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Chrysler 180. The British bird in a French nest

Chrysler 2 Liter 1979
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What a beautiful design, what a strange history.

The Chrysler 180 was an odd duck in the Simca showroom. It looked like a British car! Well, actually it was. You can see the similarities with, for example, the Sunbeam Avenger. This car came off the drawing boards at the Rootes-Group, the British manufacturer of brands such as Humber, Singer, Hillman, Sunbeam and Commer. There it was intended as a successor to the Humber Super Snipe and as a counterpart to the Austin 3-Litre 'Land Lobster'.

The British team led by Roy Ax not only designed a luxury four-door car with lots of leather, wood, independent suspension and air conditioning, but also a new V6 engine for which a whole new factory was built in Coventry. Meanwhile, Simca was simultaneously working on a new, larger successor to the 1301 – 1501 series, which had been built since 1963. Under model code 292, French and American designers collaborated with Michelotti on a new large French mid-range car. The clay models were ready, the last details still had to be determined.

And then Chrysler Europe's leadership stepped in. The Americans, owner of both Rootes and Simca since the late 60s, did not consider it necessary for two of their European manufacturers to develop their own large middle class. They decided, and this is where the amazement begins, that the French were going to finish the British design and also produce the car in Poissy.

The British were furious, and things got worse when it turned out that in France, where road tax is calculated by engine capacity, the three-litre V6 was dropped altogether. Just like the air conditioning, the wood, the leather and the new independent rear axle. The V6 was replaced by a Simca-developed cast-iron four-cylinder inline engine with an overhead camshaft and a conventional rigid rear axle with coil springs, such as that of the Simca 1301/1501. This put the car on an equal footing with the Ford Taunus and the Opel Rekord, among others. but it was definitely no longer a top class that competed with Mercedes, BMW, the Citroën DS, the Austin 3-Litre or the Rover models.

Models

And so, in 1970, a British-looking car suddenly appeared in the Simca showroom, which customers walked around with some uneasiness, and the Sunbeam dealers had to sell a French car that their customers had little confidence in. That the Chrysler still sold reasonably was due to its successful design and a good price-quality ratio.

There were three versions. The entry-level model was the Chrysler 160, with black plastic dashboard, blind plates where a clock or other nice accessory could have been and sticky leatherette upholstery. Above it was a much nicer Chrysler 180 with lots of imitation wood, a full set of instruments, fabric upholstery and a larger engine. And then the top model, the Chrysler 2 Liters, with tinted glass, vinyl roof, thick carpets and an automatic gearbox as standard.


Confusion complete

And then Chrysler embarked on one of the most confusing marketing strategies ever. The Rootes Group was dissolved in 1971, after which only the Hillman Avenger was still built as Chrysler (until 1977) and Simca underwent more reorganizations and name changes in a very short time than the car brand could handle. In the end, no one knew whether he was buying a Simca, a Simca-Talbot, a Chrysler-Simca, a Matra-Simca or a Talbot-Chrysler. A different sign on the facade is not good for confidence and depresses the trade-in value. And yet Simca continued to sell successful cars. First by giving the old Simca 1000 as Rallye 1 and 2 a second youth. Then the Simca Matra Bagheera with its bold design and three front seats (each boy saw two girlfriends get in in his dreams). The very modern Simca 1307 / 1308 with front-wheel drive, fifth door and electric windows. But the uncertainties didn't do the brand any good.

And then the Chrysler 160 / 180 / 2 Liters. It remained what it was year after year. In 1975 production moved to Spain, where Chrysler had acquired the Barreiros plant. The name became Talbot 1610 and 2 Liter and there were – the only real changes in ten years – a fuel warning light and some new upholstery fabrics. A diesel engine of its own manufacture was also installed in Spain. Especially for the domestic taxi market after the discontinuation of the Seat 1500 Diesel.

Ten years after the Chrysler 180, Roy Ax finally signed the French large middle class. The Talbot Tagora replaced the Chrysler 180, which was built as a diesel taxi until 1982, after which the curtain fell.

