Re-acquaintance with the Simca Aronde
The make which was placed second in the Monte Carlo Rally, tested in the latest P.60 Montlhéry form, is found to offer individuality and excellent performance and controllability.
That popular French family car, the Simca Aronde, has served Motor Sport well on numerous occasions in the past, when it has been road-tested in various forms. Last month I was able to put the latest P.60 Montlhéry model, with “Flash Special” engine, through its paces. It lived up to the Simca reputation of being a ruggedly-built saloon which handles well and possesses extremely good performance for its modest engine capacity of 1,290 c.c.
The Simca is not a large car, but it seats four in comfort with moderately good luggage accommodation — scorning those just too commendably commodious boots currently fashionable but needed only once a year during the holiday tour, if then — and in appearance is brightly attractive, the test car even somewhat flamboyant in red with metallic flash and white roof. Four trailing doors provide easy entry and egress but the front seats are rather far back, so that it is only too easy to bang one’s head on the pillars. The front seat is of bench type but with separate squabs, and it has two highly commendable features — it adjusts easily fore and aft, running forward automatically under spring loading, and each squab is separately adjustable for rake and on down almost to the horizontal, so that, with the back-seat cushion set up on edge, two emergency beds, or as the French prefer it, couches, are available. Little side levers effect control of squab angle, the squabs returning upright under spring pressure.
This front seat is found at first to be rather spongy and with a bulge where the small of the back goes, and even after longer acquaintance is never accepted as entirely comfortable. From it, however, the driver has a clear view of both front wings over a sensibly low-set small two-spoke steering wheel, while the big overhung back window gives good rearward vision and the screen pillars are slender. The anti-dazzle roof-hung rear-view mirror, on the other hand, is restricted in vision by the fall of the roof line. There is some reflection in the windscreen.
The r.h.d. Simca suffers a little from close proximity of clutch and brake pedals and the left foot is obliged to find parking space under the clutch pedal. The brake pedal is set rather far left of the treadle accelerator, but the driver gets acclimatised.
The controls generally are conventional, yet show that touch of individuality which picks out Continental cars from the common rut. The gear lever extends from the left of the steering column. It is rather whippy and while the travel from neutral into first gear is surprisingly short, lateral travel through the gate, downward under strong spring-loading to third and top-gear positions, is considerable. While the lever selects the gears precisely, aided by synchromesh on the upper three, it is not an ideal change but, like most of its kind, acceptable if not used too rapidly. Reverse gear is well placed, beyond top gear, guarded by spring-leading. The clutch is light and smooth.
Opposite the gear-lever is the lamps-control stalk. This has a grip on its extremity which turns and slides. Turning it forward selects, successively, parking lights (the grip being pulled out or left in, depending on whether off or near-side lights are required), side and rear lamps and headlamps. To dim the full headlamp beam it is necessary to pull the. grip out, which is awkward and causes delay, but does enable full beam from dimmed beam to be obtained instantly by pushing the grip in. The handbook describes the reverse action, which might be preferred by some drivers. It is possible to flash a passing warning by merely turning the grip from sidelamps to headlamps position and, as arranged on the test car, one then has the full beam warning immediately. Flashing is also possible from the side-lamps position by pulling out the grip against a spring, but in the dmmed-beam position, which seems rather pointless — it is easier to turn the grip to full-beam.
There is a half-horn-ring beneath the steering wheel, where it less convenient to operate than if placed above the wheel and where it can be worked inadvertently by the driver’s knees. A thumb-switch on the steering wheel hub enables a loud or soft horn note to be selected, but the difference in note is not very pronounced. Matching this is another thumb-switch which controls the self-parking screen-wipers. These function at oddly opposed angles and the right-hand blade could park closer to the base of the screen with advantage. The direction-flashers are controlled from a flick-switch in the centre of the steering-wheel hub below the spokes, which isn’t altogether convenient. They self-cancel, but on a rather long-dwell time-switch instead of under steering-wheel action. The big ignition key turns to bring in the starter and can only be removed if the ignition is off. There is no position for radio on but ignition off.
