Seeing a Simca on the streets of Havana is probably not as a rare sight as one might expect. There are a few sedans around of various types. In fact it might be the easiest place on the planet to see a Simca in motion outside of France. What I did not expect to see what this rather modified Simca Oceane Convertible. It was spotted outside the tourist core of Havana in a rather more residential area.
This Aronde sedan would be an example of a typical Cuban Simca. Patched up and modified but still at work and likely cherished by its owner. It would not attract the tourists like a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air but certainly more so than a Lada or Moskvitch.
Unlike in a lot of other places in Cuba the old cars that are generally the most desirable are in four door form for the simple reason that they make much better taxis to ferry tourists around in. As a result the two door cars often get turned into the parts car. Convertibles can be useful as well as tourist taxis but those are mostly the big American ones that can seat several tourists in addition to the driver.
As a result a Chevrolet convertible would be a good earner as a taxi where as something like today’s subject would be appealing only as a private car. As a private car a four door Lada is several times more practical leaving only enthusiasts with the ability to have a ‘fun’ car to own something like this Simca. A small market in Cuba to be sure.
So that makes this little drop top Oceane even more special. It has managed to survive, albeit modified, in Cuba likely due to special caretakers over the years.
Stock early grill.
Stock later grill.
I have to admit it took me a moment to place what I was looking at when I first came across this one. From a distance I was expecting it to be some sort of Fiat. Most obviously the grill is gone and the headlights surrounds have almost been “frenched” Cuban style losing the vaguely Thunderbird vibe of the original. The door handles have also been replaced as well as the rims, bumper and lighting. Ultimately it was that cut line behind the front tire that helped identify it. Above is a stock example to help you place it all.
Specification wise the Oceane weighed in at 2105 lbs or 955kg with a 2400mm or 94″ wheelbase. The 1290cc engine delivered approximately 57hp giving it straight line performance roughly equivalent of an early Austin Healey Sprite. In its current state it has likely been re-powered with Lada 2105 mechanical bits which would have given it a decent power boost unlike most of its engine swapped Cuban classic car brethren.
The interior bears little resemblance to the stock car but the owner has done a reasonable job given the limitations with the Russian parts sources. Had I noticed at the time the faded Aronde text on the wood dashboard could have been a helpful identification clue.
The stock had car had, for some years, vaguely 1956 Chevrolet-eque tail lights.
Our Cuban example continues that theme with clearance lights in place of the stock units. The tail pipe might the largest ever fitted to an Océane. I suppose that is reasonable given its a hot rod of a kind. While this particular one is extensively modified and perhaps not as pretty as a standard example it still does exist. That is likely a testament to dedicated owners who continue to care for it despite its deeply impractical fit within Cuba. One has to admire that at least.