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The Simca Aquilon: Ford V8, Retuned by Chrysler and Simca

by Rogério Ferraresi • originally published in Rod & Custom (Brazil) #10 • Used with permission
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When it comes to Brazilian-made V8s, many remember the Dodge 318 or Ford 292. Many others will cite the Ford 302, which, although it was imported, outfitted many Galaxies and Mavericks. But few will remember the Simca Aquilon, Super Typhoon, and Emi-Sul, rare engines today, but important at the beginning of our auto industry.

The Aquilon was the first V8 made in Brazil for passenger cars. It came after the 272, but that was only available to commercial vehicles. The Aquilon also came from Ford, and its architecture, with flat heads and side valves, faithfully repeated the flathead engine. Why Ford? That was a matter of history.

In 1954, Simca bought Ford's unprofitable factory in Poissy, France, which was geared up to build the big-for-Europe Ford Vedette line. Simca kept the Vedette, which was larger than any Simca, adding the Simca-engined Ariane version starting in 1957 and the Vedette Chambord model in 1958.

The Aquilon in Brazil began with the launch of the domestic Simca Chambord (Vedette) in March 1959; most of its components were imported from France. The little 2,351-cc (143-cubic-inch) V8 engine had compression ratio of 7.60:1 and produced 84 hp, giving the Chambord a 135-km/h (84-mph) top speed, about right for average-sized imported cars of the time.

In the following year, Simca dropped the Vedette in France, and sent the tooling to Brazil. On August 30, 1960, the luxury version was launched (Presidence); in this car, the Aquilon produced 90 hp, using two Zenith carburetors and a dual exhaust with a pipe for each of the four cylinders.

On the same day of the Presidence's release, the first domestic engine blocks (as well as the Aquilon's internal parts, such as the camshaft and crankshaft) were cast and machined in Brazil. Happiness was temporary: there was a serious problem, after the first 100 engines were completed, 98 were rejected. However, along with the tooling, the French Simca sent engineer Jean Jacques Pasteur, with $8 million in capital for the Brazilian subsidiary.

Part of this money was invested in improving the V8 Aquilon, and in April 1961 it was introduced as the Chambord Second Series. In addition to the improvements in body and finish, engine output jumped to 90 hp (the same as the Presidence version), achieved at the expense of greater care in casting the cylinder heads as well as changes in intake and exhaust ducts.

Subsequently, in April 1962, the "Three Swallows" series emerged. The Three Swallows models had 92-hp engines and used new chrome-plated piston rings and a water pump for greater thrust.

One of Simca's big surprises, however, was reserved for the month of May: the Rallye Special's release. It had the 1960-61 Presidence's engine, but it was possible to get it with the new 100-hp Aquilon. The engine size increased to 2,432 cc (148 cubic inches), with a compression ratio of 7.72:1; improvements were also introduced with the 1962 Presidence. The Rallye Special left the factory with two air intakes on the hood, clearly inspired by the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.

In November, the Jangada (literally, "Balsa" or "Raft") was launched, with a 95 horsepower motor. In April 1963, the "Three Synchros" series was launched - the name referring to its fully synchronized gearbox. Again the heads were redesigned, and the Chambord's engine rose to 95 bhp, while the Jangada jumped to 98 hp and the Presidence and Rallye to 105 hp.

The Simca's body was partially restyled in 1964, gaining a more modern hood, new columns, windshield, side windows, and rear windscreen. It was the Typhoon series, which also received significant mechanical changes. The base Aquilon engine in the Chambord went to 2,414 cc (147 cubic inches).

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This change, coupled with the new compression ratio of 8:1 and dual exhaust on the Presidence and Rallye, pushed the Chambord's engine to 100 hp. A new Aquilon version, called the Super Typhoon, was intended for the Presidence and Special Rallye. The new Rallye was more sophisticated than the Chambord and used the Rallye Special's previous engine. Equipped with two staged carburetors, the 2,500-cc (153 cubic inches) Super Typhoon had 8.5:1 compression ratio and made 122 hp.

The Simca, which now reached 150 km/h, also began to be sold with the oil cooler and manual-advance distributor, controlled via a lever on the instrument panel. Thus, it was possible to always get the best performance of the vehicle, regardless of the gasoline used (blue or yellow) or the altitude. Thanks to the Super Typhoon, the factory changed its most expensive cars' speedometer reading from a top speed of 160 km/h to 180 km/h (from 99 to 112 mph).

Enhanced versions of the Aquilon and Super Typhoon can be considered the culmination of the Ford flathead V8. The engine had been introduced in the U.S. in 1932; its first generation was 2,220 cc (135 cubic inches) and it produced only 65 bhp at 4,800 rpm. It was almost half the power of the Brazilian-developed Super Typhoon, and never existed in France.

Rounding out the list of new features, Simca began offering transistorized ignition system for the first time in the domestic Brazilian market; it used a Ducellier coil imported from France. A new system was a 6 M gearbox that multiplied two of the three transmission speeds. Thus, the driver had at his disposal, in sequence: short first gear, first gear long, short second gear, second gear long, third gear short, and third gear long. It was a response to the new Aero-Willys 2600's four-speed transmission.

