Simca 1000 Coupé by Bertone

One of the reasons I really like Simca, even though it was essentially set up to be Fiat’s eyes and ears in France, was that the appointed director lasted from the company’s inception until it was bought by Chrysler. That man was Italian Henri Pigozzi, who emigrated to France in order to be Fiat’s General Representative in France from 1926.

In 1934, Fiat set up carmaking operations in France as Société Industrielle de Mécanique et de Carrosserie Automobile, or more simply, Simca. Pigozzi led the company into decades of success, even though the brand was often a halfway house of sorts for badge-engineered vehicles.

Today, we look at the last true Simca developed, the 1000 Coupé and, later, the 1200 S Coupé. Designed to compete with the other small coupes of its era like the Renault Floride and Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, the little Simca was short on performance but big on style. 

With Bertone contracted to design the body, a young, 23-year-old stylist named Giorgetto Giugiaro was responsible for the winning look. Later named Car Designer of the Century, even in his early work it’s clear that Giugiaro knew what he was doing. Even though underneath the little coupe was just a four door Simca 1000 economy car, originally developed by Fiat as the successor to the 850.

Introduced in 1962, buyers of the 1000 Coupé loved the styling but were disappointed by the car’s performance. With just a 934cc, the little 4-cylinder had a bump in compression compared to its economy car siblings but still only produced 52 horsepower. A top speed of 140 km/h (87 mph) was warm—but certainly not hot. Surprisingly, it was one of the few new vehicles on sale—especially at this size—that was sold with four wheel disc brakes as standard. Inside, buyers were treated to a vastly improved, GT car-like interior, with auxiliary gauges and switches sprinkled on the flat dash. 

While the body may have echoed the Ferrari 250 GT “Lusso”, its performance was not up to snuff, and Simca was often thought of as the company that made sheep in wolf’s clothing. Additionally, the high cost of the Bertone-built body meant the little Coupé was often being compared to more pricy—and faster—rivals.

After more than 10,000 were sold, in 1967 the first generation 1000 Coupé was replaced by the Simca 1200 S Coupé. It’s easy to spot it the later cars from a glance, as the larger 1200cc engine’s cooling needs required the radiator to be moved to the front of the car. As a result, the 1200 S Coupé looked even more like a “Lusso”! Miura-like hood vents and two additional brake lights were just about the only other styling change.

Taken from the new Simca 1100, at its heart the small 4-cylinder now made 82 horsepower—an increase of 30! A later upgrade for 1970-1971 added three more. By the end of production, top speed had increased to 180 km/h (111 mph.) With the radiator up front, handling was improved, too!

While not initially a performance car, by the end of its run the 1200 S Coupé in particular was starting to gain appreciation as a great-looking sports car that finally had the guts to delight enthusiast drivers. Some even started calling it a “Poor man’s Porsche”—not bad for an economy car in drag.

It’s this very platform that Bertone used in 1970 to construct yesterday’s #bcotd, the Chrysler Shake by Bertone concept. After Chrysler took control of Simca in 1970, Bertone was obliged to introduce its latest concept as a Chrysler, even though the buggy was a Simca 1200 S Coupé underneath!