Simca 1000 Coupe
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
The Simca 1000 saloon was launched in France in October 1961
and was an instant success with French buyers, but the response in export markets was much more muted. The new management at Simca were keen to raise the profile of their new car internationally. Mindful of the precedent set by Renault
with their (initially Frua bodied) Renault Floride, Simca turned to initially to Facel to discuss a joint project.
The idea was to have Facel produice the bodies, but in the judgement of Henri Pigozzi, Simca's aging but still unusually "hands on" boss, Facel's proposal lacked the necessary style and was considered unrealistic: there were also concerns that Facel's parlous financial position might impact the project adversely.
Simca then turned to Bertone and commissioned a coupe version of their new car. Bertone gave the job to a recently recruited young designer called Giorgetto Giugiaro and the car, having already been heavily trailed, was formally launched at the Geneva Motor Show early in 1962
, though official French homologation for production only took place in November 1962
: customer deliveries began in 1963
The style of the car was widely admired, but the cost of the Bertone
made it difficult for the car to compete on price alone, while use of the standard 944cc engine block from the Simca 1000
meant that performance was unlikely to live up to its racey styling. From the start Simca presented the Coupe 1000 as a separate model.
Bertone's Italian Art
The outside was a true high-point of Bertone's Italian art, with grace, vision, maturity and beauty. There were wrap-around bumpers front and rear and the back was quite as neat as the front, a rare feature in a coupe from the era. Inside, the dash was simply finished too, but they didn't skimp on a single thing you might have needed. Two large black dials with white numerals conveyed speed
and rpm and were flanked by dials for oil
, water temp
Light controls were centred in stalks under the wood-rimmed alloy steering wheel, with pull switches scattered about haphazardly for other functions. Arguably the worst placed of the switchgear were the two under the corner of the dash to operate a two-speed heater blower control and two-speed wipers. The pedals were smallish and the key was buried under the dash. And speaking of keys, the Coupe came with four separate keys - ignition, doors, glovebox and boot.
The driving position was good, with outstretched legs and plenty of seat rake adjustment to attain any degree of straight arms you might have wanted. No matter how far you cranked the squab back, or slid the whole seat aft, the sturdy shift column was right beside you. It was perhaps the best point in the car, with flawless synchromesh, nice short throws and a general feeling of solidity. The lever was spring-loaded fairly strongly to the III-IV side which was handy, but reverse took some care at first. The seats themselves looked perfect for fast touring but they had one glaring fault - the front was lower than the back (speaking of the forward buckets now) so that you were perpetually sliding out on the rug if you didn't keep one leg stiff as a brace. We assume owners would have fitted shims under the front to fix this, but on a new car, even though way back in the 1960s, it shouldn't have had such a problem.
On The Road
While the 1000 Coupe made no pretence of being anything but a two-seater with occasional space behind, it could in fact transport four adults around town without breaking any backs. A nice touch here was the fitment of a divided back in the rear so that you could use one side for luggage and have a third seat free as well. The general finish of the Simca Coupe was quite good with lustrous paint and well-fitted bright-work. The windows closed properly and there was very little wind or motor noise inside.
On the road the Simca 1000 coupe could skitter sideways for very little reason, particularly if there was a high side wind. This fault was perhaps amplified by steering
which was vague - although it seemed no two cars were the same, and some road testers found the steering
ok on one car, only to be disappointed on another of exactly the same specification. It seems no two cars rolled off the production line in exactly the same manner - and minor niggles were the order of the day. It could be a rear disc brake pad dragging, a noise from the dash that you could not trace, or worse still a noise from the suspension
when cornering hard.
The hit-and-miss quality was a shame, because the Simca Coupe, at the time, had the potential of being one of the fastest, safest one-litre GT machines on the road. It seemed many road testers would almost fall in love with the car, but then quirks like side wander or mushy steering would take over and that love was lost. Probably one of the problems was Simca's decision to use Englebert tyres
- these lacked traction to an almost dangerous degree - and in the ice the only safe option was to leave the car behind, and walk. And for those that persevered in icy conditions, they would find the carburettor prone to icing up - causing the engine to stall.