The Simca Aronde or ‘swallow’ as it translates to in Old French is a car manufactured by French manufacturer Simca, between 1951 and 1964, and spanning three generations. It was produced in a variety of body styles including two-door coupe and convertible, two-door pickup, two-door van, three-door estate, four-door sedan and five-door estate. That’s quite a range, isn’t it? Powerplants were 1,100cc or 1,300c OHV engines that drove the rear wheels through a four-speed gearbox that sported a column-shifter. The most powerful iteration of the engine sported 70bhp, and options included an automated ‘Simcamatic’ clutch and leather upholstery. The Aronde was produced in Australia as well from 1956 by Northern Star Engineering and later Chrysler Australia, from CKD kits.
So what became of Simca? Founded in 1934, the company enjoyed a period as one of the largest post-war automobile manufacturers in France, exporting its vehicles overseas and even having them manufactured in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Netherlands and Spain. The company was bought over by Chrysler in 1970 and by 1979 had been sold again to PSA Group. PSA replaced the Simca brand with the Talbot brand, and there was an interim period where cars carried branding known as ‘Simca-Talbot’. The last vehicle that carried design by Simca was launched in 1985 as the Peugeot 309. It was originally meant to be a Talbot model. There ends the Simca story.
This beautifully restored 1959 third-generation model is owned by Professor Rizvi Hasan who is a renowned car collector with a diverse selection, including the iconic Jaguar E-type that was owned and raced by Donald and Vagdevi Fernando.
Fondly reflecting on his journey with Simcas, he tells us that his father owned a Simca Aronde Elysee when he was born, a car that was in the family till the late eighties. Sadly, the car was sold thereafter. In the seventies another Aronde joined the family and it was a low-mileage one from Jaffna that his father drove to Colombo. “These were very powerful cars for their 1300cc engines (aptly named ‘Flash’) and I recall my father driving from Kandy to Colombo in a mere 1.5 hours, touching speeds of 60-70 miles per hour at some points” says Prof. Rizvi.
Whilst many classic car aficionados tend to view their cars through rose-tinted glasses with no flaws, Prof. Rizvi doesn’t hold back on the negatives. “The Aronde’s aluminium engine head meant that overheating was an issue, the column-mounted gear-shift was connected to the gearbox through cables and thus tended to jam or break altogether, the cars leaked during rain as the windshield was not properly sealed against the body…and of course corrosion reared its ugly head” he tells us candidly. “Even though people loved these cars, they had their issues…”
This particular P60 was found for Prof. Rizvi after nearly twenty years of searching when he happened to mention his quest to find one to fellow motorhead Chanditha Wijayasekara. A hunt was hatched by the latter and this car found in Kiribathgoda, in cold storage for over forty years and thus the original fittings were in decent nick. The story is an interesting one and goes that the owner had dictated the car never to be driven in the rain, hence it was always locked up and kept carefully. Once the owner passed away, a testamentary case resulted in the car being idle, remaining locked up as the new owners showed no interest. A deal was struck, the car purchased and driven straight to Channa Dissanayake of Waymax International. “Channa is an extremely honest guy, lot of integrity and a wealth of experience with nut-and-bolt restorations” says Prof. Rizvi. “I send all my cars to him and am fully confident in his abilities”. As you can see from the photos, it has indeed emerged looking factory-fresh! Prof. Rizvi says that during a recent Sunday run, the car “purred like a dream with its distinctive exhaust beat and that ‘Flash’ engine hasn’t lost any power – in fact I cruised at high speeds and kept up with far more modern metal – much like my dad did all those years ago”. He also recalls that Arondes were favoured by many friends of his dad, as well as raced by many well-known racing personalities and did very well too!
In Sri Lanka, Simca enjoyed great popularity in the 1950’s and 60’s right up to the mid 70’s when spares became hard to come by, and most cars were scrapped or rusted to the ground. These days it is very rare to see a Simca even in a scrap yard. In the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s several Simcas were also seen on our racing tracks, performing very well indeed. A couple of names of racing drivers come to mind in their Simcas – one Mr Constantine was seen in virtually every race in Katukurunda in his black Aronde. Then of course there was Tony Phillips who campaigned a string of Simcas which were all presented in immaculate condition on the track.