The Great Simcas of the Fifties

Chambord II
ER Classics Desktop 2022


When Europe arose from the ruins of the Second World War in 1945, the situation in France was one of utter helplessness. Not only had the country been a fierce battleground in 1940 and 1944, it had been intensively looted by Germany to obtain the machinery and materials for the Eastern Front. What remained was used for German war production, but fleeing from the Allies, the Germans took with them what they could and destroyed what they did not want to fall into the hands of the enemy. When peace finally came, the production of cars and trucks had stopped.

The upheaval continued for years. It wasn't until 1947, with the Marshall Plan, that things started moving again. The need consisted of the cheapest passenger cars, trailers and heavy trucks to rebuild the country. In that country, where hardly any money was involved, where petrol was on the receipt, the Citroën 2CV a brilliant idea.


In 1926, the then 26-year-old Henri Theodore Pigozzi had started producing Fiat licenses under the name SIMCA. That stood for Société Industrielle et de Méchanique et Carrosserie Automobile. The Simca 5 was a direct copy of the Fiat 500 “Topolino”, which, as I wrote earlier, was also made in Neckarsulm in Germany by NSU-Fiat. This "mouse" was just about the minimum car and the maximum that the European could afford in those years. The mouse had the disadvantage that it was a two-person car, where only very lenient and agile people of small stature could squeeze into the back seat.

And that during the post-war baby boom! France experienced a population explosion in those poor but hopeful days. And that created opportunities for those who could offer an affordable family car. Renault jumped into that market with the 4CV, Simca with the Aronde. The takeover of Talbot-Lago in 1949 not only brought new machinery and company buildings, but also a good team of engineers and designers.

Simca Aronde 1954 08
The Aronde was a formidable competitor in the mid-range market. Simca also built a beautiful coupe "sport" and a convertible "plein ciel".

The Aronde (a swallow would be Simca's logo for years to come) was a full-fledged five-passenger car with a solid cast-iron four-cylinder engine, the "Flash". With the Aronde, Simca became a powerful opponent of Renault and Peugeot. And a strong manufacturer! That gave the opportunity to make the next acquisition.


matford alsace V8
The Matford Alsace V8 models from the thirties were based on the American Ford V8

Ford SAF (Societé Anonyme Francaise), under the brand name Matford, was created in 1934 when Ford took over the Alsatian car manufacturer Mathis. In addition to the Mathis models, the French variant of the American Ford V8, the Matford Alsace V8, soon ran off the line. Soon a new factory was set up by Ford in Poissy, below Paris. And it was this factory that was bought by Simca in 1954. The last French Ford, the Vedette V8, was unfortunately not a success. The car was largely developed in Dearborn and therefore had the typical American characteristics: spacious, comfortable, extremely solid and equipped with a very smooth V8 side valve engine, but unfortunately too expensive and too "American" for the French market.

1947 Vedette first series
A 1949 Ford Vedette Coupe

After the 1954 takeover, Italian stylists started to give the Vedette a somewhat more European look. The car was tightened, the engine was made a little more economical - as far as possible with a side valve V8 - and voila, the new Ford Vedette became the Simca Vedette in 1955. At the same time, Simca suddenly had a large and modern car factory, the then fifteen-year-old Matford factory in Poissy.

Simca Vedette 1st series

1280px Verasailles 1957
The Versailles became the best-selling model

In 1955 appeared the stripped-down Simca Vedette Trianon, the best-selling model Versailles and the very luxurious Régence. The latter had – in 1955! – a radio on board as standard, was painted in two colors of paint, had two colors, luxurious upholstery and carpets everywhere. The Marly was a spacious station wagon.

Aquilon V8

All of them were equipped with the "Aquilon" 2.351 cc V8 engine of 80 hp, the main feature of which was that the car could be driven in the third and highest gear from 15 to 120 kilometers per hour. And let me not forget that this was one of the first cars with McPherson struts, just like the Ford Taunus 17m of the time. The first series of Vedette sold over 100.000 copies in two years, a quarter of which were exported. This made it the most exported French car in its time.

Star Marly I
With its 4,5 meters length, the Marly offered a sea of ​​space

Simca simultaneously took over the truck manufacturer Unic and the Matford, Talbot and Simca designers started working on the following models.

Simca Vedette 2st series

The new series appeared in 1957. The large Simca had grown no less than 25 centimeters: with a length of 4,75 m, this car could stand without shame among the other European large middle class. The model range was renamed Beaulieu, a luxury Chambord, a very prestigious Présidence and again the Marly order variant. The styling with wings and trapezoidal lines was modern, the performance good, the comfort excellent. But he was still not frugal.

