Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
The Simca 1000 was an immediate success when it was launched at the 1961
Paris Salon, winning a huge allegiance of fans and enjoying a wonderfully long production run of 16 years, in which time some 1.6 million would be made. Weighing in at a sprightly 730kg, the rear-engined 1000 used a 944cc, it being based on the ever reliable Simca 5 bearing 1290cc unit. Good for 45bhp at 5000rpm, the little 1000 could reach a respectable top speed of 75mph.
Featuring independent front and rear suspension
, the 1000 had 9 inch hydraulic drum brakes
all round and a 12 volt electrical system. Strangely, and in a departure from tradition, the engine revolved counter-clockwise, the engineers deeming it to provide more torque and improve balance at speed. The integral 4 speed transmission
/rear axle assembly is compact and fully synchronized.
Despite the car filling the cheap and cheerful market segment, it boasted many refinements and innovations not normally fitted as standard equipment at that time. Its four doors opened at right angles, the luggage boot locked from inside the car, the ventilation system allowed both air flow and temperature to be regulated.
The separate front seats featured contoured triple-padded backs and a no-sag frame, each affording seven adjustment positions able to be changed while the car was moving. Even the sound insulation was effective, and in a wonderful touch demonstrating the attention to detail, both sun visors were colour matched to either of two ceiling tones.
Coming to America
Americans got their first look at Chrysler's rear-engined Simca 1000 when Frenchman Jean Sunny drove one 60 miles between Versailles and Chartres, balancing on two wheels all the way. It was a spectacular publicity stunt, and one we do not believe has ever been repeated. Chrysler thought the little Simca would endear itself to a population that had been brought up on brutally large cars, mainly thanks to its price and economy.
Selling for "under US$1600" at launch, the four-door Simca 1000 was able to squeeze 34.4 miles out of each US gallon of gas - regular at that - during both highway and freeway driving with three adults aboard. Slow stop-and-go city traffic still found the Simca giving 28.5 mpg. And with the 9.5-gallon tank, the car had a usable range of from 265 to 325 miles between refills. Better still, the cheap price was not reflected in the build quality, the Simca 1000 having solid unit construction, a sturdy transaxle unit gearbox, a good suspension system, and fine brakes.
The rear-mounted engine sat behind the transaxle. It put out 50 hp at 5200 rpm from its 57.61 cubic inches and gave 54.2 pounds-feet of torque at 2800 rpm. The iron block had a 2.67-inch bore and a 2.55-inch stroke, plus full pressure lubrication. Slanted 15 degrees to the left, the ohv in-line Four used an aluminum head, with 8.2-to-1 compression ratio. A five-main-bearing crankshaft was fitted with tri-metal bearings. Combustion chambers were conical. A real performer, this engine would lug down to under 20 mph in top gear or scream up to 7000 rpm in the lower three without a complaint.
With the 4.37 rear axle, the "1000" romped up to 30, 45, and 60 mph in 6.5, 13.2, and 25.7 seconds respectively, then moved through the quarter-mile in 23.3 seconds, hitting 59 mph as it crossed the line. Motor Trend magazine claimed the car was had a "...smooth, willing little powerplant ... it was able to stay up with and ahead of most normal traffic. We used 6000 rpm as our shift points, because revving higher didn't increase acceleration times. Shifts came at 24.5, 39.5, and again at 59 mph for best acceleration".
Nearly all reviewers from the time spoke glowingly of the smooth, quick action of the fully synchronized four-speed floor shift. Shifts were sure and crunch-proof on up-and down-shifts alike, and despite the diminutive power on tap, the transmission would invariably bring out the driver in all who got behind the wheel. Top speed figures varies a little, but at the lower end 75 mph at 5200 rpm was certainly achievable, and as you would expect the Simca had to all-too-familar "glass half full" optimistic speedometer which would sit five miles above the actual at all higher speeds.
