► CAR’s Worst Car of the Year, April 1973
► …and yet a curiously positive road test
► ‘In Belgium the Mini 1275GT is only £32 cheaper’
When the Simca 1000 was launched in 1961 it was not basically too bad, although Simca were slow to rectify its weakest points, and did not fully develop the car until it was too late – or very nearly so.
Let us imagine the Rallye 2, the Worst CAR of the Year, back in 1965! It would have met with tremendous popularity among the young enthusiasts. We must remember, too, that in 1964 Carlo Abarth was already producing the Simca-Abarth which was the true prototype of the present Rallye 2!
The same year, Renault starting producing the R8 Gordini, which was followed two years later by the R8 Gordini 1300. Simca did not even try to compete with la Regie. They only began their work seriously when the R8 Gordini era came to an end with the introduction of the R12 Gordini.
Let us say that the 1000 Rallye 2 is a very good rear-engined car – by 1965 standards – with a ‘seventies touch provided by the smooth power of its 1294cc twin-carburettor 82(DIN) horsepower engine.
The Rallye 2 is far better built, by Chrysler France, and it is not expensive either. Chrysler France are spending a lot of money using the 1000 Rallye 2 as a promotional tool and there is an active Simca Racing Team which they hope to extend outside France. In its native country the Rallye 2 is considered as the heiress of the R8 Gordini, which was far more expensive, but more powerful, too. They share some qualities, but also have the same weakness. The basic trouble is that the Rallye 2 is very much like a weathercock on the road: stable in still air and awfully unstable at speed as soon as there’s a puff of wind. On winding roads the Rallye 2’s behaviour compares closely with the Berlinette Alpine Renault of Monte Carlo Rally fame. In other words, it’s a driver’s oversteering car coupled to good disc brakes all round and lively performance. How the man behind the wheel copes with this combination is up to him.
The Simca 1000 Rallye 2 is built around the well-known 1000 body, a compact four-door saloon, but no more than a four seater because front bucket seats offer an adequate driving position and good lateral support for both driver and front passenger at the expense of rear seat legroom. It’s closer to a two-plus-two really, with a reasonable area for luggage in the front compartment where the cooling system doesn’t take too much space (it’s low price for a better weight baance!) and enough room on the back seat for the large suitcases when only two people are carried. Its interior is functional and matt-black finished. Equipment is efficient with a small padded steering wheel, easy-to-read instruments on the dashboard, good seating comfort if one isn’t too fact, and a nice floor gearchange.
The engine is Simca’s well-tried 1294cc unit which is a smooth high-revving affair fitted with two twin-choke Solex carburettors. Peak power is at 6000rpm and peak torque at 4400rpm. With the help of some Simca Racing Team special cams (Webers, bigger valves, sportier cams and so on) it delivers 105 or 110bhp at 6800rpm!
All this is to say that the Simca 1000 Rallye 2 is not such a bad car if it is compared to some of more recent origin. The problem is that you have to judge the Rallye 2 according to its specialised market. For instance, in Belgium the Mini 1275GT is only £32 cheaper than the Rallye 2, but there is a big difference in value between them, favouring the Rallye 2.
Anyway, I do not know many cars of equal price that provide such good equipment (brakes, seats, instruments, headlights, etc) and so much power. And who says that a large front spoiler wouldn’t cure its weathercock problems?
In a sense it’s an awful shame that all the effort has gone into sorting out the 1000 had not applied to the thoroughly likeable 1100 which, with its front-wheel-drive and advanced specifications, could have been the Mini-Cooper S of the ‘seventies!