Curbside Classic: 1965 Simca 1000 GLS – Cute Cubic CC

The ‘80s may now be regarded as the decade of square car design par excellence, but it was arguably the third such era in automotive history. Back in the ‘20s, cars were pretty straight-edged (barring the fenders, of course). Things got all swoopy when streamlining became a thing in the ‘30s, but by the late ‘50s, curves were starting to become passé. The second age of the square car came in full force in the early ‘60s and this little Simca is a great example of this philosophy being applied to a smaller car.

This is not to inply that all cars of this era were of the cubic persuasion. That’s what was great about the ‘60s: the variety of shapes was truly awe-inspiring. Lots of us gearheads deplore the fact that current designs all seem to look alike, but let’s be real: that was pretty much the same thing in the ‘80s, the ‘40s or the ‘20s. Cars designed in the ‘60s, on the other hand, were a more varied bunch.

I mean, have a look just at some of the Simca 1000’s contemporaries – in that same circa 1-litre subcompact segment – from Europe and Japan. There are a few that have a pretty squarish look, but that’s not the majority.

Same deal with the technical side: rear-engine, FWD and traditional layout were all represented. This was not the case back in the ‘20s, and it’s not really today either. Twin cylinder motors were also present in decent numbers, as was air-cooling.

None of that for the Simca, though: we have a 944cc water-cooled OHV 4-cyl. mated to a 4-speed manual and providing 52hp (SAE) – pretty conventional by any standard. It lives in the back though, which was an interesting choice on the part of the Poissy engineers: this was Simca’s first rear-engined car (launched for the 1962 model year) and they were relatively late in the game to join the likes of VW, Renault or Fiat.

Cube-wise, the Simca 1000 is a highly efficient use of a limited amount of space. Within a wheelbase of only 222cm (87.5’’), they managed to provide enough space for four adult passengers, each with their own door and fully wind-downable window and a floor free of any transmission hump.

The challenge was to turn this boxy little four-door into something appealing. Renault designers famously struggled with this task when drafting the R8 and had to resort to ask hired gun Philippe Charbonneaux for a last-minute rescue operation. The folks at Simca managed it quite well, without having to slap on too much chrome trim or unnecessary creases.

The 1000 had a long career, making it all the way to MY 1978. The body panels did not change much throughout this 17-year run, but they did manage to make it more cubic somehow by making the rear lights squarish in 1969. The front ones went rectangular for the final couple of model years on either side of a large plastic dummy grille, also eliminating the “eyebrows” pressed into the hood. These modifications took the cubic design over the edge, in my opinion. The ‘60s cars, as evidenced by the one I caught in Tokyo, had more personality.

There are a number of oddities on this particular car, but it’s certainly an earlier model, when Simca were still a force to be reckoned with on the European market. Chrysler already had a stake in the French carmaker, even as Fiat started pulling their funds out, but the rash of Pentastars that would festoon Simcas from the late ‘60s had yet to take over from the stylized swallow emblem seen on Simcas since the ‘30s.

Close to two million Simca 1000s were made, but its manufacturer sure changed for the worst during its lengthy reign. When the 1000 premiered at the 1961 Paris Motor Show, Simca was the second-largest French carmaker behind Renault. By the end of the 1000 in May 1978, the marque was at death’s door, as its owner Chrysler was about to literally give it away to Peugeot. Thankfully, the Simca 1000 was spared the ignominy of being rebranded as a Talbot.

Dating this specific 1000 was a bit difficult, as there are a number of details that look off. The dummy grille should be entirely in polished aluminium, not black, but I suppose this gives it a sportier look. The GLS badge up front is correct, but the red one on the rear end came off a ‘70s model.

That C-pillar star is a 1965-66 GLS trim piece, to be sure. But then again, it’s not a huge job to source those and stick them on.

The plot thickens inside. That instrument binnacle is obviously aftermarket (the VDO dials are labelled in Italian, for some reason), but the dash itself is pre-1966, when the 1000 got a completely flat light gray one. This, along with a number of other details such as the lack of quaterlights, should indicate a ’65 model. It also says “GL,” as opposed to GLS, under the glovebox. Ah well…

Not that it matters, in the end. There really aren’t many French classics to be found in Tokyo, apart from the (very) odd Citroën. Just catching a Simca is a rare enough occurrence these days to be worthy of a large smile and a quick CC post.


Related posts:


Curbside Classic: Simca 1000 – The Franco-Italian Baby Corvair, by PN

COAL: 1964 Simca 1000 – Big Car and Little Car, by Jeff Sun