car in France - and the Talbot Wind

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The Simca 1204 (US) and Simca 1100 - most popular car in France -
and the Talbot Wind

by Andy Thompson

Introduction by the Allpar staff. The Simca 1204 really should have succeeded in the US. A twin of the most popular car in France, it was closely copied by Volkswagen to create the Rabbit and Jetta.

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Yet, the 1204 was such a failure, despite having a larger engine than the French version, that it left almost before it arrived. If you just want to get to the 1204, which is the model sent to the US, by all means skip to the Simca 1204.

The Simca 1100

As the 1960s opened, Simca took a long hard look at its future model plans. It had just launched the 1000, and the Simca 1300/1500 were soon to replace the long running Aronde and Arainne. Where to go next?

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Simca did careful market research to decide its strategy for the next 15 years. They saw the growing success of front wheel drive cars such as the Mini, Austin/Morris 1100, and the Renault 4, all showing new ways of bringing big car space, comfort, and handling to small car buyers. This looked like a promising market for a relatively young and ambitious car maker.

In the spring of 1962, Simca set a target of launching (by 1966/1967) a range of front wheel drive cars, incorporating saloons with folding rear seats, estate cars, and light commercial vehicles. It was to fit into the French 6CV taxation class, neatly filling the gap between the 5CV Simca 1000 (Simca Mille) and the 7CV Simca 1300.

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Derek Harling wrote:

The Shell 4000 Rally involved long distances day and night across Canadian mountains and prairie gumbo in spring, when the snow was melting and creating all kinds of impossible situations on un-surfaced roads.

In 1963, thanks to the suggestion of Scott Harvey, I ended up competing in a Simca 1000 courtesy of the Import/Export Division. We started in Vancouver and got as far as The Soo (Sault St. Marie) where it fell apart and died. We rented a "real" car to tow it home - or as my co-driver Dale Reeker remarked, "Just what the Simca needed - 200 hp up front instead of 20 hp behind the rear axle." Fun.
Project 928: a new direction

Work started on this new model at the end of 1962, with plans for four body styles: three and five door saloons, a three door estate, and a three door van. Two engineering prototypes were built, one with a front-to-back engine like the later Renault 12 and the other with a transverse engine like the Austin/Morris 1100. Both were tested while the Argenteuil styling team, directed by Mario Revelli de Beaumont, worked on proposals for the external and interior design.

In the summer of 1963, Project 928 got the go-ahead, using the transverse engine layout. However, Simca's design team now had a new set of bosses to convince - in 1963, Chrysler Corporation had taken a controlling interest in Simca.

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The American management made a lot of noise about how Simca's autonomy would not be affected by the takeover, but a raft of management changes followed. Simca founder Henri Théodore Pigozzi was replaced by George Hereil, who then re-iterated Chrysler's initial statement that Simca would remain largely unchanged by the change in ownership. In the case of Project 928, this certainly held true.

The two engineers responsible for the new cars, Philippe Grundeler and Charles Scales, supported by George Héreil, prepared a mass of information to gain Chrysler's support. Detroit gave the project its blessing at the beginning of 1964. The Americans recognised that the car would be in a favourable position when it hit the market; the only front wheel drive competition was from Britain's BMC and Italy's Autobianchi. Simca's last car (or Chrysler France's first, depending on your perspective) would steal a march on all European opposition, and that was good for Chrysler...

The company set a target of July 1967 for the first cars to roll off the production lines. The date was set to allow Simca to premier its new car at the Paris Motor Show in the autumn of 1967.

It was a major task to complete the development and the production engineering of an entirely new model with a new body and new transmission within such a short space of time, even allowing for the engine being a stretched version of the recently announced Simca 1000 motor. Project 928 or VLBB (Voiture Legère Berline Break - small car/small truck/estate car) rapidly developed at Poissy. Sadly, according to some accounts, Simca became so pre-occupied with Project 928 that the accord between the French company and the Italian tuners Abarth fell through. This held back the 1000's sporting progress considerably, just when French tuner Gordini was working his magic on the Renault R8.

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George Héreil gave overall responsibility for the new car to Pierre Nadot. Both men had links going back to the early days of the legendary Caravelle aircraft. In 1965, Pierre Nadot got extra support and help when two former Peugeot engineers joined the team - Claude de Forcrand and François Paget.

