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The Editor samples a Simca 1000 “Grand Luxe,” drives an 845-c.c. R4L Renault Estate car, and attends some vintage gatherings in a Series-TA 1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II

I had hoped to try all members of the Simca Family in succession, the 1000 Grand Luxe with engine under its piano-lidded boot and the well-spoken-of front-engined Simca 1300 and 1500 saloons. This was not to be, but as it was October 1962 when MOTOR SPORT last spoke of a Simca, I have decided to write a few words about the oddly-hued (a “Golden Simca,” I think!) 1000 Grand Luxe I was lent recently, while looking forward to driving the others later on.

I recall the earlier rear-engined Simcas as lively little cars, that gave a bit of bother, and possessed such a complex and oft-changing variety of handling characteristics that it was difficult, or inadvisable, to explain them in writing.

The later 944-c.c. Grand Luxe version I tried recently gave not a moment’s trouble in nearly 600 hurried miles, and returned the commendable fuel economy of 39.2 miles per gallon of premium petrol. It used no oil in this distance.

About the Simca 1000 Grand Luxe

It is remembered as a quiet little car, its engine actually inaudible at idling revs, the 4-door saloon body roomy, its windows devoid of quarter-lights, which made it rather draughty, big wheel arches intruding into the front compartment. The suspension was bouncy but shock-absorbing, the gearchange very pleasing, and the controls sensibly laid out, -a hooded Veglia speedometer incorporating a fuel gauge and the usual warning lights, stalk controls actuating lamps dipping and turn-indicators – nothing complicated. Switches arrayed round the steering column put on the lamps initially, the wipers and a 2-note horn. It is unusual not to have an ignition key but at least this means you cannot lose it! The cubby-lid was crude, the seats generous-sized and comfortable, the under-facia wiring untidy, while the back-door windows only wound down halfway.

The Simca 1000 has light steering, no rear-engine handling vices in normal motoring, though you can do without a crosswind, and the interior door handles, as knobs beneath the armrests, worked nicely.

I grew to like and depend on this handy-sized, brisk and truly economical French car. It is sufficiently “different” to attract customers who are individualists at its price here of £640. The 944-c.c. engine is notably smooth, as befits a compact 5-bearing unit, has an alloy cross-flow head, and is mounted ingeniously. Equipment, remember, includes heater, screenwashers, and headlamps flasher in the price just quoted. The test car was on 12-in. French Dunlop CT B7 tyres. If I had to, I could enjoy long journeys in this Simca 1000 GL.

Nearly 8-litres of Rolls-Royce

Then, as a change from modern cars, I was able to borrow a 1935 Series-TA Rolls-Royce Phantom II from Dudley Steynor, who swears this is the only make of car he can afford to run because they cost nothing whatsoever for repairs. I used it for a Hants & Berks M.C. gathering, the Brooklands Re-Union, a cocktail party and a Bean C.C. Rally, during a busy week-end.

This imposing motor car, one of the last genuine Royce-designed P.IIs, had an enormous limousine body by Marshalsea Bros., coachbuilders of Taunton and Ilminster, leather-upholstered in front, done in soft cloth in a lofty and spacious compartment behind the glass partition. There was a faint impression of “funeral carriage” about it; in fact, I believe the car was formerly owned by the Manager of the London Co-Operative Society. The long bonnet looked shorter from the high driving seat – I was disappointed it didn’t have rows of rivets along its sides. The wooden instrument panel contained one of those expensive 100-m.p.h. speedometers, a clock pronouncing itself as “electric,” a fuel gauge reading up to 28 gallons, an oil gauge which showed a reassuring 35 lb./sq. in. or so, and a water temperature gauge that went to about 87° C. There was an open cubby-hole, semaphore-type non-self-cancelling turn-indicators, a control for setting the Rolls-Royce carburetter (for starting, rich with extra oil, or to its running position, the first of these selections being accompanied by an expensive fuel-consuming sucking sound) and that imposing mountain of control levers – above the big, high-set steering wheel, labelled EARLY-LATE for ignition. OPEN-SHUT for the throttle, and MAX-MIN for the riding control. This steering wheel was a brute to haul round for parking, light when the Phantom II was rolling; it needed 2 3/4-turns, lock-to-lock, with another quarter-turn of spongy free-play, and there was a rubbery feel and kick-back in the steering.

I had almost forgotten how a long, heavily-bodied pre-war car rolls and wallows round corners and how jarring are the shocks that thud along the chassis as the heavy rigid axles ride road undulations. The Rolls-Royce is perhaps especially prone to these rather daunting characteristics, being among the longest and weightiest of such cars. The body rattled a good deal, nor was the engine particularly silent (fairly unobtrusive is a fairer description), but all was forgiven as this most majestic of motor cars, its disc-covered wire wheels shod with 7.00 x 19 Dunlop Fort tyres, forged along in disdain of slow-moving modern conveyances. It accelerated purposefully when called upon so to do, and the driver, busy with the strong-arm task of directing it, had little to worry about, because ignition and ride controls seemed to have little effect. The ammeter indicated a very healthy flow of amps., the switchgear was a delight to use, but the r.h. gear-change called for concentration, the lever purposely spring-loaded to the centre of the gate to obviate inadvertent gear engagement, bottom being sticky and indecisive to select, the change into top a shade baulky, but the other movements a delight, reverse being selected by first depressing the gear-lever itself.