Simca Ariane

Simca Ariane Brochure 1959 DE
The old Vedette became the new Ariane

In order to offer an economically attractive alternative in the large middle class, the factory decided to continue producing the previous model under the type name Ariane, with the heavy V8 being replaced by the engine from the Aronde. The result was a 4,5 meter long, 1200 kilo full-size six-seater family car with a boy of a trunk, powered by the 1300cc four-cylinder 60 hp “Rush” engine.

Simca Ariane Brochure 1963 EN 2
Consequence of the French road tax: big car with small engine

It goes without saying that it was not a speed monster. But the car was economical and strong and in France, where, just like in Belgium and Italy, road tax is calculated on the cylinder capacity (tax horsepower) also advantageous when it was standing still. And well, who needs a high top speed in Parisian traffic?

1280px Artcurial Simca President cropped
Le Présidence, a now very rare model

The Présidence was a different story. An ordinary Vedette was completely finished by hand in the old factory in Nanterre, according to the customer's wishes. Many examples were given leather upholstery, trim with wooden parts, a sliding roof, a few new African presidents were wary and ordered versions with bulletproof glass or a reinforced bottom and sometimes air conditioning was installed. An extended convertible was prepared for Charles de Gaulle. All the presidency versions were black.

Still, all that beauty couldn't hide the fact that the archaic, smooth, quiet, hard-wearing Ford V8 had come to the end of its development. The competitors, including Citroën and Renault built four-cylinder engines that performed no less well with less petrol.

The 8 hp Aquilon V86

And then there was another thing: a side valve V8 with central camshaft, both the intake and exhaust valves on the "inside" of the block. The four exhaust ducts per cylinder head therefore ran straight through the cooling jackets, making such a block thermally quite sensitive. A somewhat poorly maintained engine, whose cooling system was no longer optimal or was not topped up in time, could suffer from overheating and leaking head gaskets. Still, this was a fantastic car. The older examples were very popular in stock car races, because of their extremely strong bodies and suspension. For decades these large and strong Simcas drove around the African continent in Indochina. They also drove around in South America, a small series was built in Argentina.

Tail fins, tires with white sidewalls and two paint colors: the Vedette was a child of the fifties

The decline started in 1960. This quintessential 50s car with its 30s engine fell out of favor with its more modern and economical competitors. Simca decided to stop production of the Aquilon V8 (it was the last application of the Ford flathead V8 in a passenger car) and in the summer of 1961 the last Vedette left the factory in Poissy. That year the old Simca factory of Nanterre was sold to Citroën and a rejected design of a larger variant of the 850 was adopted from Fiat, which would actually be called Ariëlle but which we still know as the Simca 1000. Finally, the Ariane, the last Simca with Ford body and technology, was replaced in 1963 by the Simca 1300 and 1500.

Great Simca

The next big Simca would not be developed until the mid-929s as “project 1970”. In 160, under duress from Chrysler, that design was pushed aside and the Chrysler 180 / XNUMX / Deux Liters came on the market. I previously devoted an article to this.


1926: Simca starts production of Fiat licenses
1934: Mathis starts production of Ford licenses
1937: Ford takes a majority in Mathis, renames the factory in Matford and builds a large factory in Poissy
1949: SAF (successor to Matford) replaces the old Alsace V8 with the new Vedette
1954: Simca takes over SAF
1955: Appearance of the Simca Vedette Trianon, Versailles and Marly
1957: Appearance of the Simca Vedette Beaulieu, Chambord, Presidence, Marly and Ariane
1959: Chrysler acquires the first 15% shares in Simca and with it the Talbot . brand
1961: End of production of the “big” Simca's, the Aquilon V8 (Ford had already stopped these engines in 1954)
1963: The Ariane is succeeded by the 1300-1500 series.


Give a reaction
  1. The large Simcas were largely absent in the 70s (rust?).
    The 1000 and 1100 were nice cars, but their engines sounded very raw pretty quickly. Not to mention the rust. I also found the NSU TT better than the 1000 within the concept of the rear engine.
    Very nice Simca's are the 1301/1501 and the 1307/1308, but the Chrysler 160 series was also a successful design.
    Unfortunately, the rust devil has spared few Simca's.
    All in all a shame that this brand did not survive.

    • The Simcas were not protected against rust, the inside of the doors and beams were just plain sheet metal. By giving the still new car an anti-corrosion treatment, it could last longer, but this had to be repeated every two years. Often it didn't happen. In any case, at that time a car was much more sensitive to rust than now, even the expensive brands with a good name.