The SIMCA 1100 steals a march...

In 1967, the Chrysler Pentastar appeared on the lower, right front wing of every Simca, and at the front of the plant at Poissy, replacing the Simca swallow. Chrysler wanted to be associated with the success story that was Simca; by the time of the launch of the 1100 in 1967, Simca had become one of France's biggest firms, with well over ten million square feet of manufacturing space, over 24,000 employees, and more than 6,500 dealers and service centres in 130 export countries.

Naming the new car was straightforward; its 1118cc engine allowed the Simca 1100 tag, fitting nicely between the Simca 1000 and 1500. Final testing was carried out in June 1967. Representatives from Chrysler were invited to take the wheel of two pre-production prototypes and to compare them with their competitors of the time, including the Peugeot 204.

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At Poissy, production had been affected for several months by preparations for the new model. The plant was closed during two weeks in July instead of the usual August break. At the end of July 1967, forty five Simca 1100 LS and two Simca 1100 GL cars had been produced on the new production line. A team continued to work on last minutes changes to the car in Agadir in Morocco.

At the beginning of September 1967 the first GLS was produced.

The Simca 1100 enjoyed at an impressive launch party during September, organised by Maurice Favennec, at the luxurious holiday complex of Costa Smeralda (Sardinia), the property of the Aga Khan. Journalists thoroughly tested the new model on Sardinia's battered roads and waited in luxury and comfort for the chance to take the cars on faster courses.

With Chrysler behind it, the 1100 was set to make a huge impact on the market, playing on its strengths of its advanced specification. Advanced it certainly was, sporting front wheel drive, a hatchback, disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, 4.5 inch wheel rims carrying 145X13 radial ply tyres and a wide range of body styles. Initially, three and five door hatchbacks, three door estate car and a van were offered. Suspension was independent, by torsion bars all round. The dashboard was typically French, with controls scattered all over the place. A simple strip speedometer was fitted along with a fuel gauge.

Simca made sure that many differing customer requirements could be met from within a single range of cars. Along with the four body permutations, the 1118cc could be purchased with a manual or a Ferodo three speed semi-automatic gearbox and in two states of engine tune. The base engine, fitted to the LS and the van, produced 53bhp and a compression ratio of 8.2:1. The slightly more powerful 56bhp unit with a compression ratio of 9.6:1 was fitted to the more expensive GL and GLS models. The semi-automatic Ferodo transmission was an evolution of the Transfluide system introduced by Renault in the Frégate.

The 1100 incorporated a number of novel features. Its engine was slanted back by 30 degrees to allow for a lower bonnet line. The body shell was developed using ideas pioneered in America. It had a modified perimeter frame chassis and torsion bar suspension. This allowed the highly stressed mounting points for the engine, gearbox and suspension to be carried on the frame leaving the body relatively unstressed. This made it easier to develop different body styles. However, the Simca body was welded to the frame rather than bolted, as was the practice in America.

The SIMCA 1100 appears

The public unveiling took place at Paris Motor Show, from October 5th until October 15, 1967. Héreil and Nadot presented their new car to General de Gaulle, the French President; on the same day, 7,000 people were invited to a massive presentation - taking up 12,000 square metres - in Le Bourget. Chrysler were rightly proud of the Simca 1100. It wore the Chrysler Pentastar badge from day one. The 1100 was also the first Simca to have hubcaps with the Chrysler pentastar motif..

The 1968 model range started with the 1100 LS, as a hatchback and as an estate car. Its bumpers had no over riders and there was no brightwork round the windows, unlike higher models; and on the LS hatchbacks, the rear seat folded back against the front seats without forming a flat floor for the load area. On the GL and GLS hatchbacks and all the estate cars, the rear bench seat retracted into the floor to give a full length, flat load floor.

