Following on from the success of the Simca 1000, the 1100 would provide Simca with the perfect platform to allow export sales. The result of "Project 928", design of the 1100 had stated back in 1962 under the watchful eyes of engineers Philippe Grundeler and Charles Scales. Grundeler and Scales were well aware of the growing popularity of front wheel drive cars such as the Mini and Austin/Morris 1100 and the Renault 4 – which were all showing new ways of bringing big car space, comfort, and handling to small car buyers.
Renault may have beaten Simca to market with the unique hatchback design of the Renault 16, however this design was still in its infancy and Simca were able to drive sales with the sleek look of their 4 door saloons. The folding rear seat helped make the Simca 1100 a very practical car indeed. By fitting the spare wheel behind the rear bumper, the engineers were able to create an enormous 41 cu. ft. luggage area. If you needed still more carrying capacity an Estate version was available.
The car was originally fitted with the Simca Type 315 OHV petrol engine, although larger capacity 1118cc and 1294cc engines were fitted to export variants. A "stroked" 1118 cc engine displacing 1.2 litres was introduced in 1971 to the UK market as the Simca 1204. All engines produced were mated to a four speed manual gearbox, although you could option a rather unique three speed Ferodo semi-automatic gearbox that required manual shifting but used an electronically activated clutch.
The 1100's transmission configuration was revolutionary in that it was transverse and axial with the engine giving the "engine on one side, transmission on the other" layout copied on almost all hot hatches and front wheel drive vehicles throughout the world ever since. 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.
There were various trim levels available, the model variants comprising the LS, GL, GLS and "Special" equipment classes. All models featured a better than average face level ventilation system, and the top-of-the-range GLS came with chrome tipped exhaust, electric clock and cigarette lighter. There was plenty of other advanced features too, such as disc brakes, rack and pinion steering and 4.5 inch wheel rims carrying 145 X 13 radial ply tyres. 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.
Undeniably the beauty of the 1100 was the inhenent adapdability making it easily changeable to suit export markets. and many of its opponents, Simca made sure that many differing customer requirements could be met from within a single range of cars. The 1100 also 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.
Two commercial versions were manufactured, the van and utility bodystyles was named the Simca VF2, and were sold from 1973 to 1985, three years after the 1100 had been removed from the market. These models assumed the Dodge nameplate after 1976 in line with Chrysler Europe policy.
In 1974, the sporty TI appeared with the 1294 engine (82 PS), at the time when the car also saw a cosmetic redesign. Based on the 1100 chassis, the Matra engineering firm created a crossover derivation engineered named Matra Rancho. In France, the 1100 was very successful, achieving best-seller status, but it was less competitive in non-European export markets. It was also sold in the USA in limited quantities. By the time production had stopped, some 2.2 million Simca 1100's had rolled off the production line.