The metal recessed facia is neater than on earlier Simcas. There is a crude but roomy cubby-hole on the left, with sharp internal edges and an unlockable, plastic lid, held by a spring catch, which is frail in the extreme. In the centre is a space for a radio, above which is the simple horizontal heater quadrant, with two marked positions, the noisy heater fan being controlled by a switch incorporated in the quadrant-lever knob. Before the driver there is a flat, unhooded panel containing a strip-type Veglia 100-m.p.h, speedometer with figures every 10 m.p.h., below which are clear trip with decimal and total mileage recorders, with adjacent cancelling knob for the former matched by a knob controlling the rheostat dash lighting. Slit windows cover warning lamps for generator, oil pressure, and low (about two gallons) fuel level, and there is a fuel gauge reading 0, 1-1/2, 4/4. and two flashers reminder lights. Indicators and wipers operate only with the ignition on and no full-beam warning light is deemed necessary. There is a screen-washer button down under the scuttle on the right.
The pull-out hand-brake is reasonably accessible under the scuttle for operation by the driver’s right hand: it is released by turning the metal handle.
The interior decor of the Simca Montlhéry is red with white (very stiff) crash-padding on the base of the facia, the good plastic cloth upholstery within being deeper red with grey on the squabs. The roof and vizors are polka-dotted on a white lining. The sun vizors swivel sideways and the passenger’s has a vanity mirror. The interior light on the near-side pillar is crude, but usefully bright. It has its own switch and is also operated by opening the front doors.
Although, in common with other present-day cars, the Simca has no door pockets, and the twin cubby-holes of earlier Simcas have been abandoned, there is an under-facia shelf, and elastic-topped pockets on each side of the scuttle.
All four doors have arm-rests-cum-pulls, but there is no central arm-rest for the back seat, which is slightly obstructed by the wheel arches. Behind the seat there is a shallow parcels-shelf. The front-door windows need four turns of the handles, up to down, those in the back doors 3-1/4 turns. The driver’s door proved difficult to close. Normal locks are employed, with push-button external handles. The internal handles are not sharp-edged like those on some cars I have driven recently, and the quarter-lights in the front doors have thief-proof catches, but no rain gutters.
Externally the Simca P.60 Montlhéry has nice lines. The new simplified radiator grille of the Plein Ciel model is used. There are “S” motifs about the car, the rear lamps and petrol filler cap are recessed, and the bumpers have over-riders, their extremities protected by rubbers, in accordance, presumably, with French safety requirements. The screen is of Triplex safety-glass, the side windows of Securit glass.
Reverting for a moment to the car’s interior, there is a covered ash-tray on the facia sill and pull-out ash-trays each side in the back compartment. A heater pipe and some wiring is visible under the scuttle.
The Ronis door key unlocks the boot lid, which then flys up automatically. The boot is rather shallow and although the floor is flat, the spare wheel is actually below the carpet, so that a puncture necessitates unloading the luggage. The petrol filler cap is rather awkwardly recessed on the near side and is unsecured; an ” S” forms a finger grip. It is impossible to refuel from a tin or jerrycan. The word “Aronde” appears front and back of the car, a Simca “flash” on the front wings, and we are reminded of the Simca’s long-distance records at Montlhéry by a transfer, “Records du Monde” on the back of the car. Smart discs cover the wheels.
The Marchel Equilux headlamps with concave glasses provide a good driving light.
For a 1,290-c.c. car this Simca Aronde Montlhéry with the Flash Special engine really covers the ground. Speedometer readings of 29, 48 and 71 m.p.h. are available in the indirect gears, these highly commendable speeds being augmented by brisk acceleration and a maximum speed in excess of 85 m.p.h. The engine works willingly, without vice, and the automatic choke of the Solex 32 PI3KT carburetter functions admirably, even when the car has been left out for a night in an English January east wind! It starts instantly and appears to need no warming-up period, the engine merely running almost imperceptibly faster until the temperature is normal. A cardboard radiator blanking piece is provided in the boot for winter conditions but the old Simca precaution of a little handle for hand actuation of the screen-wipers should the motor fail has been discontinued.
