The 1100 lives of Simca

Selling alongside the 1000, the 1100 was one of the cornerstones of production and went through the stages of the acquisition of Simca by Chrysler, which started as early as 1958 and culminated some years later.

There are fewer and fewer people today who will remember the French marque Simca, founded by the Italian Enrico Teodoro Pigozzi.  The company was formed by Pigozzi to market Fiat cars in France at the beginning of the 1930s and its history is very similar to that which characterizes the dawn of the Spanish marque SEAT.  The good sales performance of the cars in France made it clear to Pigozzi that he could embark on the road to being a car manufacturer in his own right, so he bought a factory in Nanterre and SIMCA (Societé Industrielle de Mécanique et Carrosserie Automobile) was born in 1935, although the first model released by FIAT did not arrive until 1951: its name was Aronde.

Amongst the most successful models, following on from the first Fiat and the aforementioned Aronde, we must remember the 1000 model, of which almost two million were sold from 1961 to 1978, and the feature of the article, the 1100, produced from 1967 to 1985 and of which more than two million were sold in various body-styles and under various brands, which is why we can consider it a car with 1000, or rather 1100 lives!  Derived from the internal 936 project of 1966, it was presented to the press in 3- and 5-door versions as well as the commercial minivan which gave life years later to the Rancho (known on the Italian market as the Ranch), designed in conjunction with Matra.

Selling alongside the 1000, the 1100 was one of the cornerstones of production and went through the stages of the acquisition of Simca by Chrysler, which started as early as 1958 and culminated some years later.  Hence Chrysler Europe was born and, shortly after the formation of the new group, the 1100 started to be exported, unsuccessfully, to America under the name 1204; this version was notable for offering air-conditioning as standard, a rare accessory in a compact car of its era.

In 1977 the 1100 was joined by a new variant, the aforementioned Rancho (1977 – 1985), developed from the van version and considered by many to be the forerunner of modern SUVs with its off-road appearance despite it not actually being an off-roader, only having front-wheel drive; its engine was 1500 cc, developing 80 bhp. It was quite successful and was marketed as both a Matra-Simca and subsequently a Matra-Talbot.

The giant Chrysler soon entered into crisis and despite the launch of interesting models such as the 1307/1308 and the Horizon, both Cars of the Year, in 1976 and 1979 respectively, and decided to sell its European division to the PSA group, heralding the swansong for the Simca marque, already tarnished first by Chrysler and definitively outclassed in the resurrected Talbot brand which evoked memories of luxury cars of unique design but which was actually only repositioned as the entry-level marque of the Peugeot-Citroën group. 

From 1980 the Talbot marque was also applied to the 1100, whilst 1982 was the model’s final year on the price-lists, although its commercial versions continued in production until 1985. Production of the 1100 ceased after an honourable 18 years, always with satisfactory sales despite the various crises and corporate restructuring of the various brand names under which it was marketed.  The Talbot marque was eventually withdrawn from the market in 1986 together with its model range, both the Chrysler derivatives and the new Tagora and Samba models developed by PSA. The disappearance of the name was only partial on the British market however, where the FIAT-derived Express van was still sold until 1996.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

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