Next up was the 1100 GL, which had rubber faced over riders on the bumper and extra chrome trim (there was no GL estate car). Top of the range was the 1100 GLS, with chrome strips round the wheel arches and full size chrome wheel trims. Inside, the front seats had reclining back rests and were trimmed with cloth or aéralon, a breathable vinyl material. Carpets were fitted instead of the rubber mats used in the LS and GL models, there was a lidded glove box a water temperature gauge, an electric clock, a cigarette-lighter and day/night rear view mirror. Finally, there was a light van - basically an estate car with the window openings missing. This model featured the LS trim and engine and later became known as the VF1 (VF stood for Voiture Fourgonette).

Simca made much of its new guarantee, which provided cover for 2 years or 60000 km for the major components such as the engine and transmission. This was a hot selling point for Simca, as most of its competitors offered rather feeble 6 month guarantees.

The French loved the 1100 from launch and bought it in huge numbers. In 1968, its first full year of production, 138,242 1100s rolled out of Poissy: an impressive achievement. The car was launched in Britain in late 1967 but the choice offered to British buyers was not as wide as that offered to French buyers.

During 1968, some running changes were made to the range, including a slight increase in the ground clearance and improvements to the rather heavy steering.

In September 1968, the 1969 range was unveiled along with a five door estate car (station wagon) body, offered with GL or GLS trim. The LS range was extended by a 944cc 45bhp engine from the Simca 1000, which took the car into the lower 5CV French taxation class. This model came fitted with cross ply tyres and had a 5CV badge fitted to the rear door. Between 1969 to 1972, the 944cc model accounted for 25% of the total production of the 1100! It was never sold in Britain.

The 1118cc LS models were temporarily dropped from production between September 1968 and January 1969, when they reappeared with the 56bhp engine previously only available on the GL and GLS models. The 53 bhp engine was still available to special order but as a standard unit only appeared in the van. The van was brought over to Britain in 1969 as a replacement for the Commer Imp van, which was dropped in February 1970.

By 1969, 44% of Simcas made at the Poissy plant in Paris were the 1100, 26% were the 1000, and 30% were the 1301/1501. Production of the 1100 in 1969 climbed slightly to 146,095.

<a name="1204"></a>The SIMCA 1204 hits the United States ... and flops

Reviewer David Ash wrote in 1971: "1204 can bring nothing but praise...highly sophisticated set of specifications. Independent suspension by torsion bars at all four corners, front wheel disc brakes and radial ply tires are just part of a bill of fare that might be tempting to people who know about cars. Long orphaned here, the Simca 1204 is a genuine, solid machine."

The 1100 was introduced to America in June, 1969 as the Simca 1204, with a 1204cc engine. It was available in LS or GLS trim, hatchback, or wagon (estate) for under $2,000. Air conditioning and the three speed automatic gearbox were optional.

In American trim, it produced (in 1971) 62 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 65 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm, and weighed 2,025 pounds (similar to the contemporary Saabs, much lighter than the Toyota Crown, and much heavier than the Subarus). Length was 155 inches, width was 62.5 inches, and the transmission was a four-speed manual.

Although the car was praised by the American motoring press, it was not a success and Simca withdraw from the American market in 1972.

Simca 1100 in Europe, 1970s

If the first three years of the 1100's production run could be considered a success, then the 1970s were phenomenal. The 1100 became the best-selling Simca of all time. Production levels at Poissy bloomed considerably, and in 1971, the 1100's achievements were topped when it became France's best selling car. In 1971, 1972 and 1973, over 200,000 1100s per annum were produced, but most impressively, 1973 saw a peak of 296,984 leave Poissy. Simca continued to feed demand by introducing new model variations at a startling rate, and like the Simca 1000, each new top-of-the-range model seemed to be accompanied by a hike in power.

Major changes to the range were announced in September 1969 for the 1970 model year. The three door LS estate car was dropped, both it and the 1100 GL estate car being replaced by an LS five door estate. There were power increases for all engines - 45 to 48 bhp for the 944cc, 56 to 60 bhp for the 1118cc cars and 53 to 54 bhp for the light van. The boost to power was a result of changes made to the combustion chambers, pistons, valves, cylinder heads, carburettors and manifolds. The company claimed that the changes not only increased power but reduced fuel consumption by 3%.

The seats were redesigned and an anti theft steering lock was fitted too. A new dashboard with round dials replaced the previous, less attractive horizontal strip speedometer. Two dials were fitted to the LS, one for the speedo and one for minor gauges and warning lamps. The GL and GLS got four dials although on the GL only two were used - the buyer had to tick the options boxes for a rev counter and a clock to fill the blanks! The GLS had the clock as standard, leaving just the rev counter as an option.