Would this car have had a better chance with different marketing and more model development? I think so. If, in addition to the French version, a luxury (with wood and leather, air conditioning, three liter V6 and modern rear axle) equipped Humber had appeared, then it might have been a success and an instant classic. But things turned out differently.

Now they are rare. Very rare. It's a waste of such a beautiful design.

Also read:
- The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus: A wolf in sheepskin
- Hillman Avenger. Rootes' first and last Chrysler-flagged creation
- The Chrysler Simca Horizon (Dodge, Plymouth, Sunbeam)
- Chrysler Sunbeam, the last new car from Linwood
- Chrysler Simca 2 liters. What was the intention again?

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22 Comments

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  1. As a 19 year old I bought an almost 1977 year old Chrysler 4 liter automatic for only 2 guilders at Simca-Chrysler dealer van der Gun in The Hague. The tip came from my neighbor at the time who was a manager at Van der Gun. The car was exchanged for a new same Chrysler and because the trader had just over a ton on the counter (which was still quite a lot at the time), it had been for sale for a while and the Chrysler was allowed to buy 3000 liters (with a new price). of 2 mille) eventually gone for only 20 guilders. The color was metallic blue with a black vinyl roof. As a 3000 year old I drove for 19 grand in a Cbrysler 3 Liter automatic, while my father drove a Simcatje 2 Special. I was king too rich.

  2. I am in possession of a Chrysler 2 liters, most likely the only survivor in the Netherlands from the year 1975.
    Also in possession of a Sunbeam Scepter and Rapier so obsolescence everywhere here.
    The Chrysler is in my eyes heavily underestimated car. The engine is indestructible and the handling especially on cobblestone roads is great.
    Too bad it ended like this.

  3. My first car was the 2 liter automatic, but I still drive around in the Netherlands. Found and repaired it myself. It has since been sold again.

  4. Despite the fact that it is an English (conservative) concept, the French (savoir vivre) addition, in my opinion, was the result that the car looks quite exciting. In other words, the car fits just as nicely with an English cottage as it does with a French maison. I used to not see this and I walked around it, now I could just buy such a car.

    Another idea also occurs to me. Were these types of cars and management considerations not the forerunner of today's world cars, suitable for every taste and therefore quite tasteless? In other words: A frankfurter designed as frikandel in a bite of bratwurst, the jacket of a spring roll with a fishy smell of shushi.
    Who does not know the examples?

    • In a sense yes, but the French traits in this car are mainly found under the hood. The interior also has an Anglo-Saxon feel in one way or another. But this Chrysler was beautifully finished! With regard to the world car concept: it is indeed also built in Australia.

      Chrysler 2 6r

  5. Just to complete the confusion: I once owned a sunbeam 1800 TC. Built in the mid 70s. My wife was crazy about the thing because of the luxury. The poor engine quality drove me crazy. Thrown out the door ASAP. Anyway: I can't find the model on the internet.

    • As for the 1800 tc.
      Are you not confused with the 1500 TC?
      This would also explain that you cannot find the car on the internet

  6. This car looks to me like a sober, somewhat scaled-down American. With a lot of potential when the lines were drawn slightly differently. Just a little. I drove for a while in an even more sober car: the Morris Marina. He (or she?) looks a bit like it, maybe comes from the same drawing board. The car was later bought by someone for the engine.

    • The BMC ADO17 Austin 1800 was the Land Crab, a front-wheel drive mid-sized car.
      The BMC ADO61 Austin 3-Litre was the Land Lobster, a rear-wheel drive upper middle class.

      1920px Austin 3 Liter at Glamis

  7. Stylish and well-known model in the street scene of the 70s
    Also the last French model with Chrome bumpers. from the R5 in 1974 the new French models only got cheap looking plastic bumpers.
    Finding a Ferrari or Lamborgini in 2021 is probably a lot easier than a French Crysler.

    • The Renault 5 is from 1972.
      Just like the 20, the R30 and R18 also had chrome bumpers. The Citroën CX and GS by the way. And the R4 and the 2CV (luxury version) and .. it wasn't that bad.
      But the R5 was a trendsetter: the first car with fully plastic bumpers at the front and rear.

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