1970s / Driven daily / French / Simca

Driven daily: Simca 1100

simca-1100-6Introduced at the 1967 Paris Motor Show, the Simca 1100 was one of the precursors to the 21st century family car. It had a hatchback (often referred to as a fifth door), a folding rear bench seat and a transversally-mounted engine that spun the front wheels. Unlike other front-wheel drive cars such as the Mini, the Renault 16 and the Peugeot 204, the 1100’s gearbox was mounted directly behind the engine (rather than behind or below it) and it sent power to the drive wheels via unequal-length half shafts.

The innovations found under the skin made the 1100 stand apart from Simca’s otherwise antiquated lineup of cars, which included the rear-engined 1000 and the front-engined / rear-wheel drive 1301 / 1501 duo. The 1100 spawned a big family that included a three-door hatchback, a station wagon, a potent range-topping TI hot hatch and a light commercial van dubbed VF2.

The 1100 overthrew the aforementioned Peugeot 204 and became the best-selling car in France in 1972. Simca execs were understandably thrilled as a Simca taking the the lead of the French market was almost unheard of; The only other time the firm topped the list of annual car sales was in 1956 with the Aronde. Chrysler tried selling the 1100 in several export markets such as the United States and Canada, where the car failed to catch on, and in the United Kingdom, where it was more popular.

The 1100’s success lasted until the late 1970s when a slew of more modern competitors like the Renault 14 appeared and eroded it sales. It was replaced by the Talbot Horizon (sold in the United States as Dodge Omni / Plymouth Horizon) but it stayed in production until 1985.

We photographed the example pictured below in a small village located in the Var (83) department of France. It is a 1972 model that spent many years in storage so it has just 60,000 kilometers (roughly 37,000 miles) on the clock. It is relatively rust-free but wears numerous dings and dents.

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