On the Road
The Simca rode well for a small car. It was firm, not harsh, and very quiet. The steering
wheel was placed low enough to see over and high enough so it didn't interfere with the driver's legs, giving a comfortable, straight-arm driving position. Large and small drivers found the front bucket seats adjustable to their liking. All had plenty of leg room, even in the back seat, except when the front seats were all the way back. While rear head-room was not in abundance, there was enough to ensure you didn't bump your head. Use of the transaxle unit allowed lots of leg room up front, since there was just a trace of a "transmission' hump. The front wheel wells did intrude on driver and passenger leg room, causing pedals to be offset slightly. Once you got used to their position, dirvers would soon find the hydraulically actuated clutch and brake pedals smooth and sure in operation.
The top of the dashboard was finished in a non-glare black-crackle style, with a hooded speedometer
and fuel gauge (the only instruments). Warning lights showed low oil pressure, low fuel warning, and high water temperature. A non-lockable glove compartment nestled in the right side of the dash. Just to the right of the steering
post was the ignition key. One full turn unlocked the wheel and started the engine. A manual choke lever was on the floor between the seats.
Behind the Wheel
Fit and finish were good, with everything working as it should. One complaint came from Motor Trend magazine, who found the rear deck was not held down tightly enough, perhaps due to only having one latch which held the center. The luggage compartment had no outside lock. A lever under the dash opened and closed it. All but the driver's door could be locked by pushing the handle back and slamming the door. The driver's door had to be locked by key, to prevent Simca owners from locking themselves out. Weighing in at only 1650 pounds with a full tank of gas, the Simca 1000 had a wheelbase of 87.4 inches and measured 149.4 inches between the rubber-padded tips of its bumper guards on each end.
A fine set of Simplex brakes
came standard on the Simca 1000. Self-centering floating shoes pressed against nine-inch drums. These allowed for straight-line stops on every application. From 30 mph, road testers recorded a stopping distance of 34 feet, with 143.5 feet for stops from 60 mph - both very respectable distances for the time. The road testers did not go lightly ont the little Simca, yet despite some pretty severe punishment the car refused to swerve or lock up its wheels; always stopping safely in a straight line. Located between the seats, the handle for the emergency brake controlled an independent mechanical brake on the rear shoes. It was perfectly located for hill starts or emergencies.
As in all rear-engined cars, the Simca oversteered slightly, but it was much more neutral than most rear engined cars from the era. Instead of having the rear end try to pass the front on fast corners, the whole car gave into a smooth, predictable drift. And even then, you would only ever reach this point if you were taking the car to its limit to see what would happen. Rarely would there be a situation where this could occur unless you actually wanted it to. Owners quickly found that handling could be much improved by inflating the tyres
above the recommendations, typically 18 psi front and 30 psi rear. The Dunlop B7 6.50 x 12 tyres
were reported to have given lots of grip on wet or dry surfaces.
In the area of suspension
, the front had double-acting shocks on each end of a transverse leaf spring. The spring also served as a stabilizer bar. Rubber elements were fitted to upper suspension
arms. The whole assembly proved solid and able to take plenty of abuse, whether it was sharp dips or jumps over hill crests. Only extremely sharp dips brought suspension
bottoming. The rear suspension
of the Simca was by oblique wishbone arms and coil springs with double-acting shocks. This system really soaked up bumps, even on rough roads (where the Simca was at home with its 6.7 inches of clearance). Hard cornering brought out the fact that the car just didn't lean much.
One of the more surprising aspects of the car was just how quiet the passenger compartment was.
Simca used lots of sound-deadening material throughout, and it worked a treat. There was even foam padding under the rubber floor mats. Years on and Simca owners were still finding out just how well sorted the build quality was - the unit-construction remaining rattle and squeak-free for years. And many covered large distances - partly because the car was equally at home on short jaunts around town or cruising at 60-65 on the highway, and partly because it was just so much fun to drive, owners got behind the wheel at every opportunity.