September 08, 2009

Simca 1300 to 1501

A little history

Changes had occurred so fast during the Fifties that by the early Sixties the Aronde, even under its modernized “P60” guise, was a car that both seemed old when looked at and felt old when driven. In May 1963, Simca finally unveiled its replacement, the 1300 and 1500 models which, due to the disappearance of the large Vedette V8, would serve as its top-of-the-range models.

The new cars were rather conservative on the inside, taking over most of their mechanical parts from the Aronde and Ariane, including the excellent 1.3-litre “Rush” engine, while the 1500 model received an equally good 1.5-litre four. Both engines provided excellent performance for the time. Power went to the rear wheel through a four-speed synchromech gearbox which lever was column-mounted. Rear axle was still rigid, and braking was through four drums. With the exception of its later front-wheel-drive, hatchback model the 1100, Simca has never been perceived as an innovative carmaker.

The main selling point of these cars was actually their style, often described as “Italian”: long horizontal lines, sharp angles, cleanness of the design. The new model helped Simca, which perhaps due to the fact that its origins were abroad was keener to launch an offensive against foreign markets, to become the major exporter of automobiles among the French industry, at a time when tariffs were being significantly reduced, boosting international trade.

The 1300 and 1500 models enjoyed a favourable reception from the public. In late 1964, Simca introduced a roomy estate version of the 1500, a body type which was extended to the 1300 at the end of the following year. A 1500 GLA version also joined the range, transmission on this model being through an automatic gearbox provided by Borg Warner – a rather unusual equipment on an European car at the time.

The Sixties proved as much hectic as the Fifties had been, and possibly even more. As soon as September 1966, the Simca 1300/1500 underwent a facelift so radical that it justified new names, the cars becoming the 1301 and 1501 from then on. The overall style became lighter thanks to elongated front and rear ends, both models gaining about 20 cm (8 in.) in length. Actually, this was so cleverly done that the cars appeared much newer than they actually were. For example, the extension at the front was made through a new bonnet, grille and bumper, but the wings remained unchanged.

In 1969 Simca launched a new 1501 Special, powered by a tuned version of the 1.5-litre engine. Success was such that in 1970, a 1301 Special followed and, starting in 1972, only Specials were produced. Also in 1969, the Rush engine inherited from the Aronde gave way to a new 1.3-litre block of similar displacement, but based on the more recent 1500 cc unit. Despite the arrival of the larger Chrysler C-Cars, the old 1301 and 1501 kept a strong following which justified their survival well into the Seventies. Actually, the larger 1501 was removed from the French market to give space to the new 160, which proved such a disaster that the old car had to be re-introduced after a two-year hiatus!

The very last 1301/1501s didn’t leave the factory before July 1975, Simca pilling up stocks of them in order to extend their availability throughout 1976. After the C-Cars’ utter failure, the ageing cars finally found a worthy successor in the 1307/1308 range, which clever hatchback design allowed to replace both the 1301/1501 saloon and estate with a single body type. During their long career, the Simcas had been produced in 1,350,000 copies.

About the models

Model: Simca 1300
Year: 1963
Maker: Ixo
Scale: 1/43
Distributed by: Altaya as no.47 of its Nos Chères Voitures d'Antan press series
Acquired: brand new, in May 2006, in Souillac, France

Again, Ixo provided a very acceptable Simca 1300 to Altaya, though there’s nothing outstanding about it. The choice of maroon as its colour is clever as it was a common hue for the original car, along with a sort of light grey-blue. My rating is 13/20.





Model: Simca 1301 Special
Year: 1972
Maker: Ixo
Scale: 1/43
Distributed by: Altaya as no.4 of its Les Belles Années Simca press series
Acquired: second hand with stand and box, in October 2007, through mail from a fellow collector from Rouziers de Touraine, France

While unveiling its Simca series, Altaya had published pictures of such an ugly 1301 that I skipped this model when first released. Actually the production model has been so improved over the prototype that I had to find one afterwards, which wasn’t necessarily easy. I’m very happy with this fine model, all the more as my uncle drove the very same car, with the same choice of colour, for many years. Only the front end with the fog lights set in the grille could still be improved. In my opinion, good enough to be awarded a 13/20.




José António said...

Beautifull Simca's!

lorenzo721 said...

Thank you José António! Next step now is to find a station wagon.

Jovet's Garage said...

Another 1st for me! =)

It's my 1st time to see this model, thanks for sharing!

lorenzo721 said...

You're welcome Jovet, I'm glad to have shared something new with you.