1501 GLS

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Some notes on the biggest of the Simcas

There was a time when British family cars lagged far behind the Continental equivalents. This is no longer the case, as simultaneous testing of a Hillman Hunter and a Simca 1501 GLS emphasised. The type-designation of the good-looking Simca caused speculation –  in fact its engine size is 1,475 c.c. The “S” stands, apparently, for Super, both GL and GLS models having the 5-bearing engine with 9.0-to-1 c.r. and Weber twin-choke carburetter that gives 81 b.h.p. at 5,400 r.p.m.

This Simca has a pleasing air of Continental individuality and those who travel in it do so in comfort, the supple suspension and spongy seats providing a good if sometimes lively ride superior to that of the Hunter’s. There is an artificial-wood upper facia, very large separate front seats with reclining squabs having roll tops, and what I call “beachball”-type, too-soft, ventilated plastic upholstery (but they are more comfortable than the Hunter’s), two lidded but unlockable cubby-holes which are automatically illuminated (plus pockets on the scuttle but no facia shell), a very capacious boot (with spare wheel under its floor) that needs a key to open it, roof grabs with coat hooks, sill door-locks, safety interior door handles under the arm-rests, a good anti-dazzle mirror, a curved screen, vizors (with vanity mirror) that are too shallow, a steering-column lock, reversing lamps, and extractor ventilation but no fresh-air vents. The trim was loose on one roof-grab and the wipers’ knob came off in one’s hand.

The Simca 1501 has a horrid gear-change, like most Simcas I have driven. The central lever is too far back, the knob is flexibly mounted on rubber, and the very powerful spring-loading further detracts from what could be a precise control. The hand-brake is a facia twist-and-turn affair, all lamps-selection is done with a r.h. stalk the turn-grip of which is badly shaped, the 2-speed wipers are switched on with a facia knob but the washers are foot-operated, and the steering is inaccurate, changing from light to sticky, and becomes heavy on lock, its big wheel high-set. Some vibration and minor rattles are transmitted.

Instrumentation consists of a Veglia speedometer with decimal trip recorder, an accurate Ultra clock, and thermometer and fuel gauge calibrated merely with coloured blobs. A good point, however, is that the fuel warning light, which flashed for a day, did not finally stay on until over 310 miles had elapsed from filling the tank; thereafter 40 miles’ petrol remained. This suggested extremely commendable economy; a check gave a figure of 29.4 m.p.g., using premium Total, on fast runs. At the end of 500 miles, one pint of oil was needed.

Above the lamps-control is the shorter turn-indicators’ stalk. The horn is sounded with a cut-away horn-ring. A bad safety feature is the use of metal hooks for the safety-belts. In fact, this Simca didn’t have safety belts, so I suppose some journalists would have refused to test it! The Pye Petite radio functions without using the ignition key (as does the horn) but its clip-on aerial has untidy wiring and there was continual static when the engine was running.

When cornering ambitiously there is a good deal of roll, understeer changing to lurch oversteer, the Kleber Colombes tyres didn’t grip particularly well in the wet and are apt to squeal, and noise level when accelerating is of the “fizzy” sort, while there is a good deal of road noise. I have no specific complaint about the brakes, which are commendably powerful. Top speed is given as 93 m.p.h. but on the long straights of A30 en route for Stockbridge the speedometer was not anxious to climb more than five m.p.h. above the legal speed-limit for our open roads. Admittedly there was a stiff head-wind blowing.

This Simca 1501 GLS is a nice-looking, economical car, with wheels made to resemble centre-lock wire wheels with radial-finned brake drums, and it has lots of interior space. But overall it cannot claim to be outstanding, being by now out-dated, so I do not see how it can be sold here for £1,019 15s. 6d., except to rabid Francophiles who are captivated by the “big-car” feel of the Simca and its smooth-running engine. – W.B.