Interestingly, the new dash was never introduced onto right hand drive models although British buyers got a glimpse of the dash in the 1973 range brochure - a shot through the open hatchback of an LS clearly shows the round dials. Indeed, it was about this time that the range of Simca 1100 cars offered to French and British buyers started to diverge quite considerably, with each market getting its own tailor made selection.

Except on the models at the bottom of the range, Simca introduced colour keyed trim, linking the exterior colour (from a wider choice of 14 colours including 7 metallics) with the interior trim colour and extending that cover from the seats to include the dash padding etc. The GLS seats used polyester foam construction seats. All 1118cc models were given the option of servo assisted brakes.

Cardan steering joints, tested on the London to Sydney Marathon in 1968, were adopted in February 1970 to reduce noise and vibrations on bad roads and in April all models got anchor points for three point front seat belts.

In June 1970, the 1204 Special was introduced in three and five door models. The Special carried the 1204cc 75bhp at 6000rpm from the 1200S, rated in France for tax purposes as a 7CV. It featured two twin choke Weber carburettors, an aluminium sump and servo assisted brakes. Long distance driving lights were built into the front grille. The interior featured improved black Aeralon trim or cloth and the front seats had standard headrests. An electronic tachometer was built into the new dashboard, the steering wheel was a sporty 3 spoke affair and there was a centre console. An electrically heated rear window was fitted along with electrically operated screen washers. Ventilated wheel rims of 5 inches with special hub caps (dark grey with chrome star and red circle in the centre) were also fitted. Initially, the Special was available only in metallic turquoise blue, other colour choices coming on stream during 1971. Top speed for the Special was about 100mph!

More running changes were made during 1970 - a quieter alternator, the cable operated gear change was replaced with a rod system to improve the quality of the gear change and stronger synchromesh was fitted to the gearbox.

For France in 1971 the five door GL 5 door and three door GLS were dropped. All models were equipped with radial-ply tyres, a glove box under the dashboard and, with the exception of the Special, a black twin spoke steering wheel. The 944cc LS had its compression ration raised from 8.1:1 to 9.4:1. The van and the GLS gained servo assisted brakes. Changes were made to answer criticisms made earlier in 1970 of the Special - engine torque was increased by 15% and additional sound-proofing was installed.

The British range was rather limited - the 1118LS three door, a GLS as a five door and an estate and the 1204 Special. The 1204 was promoted in Britain as offering more performance than the popular MG Midget and Triumph Spitfire sports cars!

On August 31st, 1971, Chrysler France replaced Simca as the official name of the company. New rectangular name badges replaced the individual S.I.M.C.A. letters on the cars.

In September 1971, 1972 model year Simca 1100s received a mildly restyled rear hatchback with a slightly larger window. New colours appeared, celebrating the introduction of new electro-painting techniques at Poissy. All models gained a new, 3 spoke safety steering wheel complete with fake wood trim on the Special. The Special itself got a new, 1294cc engine, bore increasing from 74 to 76.7mm. The new engine came with a single twin choke Weber carburettor and produced the same power as the previous twin carb 1204cc model - 75hp at 5600rpm. The new engine was more flexible and a lot easier to keep in tune! The cheaper three door models were dropped for France but British buyers could still buy a three door 1100LS. In 1972, the Simca 1100 was France's best selling car.

For 1973, all models received pollution controls for their engines - an early consequence of the European Union starting to legislate for pan-European emissions standards. The Special was equipped with a reversing lamp mounted under the rear bumper and the dual horns from the Chrysler 180. The millionth Simca 1100, a Spécial, rolled off the Poissy production line on June 28th, 1973.

The commercial van based on the 1100: VF2

The big news for 1973, announced in December 1972 was the extension of the commercial range with a high roof light van known as VF2. The VF2 was equipped with the 54bhp engine and offered a cargo volume of about 70 cubic feet and a payload of 1100 lb. It was available in three colours - white, blue or beige and offered options such as two side windows per side and a bulk head dividing the cab from the load area. It was equipped with servo assisted brakes, reinforced wheels and manual headlamp height adjustment. The VF1 was the standard low roof van which offered about 44 cubic feet cargo volume. A Pick-Up was introduced in Dec 75 and was Simca's first pick-up since the 1963 Aronde Intendante although not the first 1100 pickup; French coachbuilder Heuliez had produced a prototype pickup in 1971.

