Mid-October’s Auto Medon, near Paris, celebrated the 80th anniversary of the introduction of the first Simca model – the Fiat-derived 11 of 1935 – with an extensive selection of both regular and rare models from the Poissy-based marque.
Although largely forgotten today, by the 1960s Simca had become once of the most popular car brands in Europe, with its pioneering front-wheel-drive 1100 hatchback model being the continent’s best-selling car in 1969. Following a long and complex history, including involvement with Fiat, Ford, Chrysler and the PSA Group, the Simca name was finally killed off in the early 1980s when the marque was consumed by Talbot, as part of Peugeot’s PSA Group, which also incorporated Citroen.
From dozens of Simcas, and later Talbots, on display at Auto Medon, we have hand picked five unusual representatives of this once great marque to illustrate the diversity of Simca, ranging from top-secret prototype models that never saw the light of day, through to rare and successful competition-bred derivatives, as follows… Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the Simca name was an abbreviation of Societe Industrielle de Mecanique et Carrosserie Industrielle (SIMCA).
1937 Simca 8 Gordini
Today French engine tuning wizard Amedeo Gordini is most strongly associated with Renault, but he cut his competition teeth on early Simca-Fiats in the mid-1930s. Taking his first overall victory in May 1935 in a Simca-Fiat in the famous Bol d’Or race. In 1937 Gordini campaigned this tiny Simca 8 ‘tank’ to take his third consecutive Bol d’Or victory at Montlhery. He followed this up with a class win in the 1939 Le Mans 24 Hours, where he shared the Simca’s wheel with Jose Scaron, to take the ‘index of performance’ category at an average speed of 120.246km/h.
1939 Simca Roux Speciale Barquette
Pre-dating the swoopy lines of the Jaguar XK120 by almost a decade, this one-off Simca Roux special was a competition barquette, based around the standard mechanicals of a Simca 8. With an aluminium body built by Ferrer et Lacoste in Bordeaux, to a design by driver and ‘garagiste’ Jean Roux, the special has a magnesium tubular frame. Post-war the Roux competed in many French motor sport events between 1948 and 1952, notably the Grand Prix du Roussillon, Angouleme, the Montlhery Bol d’Or, Les Sables d’Olonne and the Grand Prix de Bilbao, mainly at the hands of driver Pierre Larrue.
1954 Bouvot-Caron Simca 8 Barquette ‘Choupinette’
This pretty little steel-built barquette, based around a 1,221cc Simca 8 monopole engine, was conceived by Paul Bouvet, the director of the French tractor maker Labourier, with Pierre Caron responsible for the mechanicals. Nicknamed ‘Choupinette’ (French slang for ‘sweetie-pie!), once completed in 1954 this one-off was intended for competition, but instead it sat around doing very little for the first eight years of its existence. Choupinette then moved around 18 different owners, before resettling with the Bouvet family, meaning that this charming machine has yet to turn a wheel in anger!
1967 Simca 936 prototype
Never seen at a public exhibition, until now, the Simca 936 was a clever city car prototype, intended to rival the Mini, and ultimately replace Simca’s own long-lived rear-engined 1000 model range. The 1967 936 used the Simca 1000’s engine, mounted transversely to drive the front wheels, just like a Mini. Unlike the Mini though, the 936 managed to squeeze four doors into its compact frame (the same length as a Mini), with a cleverly-packaged and suitably French (i.e. austere) minimalist interior. Sitting on 10-inch wheels, this small city car could have been a winner. Simca’s new owner though – Chrysler – put the mockers on the 936 project, in favour of the Scottish-built Hillman Imp, which the American master seemed to favour, for reasons unknown. A shame really, as this 936 looked like it would have been fun…
1973 CG Simca Proto MC Spider
By the early 1970s, Simca was very much synonymous with the French specialist sports car maker and ex-F1 World Champion Matra, with the Matra-Simca association going on to win Le Mans three times on the trot. Strange then that Simca should also have an alliance with another, much smaller French specialist sports car maker, CG. CG (Chappe Freres et Gessalin) had been building agreeable little Simca-based rear engined sports coupes and convertibles since 1968, with these popular lightweight sports cars available through the official Simca dealer network with Chrysler’s full blessing. From 1972 until 1974, Chrysler France backed an official Simca CG Works competition team with its lively Proto MC, intended to take on the might of local rallying rival Alpine-Renault. Powered by a 2,160cc motor from the Simca Chrysler 2-Litre saloon, the 225 bhp CG Proto MC saw a few podiums, but failed to beat the Works Alpine-Renault team. Chrysler France soon lost interest and switched its full competition interest to Matra-Simca, leaving CG out in the cold, with production ending in 1974.
Photography by Gary Axon