My association with the French Simca was peculiar, amusing, and rather frustrating. I'd just been sacked as assistant public relations manager of Volkswagen Canada for the sin of taking my wife and baby son with me on a business trip to the Maritimes. The trip was successful and the VW dealers agreed that bringing my family along was a nice touch but VW Canada's Managing Director Werner Jansen was old school and fired me the moment he found out. I needed work and Simca, which was launching the Simca 1000, hired me temporarily to assist with pr and create a brochure.
One of my suggestions was to prepare a 1000 for sedan racing. I'd won a CRDA class championship with a modified VW and since both cars had their engines in the rear, the dreaded oversteer was well within my capabilities as a driver. Simca's management agreed, the suspension was altered and suitable tires were fitted. But someone in the group suddenly objected to spending money on engine modifications and with no time to argue the point the car was entered in its first race with an absolutely stock powerplant. Qualifying found me on the back row for the first time in my life, next to a BMW 700.
The Michelotti-designed coupe was no dragster but when modified, as my competitor's was, it could be quick. Not quick enough in the class in which we were racing, though; consequently he and I would compete for last place. I don't recall his name but this gentleman, a German immigrant, was an accomplished racer. I suspect he was as embarrassed as me while lining up on the grid. When the starting flag fell, however, we were both determined and gave it our best. It was fun for us and possibly the spectators, cut-and-thrust on every corner, and I won. No trophies for finishing second-to-last, though.
A few weeks later I was invited to drive a Simca of a different kind at Mosport. The Aronde had been raced by a CBC radio producer with poor results, and so dealer-owner Bruce McFarlane invited me to try it during race practise to determine if there was a problem with the car. There certainly was. I was accustomed to oversteer with my VW and Porsche, but this Simca's suspension had been modified to the extreme in the opposite direction. It understeered so badly that the only way to get through a corner was to enter slowly and add throttle (gingerly) on the way out.
On the third lap of open practise I entered a fast right-hander with a gaggle of competitors following. Normally I'd take the inside line and let them pass on the left but I could barely keep it on track. So I took the outside line, leaving plenty of room. The following drivers stayed to the right except for one eager-beaver in an Austin-Healey who was determined to pass me on the left. His fender tapped mine and the Simca, already on the edge of adhesion, traveled up a grassy bank and rolled over, ending on its side. I quickly shut off the engine and crawled out, with no worse injury than a bloodied knee.
Owner McFarlane was quite offended that his car had been damaged (albeit lightly) and refused to believe my complaint about understeer. I showed him the patch of blue paint and went off to find the offending Healey which, sure enough, had a matching scrape. The driver, Paul Muir, was nowhere to be found. Meanwhile the dealer repaired the Simca and raced it with its regular driver who, as usual, brought up the back of the pack.
All that is ancient history. Now I look on Simcas with a certain affection, and so I was attracted by this rather rare 1960 Aronde Cabrio. It has been properly restored and is offered by Dutch dealer Joop Stolze Classic Cars "at a price to be agreed on by buyer and seller." Joop Stolze is a classic sports car enthusiast who, 36 years ago, imported his first TR3A from London. Today his collection consists of hundreds of extraordinary cars. Everything has been imported by Joop himself, which he says causes prices to remain low and histories to be more reliable.