The final model in the commercial series was the VF3, which arrived in 1978, with an eight inch raised roof increasing cargo volume to about 80 cubic feet. All VF models used LS trim for the passenger compartments. The Ferodo semi-automatic transmission was not available with the pick-up and by the end of 1973, this option had been dropped for all British Simca 1100 buyers.

The first (G)TI

For1974, the1100 received revisions to the transmission and front suspension, including larger diameter drive shafts. The 944cc LS was dropped along with the three door Special although the three door Special remained available for British buyers. However, an 1100 Special estate car was added to the range, offered a high speed yet compact load carrier. Unfortunately, weak demand meant the car lasted only two years and it was never sold in Britain. Simca provocatively shot the British 1974 model year brochure in London!

The 1100TI was introduced in late 1973 as a 1974 model year car. It came with an 82bhp 1294cc engine derived from the 84bhp Matra-Simca Bagheera unit. It had two Weber carburettors. Performance was seriously quick; maximum speed was 105 mph and the 0-60 dash could be despatched in under 12 seconds. Five inch alloy wheels were standard. Compared to the Special, the clutch was reinforced, firmer shock absorbers were standard and bigger diameter disc brakes from the 1000 Rallye 2 were fitted. The TI had six lights up front - as well as the two headlamps there were two fog lamps mounted below the front bumper, and two driving lamps set into the matt black grille. A high output alternator, not surprisingly, was fitted as standard!

Available in three or five door versions, the Ti came with front and rear spoilers. The dashboard had six circular dials - speedometer, rev counter, fuel, temperature and oil pressure gauges and an ammeter. A leather covered metal spoked steering wheel completed the sporty interior. The TI was available only in Sumatra Red. As this was considered to be very much part of the range, it could be argued that by producing this model, it was Simca that introduced the concept of the "hot hatchback" in Europe. Bear in mind, that the 1100TI was launched in 1974 as opposed to 1976 for the Volkswagen Golf GTi, and one can see this accolade really belongs to the French rather than the Germans. Sadly, the TI was another Simca 1100 that did not officially cross the Channel.

In contrast to the TI, the next new Simca 1100s were anything but performance cars. In February 1974 Simca reacted to the oil crisis by introducing two new economy models - the 1100LE and 1100GLE with LS or GLS trim but powered by the 944cc 48bhp din engine from the 1000 LS. They were followed in March 1974 by the 1100 ES (Economique Special) - a car trimmed to Special standards but with the 60 bhp 1118cc engine and wheels of the GLS. Only the ES was sold in Britain and then not until the end of 1976.

In autumn 1974, the 1975 range was announced, showcasing a new style of dashboard for Chrysler Europe. The modern design was clean, simple, and ergonomically excellent. Variations were used in the 1976 Chrysler Alpine, the 1977 Avenger, and the 1978 Sunbeam. Circular instruments were grouped in front of the driver in a hooded binnacle - two for cheaper models and six for the ES, Spécial and Ti. All the main controls wipers, washers, lights, indicators - were operated by three steering column mounted stalks.

Flush outside door handles and enlarged taillights, incorporating space for fog and reversing lamps, were the only exterior changes to the 1100. Mechanical components remained unchanged although an effort was made to further reduce noise levels and improve the gear change, increasingly highlighted by contemporary road testers as a serious weak point.

The TI received new, 6 spoke alloy wheels and hazard lights were made standard across the range. The GLE was dropped, but the 1100 Elix or LX (the official nomenclature of the time seems to drift between two names!) was launched. Available in France with three doors, it featured a 54bhp 1118cc engine and a sporty style matt black grille and wiper arms, ventilated wheels with exposed wheel nuts and special side stickers. Colour choice was limited to yellow, orange or brown. Inside, buyers found cloth trimmed seats, a sports style steering wheel, day/night rear view mirror, fitted carpets and head rests. Fog and reversing lamps were standard. Servo assisted brakes remained, unfortunately, an optional extra.

