During most of its post-war activity, Simca was one of the biggest automobile manufacturers and most popular automobile brands in France. The Simca 1100 was for some time the best-selling car in France, while the Simca 1307 and Simca Horizon won the coveted European Car of the Year title in 1976 and 1978, respectively — these models were badge engineered as products of other marques in some countries. Simca vehicles were also manufactured by Simca do Brasil in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, and Barreiros (another Chrysler subsidiary) in Spain. They were also assembled in Chile, Colombia and the Netherlands during the Chrysler era.
Henri Théodore Pigozzi (born Teodoro Enrico Pigozzi) was active in the automotive business in the early 1920s when he met Fiat founder, Giovanni Agnelli. They began business together in 1922 with Pigozzi acting as a scrap merchant, buying old automobile bodies and sending them to Fiat for recycling. Two years later Pigozzi became Fiat's General Agent in France, and in 1926 SAFAF (Société Anonyme Français des Automobiles Fiat) was founded. In 1928, SAFAF started the assembly of Fiat cars in Suresnes near Paris, and licensed the production of some parts to local suppliers. By 1934, as many as 30,000 Fiat cars were sold by SAFAF.
The SIMCA (Société Industrielle de Mécanique et de Carrosserie Automobile) company was founded in 1935 by Fiat, when Fiat bought the former Donnet factory in the French town of Nanterre.
The first cars produced were Fiat 508 Balillas and Fiat 518 Arditas, but with Simca-Fiat 6CV and 11CV badges. They were followed in 1936 by the Simca Cinq or 5CV, a version of the Fiat Topolino, and in 1937 by the Huit or 8CV version of the Fiat 508C-1100. Production of the 6CV and 11CV stopped in 1937, leaving the 5CV and the 8CV in production until the outbreak of World War II. Despite France's being occupied, Simca cars continued to be produced in small numbers throughout the war.
With peace, production resumed in 1946 with the pre-war Cinq (5CV) and Huit (8CV), but a new car arrived in 1948 with the Simca 6 with overhead valve 570 cc engine ahead of the equivalent Fiat.
Aronde and Ford SAF takeover
The Simca Aronde, launched in 1951, was the first true Simca car as opposed to a Fiat design. It had a 1200 cc engine and its production reached 100,000 units yearly. Following this success, Simca took over the French truck manufacturers Unic in 1951, and Saurer in 1956, the Poissy plant of Ford SAF in 1954. The Poissy plant had ample room for expansion, which duly took place so that Simca production in France was focused on a single plant, permitting the old Nanterre plant to be sold in 1961.
The Ford purchase also added the V-8 powered Ford Vedette range to the Simca stable. This model continued to be made and progressively upgraded, but now with Simca badges and various names, until 1962 in France and 1967 in Brazil. An Aronde-powered version was also made in 1957 and called the Ariane which because of its economy combined with a large body was popular as a taxi.
In 1958 Simca bought the Talbot brand from Talbot-Lago.
The Simca Fulgur was a concept car designed in 1958 by Robert Opron for Simca and first displayed at the 1959 Geneva Auto Show. It was also displayed at the New York Auto Show, and the 1961 Chicago Auto Show. The concept car was intended to show what cars in the year 2000 would look like. It was to be atomic powered, voice controlled, guided by radar, and use only two wheels balanced by gyroscopes when driven at over 150 kph. Fulgur is Latin for flash or lightning. Another translation is lensman.
In 1958 the American car manufacturer Chrysler Corporation, which wanted to enter the European car market, bought 15% of the Simca stocks from Ford in a deal which Henry Ford II was later reported as having publicly regretted. At this stage, however, the dominant shareholder remained Fiat, and their influence is apparent in the engineering and design of Simcas of that period such as the 1000 and 1300 models introduced respectively in 1961 and 1963. However, in 1963 Chrysler increased their stake to a controlling 64% by purchasing stock from Fiat, and they subsequently extended that holding further to 77%. Even in 1971 Fiat retained a 19% holding, but by now they had long ceased to play an active role in the business.
Also, in 1964 Chrysler bought the British manufacturer Rootes thus putting together the basis of Chrysler Europe. All the Simca models manufactured after 1967 had the Chrysler pentastar logo as well as Simca badging. In 1961 Simca started to manufacture all of its models in the ex-Ford SAF factory in Poissy and sold the factory at Nanterre to Citroën. The rear-engined Simca 1000 was introduced in 1961 with its sporting offspring, the Simca-Abarth in 1963. The 1000 also served as the platform for the 1000 Coupe, a handsome sports coupe sporting a Bertone-designed body by Giorgetto Giugiaro and 4-wheel disc brakes. It debuted in 1963 and was described by Car Magazine as "the world's neatest small coupe". 1967 saw the more powerful 1200S Bertone Coupe that, with a horsepower upgrade in 1970, could reach the dizzying speed of almost 112 mph (180 km/h), making it the fastest standard production Simca ever built. In 1967 a much more up to date car, the 1100, appeared with front wheel drive and independent suspension all round, and continued in production until 1979. On 1 July 1970 the company title was formally changed to Chrysler France.
Collapse of Chrysler Europe
The most successful pre-Chrysler Simca models were the Aronde, the Simca 1000 and the front engined 1100 compact car. During the late 1970s Chrysler era, Simca produced the new 160/180 saloon, 1307 range (Chrysler Alpine in the UK) and later the Horizon (Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon in the USA), both of which were European Car of the Year on their launch. However, Chrysler's forced marriage of Simca and Rootes was not a happy one: Chrysler Europe collapsed in 1977 and the remains were sold to Peugeot the following year. The Rootes models were quickly killed off, and the Simca-based Alpine/1307 and Horizon soldiered on through the first half of the 1980s using the resurrected Talbot badge. The last car to carry the Simca badge was the 1980 Solara, a 1307 with a boot, but by 1981 this had become a Talbot, thus ending the Simca marque entirely.
Peugeot eventually abandoned the Talbot brand, and the last Simca design was launched as Peugeot 309 (instead of Talbot Arizona as had been originally planned). The Peugeot 309 used Simca engines until October 1991 (some 18 months before the end of production) when they were replaced by PSA's own TU and XU series of engines. The 309 was produced at the former Rootes factory in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, UK, as well as in the Poissy plant.
Simcas can still be seen on the road in several European countries and were also manufactured in Brazil, Spain and Finland.
The last Simca-based car to cease production was the Horizon-based Dodge Omni, which was built in the USA until 1990, its European equivalent having been axed three years earlier when the Talbot name was finally discontinued on passenger cars.
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