The Emi-Sul: Nearly a Hemi

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Simca's next big surprise, however, was saved for April 1966. It was the Emi-Sul series, which included the Chambord Emi-Sul, Presidence, and Rallye Special, produced in conjunction with the Chambord Typhoon and Typhoon Jangada. The Emi-Sul ("Emi" as in "Hemi without the H," to give the top and middle hemisphere shape) received its name for being the first V8 engine made in the southern hemisphere with hemispherical combustion chambers. Since the Super Typhoon, the hemispherical engine was never offered in French models, prompting engineer Pasteur to declare, during the Emi-Sul series' launch, "We are not satisfied, neither Brazil nor Simca, with confining our auto industry to copying... Brazil can, the Simca is proving now, take a leading position in the industry."

The engine gave the Brazilian Emi-Sul handling and performance to match the best and most famous cars in the world, European and American. The automaker classed the Simca as equipped as powerful American cars, as brave Italian cars, as stable as British cars, and as safe as German cars. Then they called to their customers: "Feel like you also drive a car is exciting as international classes. Try the Simca V8 Emi-Sul."

Actually the Emi-Sul, which took two and a half years of work (and investment of $1 million dollars by Chrysler, which had taken a controlling stake in French Simca in 1963), was an adaptation of the Ardun kit created by "Mister Corvette," Zora Arkus Duntov. The kit was used by hot rodders and American racers using the Brazilian Ford V8 engines in France. Simca of Brazil, through Pasteur, developed new aluminum heads that housed the valves in the block, and adopted a new intake and exhaust manifolds. They also eliminated the single-axle central camshaft, as the new heads each had a timing belt (that would become popular in the future); the drive was made by lifters and rockers.

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Equipped with dual carburetors, DFV 444 (similar to the Willys Itamaraty), the Emi-Sul, due to the new heads, was bulkier than the Aquilon. The battery needed to be removed from the engine compartment and migrated to the trunk of the car. With 2,500 cc (153 cubic inches) and a compression ratio of 9.3:1, the Emi-Sul developed 140 hp (130 hp in the more "tame" version) at 5,500 rpm, enabling the Simca to reach a 160-km/h (99-mph) top speed without risking overheating, something common in the Ford Flathead and Aquilon.

In November, Simca introduced its line for the following year, featuring new models and the Regent Terrace; it also showed the new Simca Esplanada, which was essentially the same car but with a complete restyling of the front and rear, with greatly upgraded interior trim. In the same month, Chrysler (which had, in the U.S., the famous Hemi engine with hemispherical combustion chambers) took a controlling stake in Brazilian Simca.

In March 1967, the first "Yankee" officials took their places in the Via Anchieta plant, and in July, Simca of Brazil changed to Chrysler Brasil. A Regent Esplanada was exported to the U.S. and tested at Chrysler's proving grounds. Engineering analyses were sent to the Brazilian plant and changes were made to the Emi-Sul to make it more reliable. From August onwards, Terraces and Regents (the rest of the line was discontinued) began bearing a plaque reading "Made by Chrysler in Brazil." It was interesting: Chrysler, a Ford rival, proceeded to build, outside the U.S., a car with an engine designed by the blue oval brand. A similar occurrence happened when, in the 1970s, Fiat, before buying the Alfa Romeo in Italy, started manufacturing the 2300 in Minas Gerais. (Volkswagen would later continue the trend by building Simca-designed cars under their own name.)

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Coming back to Emi-Sul: in September American Victor G. Pike took over Chrysler in Brazil and dismissed all French officials, including Pasteur. As changes were made to the engine and quality control was improved, most Regent Terraces were sold with a new Brazilian warranty, roughly double that of Ford: two years or 36,000 km (22,370 miles). The 6-speed transmission was abolished, and the engine produced 140 hp.

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The 130-hp Emi-Sul remained in production, however, with a new camshaft. This allowed the Regent Esplanada to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 13 seconds. Nevertheless, the line inherited by Chrysler Simca found a tough and more modern rival, the Ford Galaxie 500. Trying to get a product to its survival, the plant redesigned the Regent Esplanada in 1968, and besides preparing a sporty version with four-speed, floor-shift, the GTX was introduced in 1969. However, with the emergence of the Chevrolet Opala and the larger Dodge Dart, there was no room in the market for the Regent Esplanada, and production ceased; the value of the cars plummeted, especially after the oil crisis.

People began relying on disassembled cars, which is why the majority ended up in the scrap yard. At the time, the scrap value was high, making it advantageous to sell the Simca, even in good condition, to foundries, which typically paid more than used-car dealers. Completing the picture, Emi-Sul engines, which had aluminum heads (even today an expensive raw material), were "worth gold" in scrap yards. As a result, few cars with hemispheric engines remained intact.

Today, it is difficult to find a Simca engine like the Aquilon, Super Typhoon, or Emi-Sul, for sale in good condition. Parts virtually disappeared, making it somewhat difficult to use the engines in hot rods. But having an engine in a kit car based on the Ardun is certainly something that would enrich any hot rod and cause great admiration. Therefore, it would not be difficult to predict the recovery of the motors.

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