In March 1975, another economy model was added to the range - a 944cc estate car. British buyers had a restricted choice - two LS, two GLS and two Specials.

The C2 starts up as the 1100 continues

By 1975, while the 1100 range was in full flower, development on Chrysler's next small family car had begun in earnest. Knowing a winning formula, Chrysler based the new car (the C2 project) on Simca's hardware, as opposed to Rootes engineering. The best parts of the 1100 were employed in the new car including its suspensions system, engines, and gearboxes. Although the styling was the work of the Ryton-based designers in Coventry, the resulting car the Chrysler Horizon was very much Simca through and through.

In September 1975, further changes were made to the 1100 range. For the French 1976 model year, the LS models, the 944cc estate car, the GLS hatchback, the Ti three door and the Special estate car were all dropped. Engine choices were the 944cc 47bhp, 1118cc in 50 bhp low compression or 58 bhp high compression versions and 1294 in 75bhp or 82 bhp versions.

The 1100 GLX arrived - essentially a five door LX without the side strips and powered by the 58bhp 1118cc engine. The LX, the only 3 door left in the range, saw its power drop by 54 to 50 bhp and its decorative stickers could be replaced by chrome trim. On both the LX and GLX, servo assisted brakes became a standard item. The GLX could also be ordered with the 1118 50bhp LX engine which was also used in the VF models. The 1100 GLX, EX, S as well as the VF2 could be equipped with the semi-automatic box although on the VF2 this also meant ordering the high compression 58 bhp engine.

All models got rubber over-riders to replace the rubber faced chrome ones and matt black wiper arms were extended across the range. Inertia-reel safety belts became an option too. Mechanically, the 1100 got a cylinder block with thicker walls, a modified profile for the camshaft and an improved water pump with increased flow. In 1976 all 1100's received a new, smoother, quieter transmission and a dual circuit braking system. The Special and TI gained the option of headlight wipers.

Britain got a different choice. The range started with the 1100 LE, available with three or five doors. Next up was the 1100 LX, again with a choice of body shells. The GLS was offered as a five door and as an estate and the range was topped by two versions of the Special, a model no longer offered to French buyers. All British 1118cc versions of the 1100 except the commercials came with the 60bhp engine.

The Horizon appears, the 1100 remains

For 1977, the French range was reduced in preparation for the new C2, now named Horizon. The 944cc and 1294 cc 1100's, except the TI, were all dropped. Special sales had been steadily falling since 1974, customers preferring either the more economic ES or the more overtly sporty TI. Special production for France actually ended in July 1976!

The automatic transmission remained an option on all models except the TI and the commercials. The 1100 range was reduced to the five door base LE with a 50 bhp engine, GLX with a choice of 50 or 58 bhp engine, ES with the 58bhp unit and TI, the 50 bhp LX three door, two estate cars - a base LE model and the GLS both with the 58bhp engine - the VF1 and VF2 light vans and the pick up truck. The semi-automatic box remained as an option on the GLX, ES and the two estate cars. A heated rear window became standard on all cars. The LX gained a single spoke steering wheel and gearlever in the style of the Chrysler Alpine/Simca 1307 while the GLX got more interior trimmings. A rear wash/wipe was fitted to the Ti and offered as an option on other models. Radio pre-equipment was now a factory fit option on the range including an aerial, interference suppression equipment, a speaker and a mounting console. Other options included wash/wipe for the headlamps and tinted glass. A step back, though, for the light vans which got traditional belts instead of inertia-reel safety belts!

Britain's 1977 range was quite complex - a couple of 1100 LEs, a three door Lx and and five door GLX, the former with side decals, the latter without but both with the 60bhp engine. The GLS was only offered as an estate but the ES finally arrived in Britain. Two Specials continued to be offered to British buyers!

Business fleet and SUV versions: 1100AS and Matra Rancho

The 1100 AS (Affaires et Societes, or, in English, Businesses and Companies) was introduced to France in December 1976. Designed to exploit French tax laws, the AS featured three doors but only two seats which meant a lower tax rate of 20% instead of 33%. The 50bhp engine was standard. While being based on the LX, it was better equipped including fitted carpet front and rear, headrests, rear fog and reversing lamps, and dual door mirrors. The limited edition 1100 LX Special was introduced to France in April 1977 with special stripes, laminated windscreen, rear wiper, radio pre-equipment tinted glass and quartz iodine headlamps.