The Simca Montlhéry motors so well and gives its driver such confidence that many full 1-1/2-litre saloons are easily disposed of. To match the notably good acceleration there are excellent brakes and safe road-holding. The brakes feel a trifle spongy at first but provide excellently progressive retardation for light pedal pressure, with no vices. Used in emergency fashion they prove to be really powerful and foolproof.
So far as road-holding is concerned the Simca corners fast with very little roll. There is a sensation that roll-oversteer may intrude but this does not develop and the car is pleasant to corner fast, although over bad surfaces the suspension becomes somewhat lively and more work is necessary with the steering wheel. Over really rough-going the suspension becomes embarrassed but normally the ride is comfortable, but with subdued up-and-down motion.
The steering is fairly light, with the merit that it does not get much heavier for parking. The steering lock is generous (32-ft. turning circle) and the wheel, which has finger-grips, asks 3-1/7 turns, lock-to-lock. It transmits some vibration, kick-back only over real pot-holes, and there is quite vigorous but not over-vigorous, castor return, useful after tight corners. This is accurate, quick steering, aided by excellent forward visibility.
The virtually-square push-rod o.h.v. engine is rather noisy when accelerating but can be forgiven, because it will give 50 m.p.h. from rest in 14 sec., 60 m.p.h. in less than 20 sec., the s.s 1/4-mile being covered in just over 21 sec. That is excellent, but the latest Flash Special engine, which develops 60.7 b.h.p., should give even better performance. There is some exhaust resonance but gears and axle are quiet. There was an irritating wind whistle round the near-side front window. A good point of detail is a red cable to the fuse-box which, disconnected, acts virtually as a battery-master switch.
Driving really hard, a petrol consumption of 25 m.p.g. was achieved, representing a range of approximately 235 miles. The engine likes to be kept turning over reasonably fast, but will pull away from about 20 m.p.h. in top gear with only muffled pinking and gets into its stride in this gear from 30 m.p.h. The bonnet has both catches at the front and springs up automatically to reveal the conventional push-rod o.h.v. engine with its fillers and dip-stick, and the Tudor battery, accessible.
The output of the Simca “Special Flash” engine, as in the test car, of 57 b.h.p., is greater than that of many engines of a full 1-1/2-litres capacity and is reflected in the Montlhéry’s excellent performance. The car’s sure road-holding endears it to the enthusiastic driver, while in appearance the Simca is conventional yet chic. Altogether this sensible French family car has much to commend it.
In addition to the P.60 Montlhéry there are the 48-b.h.p. Aronde de luxe, Chatelaine and Super de Luxe, the Elysee, the Grand Large with two-door body, and the Monaco, which replaces the former Grand Large Special, as well as the smart Plein Ciel coupé and Oceane convertible.
The P.60 Montlhéry model is competitively priced in this country at £632, or £949 7s. inclusive of import duty and p.t.—W. B.
Simca Aronde P.60 Montlhéry Saloon (Flash Special Engine)
Engine: Four cylinders, 74 by 75 mm. (1,290 c.c.). Push-rod operated overhead valves. 7.8-to-1 compression-ratio. 57 b.h.p. at 5,200 r.p.m.
Gear ratios: First, 16.38 to 1; second, 10.4 to 1; third, 6.5 to 1; top, 4.44 to 1.
Tyres: 5.60 by 14 Dunlop whitewall tyres on bolt-on steel disc wheels.
Weight: 18 cwt. 0 qtr., ready for the road, without occupants but with approximately half a gallon of petroL
Steering ratio: 3-1/7 turns, lock-to-lock.
Fuel capacity: 9-3/8 gallons. (Range approximately 235 miles.)
Wheelbase: 8 ft. 0-1/4 in.
Track: Front, 4 ft. 1-3/8 in.; rear, 4 ft. 1-1/4 in.
Dimensions: 13 ft. 9 in. by 5 ft. 1-3/4 in by 4 ft. 8-3/16 in. (high)
Price: £632 (£949 7s., inclusive of import duty and p.t.).
Concessionaires: Fiat (England) Ltd., Water Lane, Wembley, Middlesex
Makers: Simca, Nanterre, Paris, France.