Before one the scantily-clad “Spirit of Ecstasy” rode above the beautiful gothic radiator, having adopted a crouching stance, as would anyone with their posterior in such close proximity to a heavy bonnet likely to be thoughtlessly flung open; behind, the passengers sat in dignified isolation on the comfortable back seat. (There were concealed occasional seats which, when erected, proved rather too low for comfort.) This was motoring in a rather rattly, shuddery Grand Manner, the big black car entirely practical in spite of its dimensions, seemingly indestructible, and endowed with effective retardation from its mechanical-servo four-wheel-brakes. It was an experience indeed, my enthusiasm tempered mainly by the car’s petrol thirst of around 8 1/2-9 m.p.g., or 10 m.p.g. to give it the benefit of the doubt, although the imposing 7.6-litre o.h.v. engine is, fortunately, quite content to consume the 4s. 4d.-a-gallon brew. This without exceeding a cruising speed of about 50 m.p.h., in deference to the flexibility of the chassis, which seemed likely to do itself or its carriagework some harm if driven brutally over the rougher roads.

If you are looking for one of the last of these great Phantom Ils, it might be worth ringing the owner (Lane End 254), because he has another Rolls-Royce, an Aveling & Porter steam-roller, a “hot” Hillman Imp and a go-kart, so may decide to dispose of it; it was lent to me out of enthusiasm, with no idea of earning a write-up, however.

After an experience of this kind one is divided between dismissing the Rolls-Royce image as a giant confidence trick, remembering the more scientific road-holding of such cars as the Lancia Lambda, for example, or, as a friend remarked, even the mass-produced Vauxhalls of the later p.v.t. era, or of becoming enthralled by the mystic of the R.-R. legend, enforced by the long-wearing qualities and reliability of the pre-war models. Personally, I prefer to remain open-minded, pending greater experience of these Derby and Crewe products. …

0.8-litres

Driving a car of nearly 8.0-litres was interspersed with using one propelled, through its front wheels, by a mere 0.8-litres. This latest version of the useful Renault 4L Estate Car is virtually the same as that reported on in MOTOR SPORT for June 1962, except that the swept-volume of its 4-cylinder engine has been increased from 747 c.c. to 845 c.c.

This enables this ingenious and endearing little Renault to cruise at an indicated 65/70 m.p.h. and, although acceleration is hampered by a 3-speed gearbox, quite unexpectedly good average speeds can be maintained, better than 40 m.p.h. on an all-day main-road journey, for instance. The clever suspension leaves the Michelin “X” tyres glued to the road no matter how far the body leans over, the push-pull gear-change could hardly be more simple, the brakes are entirely adequate, the noise level low for a car of this type (although at certain speeds the engine sounded as if it had run its bearings – which it hadn’t), and the seats are commendably comfortable.

Don’t try to compare an R4L with a Mini. They are entirely different vehicles. The Renault’s main role is negotiation of rough by-ways and plenty of load-carrying capacity, especially when the back seat of the Estate Car is folded, although even when it isn’t there is a surprising quantity of space behind it.

The 28 (net) b.h.p. engine feels unburstable and the R4L is great fun in every way and is a car full of unusual features. Particularly well done are its scuttle air-vents, very simple but admitting a really powerful stream of easily-directed fresh air into the interior, compared to the insipid dribbles you get from the more complex venting in many expensive cars, and its self-acting prop for the tail-board, simple to release by hand, which makes loading so easy. The interior door handles I thought dangerous, because, being within the “pull “-openings, a nervous passenger might open a door by grabbing them.

This Renault “load-carrier” covered over 1,000 miles in a week, using virtually no oil. It calls for a minimum of maintenance but its petrol consumption is rather heavy, 33 m.p.g. on fast hauls, 37 m.p.g. pottering about lightly loaded, averaging 35.2 m.p.g., especially as I was asked to burn premium – (the catalogue mentions “40-53 m.p.g”.). In fact, 4s. 4d. petrol didn’t seem to have any adverse effects. The fuel range is approximately 200 miles. But the consumption is a disappointment, compared to nearly 40 m.p.g. obtained from the aforesaid Simca 1000 and my Morris 1100, the 45 m.p.g. I used to get from a Mini and the 30 m.p.g. the Ford Cortina GT returns in fast driving. But, for £539 9s. 7d. inclusive, no wonder there are so many of these inimitable little Renault 4Ls on our roads!

I will end with this conundrum: Why is an R4L like a Rotacut mower ? Because they both have a wheelbase shorter on one side than on the other! – W.B.

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