Simca 1000 – Boxiness galore!
Whenever someone mentions Simca, my mind instantly turns to this – the chunky, squat, bullish shape of the Simca 1000. This by no means to diminish the overall track record of this venerable French automaker, which includes cars like the aerodynamic Aronde of the 1940s or the stately swan-like Ariane of the 1950s. But pretty as they were, these cars were all looking like smaller copies of the stately, flamboyant American automobiles of the era.
The Mille (as it was called in French) was something different. It hit the mark as an entirely new, avantgarde, self-assured statement in design that came a long way to define the car styling language of the 1970s. Known both as an affordable everyday car and for its exploits in the Rallying circuit (remember Simca-Abarth?), the Simca 1000 is not a car to miss.
The origins of the Simca 1000 lie not in France but in Italy. Simca has always had close ties to Fiat, which also remained the French brand’s dominant shareholder untill 1963. In the 1950s, ths gave Simca executives access to Fiat’s development department, at the time still headed up by the legendary designer-engineer Dante Giacosa.
Simca’s ambition to extend its range further into the the small car sector aligned closely with Fiat’s own “Projects 119” and “122”, intended to build a larger successor to the iconic Fiat 600. Simca obtained the agreement of the Fiat directors to select one of the six different boxy four-door clay models that then comprised the output of “Project 122” to be developed into Simca’s new small car.
The refinement of the prototypes into a production car took another two years, but the basic architecture and boxy shape of the car had evidently been “right the first time” and the Simca 1000 of 1961 is entirely recognizable as the model that had been selected from Fiat’s “Project 122”. In the meantime, the Fiat 600 continued to sell strongly, so Fiat themselves found little urgency about replacing it.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The Simca Mille was inexpensive and modern, with a brand-new inline-four water-cooled “Poissy engine” of 944 cc. Production began on 27 July 1961, with the official unveiling taking place in the context of a high-profile publicity campaign at the Paris Motor Show on 10 October 1961.
The company’s marketing strategy was characteristically imaginative, and having acquired a Paris taxi business in 1958, in November 1961 Simca replaced 50 of that company’s Simca Ariane based taxis with 50 much smaller (but evidently spacious enough for the relatively short journeys normally undertaken by taxi) Simca 1000s. Thus the stylish little car, often with iconic Paris landmarks in the background, quickly became a familiar sight on the capital’s roads and in the press.
The interior was considered “surprisingly” spacious for this class of car, with plenty of space for four, although the luggage locker under the front hood/bonnet offered only limited space because of the spare wheel that was stowed vertically just behind the front bumper. The driver enjoyed an excellent view out: the speedometer pod and minor controls positioned ahead of the driver were basic, although the manufacturer stressed that the glass covering the speedometer was angled to minimize reflections!
Over the course of time, the 1000 evolved into new versions featuring different equipment levels and engines. In 1963 the minimal-spec Simca 900 arrived. In late 1968 the low cost Simca 4 CV (marketed in France as the Simc’4) appeared, powered by a mere 777 cc unit but very competitively priced. At the top end of the range, the 1118 cc unit from the larger Simca 1100 was added for the 1969 model year. Finally, the 1294 cc “Poissy engine”, used in the bigger 1300, found its way into the little 1000 in the early 1970s.
Also, in the model’s early years, the Italian tuner Abarth was offering modified versions of the 1000, and later Simca itself began offering a “Rallye” version, which boosted the model’s popularity in the motorsport community. The Rallye was followed by the Rallye 1, the Rallye 2 and the Rallye 3. The Rally association became so popular that even today many vintage 1000’s are styled in various Rally liveries and customizations.
The Simca 1000 was produced in vast numbers (over 2 million) and therefore is a fairly readily available on the enthusiast market. Like for many French cars of the period, there’s warning for rust in the bodywork but the engine and the gearbox were successful designs, robust and therefore rather bulletproof.
[Photos: Wikipedia, Flickr (Kamyar Adl, Andrew Bone, Circula Seguro, FaceMePLS, Francisco Gonzalez, Ludovic)]
3 additional images. Click to enlarge.