In mid 1977, the Simca 1100 based Matra-Simca Rancho was launched. Despite all the macho plastic that adorned the exterior of the Rancho, it was actually based on the humble 1100! Structural and mechanical differences from the 1100 were surprisingly few, and it went on to sell in usefully large volumes.

Sales fall with the Alpine/1308 and Horizon

The 1100's success only gradually subsided. 1976 saw the launch of the Chrysler Alpine/Simca 1308 which, along with the newly launched Renault 14, began to dent sales. The real fall took place in 1978, following the Chrysler Horizon's launch.

The Horizon was introduced simultaneously in France as the Chrysler-Simca Horizon and in North America as the Plymouth Horizon and the Dodge Omni in December 1977. Production of the 1100 was to continue for four more years, despite its replacement hitting the market. Three door, estate, and commercial versions of the Horizon were never made, leaving clear market gaps for the 1100.

For 1978, all French 1100 models using the 1118cc motor standardised the 8.8:1 compression ratio. In January 1978, the LX, GLX ES and Ti faded away. A new GLS five door hatchback was introduced with a standard of trim very similar to that of the now deleted ES. The GLS estate car was upgraded at the same time to match its smaller sister. Both used the 58hp GLX engine and were well equipped, including the seats from the 1100TI, a rear wash/wiper and the option of a Super Confort version with velour upholstery.

At the other end of the scale, the 1100 VF 3 High Capacity Van was introduced and the three door base LE model made another appearance, both fitted with the low compression 50bhp engine. A welcome option for the hatchbacks was a sliding steel sunroof. Britain's range was similarly slimmed down - to a three door 1100LE, five door LE, GLX, GLS Estate and a GLS Special. The GLS Special had Special trim but the regular engine and was promoted as part of the 'Simcarisma' advertising campaign featuring dancing girls. The range was topped by the 1294cc Special.

Chrysler leaves the scene

In the summer of 1978, Chrysler bailed out of their European operations to focus on their struggling American operation. They sold all their European plants to the French Peugeot company, which already controlled Citroen, for an estimated total (including debt assumption) of around $860 million. OnJuly 10th, 1979, Peugeot announced that Chrysler Europe was to become the Talbot Group and that all Chrysler-Simca models, which at that time had an 11% share of the French market, would become Talbot-Simcas. On January 1st, 1980, Chrysler France officially changed its name to Talbot. Six months later, for the 1981 model year, the name Simca was replaced by Talbot. The Talbot-Simca 1100 wore a Talbot badge at the front and a Simca badge at the back.

The 1979 range was unchanged for France. The base LE model came as a three or five door with the 50bhp engine, the GLS as a five door or estate with the 58bhp unit. There was also a 58bhp base LE estate. The vans and pick up all had the lower compression 50bhp engine. All models got a new black grille with two chrome strips, hitherto restricted to the LX and GLX. The range continued unchanged into 1980 although the GLS got quartz iodine driving lamps set into the front grille. The AS model continued to be trimmed to a level between the LE and the GLS. In Britain, the range was reduced to an 1100LE three and five door, a GLS Special and a GLS estate - all were dropped in February 1979. Commercials remained on sale in Britain until the early nineteen eighties.

In July 1980, the 1981 range was announced. The base LE was replaced by the identically equipped LS the only difference being that the LS had the 58 bhp engine. On all models except the AS and the pick up the semi-automatic box remained an option. The odometers changed from 5 to 6 digits. Production of saloons and estate ended in July 1981.

After 1100 production ended, the Poissy production lines produced the Peugeot-based Talbot Samba. The commercial versions of the 1100 continued until the spring of 1985, with the VF1 and VF2 offering the option of LPG fuel conversion. In July 1983, a laminated windshield became standard, the wheels from the Horizon LS were used and the bumpers changed from chrome to matt black. Production finally ended in spring 1985.

