Small-car topics

A section devoted when deemed necessary to cars the engine capacity of which does not exceed 1,000 c.c.

The Simca 1000

From France comes a new Simca to join the ranks of rear-engined small cars. It is being presented in this country with drive and enthusiasm, and has the merit of being a comfortable, roomy and economical 4-seater saloon, with the fashionable “shunting-engine” Corvair-lines providing good headroom for back-seat occupants, and a nice gearbox.

The 5-bearing 944 c.c. 45 (gross) b.h.p. 4-cylinder engine is set out behind the back hubs and very flexibly mounted on coilsprings; it is also canted over at 15° to the near-side to make the plugs, etc., accessible, and stayed by two rods. These control engine movement laterally but if the back .of the Simca is rocked up and down some very queer actions are evident. Cooling copies Fiat, in having the radiator beside the engine on the off-side, and under-bonnet air temperature is apt to be high; presumably aware of this, the Simca engineers duct air over the petrol tank, which lives close to the 4-branch exhaust manifold. The dipstick can get uncomfortably warm and it was astonishing to see a plastic petrol pipe laying nonchalantly against a hot water-hose. Even the ignition coil, mounted on the rear bulkhead, gets a bit warm, but the Cuirasse battery is well clear of the engine. The electrics are Paris-Rhone, the distributor an S.E.V., the headlamps by Marchal, battery and junction box being accessible on the off-side wall of the engine boot. The bumpers have rubber-mounted over-riders.

The engine is revealed by lifting the much-louvred “piano-lid ” at the back, which has no lock. Luggage goes into a deep and wide front boot, the lid of which is released by means of an under-facia handle that also pulls it shut from within the car after it has been laid down from the forward-hinged open position. A great deal of baggage can be carried but the metal walls of the boot would not do costly cases much good. Simca provide, for £10, a special set of three big suitcases, two squig-bags and a couple of shopping bags, presumably more durable than most and exactly filling the available space with the soft bags empty.

Within, the Simca 1000 is compact but comfortable for four or even five adults. The facia is in non-dazzle matt black. There is a 90-m.p.h. hooded Veglia speedometer with total, no decimals, distance recorder, a casually-calibrated fuel gauge, and a range of warning lamps. An unusual feature is elimination of an ignition key, a rotary-switch on the steering column bringing the h.t. current to life. Thumb-controls higher up the steering-column control a two-tone horn (which failed during the test) and the lamps-circuit. Side or headlamps are selected by a l.h. stalk, which enables a daylight warning to be given, and there is a separate l.h. stalk above the lamps-control for the turn indicators, which tend to cancel rather too readily. The pedals are off-set due to the large wheel arch.

The gears are changed by a convenient central lever and the change is a really excellent “non-mechanical” one, although somewhat stiff on the test-car. The choke control is on the floor near the gear-lever. This interesting, all-independently-sprung French Simca in vivid blue gives the impression of being a light (which it is—kerb weigh 14 cwt.) and therefore lively little vehicle, providing the engine is permitted to rev. freely. It is good for over 70 m.p.h., reaches 50 m.p.h. from rest in under z6 sec., 60 m.p.h. in 26½ sec., and will go up to almost 70 m.p.h. in 3rd gear. Visibility is excellent, the seats comfortable if clinging. The ride is very good, lively but with little roll on corners. The handling characteristics are complicated to analyse. The initial tendency is understeer, which, with a full load, tends to be excessive and makes the otherwise very light steering unpleasantly heavy and unresponsive. Lightly laden the Simca handles well and although understeer changes to the expected oversteer during ambitious cornering the effect is not unduly sudden unless very high speed changes of direction are promoted. The car is reasonably stable in the wet but cannot compare for vice-free control characteristics with front-drive or normal front-engined cars. The steering is geared 3½ turns, lock-to-lock, with a quarter-turn of lost motion.

There is a small, lidded but unlockable cubby-hole, the usual back-window shelf, and the facia is crash-padded. The anti-dazzle vizors are padded, but no vanity mirror is provided.

Good for a rear-engined car is a proper hot-water heater, with noisy 2-speed blower. There is a direct-pressure screen-washer with plastic fluid container. The mirror gives a good rear-view, courtesy interior lighting is provided, the four doors have pulls-cum-arm-rests and their interior handles consist of short plated knob-ended stalks below the arm-rests. The doors shut nicely and, of course, are lockable by the single key on a Simca owner’s ring. A steering lock is an optional extra. The front doors have no quarter-windows, which reduces wind noise at the expense of draughty ventilation. The filler for the 6.6-gallon fuel tank lies flush with the near-side body panel but is unsecured.

The brakes are good, although they felt a bit spongy towards the end of the test. This lively little car gave the excellent petrol economy of 40½ m.p.g., driving it quite hard. We used good quality fuel but this isn’t essential. The range is thus in excess of 260 miles; a warning light in the gauge flashes for some 70 miles before the essential fluid is exhausted. No oil was consumed in 640 miles.

For those who believe that a small car should be light, rather than carry a weight of solid fittings and equipment, and who seek a small 4/5-seater that is, because of its low weight, lively, capable of over 70 m.p.h. and 40 m.p.g. and which is backed by a good organisation in this country, the Simca Mille, at. £758, tax and duty included, must be regarded as a worthwhile newcomer to the ranks of the rear-engined. Its “oversquare” 68 x 65-mm. engine has a Fiat-type centrifugal oil filter, which suggests durability, and servicing is confined to oil changes every 3,000 miles, greasing four nipples every 12,000 miles, and cleaning the oil filter every 30,000 miles. The tyres are Dunlop B7, for which whitewalls are available for an extra £7 2s. 5d. Major repairs to the engine are facilitated because it, with its sub-frame and coil-spring i.r.s., can be detached after eight bolts have been removed and wheeled away on the 12-in, road wheels. Front and back wings are, like those of a Citroen, easily replaceable in the event of damage, and the engine will accept “regular” petrol. So the Simca 1000 is not only nice to drive and bright to look at, but it shouldn’t cost much to run.—W. B.