In the late 1950s, Brazil started a very ambitious plan that would change the whole country forever. The idea was to shift a good portion of the economy from agriculture to manufacturing, opening the doors to foreign industry and technology.
The motor of this revolution was the automotive industry, and the logic behind it is very simple: the country was about to create a wealthier middle class, willing to purchase items they previously couldn’t afford, and certainly automobiles were at the top of the list. Of course, the pride of having a domestic auto industry also played an important role.
Many automakers answered the call and they came to Brazil, full of hope. Some of them are still there going strong, like Volkswagen and General Motors, but some of them came and left pretty quickly. Among the ones that didn’t have time to lay down deep roots we have the French automaker Simca.
The Brazilian Simca was founded on May 5, 1958, and stayed in the country until 1969, when it was acquired by Chrysler. During this short period, Simca had a variety of cars, all of them based on the French model Chambord. It is a beautiful car, with an unmistakable 1950s American design and powered by a V8 engine. But the question here is: how did all this American DNA end up in a French car? The answer is simple, the Chambord was born as a Ford. Confusing? You bet! The history of this brand definitely deserves a post here in TCM.
The reason for this post is to present a gorgeous car, a 1964 Brazilian Simca “Rallye”, that belongs to a very good friend of mine, Marco Antonio Soeiro. Marco and I know each other since 1977, we grew up together in the city of Curitiba, in Southern Brazil. We were the kind of weird kids in the neighborhood that spent more time playing with slot cars than with a soccer ball. Marco became a successful mechanical engineer and a classic car collector, with a special interest in Simca.
The story of this Rallye starts in 1982 when the car was sold to a collector from the northeastern part of the country. It was shipped to the city of Recife, more than 3,000 km from our hometown, and once there, this classic Simca was kept in storage for many years.
Fast forward to the year 2000, Marco Antonio was attending a classic car meeting in the city of Nova Petropolis, when he casually met this collector. They started talking about cars and this guy showed him some pictures of his 1964 Rallye. Marco immediately recognized it and at that point, the idea of buying the car was born. After one year of negotiations, the Simca was back in our hometown.
The Rallye was the sports version of the Simca Chambord. The car has some exclusive details that set it apart from the other Brazilian Simca models, like the dual hood scoops, green shade glass, and brighter choices of color. Marco’s car left the assembly line painted in this superb color called “Santos Beige”.
Since the Simca Chambord was originally a Ford project, the car is powered by the 2.3 liters Flathead V8, but to live up to the name, the Rallye version needed something a little bit spicier under the hood.
Marco told me that the sports car company Talbot was helping the French Simca to get involved in racing and they created a dual carb intake manifold for the V8 engine, which was adopted for the new Rallye. The Brazilian engineers came up with a slightly bigger displacement (2351cc vs 2432cc), fed by a pair of Zenith Stromberg 32 carbs, and dual exhaust. The power jumped from 98 hp to 105 hp without compromising its reliability. That was the perfect engine for the Rallye and also for the Presidente, the luxurious top of the Chambord lineup.
In the eyes of an American hot rodder, the Rallye engine looks like the first level of preparation for any Ford “Flatty” V8. It is a simple and effective recipe; no wonder Simca decided to use it in a production car. Does the Rallye qualifies as a “factory hot rod”? I think so.
When this Rallye came to Marco, it was a pretty solid car, he only had a few minor issues to take care of. The original 3-speed manual transmission (3-on-the-tree) was a bit noisy and it was replaced with a better unit. The dual carb setup can be tricky to tune and probably that was the reason the previous owner replaced it with a single carb. Marco properly reinstalled the dual carbs with the original parts that came with the car. The Rallye also received a fresh paint job and a new set of tires.
The documents proved to be the most challenging part of the project. The previous owner never cared about them and Marco had to start from scratch. It took 6 long and painful years to make the car legal again.
By the end of the 1950s, Chrysler started to acquire shares of Simca, hoping it would open the doors of the European market to Mopar products. By late 1966, the acquisition was finished in Brazil, and for the next year, Chrysler gave the Chambord a facelift, and a new name, Esplanada. The Americans finalized Simca operations around the word in 1969, in countries like Brazil and Australia. On July 1st, 1970 the company title was formally changed to Chrysler France.
The Simca Chambord carries the honor of being the first V8-powered car produced in Brazil. It became the most iconic model of the first phase of our domestic auto industry and the Rallye is the most sought version by the brand’s enthusiasts.