A car to be proud of&#8230;

Simca 1100 1968
Renault 161965
Autobianchi Primula1967
Austin Maxi1968
Volkswagen Golf1974
Renault 141977
Fiat Strada/Ritmo1978

The 1100 was, without doubt, a huge success for Simca on the French market. With over two million built and a 15-year production run, it should be remembered as one of France's more significant cars. In technical terms, it was also at the cutting edge when it was launched, offering front wheel drive allied with hatchback versatility in a class that had yet to be fully converted to the benefits of that extra door. To put that into perspective, here is a list of other important family hatchbacks and when they were launched.

As can be seen, Simca really did get the jump on its immediate opposition. The Renault 16 and Maxi really belonged in the class up from the 1100, and the only comparable car to see the light of day around the same time as the SIMCA 1100 was the Autobianchi Primula. The Simca's challenge was never really met convincingly until the Volkswagen Golf was launched some seven years later. Even as late as 1973, major European manufacturers were launching small saloons without hatchbacks: one only has to look at the three-box Fiat 128 (1970), Citroen GS (1970), Alfa Romeo Alfasud (1971) and Austin Allegro (1973) to see just how many companies missed the boat.

Although the 1100 was a huge success, it seemed that Chrysler could not capitalise upon it when it came to producing a replacement. The Horizon was essentially a re-skinned 1100, and as most of the opposition had caught up by the time, it failed to make anything like the same impact. So what was the 1100's legacy? Take your pick: the first GTi, the true creator of the "Golf" class, or the Horizon...

Heuliez variants of the Simca 1100

Heuliez produced several vehicles based on the Simca 1100, starting with the Saharienne cabriolet concept car in 1968. In one case, they took the standard 1100 front end and mated it to a capacious van rear end to produce the 1100 VF2 ("Voiture Fourgonette"). This was soon followed-up with the high roof version called the VF3, and then the handy pick-up version, and provided SIMCA with an effective rival on the commercial market for the Citroen 2CV AK and Renault 4 F4. These innovative derivatives joined the "Affaires et societe" van, which was effectively a panelled-in three door hatchback without rear seats and the VF1, three door break van.

From the VF2 Fourgonette, the Matra-Simca Rancho was constructed with the help of some impact resistant plastic and other off-roading equipment; it transformed the ordinary van into a capable leisure vehicle. Stylistically the Matra-Rancho was at least twenty years early. Heuliez, seeing this example, built its own lifestyle version of the Talbot-SIMCA 1100, based on the pick-up. This model was created in order to give aspiring Rancho owners the opportunity to own a cheaper lifestyle version of the 1100, whilst allowing Heuliez a piece of the action.

Land vehicle Vehicle Car Pickup truck Light commercial vehicle

The Talbot Wind was one stylish edition of the 1100, available as a retrofit to existing pickups or as a new car made in Deux Sevres. Like the Rancho, the Wind offered no real off-road ability, despite looking as if it could climb every mountain. It offered accessories such as a surf rack, and sported neat styling touches such as roof-mounted spotlights, a new radiator grille and jazzy paint schemes. Particularly interesting was modular nature of the accessory pack, so if one did not want their surf racks attached, they would simply unbolt. However, lacking the Rancho's finish, the Wind was not a commercial success. When the 1100 pick-up slipped out of production in 1985, the Wind followed.

Production: enviable numbers

Total production of the Simca 1100, including CKD kits was 2,188,737 between 1967 and 1985. This compares favourably with the Horizon at 893,846 between 1977 and 1985 and the Simca 1000 with 1,935,098 cars built between 1961 to 1978. Cars and estate cars accounted for 2,139,400 units while commercial vehicles totalled 39,608.

YearProduction YearProduction







































Footnote: Simca 1100s were assembled by Phillipsons in Sweden - on the same lines that built Mercedes.

Chrysler 1904-2018

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My father bought a used 1970 1204 as a second car to drive to work. It was a red car in decent shape. He taught me to drive (and shift) in that car before drivers training. One day as my father turned into the driveway a lower ball joint failed and the car collapsed right there at the end of the driveway. He was lucky because he had been speeding along on the expressway just two miles earlier! He fixed it, drove it awhile longer, and later sold the 1204 to another family looking for cheap transportation.
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