  2. My father was looking for a new car in 1956. I found a brochure of the Ford Versailles at the neighbor further up. When my father saw this he was immediately sold and he bought this car and drove it for five years. He only had 1 setback at 40.000 km he got
    a leaky head gasket, but otherwise we have had a lot of fun with this beautiful car.

  3. If I remember correctly, the Versailles, Chambord and Beaulieu were presented in the Netherlands under the Ford brand name for another ten years. Only with the Ariane did Simca step up.

  4. Good story!
    Another hurdle for France immediately after WWII: the country was almost communist. During the war the communists were strong in the resistance, after the war they wanted to cash in on their actions by gaining more power. It took the Americans a lot of effort to keep them out of the Elysee, so they pushed De Gaulle, who they weren't really a fan of.

    Nice brand that Simca.
    Don't forget the 1100. Extremely revolutionary car: mid-sixties front-wheel drive, transverse engine in the front, third or fifth door. Most competitors did not come up with similar concepts until ten years later. And it was a nice and solid car too. In 1973 the best-selling car in the Netherlands!

    • Indeed, Italy and France had strong communist movements: newspapers, parties and trade unions. The US has threatened not to grant Marshall aid if they were given power.
      Marshall Aid to the Netherlands would be terminated if military operations in Indonesia were not stopped. In the United Kingdom, Marshall Aid was curtailed when Socialists came into government. Any form of aid to countries in the Soviet occupation zone was impossible anyway.

      Nothing goes for nothing. Incidentally, De Gaulle was not a fan of the Americans either. As soon as possible, he worked them out in France so that NATO headquarters and SHAPE are no longer in Paris, but near Brussels.

      De Gaulle did drive around in a special Simca Vedette Présidence convertible.

    • The Simca 1100 was indeed very modern, the concept was somewhat copied from the Renault 16 of course, but the Simca was much cheaper.

      And not to forget: Simca had the best and largest dealer network in the Netherlands. In every village there was a Simca garage. The brand saw the opportunity to develop very nice and fine cars that were well received in the Netherlands.

    • The Simcas were not protected against rust, the inside of the doors and beams were just plain sheet metal. By giving the still new car an anti-corrosion treatment, it could last longer, but this had to be repeated every two years. Often it didn't happen. In any case, at that time a car was much more sensitive to rust than now, even the expensive brands with a good name.

  5. The design for the next big Simca went into the shredder on the orders of Chrysler Europe. It would be replaced by the new Humber from England, released as Chrysler 160, 180 and Deux Liters. To be honest, I liked it a lot better too.

    Project 929

  6. Another interesting article, thanks!
    I remember my father had a Simca Aronde in the 60's. I remember the turn signal was behind the wheel. I was allowed to use this one from time to time. The doors of that car closed moderately, only with a strong bang they closed properly.
    This RT-16-85 was succeeded by eeh Simca Ariane, EG-68-19. I drove the Ariane for the first time when I was 14 years old. The reverse was sometimes a bit difficult to engage, pushing backwards the steering gear and pushing down was the truck. Nice memories. I also remember that the Arianne did suffer from blisters in the paint. My father had it resprayed by the neighbor once. Back in the day…….. The Ariane was succeeded by an Opel record, 04-51-AH, a very nice car with only 3 forward gears.

  7. By the way, Simca 1100 and 1100S were driven at home for a long time. Friend and foe didn't like it because 'those bitches only had leaking head gaskets'. Mmmm….. that didn't stop father. He carefully checked the cylinder head bolts at expertly executed turns and none of the cars ever had a leaky head gasket. Those 1100s served well and were comfortable and very stable. Both properties were highly appreciated. And putting all cracks and seams in the tectyl from new, as well as the bottom and tubes, kept the brown plague at an appropriate distance for a long time.

    • A leaking head gasket was often the result of a defect in the thermostat of the self-thinking fan.

      The Flash and Rush engines had another thing. Instead of a paper oil filter element, as on the 1100 engine, they had an oil centrifuge on the crankshaft pulley. It had to be disassembled, cleaned and reassembled with a new gasket at every oil change (10.000 kilometres).

      If you didn't, you risked a lowered oil pressure. And because the camshaft and the entire valve mechanism were lubricated through bores in the crankshaft, things ran dry. That was audible by a loud ticking engine, the “moteur á castagnettes”.

      motor simca aronde p60 rush 20200824052054.5643690015

      • Almost correct, the Flash motor with 3 bearings only has a mesh filter (the outer dotted line in the picture) on the right side of the motor and a drain interval of 2000 kilometers.
        It does have an externally adjustable pressure relief valve to adjust oil pressure if necessary

        Round oil filter

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